WoW Factor: Allied races and a dearth of class choices

    
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Local Panda Recalls When She Was Special.

Last week, we got confirmation that Kul Tiran Humans and Mag’har Orcs are coming to the Allied Race roster for World of Warcraft: Battle for Azeroth. We don’t know when, but I have a bit of a theory about that as it is; from what we know, it’d make sense to have Dark Iron Dwarves and Mag’har Orcs brought in at the start of the expansion, while the Kul Tiran Humans and Zandalari Trolls are brought in after you’ve finished the leveling story for the respective factions. The former are more solidly members than the latter, after a fashion.

But we don’t know for certain when they’re getting added, just that they will be. And that’s interesting, because it means that both factions have significantly increased their race options within one expansion. And that becomes kind of relevant when you look at how many choices individual players have in terms of having something for all of these different races to do.

Let’s explain that one by stepping backwards a little bit to the game’s initial launch. At that time, you had eight classes per faction and four races, but due to the way that talents worked you had a bit of a wider field in terms of playstyle. When The Burning Crusade came out, all of the various specs were actually viable, so you could realistically have at least three different characters of any given class.

“Wait, why are you limited to three?” You aren’t! But from a realistic standpoint, you’re probably not going to be super-eager to level up Roguefifteen with the same talents, skills, and racial abilities as Roguefourteen. Racials also don’t make up a core part of most gameplay anyhow, so it’s mostly about “how many characters can have unique options.” Even the addition of dual specs in Wrath of the Lich King didn’t change this much; not every character had dual specs anyway, after all.

As time went by, of course, the systems changed. You wound up with fewer individual skills to pick through the talent system, which meant that it was less likely you could have, say, two Feral Druids who actually played differently. Dual spec became more easily obtained. Armor stopped being separated by spec, which meant that you had less reason to worry about whether or not a given character had taken gear for that spec.

WHY CAN'T WE BE FRIENDS? Oh, right, all those things we did.

Legion has done a lot of good things for the game as a whole, and at the time it launched, the ever-present ability to switch specs and talents in rest areas was a good thing. (It still baffles me that people were complaining about that much limitation, but that’s a rant for another time.) It still is. You can try out a talent without feeling locked into it, and the refinements to the talent system that’s coming with Battle for Azeroth promises to make it a bit better; the designers overall have noted that it doesn’t feel fun to choose between AoE damage, single-target damage, and survival, so the tiers of most trees are being arranged so that you’re choosing between types of AoE damage on a set tier. All good.

But all of this has kind of demolished the idea of having an alt of the same class for a “new” experience. It’s even worse for some particular classes; almost no one wants to level as a healer, which means that even if you primarily play as a Holy Paladin, you’re probably using Protection or Retribution to level up. Even as the specs have become more separated in gameplay, they’ve lost the sense of “pick one and go for it.”

I think this also extends to why, say, healers are so awful to level at this point. Before, you had to go out of your way to pick up another Paladin spec for leveling up; now, you have access to other specs at any inn, and the only thing that’s really going to slow you down is leveling your artifact. Battle for Azeroth’s system is even killing that requirement.

How does this tie back into the allied races? Well, the odds are that in the past decade and change, you probably have made alts on all of the classes that you want to play. If you wanted to have one character of each class and one character of each race, you already couldn’t manage that; there would be some doubling up to begin with. If you want to level an allied race, you are probably increasingly running out of things for your allied race to be.

You might technically have 36 options between specs, but that’s assuming that you enjoy every spec equally, something that seems unlikely in the extreme. There are some specs that I absolutely never want to play (Beast Mastery) and some classes that I usually have one spec in a given expansion which I find fun (Mages). When faced with another quartet of races to make alts for, it’s easy to just find yourself staring and muttering about maybe managing another Monk on this server for some reason.

I suppose this is a problem I'm happy to complain about.

