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Posted by Raine Hutchens on Aug 30, 2012

World of Warcraft Patch 5.04 First Impressions – Times Are Changing

I’ve been playing World of Warcraft since Vanilla. I remember the days when you had to get to level 40 – which was no small task – just to be able to purchase your mount which took tons of grinding to afford. I’ve walked across the sands of Tanaris, and strode through the groves of Mount Hyjal. There’s a lot I’ve accomplished in the game, but there’s still plenty I’ve yet to touch.

I’ll admit while the game was fun it began to get stale for me. I wasn’t as interested in it as I used to be and a few months ago I stopped playing all together. I’m still paying for my subscription because of the Annual Pass, but I had went as far as making the decision to let my game die off after my last payment which is next month. My issue with the game was that it just wasn’t fun to me anymore. I was constantly doing the same things, trying to get the same Achievements, mounts, pets, and gear across all of my characters. I was playing a game of catch-up with my friends who had more level 85s than I did, and it became really drab. I was ready to let everything drop and let it all go.

That was, until I got on last night after the new patch.

Patch 5.04 went live yesterday and it has changed World of Warcraft as we knew it. There have been tons of changes, including an immense overhaul of the talent system. Now a lot of the patch’s changes were announced with the beta launch of the new expansion, Mists of Pandaria, and with that news I was unimpressed. I didn’t like how the talent system was portrayed, I thought the pet battles would be ridiculous, and I wasn’t completely fond of the class changes that would be put into place. Overall, I really had thought my game was done for.

After logging in and playing the game a bit with the new patch in place I can honestly say I was wrong – about all of my assumptions.

I logged into the game and had to reset a lot of things. The patch, as I mentioned earlier, overhauled the talent system, resetting each of my characters’ abilities. When I logged in as my druid I needed to reset all of his talents, implementing the new system. I ended up doing this with each character, as players must do once big changes get rolled out. I’ll go over the general changes first, and then talk more about the changes that affect each class.

First up, here’s some global general changes. Let’s see, Achievements, pets, titles, and mounts are now account-wide. This means that each character you own will share and have access to each title, pet, and mount you’ve ever purchased or earned. This is good because it eliminates the need to farm for the same Achievement, pet, or mount for each character you ever make. I like this feature because you can put more focus into end-game activities and leveling rather than grinding for hours just to get a title you want on an alt character.

Area-of-effect loot has been introduced with the new patch. At first I didn’t know how this worked, though it didn’t take long to figure out. The way the new AOE loot works is simple: if you kill numerous enemies in the same general area and then loot one of them, all of the items that are on each individual enemy will show up together in one loot window. This makes looting a lot easier and quicker when running through areas. You only need to loot one enemy to pick up everything. It’s really cut-and-dry.

A new world event has been added that will take players to Theramore. Starting on September 18th you can explore Theramore and either capture the city or defend it alongside Jaina Proudmore. New items have been added for this scenario and it will be available to all level 85 characters.

Glyphs have been changed as well of the types you can equip. Prime glyphs have been removed entirely and players will only be using Major and Minor glyphs. Major glyphs have a lot to do with your play style, such as adding buffs and bonuses to certain abilities and whatnot. Minor glyphs are more comical now, adding humorous features to each character. For example, the druid now has a new travel form that’s a stag instead of a cat. The class has a minor glyph that will let friendly members hop on and use the druid as a mount, enabling them to travel together. Other Minor glyphs allow spells to be learned, for instance the hunter has a glyph that allows him to learn a spell that will let him command his pet to acquire loot from fallen enemies. The system is a bit more difficult to use, because most of the glyphs once equipped have to be picked and chosen, but it adds a lot of flavor to each class.

Players now do 40% less damage to each other, though I don’t know if that’s just out of PVP or not. I assume it would be for players who keep getting ganked out in neutral zones, but I’m still not sure. Valor Points and Conquest Points are not able to be earned until Mists of Pandaria releases, and any that you had have been converted to Justice and Honor Points. Cross-server zones have been added, though only a few they allow players across certain realms come together. Finally, all abilities are automatically learned now. This means you don’t need to go to your class trainer and spend gold to learn new abilities. It’s much more streamlined and quick.

The character creation has been updated to what we’ve seen in the beta. An entire revamp has went in place where we see the active changes on a character and can select what we want versus having to click through options like before. It’s not that big of a change, but it makes character creation more streamlined.

Now all that stuff aside, let’s look into the new talent system. Skill trees have been removed and a new set of tiers has replaced them. Instead of gaining a new talent point at each other level players will be able to select one talent ability every 15 levels. Specializations have been added (which would be the old trees) and class abilities have been changed a bit.

