Does entering Northrend have the same "epic feel" that entering Outland for the first time had? You know, the whole "stepping out of the dark portal to find yourself already in the middle of a massive battle against the Burning Legion, intense music blaring, frantic scramble to keep your mission from being destroyed just as it starts" feeling?
I've gotta say: Burning Crusade wins on the epic entry. You step through the Dark Portal -- which had looked like an impressive edifice until you stepped through it and discovered it was many times larger on the Outland side -- and into the middle of a tremendous demonic battle. The sky overhead is filled with unfamiliar stars and bursting with colorful flows of energy... or... whatever they are. (But don't they look awesome?) Pardon me Dorothy, but we aren't in Azeroth anymore. When you enter Outland you hit the ground running and jump right into the midst of the fight against the Burning Legion.
For more on Northrend's epic proportions -- and other questions -- read on! But if you're the sort who wants to avoid spoilers, turn back now. We're aiming to avoid major story spoilers, but this feature is all about beta content and we can't talk about the beta without giving a few things away.
Entering Northrend for the first time is a bit more subtle. While Northrend is, and I cannot stress this enough, absolutely gorgeous, it is still part of Azeroth. (Though a much colder part of Azeroth -- and you feel the cold even when you're in areas where there's no snow. Somehow, the scenery, the colors, the sky, and the music combine to make things feel frigid even when you don't see snow coming down.) The skies are the same as what you're used to and you're walking on solid ground -- you won't find any crazy floating islands overhead (except for Dalaran, which is relatively stationary) or be immediately jumped by your greatest enemy. You arrive, depending on faction, by zeppelin or boat and land in an established town. (Though you're treated to some particularly lovely scenes of icy water and, if you're lucky, penguins, on your way in.) You do immediately dive into some quest chains that pit you against the looming Scourge menace, but it's not quite the same thing. While I tremendously enjoy Northrend, it doesn't have that epic, into the fray feeling that my initial entry to Outland had.
However, I suspect that we haven't yet seen the whole story. Some of the quest text I've encountered suggests that our initial foray to Northrend was caused by some sort of major event in Azeroth which simply hasn't occurred in the beta yet. This may well tilt the scales on the "epic" factor of our entry to Northrend.
With the possible inclusion of duel talent specs what is going to be the point in leveling alts? I have a BM Hunter and am halfway leveling a MM hunter but come WotLK I'll be able to experience both on the same Hunter. i love the idea of duel specs but it does seem to discourage peeps rolling alts of the same class.
The two-spec thing isn't in the game yet, but I can't think it will really do any harm. Let's get a show of hands -- how many people out there are really enthusiastic about leveling up the same class twice in order to have a fully immersive experience with multiple specs? (I admit, sometimes I do wish I had two fully geared level 70 Paladins, so I could hop between tanking and healing with no need to for regular respecs, but not yet enough to level a second Paladin to 70 and deck it out in worthwhile gear.) There are ten different classes and still plenty of alt-tastic experiences to be had even if you can have two different talent specs on a single character.
And at max level, the ability to switch painlessly between tanking and healing and DPSing and PvPing cannot be understated. I must say, I think this is going to be a good thing no matter how Blizzard winds up implementing it.
Is the downranking nerf really hurting healers that badly? Or is it not as big of a deal due to the mana cost changes?
Though this change does sting at present, it's hard to judge just yet. Blizzard has actively stated on the forums that they're currently evaluating the situation and what we're seeing in-game may not be the final form. At present, on the live realms, I keep three ranks of Holy Light hotkey accessible. In Wrath, I'll just have one, and it will probably be really lonely on my toolbar all by itself. This change is going to involve heavy rethinking of my healing strategy.
However, my Paladin's max rank Holy Light on the beta realms actually cost more mana than it does on the live realms, so to say that this change concerns me is the understatement of the year. But healing spells seem to have been buffed across the board to hit harder, so perhaps it will all balance out in the end. (To add to that, different ways to regenerate mana seem to have been added to the healing classes, as talents or base spells.) I do presently predict that I'll find myself running out of mana sooner than ever -- and needing to blow all of my tricks to make it through a fight, whereas now I tend to burn cooldowns in case of emergency. My attempts at healing in the beta on a small (5-man group) scale have worked out fine, but the raid experience has yet to be implemented. After raids have been added to the game, there will be more testing to do.
I'm worried, but still hopeful that everything will work out in the end. Keep your fingers crossed for your healers, folks!