Some of this is further exacerbated by a paucity of options. Assuming that Kul Tiran Humans can be Druids (which seems likely), Alliance players are at least getting another option there. But if we assume that Zandalari Trolls cannot be Paladins (and Mag’har Orcs almost certainly cannot), we’re left with a Troll race that can basically just be all of the things Trolls already do.

Is this a huge problem? Yes and no. Yes, it’s an actual problem with how many character options you have and how you can make a roster of alts fun and diverse. No, because not everyone necessarily cares all that much about having rows and rows of alts. Some people are happier having few alts or none at all. Of course, those people may not care much about allied races anyhow, but…

The promise of a better distribution of tiers does help this somewhat. Sure, there might be an optimal choice on any given tier of talents for the “best” AoE option, but two separate characters can at least make different picks. Of course, it’s also possible that a given tier has one fun option and a couple of unpleasant ones, which cycles us right back around.
Ironically, that (purely speculative) column from a few weeks ago about adding a dual spec system would solve the issue nicely. After all, even the most restrictive system there still opens up the prospect of some thousand combinations.

On a whole, I don’t think this is something that’s necessarily easy or straightforward to fix. Considering the sheer volume of Allied Races we already have on deck and the ones that seem like shoo-ins at this point, this is going to just be a problem we have to deal with through this expansion. We’re not going to get a big new class overhaul with this expansion; wait for the next one.

But it is something to consider, and to my mind, it hints at more options coming for the future. After all, it’d make a lot of sense to give people new options for races that they may not have a use for now… only to offer more options as the next expansion rolls around. And considering that Allied Races as a concept have unlocked the ability to make a lot of races very quickly (we’re getting more playable races with this expansion than we have from every prior expansion combined), one wonders if we might have something similar waiting in the wings for the future.

What that might be, I don’t know. Single-spec classes? Prestige classes? Dual classes? Cosmetic options? Your guess is as good as mine. It might even be nothing; it just raises the question.

Feedback, as always, is welcome in the comments or via mail to eliot@massivelyop.com. Personally, I might actually make a Feral Druid for that Kul Tiran wicker nightmare. That stuff is exceedingly my jam, and while I generally find myself put off by the lack of my character from form-heavy druid specs… I could learn to love being a snarling wicker monstrosity.

War never changes, but World of Warcraft does, with a decade of history and a huge footprint in the MMORPG industry. Join Eliot Lefebvre each week for a new installment of WoW Factor as he examines the enormous MMO, how it interacts with the larger world of online gaming, and what’s new in the worlds of Azeroth and Draenor.

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borghive
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borghive

These allied races that were added are just reskins of current models, it was a lazy attempt to add much needed variety to the game. I know a lot of people love WoW, but you can just tell that the current dev team is taking a very minimalist approach to the game now.

People keep saying they are dumbing the game down and limiting player choice in order to make the game easier for new players, but in reality they are making the game easier for the developers to pump out content faster.

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Tizmah

The new humans dont look like reskins at all

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styopa

“When The Burning Crusade came out, all of the various specs were actually viable”
Bwahahaha! That’s a good one.

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Randy Savage

The only Allied race that I’d ever play is Vykrul because… vikings

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Utakata

“Assuming that Kul Tiran Humans can be Druids (which seems likely), Alliance players are at least getting another option there. But if we assume that Zandalari Trolls cannot be Paladins (and Mag’har Orcs almost certainly cannot), we’re left with a Troll race that can basically just be all of the things Trolls already do.”

That’s pretty much hits the nail on the pink noggin of how I feel about this. It makes the Allied races kinda pointless in the end, especially for alt-holics such as myself. So yes, it’s problematic.

“Ironically, that (purely speculative) column from a few weeks ago about adding a dual spec system would solve the issue nicely. After all, even the most restrictive system there still opens up the prospect of some thousand combinations.”

Unlikely to happen. Blizz is very retentive in dealing with balance. Adding more options adds more variables to deal with in that. And as I have argued in the past, it’s likely what fueled the ability and talent tree pruning we’ve ended up with today. So yeah…nope, I’m afraid. Unless there’s a regime change of lead developers at Irvine HQ that will leave us with new leads that that care less about it.

