Saturday, August 15, 2009

What Race/Class Combos Would Be Missing From Cataclysm?

My gut reaction to the WoW Cataclysm rumors was to conclude that all races would be allowed to become all classes when the dust settled. I figured that there was no reason to keep any restrictions once you've explained away many of the most prominent discrepancies. Over the day since the leak, though, some of the examples I cited turn out not to be so far fetched. Is Blizzard opening all classes to all races, or have they just gone through and tried to stretch the rules using whatever exceptions they could find without (technically) breaking the lore (a fictional creation that they own and can change)?

Faction Balance
Let's assume for the sake of argument that the 11 new combinations, and only those combinations, are going to be added to the game. Once the lore is accommodating those choices as NPC's, there's no reason to restrict player characters. What would that do to faction balance? Of the game's 10 classes:

3 are open to an equal number of races on each side. DK's and now Warriors will be universal (I'm pretty sure that BE's only lost warriors in the first place due to the pre-Wrath 6 classes/race restriction), and one race on each side (Draenai and Tauren) has previously been ruled too large to sneak in the shadows as a rogue.

After the changes, the Horde will hold a one-race advantage for Warlocks, Hunters, Druids, and Shamen. This could be remedied if the Worgen, but NOT the Goblins, get those classes. Gnomes would be the other no-Hunter race, and it might be argued that having such a large differential between character size and pet size (think Gnome/Goblin + Devilsaur) would be a PVP balance issue. Then again, would they really make Goblins go without hunters?

Meanwhile, the Horde would continue to have a one-race deficit in Priests, Pallies, and Mages. Orcs would be the only no-priest race, Tauren would the only no-mage race. However, there are issues with trying to balance this. Would they really rule out Worgen priests and mages? And is Azeroth really ready for Goblin Pallies?

Even if you conclude that Pallies and Shamen can remain imbalanced for historical reasons, that leaves Worgen with six classes (War, Rog, DK, Lock, Hunter, Druid) and Goblins with only five (War, Rogue, DK, Mage, Priest). More likely, there'd be some overlap (currently the Alliance has an extra warrior and priest, while the horde has extra locks and hunters), because I can't imagine new races in an alt-friendly expansion being limited to a mere 5-6 options (putting them in at least a tie for fewest options in the game).

One strange addition
So it turns out that, while the Bronzebeard Dwarves of Ironforge (all current player Dwarves) don't do Shamanism or Arcane magic, Wildhammer and Dark Iron Dwarves do. I'd also forgotten that the mages in Dire Maul were Highbourne pre-Night Elves rather than High/Blood Elves. Some of the others (Human Hunters, BE Warriors) were only left off because of the old class cap.

Still, what's up with Troll Druids? I don't recall ever seeing any druids beyond the two current races (Tauren and Night Elf). I suppose that the trolls (bosses in ZG, ZA, and ZD) have some ability to change into animal forms under the proper circumstances, so perhaps some off-shoot tribe actually learned how to druid without going nuts and sacrificing their totem gods. Worgen, whose lore is almost as clean of a slate as the Draenai, could also sneak in under the shapeshifting clause.

After the changes, six classes will be nigh ubiquitous, with the remainder (Warlocks, Druids, Shamen, and Pallies) being the classes that would be most impacted by racial culture if restrictions are remaining. As I noted above, there are three classes that will be missing from only one of the current races: Orc Priests, Tauren Mages, and Gnome Hunters. Perhaps arcane power is not really a Tauren thing (though I would have been Horde all the way if Tauren mage had been an option back in 2004), and Gnomes don't care enough about nature to feed a non-demonic pet. But why the hate for Orc Priests?

Speaking of Gnomes, the addition of priests would rescue them from their current status as the only race that cannot heal. This ends five years of oppression, during which Gnomes were the only race that could not organize a single-race dungeon run. Even so, they would still be the least versatile race in the game, with only six class options. (The other race with similar current limitations, the Tauren, picks up two classes at once to jump out of the tie for last place.)

