Classes in World of Warcraft have begun to feel like an array of fun house mirrors. Even with their various specializations, they may make you look different, but they are all exactly the same person in the end. Marksman Hunter, Shadow Priest, Affliction Warlock, all end up feeling indistinguishable from the other. It seems that in their attempts to make all classes and specializations equal, developers have taken away much of what made each class unique.
This assimilation of the classes, while making them seemingly equal, has had an alarmingly negative affect. Players no longer feel that their characters are special, meaning the attachment to a character that is so critical is weak at best or never formed. With no attachment to any particular character, some of the beauty has leaked out of the game. Thankfully, a new expansion is on the horizon and Legion is looking like a promising time to stop the downward spiral and re-promote the idea of class and specializations that are unique, fun to play, and will recreate the bond between player and character once again.
The Great Class Assimilation
Uniqueness between the classes has been going down the proverbial tubes for quite some time. Today, there is little different between a Retribution Paladin and a Rogue; but that was not always the case. Not so long ago playing a class was very distinctive. Whatever class you chose felt ultra special and gave you a select set of abilities that helped to do that. Choosing a specialization in that class further set you apart. It was a special process that not only determined your eventual role in game, but also allowed the player to form an exclusive bond with their character.
Then the assimilation process began. Behind the guise of fairness, much of what made a class was lost. Iconic class themed abilities such as Hunter's Mark, Divine Intervention, and Innervate were lost. Suddenly all classes had things like crowd control, stuns, and interrupts. Even class buffs were either totally nixed from the game or revamped to be standardized to every other class.
Then even more ability pruning came into play combined with a massive overhaul to the talent trees. Talent trees were cut down into a neat and tidy box that made almost every class play exactly the same as the other. While the original talent trees may have been bloated, the new version elicited little excitement. These new trees are so similar that players could easily switch into any specialization without noticing much different. So little individualization leaves little reason for a player to get attached to a specific specialization or class.
World of Warcraft: Legion
While things sound pretty grim, there is a glimmer of hope. Legion is on the horizon and from what we know so far about this expansion, it seems that Blizzard has heard the cries of the fans. All we are hearing is that this expansion will bring the focus back around to class and specialization individuality.
Legion will ring in a new era of major specialization changes. Right now we know that Survival Hunters will become a melee class and Discipline Priests will finally be a fully legit DPS/Heal hybrid. These kinds of changes will diversify specializations among these classes, hopefully bringing back the fans adoration of their spec. Even better, while it hasen't been confirmed, there are mumurs that other classes will have similar adjustments made.
Artifact Weapons will also help distinguish our classes. These unique artifacts are specific to our class and will give us a sense of past. Once the Artifacts have been obtained each player will get to costimzie their weapon. While this talent tree won't be as big as the specialization of the talent trees of the past, they will give us a chance to once again feel like our characters are our own and we are making choices for them that actually count for something.
Further upping the attachment players feel to their classes, Legion is all about Class Orders and working with our own personal class to defeat the Legion. Instead of banding together as the Horde or Alliance we will work together as Mages, Paladins, or Druids. This could bring a sense of pride in our class and reaffirm the fact that our class choices are an important part of the game play.
While we may never get back to the days of old, nor perhaps should we; class identity must be embraced. If the fans don't identify with their class and specialization, the will to play slowly fades. When we log on to play we each need to feel like a fearsome Fury Warrior, nature loving Restoration Druid, or despised Blood Death Knight. Unique class features, talents, and customization are absolutely essential on this journey. If developers play their cards right, Legion could be the Hail Mary pass World of Warcraft needs to get us back into the game and back into our class.
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