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Bruno Brito

Meh. they should just destroy class restrictions and be done with. WoW’s lore is already dumpstered in that regard, and about balance? We had Humans being the top 90% PvPers for YEARS. It’s not like Blizzard is that good about balancing anyway.

So, i’m all for tossing a small ammount of balance in the trash for fun factor.

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Utakata

I am too. Just that will unlikely happen under the current lead developers’ watch.

For the record though, this is not to say that WoW has no balancing issues currently. As I believe that’s an entirely untenable goal. But Blizz has decided to go after that brass ring anyhow, missing out on a lot of opportunities to make things interesting, IMO.

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Bruno Brito

It took them YEARS to balance Every Man for Himself, which is laughable, since every MMO nowadays offers a Break Free ability to every race.

Sometimes i wonder if Blizzard’s ability in getting an existing idea and improving upon it doesn’t count for WoW.

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Dreema

I’ve run through all the quests to unlock the allied races, but then stopped right there. I have one of every class already so why do I need another? I don’t. Does my lightforged draenei paladin play differently to the draenei paladin I’ve had for the past eight years? No. Does it even look much different? No. So my interest in allied races died right there.

Adding allied races is all well and fine, but if they don’t offer anything the existing races don’t already offer, then I don’t see the point.

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Ashfyn Ninegold

That was my take as well, but before I jumped through all the hoops to unlock them. BFF doesn’t offer anything except new mount skins, new armor skins and essentially new class skins, which for many people is enough. Unless the endless azerite grind is attractive.

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Dug From The Earth

Just because they offer 31 flavors of ice cream, doesnt mean you have to eat them all.

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Danny Smith

I took a look at the races and right away went ‘well i already have at least two of each of these classes, the reskin isn’t worth the bother’ and that was that. Legion was a step back in the right direction from Warlords but compared to ‘every class on one character’ in FFXIV the commitment to one class per character is just too much time for what nowadays feels like a skin so as not to unbalance pvp.

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Tizmah

And FFXIV all the races are humans with with an animal feature slapped on. They really worked hard on that race design. Plus the whole one character all jobs thing doesn’t allow you to re experience world content.

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TomTurtle

I like having more options for druids and would really like more options for paladins on Horde.

I too appreciate what allied races bring to the game and how much quicker they can be slotted in, or so I hope. I would love to see some entirely new races pop up that also become allied races, like with the speculation about the Vulpera.

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Venomlicious

Allied races at the same time they increase the level grind by 100% all for a world that is dead until you reach cap. Even at cap there is not much to do but raid or grind world quests for gold.

There is no soul left in this game so i just stopped playing. I boosted a warrior nightborne and its nothing but a skin and the same pruned warrior that i had as a orc warrior. Most of the game it 1 2 3 and a proc run out of bad.

borghive
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borghive

I’m in alpha at the moment, and if you think the classes feel pruned in Legion just wait till BFA.

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IronSalamander8 .

While I understand that many race/class combos are for lore reasons I still don’t like them all that much. I would love to have a goblin or troll paladin, as ridiculous at those ideas are. When I came back after a long hiatus it was already odd to me see BE warriors, undead hunters, troll druids and warlocks, tauren paladins, etc. but in a good way. Even if its a class/race combo that I dislike or makes zero sense in the game world, I still don’t mind giving people choices.

As for more options for these new races. I agree with you Eliot, it seems strange to give us all these new races, and they have to earn their heritage gear so no race changing your old main to circumvent that, and then winnow their class choices down so much. Perhaps they are planning for future classes or other ideas for the new races.

I think most people choose race based on appearance although I understand that humans are popular for their racials, most racials don’t matter all that much really. I actually race changed my 2nd DK on WrA to Draenei so I could unlock the alliance allied races in game right now even if I almost always play horde just to see the appearance options for these races.