Well. I didn’t think I’d be here for this but I am – and I am excited. I managed to dip my fingers into the cursory healing mechanics of priest and druid over the weekend and it felt very much like a walk down memory lane.
Let’s go back in time for a moment. It’s the end of Wrath of the Lich King and what we have are our old talent trees with points, niche healing roles and a decent number of spells and buttons to hit. Oh, and my druid had good old tree form.
Since then, we’ve seen a good amount of class homogenisation in terms of buffs and spells (Flash Heal and it’s equivalent for all) and a general chanting of the mantra: “Bring the player, not the class!” Then also began the continuous battle between absorbs and healing that plagued the designers for the next three expansions. We had slow heals, larger than life healthpools, normalisation of mana pools etc. It looks like we’ve come full circle now.
The Return of Talents… Sort of
Technically, we still don’t have talent trees. But the return of separating the talent choices by specialisation is a welcome return to what worked. I like how they snuck that in. The only difference is that we’re not putting any points into anything – but otherwise it’s very similar to what we had before – albeit with a few more personal choices than googling. Although googling the “perfect” setup is still a thing and will always be a thing no matter what they do if you ask me.
Granted, there’s been a bit of pruning. No more Nature’s Swiftness and other familiar spells as I’m sure is the case with all classes. What was baseline and a core part of the class is often just a talent now (Oh, Circle of Healing). In general, fewer buttons to keep track of on your action bar. This is not necessarily a terrible thing. The challenge in healing should always be about mechanics and healing decisions we make in the moment – not how many buttons we can cram onto our screen.
Class Fantasy: Yes, by all means, bring the class!
In the Burning Crusade in particular, a big criticism was that you brought the class first and the player second. Didn’t matter if Bob fell asleep constantly in raid – he was a shaman and we need heroism. The end. Thus in Cataclysm, designers turned it around: “Bring the player, not the class!” Mages and hunters for heroism and a bit of homogenisation did the trick…or not.
For Legion we’re doing both: “Bring the player AND the class!” There is a return to the importance of class flavour or Class fantasy as they call it. Most significantly, the changes I’ve seen so far signal a return and nod to the niche roles of healing that marked Burning Crusade and Wrath. If you rolled a paladin healer, it was because you wanted to tank heal. If you rolled a druid, it’s because you were signing up for raid healing. I’ve missed that.
Holy priests look powerful as hell for groups but can’t mitigate anything for squat. Discipline doesn’t trivialise everyone else anymore – they are the champs of single target and some very powerful raid cooldowns but I predict won’t come close to holy priests and druids in bringing up the entire raid. Again, this is not a bad thing. We need to feel unique and specialised sometimes – that there’s the one thing our class excels at over others. We don’t all have to be jack of all trades all the time.
So in sum, healing in Legion is making me love it again. It’s lighting up my little geek eyes. And coming soon are thoughts on class-specific changes and experiences because hey, I just can’t shut up about this. And I love that. 🙂