These are big ones, people. We’re not talking about minor tweaks, like adjusting the spell coefficient on Penance. We’re not even talking about big tweaks like the recent haste buff to shadow. These class changes are shaping up to be a sizable earthquake.
My metaphor is unfortunate. I don’t think the changes are all bad. They’re just BIG ones. Our go-to heals will be different. Our buffs will be different. Our inter-class mechanics will be different. Our mobility, dps rotation, mana management, ohshit buttons… did I miss anything?
There will be a lot to test, a lot to change before putting in a report card. In general though, I like the direction, I like the creativity, and I like the size of the change.
And with any shift of this magnitude, there are two major processes that are guaranteed to happen along the way. First, the class-specific abilities will need to be tweaked. How much will the new Heal spell heal for? What’s the cooldown and threat-adjustment mechanic on Leap of Faith? What is the relationship between the current PW:Shield, the new PW:Barrier, and the possible inclusion of a new, smaller shield, especially in relation to Weakened Soul? With the right tweaks, Blizzard will be able to give us a dynamic, fun, and powerful class.
The second process that will happen is the inter-class balancing act. If they are going to make every healing spec into a viable, multi-shaped “peg” to fit into each raid “hole,” there will be a long series of adjustments to coefficients, cooldowns, and talent boosts. The skill and artistry of the game-designing team shows itself here more than anywhere. The 10-dimensional math puzzle they’ve created isn’t solvable in a single, perfect solution; but it has some very creative possibilities that they don’t seem scared of tackling. I mean, look what they’re doing for mobility: they’ve released previews for two healing classes, and both of them have mobility boosters. Different, not equal, but still parallel upgrades. Nice job… to be continued, I’m sure.
But wait, there’s more! There’s a third bonus process: encounter design. It’s not as separate from class-design as you might think. Blizzard designs encounters around the capabilities that we have, at least to some extent. We will have interesting opportunities to Life Grip that go far beyond yoinking suicidal hunters out of the fire. We will have challenges to our mana pools that we haven’t experienced in years. We will have moments when the mobility boost of Inner Will becomes an obvious and exciting choice. We will see progression encounters which will test your spell selection, and you will only pass if you get a 90% score or better.
The earthquake will shake things up a LOT. Do not expect all the pieces to land perfectly where they should be. It will take time, and it will be frustrating.
But honestly, I’m very excited about the magnitude of the changes that Blizzard is implementing. It’s a huge project. As GC has said, a game designer needs to learn how to kill his “babies.” We players need to learn to let go of those babies, even ones we’ve grown quite fond of.
Bottom line? HELL YEAH. The changes are big but not a complete gutting of the class(es). It’s very hard to comment on specifics so soon; mechanics have barely been revealed, and are subject to more big adjustments. It will take some time to grok the new talents and see how they can be best used in practice. Folks will get very creative with new mechanics, as they always do. We’re in for quite a ride!