Although I plan on starting a Worgen Priest when Cataclysm hits I couldn’t resist checking out all of the new changes that were implemented in WoW with the shattering patch a few days ago. Having avoided the beta completely, I was incredibly curious to see how the original zones had been overhauled so I figured I’d start a new alt and take a peak. Thus Gourkil (yeah, I know it sounds like something out of He-Man) the Undead Hunter was born. Or unborn. Or died. Or whatever.
I’m fully aware of the fact that I bash WoW and Blizzard at almost every opportunity (c’mon, it’s just far too much fun to resist!), ironically in most cases considering how much I respect the game, but I have to be a man and take my hat off to them here. Without even the smallest hint of cynicism or sarcasm, I gotta say that I’m utterly bowled over by this patch. Considering just how much content has been renewed, how many tweaks and changes have taken place, and the sheer fact that it’s all totally free makes it really quite astonishing. Well done, Blizz, well done.
Although their low-level zones have only had modest make-overs, I picked an Undead Hunter not just because it’s a new racial class pairing but because the class has had some significant changes since I last played one. Among other things, focus has replaced mana and all Hunters now start with a pet from level 1 which really helps players get a flavour for the class sooner. Plus they’re dead easy (pardon the pun) to level with.
The new Undead starting experience hasn’t been altered dramatically but it’s been refined to be a beautifully elegant and fun experience. Right from the moment you’re raised from the ground as a corpse (which is a bloody neat concept), the quests are a whole lot more streamlined, interesting and engaging. It’s the little things that make the difference: the quest items you need from beasties drop them every time; the rewards you get from completing quests are actually useful, colour coordinated bits of gear; there’s a little moment of surprise as a boss mob does a Heroic Leap right into your face; and you even get a little NPC helper to show you around, carry corpses for you and be your AI friend in an ironic statement about how collaborating with other real players is now a thing of the past (sorry, couldn’t resist).
The Hunter as a class is also a lot slicker too and a lot of fun. My little spider pet (named after my wife) and I had fun lopping around Trisfall Glades seeing what troubling we could get into and admiring the new and improved town hub of Brill. In general, the new talent system is also excellent and will go a long way to help defining classes sooner at lower levels and helping deal with balancing issues.The only negative thing I can say about the class (or rather all of the class changes in fact) is that there seems to be a lot fewer spells and abilities to access now but that’s probably because I’m so used to having to visit a trainer every level.
I know it’s early days but I’m very impressed with patch 4.0.3a so far. Very, very impressed. Blizzard have managed to take what was a pretty streamlined and polished experience and buff it up even more. I’ll say this: it’s going to very hard indeed for other MMOs to compete against it over the upcoming few months.