I should preface my commentary on the beta by saying this is the first time i’ve ever been in one early enough to really watch the formation of the game i’m playing, and that’s a really interesting process. I’m really looking forward to seeing how what we get to see over the coming months shapes itself into the final product that will be released, in all likelihood, while i’m out on a ship and unable to enjoy it. Let’s start with monks.

Leveling a Monk

Good times! The starting area is ghoooooorgeous. Not all of the monk or male Pandaren animations are in game yet, which made me aware for the first time- as a long time player of a melee main- how important attack animations are to visually understanding what you’re doing. I have a new appreciation for every time my Orc swings impossibly heavy things into the face of his enemies. It’s hard to say much about a class from only experiencing the first 12 levels, but my overall impression was positive. Their resource system is different enough for me that it didn’t feel stale, though i don’t know if rogue/feral players will have the same experience. I chose to spec mistweaver when i hit ten, but the differences in how it plays are pretty minor at that low a level. I do suspect i’m going to agree with some commentary i saw on the forums: that the one heal they get before 17 is going to make healing low level dungeons extremely difficult, particularly since it requires chi and has a cooldown. I won’t know for certain until i try it, though. I only died once in the entire starting area, and that was only because mobs in the heavily overpopulated area were simply spawning on me too fast for me to stay alive. If it takes 16 mobs in a row to take you down, i’d say you’re doing pretty well for yourself. I’ll have more as i start to get into the higher levels and really experience the meat of the class.

New Talent System

On respeccing my warlock, i can really only say this:

Is this...do i channel this now? Why are my dots going away so fast? WHO ARE YOU PEOPLE?

I’m not saying it’s a bad thing, but having had a warlock almost as long as i’ve had my warrior i definitely felt like a fish out of water with the new rotations. I think i kinda maybe sorta had a handle on destruction, but affliction left me completely confused. I might need to level one from scratch just to get my bearings again. As to the talents themselves, what a blast. I really agonized over a few of my choices, and it was nice to know that A: these felt like meaningful, gameplay-affecting decisions and B: if i thought i screwed up i could take 5 seconds to replace the talent in question rather than remapping a 41 point chain. I felt good about this system before the beta, i feel good about it now, and unless it completely changes i’ll continue to do so for the remainder of it’s implementation. I also like how many of them feel like they could be incredibly powerful if used wisely, but would provide less of an advantage to people that don’t know their class or, in the case of pvp, the capabilities of other classes. In the case of my warrior, i saw how i could build up a pretty decent stun-based set of control powers to try and compensate for our historic lack thereof in pvp. I’ve felt┬áthis has been a crippling weakness of my class in the arena, particularly in cata. I’m definitely looking forward to testing that theory out once a few more people i know are putzing around Pandaria with me.

New Content

Sadly, none of the new content is implemented yet, at least that I can access. Given the scale of the changes made to core gameplay, this isn’t a bad thing. I’m definitely going to need some time to adjust before i try and perform in any kind of mid to end game scenario.

Final Impressions

I’m definitely having fun. I think Blizzard has a good chance of breathing a lot of new life into an old game, doing for the actual combat mechanics what cataclysm did for the leveling experience. It’s going to take some adjustment, and i think there will be a lot of forum whining as people suddenly find they don’t know how to play their class half as well as they used to, but what’s the point of a game where the experience never changes? Based on what i’ve seen so far, which bear in mind is a very small slice of the expansion, the devs are well on their way to reminding us what it felt like to start playing the game, and reminding us just how much fun that was.