As those familiar with my recent ranting will know, I’ve been hugely critical of the Blizzard developers for a while now. My belief that they’re not qualified for the job they’re supposed to be doing can be quantified across numerous instances where they’ve shown a complete inability to address issues or, amazingly, made things worse. The problem comes into sharp focus when dealing with Greg Street, the Lead Systems Designer, who simply wasn’t qualified when he got the job, and doesn’t seem to have learned much since.
With that preamble out the way, I think my biggest problem is one that even talented developers would struggle to work around and it’s something I’ve been deliberately wrestling with for the past few weeks.
It’s not easy to articulate but, as a Protection warrior, I’ve been feeling that something was “missing” in PvE. This isn’t just a recent gripe, but since the launch of Wrath of the Lich King there just seemed to be something that wasn’t quite… Right. Like Keanu in [i]The Matrix[/i], there’s been a splinter in my mind that I’ve just not been able to put my finger on.
Of course, there were symptoms. Throughout large swathes of the last few years, warriors have frequently seen their complaints met with variations of the following:
“Your numbers of participation are still high; you’re fine”.
My retort to this particular comment was usually that “fine” doesn’t equal “strong”, and that warriors seemed to be the only class that was never “strong”. While Fury warriors typically scaled beyond their damage dealing counterparts thanks to gear, the past two expansions have seen final tier raids where warrior tanks were noticeably weaker than the others. I don’t wish to get into a debate about why exactly warriors were weaker, but it essentially boiled down to large bursts of magical damage that warriors didn’t have the tools to deal with effectively. We couldn’t tank Arthas because of a unique effective health deficiency, and we’re the least desirable tank in Dragon Soul thanks to having no back up mitigation beyond the physical.
But, yes, warriors can still tank all of the content – anyone arguing otherwise is being just a bit silly.
My problem is obviously deeper than this, though. Despite being comfortable that I was the best tank in my guild regardless of class, I clearly still resented certain aspects of other classes. As I watched a paladin waltz in with Avenger’s Shield, or witness their mitigation with the same tool, I laboured under the auspice of why my shield was so comparatively weak. Then Ardent Defender went in, the talent that would work where all else failed, and it just seemed like something Last Stand was supposed to be.
This will come across as jealousy, no doubt. And that’s fine because jealousy is exactly what it is. In the same breath, I know many paladins and DK’s who watch with great jealousy as a warrior gets across the battlefield at a speed completely beyond them. But I don’t actually think balance is the problem, per se. My problem relates to balance, but I don’t believe that it’s caused by it. Until very recently, I didn’t know how best to articulate my problem (I didn’t really understand it myself), I could really be doing with a reference point.
Enter the Mists of Pandaria talent calculators.
The following statement will see disagreement, obviously, but for my money, the warrior preview is comfortably the worst of the ten previewed so far. Pretty much every talent is a warmed-through version of what we have or have had, with nerfs applied across the board in order to fill out the calculator. This post is obviously Protection based, but there is absolutely nothing new coming in for warriors. Now, I’ve already given my thoughts on the talent calculator to the Internet, undoubtedly to see them crop up later as breadsticks to beat me over the head with. But it made me realise that the developers don’t know what to do with warriors, much less how to give them something new and something meaningful. After coming to that conclusion, something difficult to admit hit me like a ton of bricks.
I don’t know what to do with warriors any more.
Let me clarify that a little:
I don’t know the role of warriors in World of Warcraft.
That will sound bizarre, and some will say “melee DPS and tanks, duh”. Okay, sure, that’s fair enough. But what I really mean is that warriors no longer have a role that isn’t already covered elsewhere, and invariably better than we do. What is a warrior these days? A plate-clad melee combatant is fine, but that doesn’t address the more fundamental question of what makes that compelling or unique.
I’ll try to clarify even more.
Paladins and death knights are both plate-clad melee combatants, just like the warrior. But the paladin is a guardian of the weak, a wielder of the Holy light and defender of the faith. The death knight is hell incarnate, raising forbidden magic to restore and sustain the most brutal of assaults. The warrior is… A bit of a defender of the weak, and quite brutal in battle.
In short, the warrior has lost his identity; the next stage after that, which we’re moving toward in 5.0, is redundancy.
This isn’t a cry for buffs or a misunderstanding of design intent. It’s a deep rooted problem that is trying to highlight the biggest flaw of the warrior class. There’s no room for creative manoeuvre because just about any “new” ability fits another class better than it does ours. When I think of the Protection warrior, I think of the battle-hardened veteran defending his town or village. When I think of the Fury warrior, it’s the berserker who ignores defence for an all-out, savage attack. When I think of an Arms warrior, he’s the weapon master who remains calm and picks out weaknesses of an opponent before exploiting them.
This is nowhere to be found in game moving on.
As tragic as this is, it’s actually being pushed out entirely if the current talent calculators end up representing live at all closely. Talents such as Hold the Line or Impending Victory are WONDERFUL examples of meaningful class flavour that is unique and compelling. Other examples such as Wrecking Crew or Taste for Blood look cool, but are (in my opinion) housed in the wrong tree.
Now some might be wondering why I care, given that this has no effect on gameplay. Who cares about flavour when the class is working?
My point is that it’s not.
Take a look at that talent calculator again. It’s dreadful. Our mobility tier is made redundant by a bear. Our healing tier is made redundant by a death knight. Our utility tier is made redundant by a paladin. Nothing being developed for warriors is actually any good because it’s hamstrung by the limitations of a purely physical class that has been superseded by other models.
The death knight is getting things like Endless Winter, we’re getting warmed-through Deep Wounds. This isn’t a balance issue, because Endless Winter makes sense for a death knight. It’s a talent that fits well with the class, and no other class. The result is that it can go in. The problem with warrior talents is that they all fit other classes and, in some cases, better than our own. Nothing is unique because every other tanking class has its own equivalent of what warriors have.
1) What’s unique about a druid?
2) What’s unique about a paladin?
3) What’s unique about a death knight?
4) [i]What’s unique about a warrior?[/i]
It’s worrying that we all know the answer to question four:
As previously stated, this isn’t a call for buffs. I want the classes to be balanced as best as they possibly can, so that players don’t feel they need a certain class with which to defeat a certain encounter. When push comes to shove, people shouldn’t be punished for what they like playing the most. What this post IS, is a cry for identity. I don’t want to just be another plate-wearing melee class that performs acceptably, I want to be a unique class that does something identifiable, meaningful and compelling when it takes its place in a raid group.
How best to manage that, I’m not sure. That’s why I can no longer be so rough with a development team that’s currently getting it so spectacularly wrong.