The last beta I was in was Mists of Pandaria. I believe from looking back at the blog posts for that time that was because of the ‘annual pass’ blizz were running. I think they did some kind of ‘get a beta key’ incentive. Honestly it was so long ago I don’t remember. Anyway this time I just won the luck of the draw. The moment beta is announced I always check that I am opted-in but expansions have come and gone and no invite has come my way. I totally wasn’t expecting one and then Friday, Spetember 30th – boom! What an email to wake up to! I’ve been drafting this blog post ever since. I intended to do my blogging about it but time has just flown and now it’s looking like pre-patch might drop next week. The expansion is releasing end of next month and with the number of bugs…
Anyway! How has beta gone?
I was nervous about posting on the forum but soon got over that. They have an in game ‘bug report’ now which is much more comfortable. That leaves the forum just for feedback. I remember I was scared last time because there were these scary sounding posts about ‘checking nobody else had reported the bug’ and I didn’t want to it wrong. Whereas if it’s feedback it actually helps if I echo what others have said as it shows a consensus.
I have done long posts of feedback on professions, the new UI, paladin talents, the talent tree system itself and maybe more. I don’t know how many bugs I have reported but it’s been a few. I guess a big part of me wanted to prove ‘worthy’ somehow of having been given this opportunity. It has also relit my desire to be a better player. I didn’t vibe with Shadowlands at all and didn’t put any extra effort in. I remember at the end of BfA I vowed I would work harder so that my co-tank didn’t beat me so soundly, as it was embarrassing how much higher their dps was buuuuut yeah, back in that same position now.
So what have I learned?
When I did the handful of blog posts on the Mists beta I went through paladin talents a couple of times, and I found a pack of high level mobs in the Jade Forest to see how various characters did as like a baseline. I haven’t managed to find a convenient pack like that, and talents are more complicated and unfortunately far too buggy to really make an accurate assessment. I have some thoughts and I’ll come back to that later. For now the basics.
The new UI!
Not bad, few bugs, not sure it’s enough to replace addons. My biggest gripe was that there weren’t enough action bars but they have added 3 more now, so that problem is solved. However, the customisation isn’t entirely there yet. They have redesigned the bags/main menu buttons (character, talent, achievement, collections etc.) and those aren’t configurable at all. For reasons only blizz understands the menu is both tiny and completely grey (they took all the colour out). I can’t see what the buttons are. I do like the new bag icons though. They are circular.
The personal resource display is also still not editable. I would want to simplify it and resize it and I can’t so I’ll need to run an addon for that. I have been using a dedicated addon called SimpleHolyPower but I have found I can do it with WeakAuras so I might switch. It might be nice to sort my addons out as there are a lot of them. It’s got so I’m not sure sometimes what is addon behaviour and what is default. Like I had forgotten about OmniCC to put numbers on my CDs, I’ve had that running since Cata. I was saying blizz should add that as default and then I found a checkbox on beta that does that. I keep meaning to check to see if it’s on live but it always slips my mind.
Blizz have redone the minimap and I’m not convinced it’s all for the best. They have ‘simplified the tracking options’ by just making stuff appear. I preferred to have control over that. For the gatherers there is an issue with the minimap which I am hoping an addon will solve. They have changed the dot icon to be more thematic (a leaf / an ore) but it’s very hard to see against the coloured terrain on the minimap. Thematic is good but useability is definitely a step backward.
Can’t talk about beta without mentioning the new class.
First off I remain disappointed that there isn’t a tank spec. Tanks have been horribly spoiled because every new class added to the game has been able to tank. So it’s about time we didn’t get a turn but I’m still sad.
Graphics wise I think watching an evoker play in the raid might be more wow than playing it. There’s this ability where the evoker goes up in the air and swoops over breathing fire. It looks AMAZING but doesn’t actually look so good from above as the caster.
Continuing with graphics the level of customisation is mind-blowingly cool… until you get to the transmog. There are decided issues with that. I don’t know if it’s bugs or if blizz have been stupid about it. Basically evokers as dragons don’t wear clothes apart from the belt and shoulders. They can pick these on character creation, and whatever their gear is I don’t think affects it? BUT there is some odd interaction in that if you don’t pick the gear on creation, then the human visage can’t wear them either? I’m not sure to be honest but it sounded like a bummer when I read the feedback post. I was mostly still stuck on how many options there were. I think when they were announced blizz said there would be no two evokers alike and with the dizzying number of combinations that might well be true.
Given that characters appearance can be changed whole-sale in the barber shop now, evokers can change look beyond clothes. I don’t know how I feel about that exactly but I guess because they run with a ‘visage’ aka magical illusion, it’s not too big of a leap that they could ‘wear an illusion’ in dragon form as well if they wanted a new look.
Anyway I did the opening quests. Evokers have their own limited flight and this is buggy I think. There were times when I hit the button and I went up, and then immediately sank like a stone, which I don’t think is supposed to happen. Still that should be fun. I am forever hitting the spacebar for glide as a Demon Hunter.
