WoW Factor: So let’s talk about World of Warcraft’s Evoker

    
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SUUUUUUUUURGE

I should have more of an opinion about Evokers than I actually do.

Maybe that’s an overreaction at this point; the newest hero class being added to World of Warcraft has not yet been presented to players in anything approaching a playable form, and so my experience of it is chiefly governed by what’s available in early previews at this time. Understood and acknowledged. Moreover, there’s… well… lots of other stuff in the way of Dragonflight that feel more pressing to me.

Still, y’know, we’ve talked about that stuff over the past several weeks, and we’ve examined where we’re at in terms of the game’s overall design and aesthetic. So now seems like the perfect time to step back and actually delve into this new hero class to some degree. What looks good? What looks bad? What looks questionable?

A lot of things, actually. But let’s take it one step at a time.

First and foremost, I want to address two things that are at least personal pain points for me. I don’t mean this in the sense that these pain points are in some ways things that everyone should or must be concerned with; they’re just stuff that grinds my gears specifically, and if they don’t matter to you, well, hey, that’s great.

To start with, I don’t like the lack of a melee spec. I understand it, even beyond the fact that if this is a mail-wearing class with ranged magic, melee magic, and healing specs, it’s just Shaman again. But I also don’t think it’s really addressing the central problem there that needs addressing. WoW does not lack ranged magical damage specs (by my count, there are nine out of 36 total specs, so exactly a quarter). What it lacks are ranged physical specs (there are two), and this does nothing to really change any of that.

Also, you know… I just like melee. I like wading into striking distance and striking things. I find that to be more interesting personally. (If I continue the math from before, there are 13 such specs in the game, so we are not lacking in those.) My interest tends to run in those directions. But personally I have a harder time getting excited about “new caster.” Your mileage may vary.

Second, and more applicable than my personal peccadilloes, we also still don’t know if the split between dragon form and humanoid form is going to be a purely cosmetic toggle or if it’s going to be more like the Worgen, with which you have to fight in your animalistic form. This seems relevant to worry about because the Dracthyr in dragon form are… I’m sorry, they’re just ugly.

we have au ra at home

Obviously, this is from the grain-of-salt zone, and for some people, sure, the Dracthyr are going to do it for you. No judgment there whatsoever. But to my eyes, the Dracthyr can look good in humanoid form but look not just unfinished but unattractive in their dragon form. It’s possible that another interview has clarified this either way, but right now this is not a class where I look at it and I think “yeah, this is going to look so cool.”

That is… kind of a problem! It is not a problem Demon Hunters had. Sure, Demon Hunters look like exactly what would happen if you asked a 15-year-old anime fan to design the coolest class ever (missing only the part where it teleports behind its target while whispering “nothing personal, kid”), but that isn’t a bad thing. It’s honestly a very WoW thing, even; it’s a strong aesthetic that is fundamentally adolescent.

(There is honestly an entire column about the adolescent element of WoW that can’t be overlooked, but that’s for another week and a general sense of “would anyone even be interested in reading this” first.)

In any event, that’s the core thing that keeps getting in the way of my excitement for Evoker (and Dracthyr, but these are not separate problems). This does not make me think, “This looks silly but cool”; it makes me think, “This just looks silly and isn’t something I really wanted.” Not a good place to start from with a new class!

So what is cool about it? What is worth being excited about? Well, for one thing, dragons are just inherently kind of cool. Yes, they’re also played out, but again, it’s WoW. That’s kind of a part of its natural appeal. And being able to assault your enemies with an array of dragon breaths and draconic spells is appealing on a fundamental level, so it does have that going for it, especially as the game has had 17 years to build up a pretty robust picture of how dragons operate in this universe.

It also has the benefit of only being concerned with two specs, both of them primarily magical in their nature. Rather than having three competing specs with wildly different foci, we’ll have two, and both of the specs can maintain a universal set of tools differentiated by specifics in gameplay, and that can help with identity and to avoid design cruft. It also means that there’s no need to hold one set of tricks off for one particular DPS spec and another for the other spec; all the neat damage tricks get to occupy the same space and play off one another.

Here is where you evoke.

Empower spells definitely sound interesting, to boot. Whether or not they’re going to work very well depend on a number of factors and their overall execution, of course, but WoW in general tends to be a game of “hit every button as quickly as you can,” and so it’s always invigorating to see something that goes for a different combat design. Yes, you can argue that “hold this button for as long as possible” is not wildly different, but it might lead to a very different feel in combat.

Also, I’m a sucker for charging things up over time.

I don’t really mind the idea that the class doesn’t seem to be “for” me, as it were; that’s really a value-neutral proposition for everything beside my own personal excitement. While I haven’t seen many people who are super excited to play a Dracthyr, that doesn’t mean those people aren’t out there, and if you’re among them, please sound off in the comments. It does appear to be hitting the main notes a new class needs to, insofar as it’s asking players to do different things than previous specs and classes even while it’s using some of the shared language.

But I can’t help but be at least somewhat curious about where the ultimate direction for the class goes. There’s stuff here to be excited and interested about, stuff that’s compelling and neat, but there’s also stuff that feels half-baked or otherwise underthought. Only time is going to tell if this is a vital addition to the game that breathes new life into gameplay through its inclusion… or if it’s a quick toss-off because the developers knew the game needed a new class and this fits thematically.

Hopefully it’s the former.

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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