15 October 2008

Echoes of Doom: First impressions

Pretty chaotic last night! Shandris was several hours late coming back online, and seemed to be unstable at least early on. (I got a 5-minute "World Server Down" while in Ironforge at one point.) But by the end of the night, everything seemed to be working as intended.

Addons were a bit wonky. I got enough running that I could live with — Pitbull and Clique, plus some of Tekkub's pieces and a few other random parts. Some were pretty wonky. For example, Fubar was mostly working, but putting the wrong titles on the drop-down menus. And I'm still coming to grips with the new Cartographer — nothing to do with 3.0.2 though.

But with all that, I was able to get going. Here are my first impressions.

Druid abilities

I specced Alamein into Balance as planned, with a slight variation. I decided to take 3/3 in Nature's Focus, giving me 58/0/3. The resulting spec looks like this. If I were serious about doing damage as Balance, I'd spec differently, but this gives me a chance to try out just about everything in Balance.

I did a couple different things in my play time. After traveling to Moonglade to train and respec, I traveled to Winterspring and killed a few furblogs to try out my damage spells. Then I grouped up with Cargarios, Wyrmm, and Firegrin to take a stab at heroic Ramparts. I was healing with a Balance spec and we only had four people, so it wasn't going to be a clean run. But all of us were also trying to figure how to deal with the changes. Suffice to say: it wasn't pretty! But we learned a lot, which was the goal.

Subjectively speaking, I felt like I was doing a huge amount of damage. My Starfire crits were hitting for 4000+ damage. TopScoreFu wasn't working, but I'm almost certain that's about 30-40% higher than anything I've seen before. I don't know if that's due to talents, changes to the spell, or to the conversion from +heal to +spell power on my DPS gear (which actually uses a lot of my healing gear). From what I heard, everyone else was seeing similar improvements.

Starfall and Typhoon both were fun to play with. They do feel rather situational, and I'll have to play with them a while before I understand when to use them best. Starfall is probably the more powerful of the two. Hurricane is a better pure AoE spell, but Starfall is both instant cast and moves when you move, so it works when you're on the move. That will be nice, but the 3 minute cooldown will keep it very situational. And they key to Typhoon will be understanding when to use the knockback effect, which I'm not firm on yet.

With the passive talents, I was actually impressed with Eclipse. One point makes the proc too infrequent to be worthwhile; I think this will be either 3 points or 0. But the graphic on the proc makes it easy to notice, and it's powerful enough to make it worth following. I was also impressed by Improved Moonkin Form, at least subjectively. I felt like my casts were significantly faster and the GCD change really helped.

Earth and Moon was less showy, and for soloing furblogs it's not really useful. I typically couldn't get off more than one or two casts before they were dead, so no real chance to take advantage of it. I'm sure it will pay off for instances however.

Nature's Splendor made no obvious difference to my DPS — not against furblogs anyway. But in healing it was a huge improvement. The 8-second Lifebloom gave me a lot more time to cast other healing spells before refreshing my LB stack. I really think that a level-80 PvE healing build will spec into this more often than not.

I was surprised by the new audio effect for Insect Swarm... but I like it!

And finally, I had a few chances to use Revive. That felt really good! I used to feel a lot less useful when I had to ask a player to run back rather than get rezzed. No longer!


Of course I knew this was coming, but it still captivated me. I'm sure I'll spend a lot of time on these. I am at heart an OCD completist, and this is a mechanism to feed that part of my personality. I was surprised to have slightly more achievement points than my friends, though in retrospect that's probably because I'm inclined to engage in exactly these sorts of quixotic pursuits.

I started down the path of completing some of the easier achievements before coming to my senses. I did however get the Going Down? and Captain Rumsey's Lager achievements before logging out. At some point I know I will spend a few hours crossing off fishing and exploration achievements.

I also like the announcement in guild chat. It's a nice way to share your activities with guildmates. I just wish there weren't so many achievements that require WotLK.

Other impressions

It was very nice to log in and find my PvP tokens gone from the bank — and into the Currency tab. I was disappointed however that things like Spirit Shards and Arcane Runes weren't included. They're soulbound tokens, used to purchase goods. They should be included!

It was also nice to get my mounts and pets out of the bank. I bought four more pets when I was in Stormwind; I'm sure I'll accumulate a lot more. I'm going to have to find an addon or macro to spawn random pets. I'm not sure whether I'll grab a whole slew of mounts or not. I will probably avoid flying mounts since Flight Form is so much better, but ground mounts are a different story. But that could be a real money pit.

The barber shop is fun, but the hairstyles are very limited. I wish there was a lot more to do with it. I did however get a haircut for Alamein... for the achievement, of course!

I'm disproportionately happy with the new loading screens, title screen, and title music. We spend too much time staring at these, so it's very nice to see some changes.

Finally: Stormwind Harbor is huge! I think I'd be disappointed if I played Horde — they kind of got shafted.

That's a lot of stuff going on. I will soon respec to Resto to check out the new spells there. I still want to visit the sites of Dalaran and Naxxrimas to see what's changed up there. And I'm most excited about the prospect of world events that lead to the launch of Wrath. Lots to explore!

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