In terms of how they play the charging mechanic confuses me. There are some buttons with different ranks, and I remain perplexed as to why anyone would cast rank 1 rather than just hold it for rank 3. Yes it’s a longer cast time for rank 3 but the CD on the ability remains the same however powerful the ability is. I would have thought it should cost less, or the CD be less, if it was less powerful. Anyway apart from that they have their own power type system (combo points/holy power type deal) where they generate and then spend.
I think the class will be fun but I am a bit concerned that blizz have erred far too much on the side of caution. New classes are often overpowered and got to be honest I don’t see anything wrong with that. New and shiny and powerful – let’s have fun! But evokers are reportedly quite weak as blizz are trying to avoid them launching as OP, so now they don’t compete with older classes which is just sad. I don’t know how weak they are in terms of numbers and so whether this gets sorted and they will be ok I don’t know.
Speaking of reports
Just a little note before I continue. I will have said (or will say) in this blog post that I don’t know about numbers. I’m not sure how to scientifically test these things. I know how things feel, not how things legitimately compare. So when it comes to class evaluation I know feel, and I know what I have read.
There are a lot of ‘doom and gloom’ people on the beta forums. I take this a little bit with a pinch of salt. I don’t play high-level. My guild clears heroic, not mythic, and my thinking is a certain level of mini-maxing might make a difference for cutting edge, but for more normal players will we notice all that much? Now I don’t know because obviously some things will ripple down (or worsen with less ability/gear).
Anyway I have heard that ret paladins are “being bullied by blizz” and are totally wrecked. I think there’s some people saying that about paladins as a class generally. So many complaints, but prot didn’t feel too bad to me running solo tests (and I will have to wait until live to see how it compares to my co-tank/other guildmates).
I have heard that Guardian druid is unplayable, and has been totally ignored. That it needs a rework and hasn’t been touched in months. I have heard as I already mentioned that evokers have been weakened to the point of ridiculousness. I heard that blood dks have taken a hit but as they have been very powerful, I am sorry for my co-tank as power is fun, but if it makes me compete a little better…
On the other side of the coin I have heard Warriors are the OP class, that Brewmaster is lots of fun etc. But what is good for one player, might not be good for another. Only time will tell on this score.
The opening experience
The quests are identical for Horde and Alliance. Different quest givers for the first handful but absolutely the same.
I can tell you an amazing thing though – when you die, you have FLIGHT. This is before I have flight unlocked. Apparently when you have a max level character and dragonriding, then alts will be able to fly straight away but I haven’t tested that. Still I am far more used to being landlocked when dead even after flight is unlocked so that is fantastic quality of life.
Now mob difficulty.
As you would expect on my fated heroic protection paladin nothing so much as scratched me. I also didn’t have any trouble on my 229 Zereth Mortis hand-me-down druid. I have mostly kept that as bear this expansion as I was having trouble killing more than one mob at a time as kitty, I had horrible energy problems, it was regenerating so slowly I didn’t have buttons to press. I prefer kitty though generally as I find bear very boring, so I switched to feral and was pleasantly surprised. I didn’t have any energy trouble and I had some new cool abilities. It is possible that once I reach level cap I might have trouble. Sometimes that happens in that levelling is fine, but the mobs level up hard at max.
Then to test something lower I copied over my horde demon hunter. I played that a fair bit in BfA due to the completely different horde and alliance quests but I got it to cap and then dropped it in Shadowlands. My ilevel was 113 and I struggled (this is how I discovered you have flying when you are dead). Now I did better once I amended some of blizz’s ‘recommended’ talents as I think a couple of those ‘starter’ picks are just awful.
(I gave feedback on this and someone replied saying I was wrong as numbers-wise they are the best talents. That just reaffirms my belief it’s not all about numbers – the feel of a rotation, and how easy it feels for someone that doesn’t play it all the time, is also important.)
Anyway ilevel 113 was not a cakewalk, but it was still doable and I think it would be possible to do enough quests to then start getting quest gear. Which is cool as it means I don’t need to try and gear up alts if I haven’t already for whatever reason. The pre-patch details are now out and it looks like catchup gear will be on offer. Depending on time and how annoying the elemental invasions are, I may run that on a few alts to boost up a little. I remember pre-SL the scourge event run from the Argent Tournament grounds got a bit much. I intended to do it on quite a few characters to unlock all the transmog sets but I think I only fully unlocked plate in the end.
Back to Paladin talents
Having just said above that numbers aren’t everything, I am now going to quantify what I am about to say by pointing out two things. 1) Apparently a lot of the talents are still bugged in various ways through interactions etc. stuff I don’t understand, 2) I’m not sure how to properly compare various talents as there are so many, it seems like only a computer could simulate. Then of course a computer isn’t a person so what it might think is optimum doesn’t work in reality. Either way I don’t claim to know for one second what is actually best.
But I have been fiddling around with various builds. The first one I tried was basically a recreation of live and that was awful because of course Avenger’s Shield doesn’t generate holy power anymore. The rotation felt totally off like I should be able to judge more frequently. When I tried to reason out why, there was also the fact that on a premade I had 13% haste, whereas my fated heroic end of expansion paladin has over 40% and obviously that makes a big difference.
