Sunday, August 10, 2008

Death Knight Update, Level 71 and a new beta build

The beta got a new build on Friday night, and Cheerydeth the Death Knight continues to progress towards level 70. A few updates:

More Minions, Fewer Minions
The bad news is that, since my last post on talent specs, they've nerfed the DK ghoul summoning to prevent you from having two ghouls out at once. (There are bugs in the build that cause your one ghoul not to despawn when his timer expires, and sometimes summon a total of eight ghouls for no good reason, but these will be fixed.) That said, Blizzard is planning a new mechanic for Deep Unholy specced DK's that will allow you to resummon your ghoul more rapidly. Among other neat tricks (e.g. Detonate), this would allow you to use Death Pact (which sacrifices your ghoul to heal you) more often. Death Pact could help the Unholy tree catch up a bit with the Blood tree in terms of healing (and thus reduced downtime). Well, that is, if they don't do anything foolish with the Blood tree anyway....

Too late. I called the previous form of Blood Worms, a talent which has a 30% chance of producing a swarm of worms who effectively heal you to full if you kill a diseased foe "hideously overpowered when it procs". Blizzard addressed this problem by allowing you to proc practically the same swarm of worms (the heal has been very slightly reduced) off a strike you can use at least twice every 10 seconds on foes you haven't killed yet, who need not be diseased (though the strike will also heal you for a substantial amount if they are, in addition to doing damage and having the 60% chance to proc the worms). And, as the picture illustrates, you can get more than one batch of 3-5 worms at a time (each of which heals you for just shy of 200 health every other second on top of your other healing abilities, the flurry of green numbers is astounding).

I actively force myself to spec out of this talent from time to time so I don't get too used to the sheer insanity. That said, I'm afraid that I'm not going to want to play a Death Knight when the game goes live, cause the final product is almost certain to be weaker than any of the versions I've been messing around with.

A new look?
Speaking of which, Death Knights now have their own undead-looking skin tones/faces etc. Don't panic yet, cause it's still a beta, but in the current build I was no longer able to give a new Death Knight pink hair at character creation. The Barber shop isn't really working at the moment, so I'm not able to prove whether or not you'll be able to dye your non-pink hair pink after creation (though I'm definitely not going to use poor Cheery as a guinea pig and not be able to get her hair back!). I'd never really considered the possibility that Cheery might have a unique look that will never again be seen on a Death Knight once the beta ends and she's wiped from the servers. Really, don't screen shots like the one below just scream "Death Knight" at you?

Beward of massive Nether Whelp.

How big is Northrend?
Blizzard has added the region levels for Northrend to the official site. Officially, both Borean Tundra and the Howling Fjord are supposed to be tuned for level 68-72. Realistically, I think most classes will have a hard time actually making progress solo at level 68 (though it's worth the brief trip to get one of the weapon upgrades from Northrend before going back to Outland), but otherwise their guess looks spot on. I have finished most of Howling Fjord (I think, it's hard to be certain since I keep finding new quests/followups) and something like half or a third of the Borean Tundra, and I've advanced from level 68 to 71 (70 -> 71 was about twice what 69 -> 70 was expwise), so it looks like I'll be able to hit 72 by the time I finish both zones, and players who start at 70 should not need to clear more than one of the zones before moving on.

The downside is that I'm about to have finished two of the ten zones in Northrend (which includes the optional PVP zone). Now it's possible that the exp curve will slow down drastically in the 77+ region; the list earmarks three PVE zones AND the optional PVP zone for levels 77-80. I've also been playing significantly more than I would normally have time for because my new job doesn't start until September. That said, if what I've seen is 15-20% of the expansion (remember, I'd invested 30ish hours /played on old content before starting Northrend due to my decision to roll Death Knight), this may end up feeling like a short expansion.

Quality is more important than quantity, and the quality is certainly here (I'd rate the two new zones as good or better than anything in Outland so far), but it would be nice not to be level 80 and out of content again a month or two after the expansion launches. I like Northrend. It's pretty, and I'd hate to find myself shipping out before my time.


Xtian said...

I understand from Blizzard podcasts/posts/releases that there is a much greater focus on 10-player content at level 80. All raids will now be accessible to both 25-player and 10-player groups. This means that one could conceivably PuG through multiple raids at different levels of progression, albeit with a boatload of patience and multiple bouts of destructive aggression. The relative success of Kara PuGs and small, casual guilds in BC seems to have really energized Bliz's 10-player content.

Green Armadillo said...

There certainly will be more 10-man content than TBC had (and Blizzard may feel less pressure to break guilds in half by forcing them to run multiple 10-man saves to gear for 25-man raids). I'm really not sure where the idea that this means a return to the day of 10-man Strath/Scholo Pug zergs came from.

Perhaps some guilds are really energized by 10-man content, but I've been in two guilds so far that have died trying to get through Karazhan. Many blogs and forum posts have given anecdotal accounts of how the best players from these small guilds get frustrated with the rate of progress and leave for more dedicated guilds, further slowing the progress of those who are now left without their top tanks/healers.

At the end of the day, content will still have a non-zero difficulty. It will be easier to learn encounters if you have the same group of 10-12 people working on your 10-man raid than if you're fleshing out a group with a dedicated tank/healer (both of whom are soon to depart for better guilds) and whichever of your guild's 20 sporadic DPS show up that night. The smaller your raiding pool gets, the less room you're going to have for tolerating people who won't farm consumables or can't promise to be there on time three nights a week.

My point being, the new 10-man raids may increase access to content for some players, but they may also shut the door on others.