Looking at it in detail we’ll use the druid as an example. Once you hit level 10 you can choose a specialization. Druids have gained one extra spec, being the bear tank. Druids can choose from Balance, Restoration, Feral Cat DPS, or Guardian Bear Tank. Once you choose a spec you automatically get special skills based on it. This was the same thing that happened before the patch. You’ll unlock certain abilities at certain levels, depending on the spec you choose. When looking at talents, they’ve all pretty much changed for the better. Each ability you select at each tier will grant you different bonuses. These abilities can grant added functionality of skills, extra bonuses on certain skills, and really make your character your own. The new system allows me to have a hunter with Marksman as both specs and by choosing different abilities through the tiers he can operate in two totally different ways.

The new talent system got me to shy away from what the game could become, though it’s since turned out to be the one thing that revived the game for me. Each class is fun to play, and there’s a lot more to explore with each character I have. The aesthetics also help as more graphical detail has been added to each class’ spells. In general each class has been updated to be much more fun to play, at least in my opinion. I like that I can tune my character to how I want to play instead of following some cookie-cutter build and being criticized if I’m not running it.

Lastly we can look at the specific class changes that have taken place with the new patch. Some players are happy about them while others are raging, but such is normal with WoW. A lot of the class abilities have been tweaked, and some classes benefit more than others. Here’s the big breakdown:

Death Knight

  • Frost Presence increases Runic Power generation
  • Each spec learns a passive effect that should cause that spec to favor the corresponding Presence for use
  • Necrotic Strike and the new talent Death Syphon each cost a Death Rune, meaning that they can only be used when one of your available runes has been changed to Death

Druid

  • The Feral spec has been split into Feral (Cat DPS) and Guardian (Bear tank)
  • Each specialization has a specific set of skills and tools, though the spells available to each spec are now more useful while in that spec
  • Travel form now resembles a large stag

Hunter

  • There is no longer a minimum range
  • You can now only equip either a melee weapon or ranged, but not both
  • Hunters can benefit from Expertiese as their ranged attacks can be dodged
  • Hunter pets can now be any spec, set by the hunter

Mage

  • Arcane mages now have a more complex rotation
  • Fire mages have new tools to control the randomness of spells
  • Frost mages are considerably stronger at sustained damage and are now more valuable in PvE
  • Much of the crowd control and survivability tactics used by the Frost spec have now spread to the class as a whole

Paladin (where most players are having issues)

  • New ranged abilities have been added
  • Auras have been removed, buff focus is now on Seals
  • Paladins can store up to 5 Holy Power at a single time, but can only use 3 on each skill that requires it

Priest

  • Mana pools have been fixed
  • Chakras act more like warrior stances now
  • The Discipline spec has been tweaked to further support damage absorption
  • Shadow priests now have Shadow Orbs as a resource which can be generated by some of the basic spells, and they are spent on strong damage or better crowd control

Rogue

  • Poisons are Spellbook abilities that affect both weapons at once
  • Poisons are divided into two categories: Lethal and Non-Lethal and you can only have one type active at once
  • Many abilities that used to be strictly set for a single spec are now Talents available to all specs; you can now have a more versatile Combat rogue or a more open Assassin rogue
  • Dagger speeds have been normalized

Shaman

  • Totems no longer provide long-term buffs
  • Totems now have short-term situational benefits
  • The totem multidrop UI has been removed and totem spells are now sorted under draggable elemental flyouts in the Spellbook

Warlock

  • Each spec now has a unique secondary resource which allows temporary surges in power
  • Affliction warlocks focus more on layering multiple periodic damage effects and amplifying them
  • Demonology warlocks now have Demonic Fury as a resource instead of Soul Shards
  • Destruction warlocks now use Burning Embers as a resource which is built up by casting spells
  • Warlocks no longer use armor spells as they gain health and armor passively
  • All demons deal similar damage and no longer linked to a specific spec
  • Most of the DoT spells have been removed

Warrior

  • Rage is now a more valuable resource and is earned at a higher rate over time
  • Warriors no longer gain Rage from being attacked, as they generate it with primary attacks
  • Stance-dancing has been removed and Stances now share a single action bar – abilities are no longer restricted by a Stance as each Stance now grants different passive abilities

There have been some minor changes to the UI and Spellbook, including a new added page that helps with rotation. At first I really didn’t think I’d be into the path WoW was taking, but I’ve been pleasantly surprised. The game is much more fun now it seems, though only time will tell. I don’t know if the game will die out again like it has before, but all these new changes are taking the MMO in a brand new direction – a direction I find myself wanting to travel. If you’d like specifics on other changes, head to the post on the WoWHead forum. If you’ve played the game since the patch, what do you think? What do you like/hate?

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