I tried a different build using the talents ‘Dusk and Dawn’ and there might have been some other changes (this is why it’s so hard to point at X being better than Y, as with the nodes it’s never just one point change at a time). Anyway, I remain unsure as to whether the various procs etc. are legitimate or because of bugs. But this build felt a lot better. I didn’t feel like I was missing anything in the rotation, it was smoother, I had good holy power generation etc.
Now the big thing about running the ‘Dusk and Dawn’ build is that it is a buff build. You get 5 holy power and get the 15 second Dawn buff, you empty your holy power to 0 and get the 15 second Dusk buff. I was eventually quite pleased with myself because I managed to create a simple WeakAura to track that. I hope I will be able to replicate that feat on live. I have never really used the WeakAura addon before. I preferred TellMeWhen as it was simpler (WeakAuras is quite intimidating) but with everything that needs tracking, and also my new play setup I think WeakAuras will be better.
(I am playing on the TV now so I’m further away from the screen. It’s a big TV but weirdly my available screen realestate, the resolution I guess? has gone down from the UltraWide. Anyway, it’s harder to see icons so clearly, but WeakAuras can make more of a graphic HUD so I’m going to try that).
The issue with the ‘Dusk and Dawn’ build (beyond tracking) is the interaction with other talents. Obviously 15 seconds isn’t a huge amount of time so the buffs will need refreshing often. Holy power caps at 5, don’t want to waste too much by generating what would have been more than 5, so there’s that. But getting it down to 0 is more of a challenge as talents like Sanctified Wrath give an extra charge. So I have 5, the spenders are for 3 holy power so I have 2 left, I need to generate 1 to then spend the 3 to get to 0. But when I generate I go up to 4. Getting precisely 3 is sometimes a challenge.
I use Recount on live but I tried out Details on beta and I think that will be more useful going forward. The top dps ability that showed on my initial testing was Tyr’s Enforcer (the talent that adds fire to avengers shield). I don’t know if that was bugged or if this will be a good numbers thing going forward. In the same vein of numbers Light of Dawn (the talent to add a HOT to word of glory) got nerfed recently. I was never sure how much of an impact that would make anyway but I’m thinking not much. I don’t know why they add things to be honest if they make them so weak as to be useless.
Theory meets reality
I didn’t run any group content on beta. I was too frightened. I tried testing in Proving Grounds but I don’t know how well that scales, or if Details understands that content, so the results are questionable. I know how it felt to press the buttons and that’s about it.
When the talent changes go live I will have my guild to test with. My two big weaknesses were AOE threat, and also not having an absorb shield so if I take a big hit it’s a race to see if I get healed up in time. Tyr’s enforcer seems like it might help with the threat. There’s also the Divine Toll talent but that is on a 1 minute CD. There are some talents which I think add a shield (but I believe they are currently bugged). In testing I did sometimes get a blue absorb shield but it didn’t happen often and I remain confused as to what caused it.
I feel like I suck really as a tank. I can’t compete dps-wise with my co-tank, and most of the time they have greater survivability as well. I say that I don’t like Mythic+ due to the stress of the timer, but really I think it’s because I’m not a good player. I struggle to keep threat on the trash groups, I struggle to survive, each death makes the timer worse, and it feels entirely my fault.
At the end of each expansion I do tend to think of it a bit as a ‘reset’ and then a chance to do better. That didn’t happen in Shadowlands as I didn’t like the expansion. I’m hoping Dragonflight will be different.
Not going to lie I do have generally a good feeling about Dragonflight. I am… concerned to put it mildly that the expansion is launching in just a few weeks and there are still so many bugs. How professions and alts will play time-investment wise, is something of a question mark. I would love to be able to play alts, and to be able to be more self-sufficient again, but I think those days might have passed.
That being said it’s ironic that Dragonflight was my first beta invite since Mists of Pandaria, as I am getting a ‘Mists’ kind of vibe from it. A lot of that I think is aesthetics. The Dragon Isles are nice and bright just like the Pandaria continent was for the most part (and a really welcome change after a lot of the drearyness of Shadowlands). There’s the general vibe too. Shadowlands was dark in tone, even more than it was dark in location (I mean Bastion was bright). Dragonflight feels like it’s going to try and inject some fun back into the game.
Despite being in beta I do still have a lot of questions. Some of that is because I haven’t tested exhaustively. I didn’t have the time to level a character all the way through the Dragon Isles. The premade level 70’s are for raid testing only, and can’t go to the Dragon Isles. So I don’t know about max level dailies/world quests. I don’t know about the reworked reputation system (a mix of rep and renown). I don’t know how alts will work (though I have heard this is the most alt-friendly expansion in a long time).
I am incredibly grateful that I had the opportunity of a beta invite. I feel like it’s reinvigorated my interest in the game. Some of that is probably because Dragonflight looks so bright and fun, but I think it’s also because I feel… well to say special is a bit ridiculous, but yeah. I liked that I got a peek, I liked that I got to see stuff and give feedback. I feel more hyped because I got the chance, a lot more excited for the launch.
So yeah I am looking forward to Dragonflight.