Forsaken Blood Knights are another seeming omission. If you were going to add just one Pally race to the Horde, Forsaken learning to leech off of the baby Mu'ru from their Blood Elf colleagues seems more likely that Tauren spontaneously developing Naa'ru worship like Alliance Pallies.

Summing Up
Overall, my gut reaction to the changes may be been premature. Every non-gnome race would now be missing 2-3 classes (/mourn gnomes who miss out on 4), and most of the omissions make some amount of sense. The Druid thing remains dicey, but I guess that having at least two choices per class per faction is a worthwhile goal. And hey, I've been meaning to try a Shaman, but not all that enthusiastic about A) the Space Goats or B) rolling Horde without access to all my heirlooms and alts, so perhaps I'm just the audience they're after.


Anjin said...

When all is said and done, I think this comes down to Blizzard saying "Why not?" There have been a lot of sacred cows (like rolling on only one side of a PvP server) that they have rethought over time. Expanding class options seems like another step in this direction. Restrictions for their own sake are an endangered species in WoW.

Yeebo said...

Blizzard has repeatedly shown that they are not willing to be limited by the lore that they made up. If they are willing to give the Alliance "kindly space demons" as a race option, it's pretty clear to me that lore based speculation on what they will do is next to pointless. Blizzard will do whatever the hell they feel like in terms of game design, and stretch the lore to accommodate it.

I think it's a logical stance. Lore grognards for the random stuff they came up with in their RTS games have to be a very small proportion of their audience.

Longasc said...

A lot of WoW's lore is the brainchild of Chris Metzen, or Mr. Giant Shoulderpads, how I would like to describe his favorite trait when it comes down to describing his art style.

They already messed up their lore repeatedly, most notably in TBC with the Draenei history/spaceship stuff.

Lore is not a major concern, but I think your question remains valid:

Why should there still be class limitations for some races if many races are now allowed to become anything possible.

I personally think it is quite cheap and shows that WoW is more Virtual Disneyland than a Virtual World.

This is why the Argent Crusade and the fight between Horde and Alliance more looks to me like the daily parade in Disneyworld than real.

The world is cramped full with attractions for addicted gamer tourists, but it loses the last bit roleplaying and world feeling to me.

(As I am playing LOTRO at the moment, it does not have nearly as much cool stuff and the tons of content that WoW has, but it has a world and roleplaying feeling that they hopefully keep intact. I just brought up the game vs virtual world debate again, if you want. ;))

Moranin said...

Couldn't an Orc Priest fall under the same rationale as the dental artistry-loving Elf from the old Rudolph movie...every race has some weirdos? Doesn't it make sense that there would be some moody Dwarf teenagers who would want to learn how to shoot fireballs from their palms, clan traditions be damned?

It just seems a bit silly for Blizzard to start tweaking the class/race combo balances, but still not allow free and random choice. It'd certainly make the next valentine's day world event less painful!

Green Armadillo said...

@Anjin: That's why I had the initial thought that I did. It was only after sitting down to do a relatively exhaustive review of the choices that they added and the ones that were left that I began to think that they're not ready to remove all restrictions.

@Yeebo: That's kind of my take on the lore, I don't see why I should take it any more seriously than they do, when it's clear that it bends or breaks whenever they want it to. (E.g. the time they decided to inflict the completely incurable undead plague - the one that we establish via a quest in Icecrown cannot be fixed by the most powerful NPC' in the game - on every player and NPC in Azeroth.)

@Long: LOTRO is better in some places, but they'll break their lore too. My Champion can now cause both of his swords to light on fire for no apparent reason using a level 52 attack. I don't remember the malevolent ice creatures, vampire bat women, yetis, giant lizards, or emo-dudes who think they're werewolves from the books. And then there's that pesky Runekeeper - I'll try and reserve judgment until I get around to playing it, but that one sounds really out there.

@Mora: Yeah, the only thing I can think of is that the orcs might be too corrupt to be priests. Then again, Forsaken can be priests. But oh dear gods, what if the next holiday is to tag one of every single combination in the game?!

Anonymous said...

