We rejoin the ongoing beta test for this upcoming online game by playing as the Horde--an unholy alliance of orcs, trolls, tauren, and undead.
My Life for the Horde
Our time with the beta allowed us to try out World of Warcraft's character classes, both new and old. For instance, the druid is a versatile class that can wear cloth and leather armor, fight decently in battle, and cast powerful magic spells. These include direct-damage spells, like "wrath," which allows you to attack from a distance; "entangling roots," which hold an enemy in place (while continuously damaging him or her as well); and "moonfire," which deals damage over time. Druids also have beneficial spells, like "regrowth," which heals a player over time, and "mark of the wild," which provides bonus armor. And later on, druids can even transform into powerful beasts.
Currently, druids earn their first transformation at level 10, which is bear form. This is followed by aquatic form at level 16, cat form at level 20, and travel form at level 30. The aquatic form lets you both swim fast and breathe underwater, while the travel form presumably lets your run faster. The other two forms, bear and cat, actually resemble the warrior and rogue classes, respectively. The bear form presents a "rage meter" (which replaces mana) that functions exactly like the warrior's. When you deal and sustain damage, you build rage, which, in turn, lets you use more-powerful attacking abilities. The cat form has an energy bar (again, replacing mana) that functions like the rogue's. You spend energy using moves that build "combo points," which you can then use to unleash a powerful series of attacks. Still, druids seem to be jacks-of-all-trades and masters-of-none. As a result, they aren't as skilled as priests, warriors, or rogues in healing, combat, or stealth, respectively.
We also tried out the shaman class, which also seems like a well-rounded character class. The shaman can wear leather armor and may carry a small buckler shield, along with maces and staves (at this point in time, shamans may also later opt to learn about wielding axes and daggers by purchasing the skills necessary to do so). The shaman's spellbook includes an array of damaging spells, weapon enhancements, one healing spell, and even one resurrection spell. As a result, shamans, like druids, can fill in as surrogate priests (when no priests are available). A shaman may also learn to change shape into a ghost wolf, which has a much faster movement speed and a decent attack power but lacks spells.
What really sets shamans apart from the rest of the classes is the totem--a magic ability that lets them summon a stationary "totem," which gives off a special effect within a limited radius. These totems involve earth, water, fire, and air. Earth totems can provide "stoneskin," an armor enhancement, or "earthbind," which reduces enemy movement speed. The fire totem spells include "searing," which does light damage over time to all enemies within a specific radius, and "flametongue," which imparts additional fire damage to the shaman's weapon and to those of his party members. However, totems do have some weaknesses. For instance, they can be destroyed in battle; they have only a limited radius; and only certain effects stack with each other. This means that you can have both an earth-based stoneskin totem and a water-based "healing stream" totem in play at the same time, but casting an earth-based earthbind totem will cancel out your original stoneskin totem. Regardless, shamans are useful in parties because of their healing abilities and totems. However, the versatile nature of their weapons, armor, and magic also make them very viable for solo adventuring, since they represent such a very well-rounded class (at least at this stage in the beta).
We also revisited the priest class, which was significantly changed in the game by the removal of its "sleep" spell, which was a powerful sorcery that would temporarily incapacitate enemies and allow priests to perform "crowd control" (thus immobilizing extra foes until you or your group had time to deal with them). Sleep has now moved to the mage class, so priests are now more-focused on their greatest strengths, which include the abilities to both heal and shield themselves and other characters from damage. Priests have two main types of spells: holy magic and shadow magic. Holy spells include those involving healing, shields, "stat buffs," (spells that increase their target's ability scores, like strength and stamina), and holy attacks, while shadow spells range from those that damage to mind-control spells that let you affect enemies and how aggressively they'll attack you and your friends. One of the priest's most useful spells is "holy word: shield," which completely protects a character from damage (either for a limited time or until it has absorbed a certain amount of damage). It's thanks to this spell that the cloth-wearing priests are able to fight alone as effectively as they do, though it's also a great way to make monsters angry at you. Fortunately, priests now have a new spell, named "fade," which decreases enemies' animosity toward you so that they can focus their attentions on more-heavily armored warriors.
Priests wield a mace by default (though they can become proficient in other weapon classes, such as staves), but they have no special melee skills to speak of. They are dependent on their damage-absorbing shield for protection, but from behind that shield, priests can cast spells without interruption, enabling them to heal, throw out a strong offensive spell, or attack in safety. For such a lightly armored, magic-focused class, they do very well toe-to-toe with enemies. In a group, priests often take the role of the healer, and they have a good number of healing spells of varying effects and costs that can be tailored to the particular adventuring circumstances. A group with a priest often has very little "downtime," or time that the group must spend sitting and resting to recover lost health and mana. While priests aren't able to control crowds anymore, they remain a solid and very viable class.
- Release Date: Nov 23, 2004 (US)
- ESRB: TTitles rated T (Teen) have content that may be suitable for ages 13 and older.