Balance Druid :: Beta Testing Feedback

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Balance druids are getting a major change in the upcoming expansion: Warlords of Draenor. As discussed in the previous article, the change is to the Eclipse bar. After a few more builds, I feel we’re ready to go over some basic gameplay notes. Please be sure to review the summarized patch notes in the article linked above.

There were a few concerns I had going into Alpha and Beta. (Build:

  1. How does the pace of Sine-wave compare to MOP Eclipse-cycling?
  2. How does Sine-wave Eclipse provide engaging gameplay?
  3. How does the toolkit/mechanics of the spec help to provide a fun and sustainable playstyle?

Please note: For the sake of testing environment that focuses on mechanics, when I refer to a spell’s damage output, I care very little about the raw output. I will focus on how it deals damage. It’s easy to tune damage; it’s hard to make something you’ll find fun 2 years down the road.

How does the pace of Sine-wave compare to MOP Eclipse-cycling?

In the upcoming expansion, Balance druids will see an immediate change to their Eclipse bar. It will cycle on it’s own during combat. The pace of the bar is set for 40sec for a full cycle. The bar will move slower near the peaks (100 energy), and faster to power through the valleys (0 energy). It can be a bit weird at first, it’s a different playstyle then anything else in WoW. You’ll spend about 20sec casting Starfire or Wrath, depending on your current Eclipse. Add some fillers via Moonfire and Starsurge, and there you have it: WOD Moonkins!

In my playtesting, I really enjoyed the pacing. Since we’re hardcasting a lot more, stretching out the cycle of Eclipse to 40sec (up from 25-30sec in MOP) is a good feel.  I don’t feel overwhelmed by the pace, which is obviously important.

How does Sine-wave Eclipse provide engaging gameplay?

This is a tricky question to answer because of how many playstyles exist in WoW.  You maybe an über-hardcore-elite, a weekend warrior, or maybe you just want to /hug all the critters. Warlords of Draenor is removing a massive number of buttons overall: merging spells or removing them outright.

Hardcore Player Opinions: You might feel bored after a while. Feedback shows PVP is quite enjoyable at the moment, though it feels like you put your DOTs on everything and don’t really care about Eclipse. The feedback from PVE is consistently complaining about the depth of the gameplay, but I believe this is a toolkit issue. It’s hard to imagine a raid environment at the moment, but using dungeon tests, it seems Balance druids are still bland. Having Stellar Flare in the rotation (a Lvl100 Talent) will spice up the rotation, but it still lacks depth.

Informed-Casual Player Opinions: You will enjoyable questing and leveling quite a bit. The spec feels strong and the new Eclipse system is quite enjoyable at first glance. Having Stellar Flare in the rotation (a Lvl100 Talent) will spice up the rotation and make it more engaging. (No PvP feedback at this time.)

First-time Moonkin Opinion
: The cosmetics of the spells look awesome, and the Eclipse Bar is very enjoyable for questing. Starfall is very strong. Balance not very hard. Having a bit more time and knowledge would definitely be helpful, but I like it so far.

How does the toolkit/mechanics of the spec help to provide a fun and sustainable playstyle?

I’m biased in this situation because I already want more depth, but the current toolkit is severely lacking in any decision-making. Most mechanics are moderately simple to learn, but once you learn it, you’ve mastered it. Starsurge is our answer to all our questions. If a mechanic actually provides some hint of depth, it’s extremely shallow due to what is actually changing.

Once you learn the basics of Moonkins, you’ve mastered the playstyle. Really. No joke. The “easy to learn, hard to master”-design is reversed. It’s actually quite difficult to learn the proper timing of spells, mostly Moonfire and Sunfire. This is due to how Eclipse snapshots. I believe the mix-up will be fixed in time, but that will take same major changes.

Starsurge is the answer to everything? Burst? Movement DPS? Gameplay with Depth? The answer is always Starsurge. While this might seem okay, it really doesn’t provide interesting gameplay. Consider this: You aren’t quite sure how to handle a mechanic in a raid optimally? (Pssst! Starsurge.) You almost cannot go wrong with Starsurge, and Starfall is the only other answer–for AOE. If the toolkit does get more changes, these changes need to not be Starsurge-based mechanics. Starsurge has too many uses; it really cannot provide any decent gameplay with additional effects.

“Shallow mechanics” is my way of saying “there’s some depth, but it doesn’t do much more.” Aside from Multi-DOTing, which is inherently complex, lets review the major damaging spells in our arsenal. This does not include spell cooldowns, like Incarnation or Celestial Alignment.

  • Shooting Stars :: Normalized proc rate due to “Nightfall” mechanic. Rarely changes frequency during encounter.
  • Starfall :: Deals AOE damage. Use if sufficient targets (4+).
  • Starfire :: Deals single-target damage. Filler spell.
  • Wrath :: Deals single-target damage. Filler spell.
  • Moonfire :: Deals single-target damage. DOT.
  • Sunfire :: Deals single-target damage. DOT. Application spreads damage-over-time portion to all nearby enemies.

By this list, you can really only argue that Starfall, Starsurge, Sunfire, and Hurricane have depth. However, consider that “I was going to do that anyways.” For AOE, you weren’t going to Starfall? Of course you would. The same logic applies to Hurricane; you were definitely going to Hurricane that group of enemies even without the perk. As far as I’m concerned, the only depth comes from Starsurge and Sunfire. Starsurge is definitely effecting our casting, and Sunfire is definitely a requirement before your AOE. But this is where that “shallow” argument comes into play. Starsurge provides some depth, concerning burst and sustained, but you were already going to press Starfire or Wrath afterwards. Again, if you were going to do it anyway, is it really depth? (Yes, in this case, just very shallow.) And Sunfire, it just spreads to nearby enemies when we cast it. That’s it. It has AOE implications, yes, but since Shooting Stars in normalized, all it really does is damage over time across clustered enemies.

Closing thoughts:

There is a very severe lack of depth. I know many players will throw the “how can you tell it won’t be fun if you haven’t tried it in raids?”-argument at me, so here’s my rebuttal: When I get bored after 15min. When I accidentally pull the entire room in a dungeon. When I spend hours discussing, arguing, and communicating ideas about how to “solve raid mechanics” with other players, many of which are better than myself, I can safely conclude that the hardcore player will not find Moonkins to be fun. Casual players will get bored quickly. And players who don’t like the playstyle will simply never pick it up again.

Everyone is different, but the spec will feel the same for everyone given enough time. If you did the same exact thing every encounter from every tier, regardless how unique the raid mechanics are, you would get absolutely bored with the playstyle. You just react the same way every single time, with extremely limited options (mostly just using Starsurge slightly differently). That is not fun. That is not engaging. That is not a sustainable playstyle.

The spec feels extremely limited right now. Blizzard definitely knows this, and agrees with the most of the negative feedback. We will see some changes in the future. I have no idea how game-breaking they will be, but something is going to need to change. There is still plenty of time before Warlords of Draenor goes live. Blizzard absolutely listens to feedback, and I’m looking forward to the next few Beta builds.

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