I think the best way to think about it is that, during the times when lore and gameplay directly conflict, then Blizzard is almost always going to go with gameplay. Probably the best example of this is that, lorewise, death is practically permanent. That time you died to Hogger or all the times you've wiped in an instance, your character should have died and stayed dead, or at best been reanimated as a servant of the Lich King.

That said, each of the rumored new class/race combinations can be justified to a certain degree, and the others are so ridiculous lorewise Blizzard apparently thinks they are less justifiable than Troll Druids. Night Elf Warlocks? Undead Druids? Orc Paladins?

Dorgol said...

I'm more OK with Troll Druids (Animists?) than I am Tauren Paladin or Forsaken Hunters.

I'm all for Blizzard removing the "this class can only be one race". But giving Paladins to TAUREN? I think most people would be supportative of Forsaken Paladins - they were human once, they are more buddy-buddy with the BEs than the rest of the horde, they already have priests.

Green Armadillo said...

@Anon: That was basically my conclusion. Warlocks and Druids (and, to a lesser extent, Pallies and Shamen) make a stronger statement about racial culture than swinging a weapon or healing stuff in a world of war-craft. However, I'd still love to hear the problem with Orc Priests now that everyone else has them.

@Dorgol: It is possible that Troll and Worgen Druids will have a different in-game name (e.g. Animist, like BE Blood Knights) to signify that they arrive at the same gameplay location by slightly different lore means.

On Forsaken Hunters, I guess the theory might have been that the Forsaken have access to every class they had as living humans except Pally (I guess they're raised as DK's). Human hunters mean Forsaken Hunters.

The Tauren have a semi-flimsy storyline about re-discovering the worship of the Sun (i.e. The Light) instead of the more druidic/shamanistic moon to explain why they're picking up both priests and pallies. The Tauren were also stuck in the cellar besides gnomes at five class options (counting DK's), and the other missing options - Mage, Warlock, Rogue - made even less sense. I still think that Forsaken Blood Knights made more sense, but that wouldn't solve the problem of what expanded options to give the Tauren.

Anonymous said...

I hadn't given this that much thought before, but my opinion is this:

The first is that the Alliance is very strongly a Light-based religious culture. Heck, the center of Stormwind City is not the king's castle, which is oddly tucked into a nook at the side of the map, but the Grand Cathedral, and that's not even taking into consideration all the Draenei lore either. Therefore, it is not too much of a stretch to give Gnomes Priests. (It is worth pointing out that Night Elves don't worship the Light but Elune instead, but it's not worth making a separate class for the distinction.)

Of the current five races of the Horde, then:

-The Blood Elves and Forsaken have Priests, because they were Light-based Priests back when they were Alliance.
-The Tauren get Priests because of the "new lore" about Sun-based nature worship.
-The Trolls got Priests because, like the Night Elves, they have Priests, just not of the Light, and it's not worth making a new class for the distinction, and secondly because in classic WoW Blizzard wanted to give more caster race choices to the Horde other than just the Forsaken, and they can no longer take back that decision and negate all the Troll Priests characters already made.

The Orcs, however, have this MAJOR cultural shamanistic religious revival lore of which Thrall is an integral part, and absolutely no interaction with worshipping anything other than the elements in their backstory. Considering just how important this shamanistic revival is to the current cultural identify of the Orcs, I think Blizzard felt that Orc Priests would not have really fit into the Orc society they want to project.

Of course, the Tauren had no Light-based interaction until recently either, but as you pointed out, the Tauren also had one of the lowest numbers of class choices in the game. If the Orcs were in a similar situation of not having a lot of playable classes, then I would imagine Blizzard would have created lore to give them Priests too, but that is not the case.

Longasc said...

The Forsaken/Undead were once vulnerable to holy damage. Undercity was raided by Paladins who could still use the not-yet-nerfed Crusader Strike in the early WoW Betas.

Blizzard went with gameplay balance, and the Forsaken became the only undead not vulnerable to holy damage.

But Undead Paladins... now this is even harder to swallow than the whole Blood Knight Paladin thing...^^