Each race usually has its own unique casting animations associated with it, further different spell sub-types also have a different animation in order to signify which archetype they belong to. Portal spells look different from damage spells which are different from healing spells. Balance druids, however, only have one casting animation as we only have a single type of spell which we can cast. Casting Starfire is the same animation as casting Wrath, save one is blue while the other is green. To a degree, this is fine; after all, most other classes, particularly warlocks and magi, often don't see a variety of casting animations either. Healers, too, are locked into one animation subset as their spell type never changes either.
Yet, for a form that is so stagnant, having some variety within our casting animations would be a nice breath of fresh air. As balance druids, we never really get to see a different casting animation save for those times when we drop form in order to heal, yet that has no correlation to Moonkin Form itself, the form we are consistently stuck it. A mage casts differently when they use Evocation instead of Arcane Missiles. Warlocks have unique summoning animations that are different from their other spells; balance druids are not afforded this variety through anything. All of our spells have exactly the same animation.
This too should change, if only because we are not afforded the same novelty that other classes get when they use their special abilities. Moonkin Form needs two unique casting animations that are split between the spell schools -- arcane magic should look different from nature magic. Although this is not a principle applied to other classes, they also have various abilities that they use throughout their lifespan which are different, Moonkin Form does not have this. The only variation that we posses is that our CC and buffing spells cause our hands to raise upwards upon completion while damaging spells throw our hands outwards; there needs to be something else there. It would only make sense that a druid would use different hand gestures when invoking the power of the stars opposed to calling upon the power of the earth when smiting their foes. It will probably never happen, yet it is a change that would make me extremely happy. I've grown tired of seeing the same animation over and over and over again with limited to no variation simply because we have no tools which offer a difference.
Beyond simple casting animations, how spells themselves look is highly important. Players like to see flashy spells, they make every look that much more fantastical, that much more unreal. In many ways, we do not have this either. All the way back around half-way through Black Temple, Blizzard changed the effects for quite a number of spells -- the only balance spell that was changed during this time was Moonfire. Moonfire used to be a fairly flat spell, now though, now it is anything but. The spell effect is shiny, it's different, it actually looks like it would hurt someone. For those that still remember the old Moonfire, I don't think there is any of them that could disagree that the change was for the better, yet our other spells have not followed in step.
Wrath, as a spell, has a fairly decent animation. Compared against similar spells such as Lightning Bolt and Frostbolt, it looks virtually the same. Although somewhat boring, changing Wrath isn't of major import as it at least has a visible animation; if only all of our other spells could be so lucky. Starfire is perhaps the worst offender when it comes to bland animations. Unlike most other spells, Starfire does not have a travel time, or at least it has an excessively short travel time. The animation for Starfire is so insignificantly bleh that it is often hard to notice it at all. There are benefits to this in certain terms, yet just because the spell itself doesn't have a travel time doesn't mean that it has to be boring; Moonfire, after all, doesn't have a travel time and it looks epic.
Why then cannot Starfire also be flashy? Updating Starfire to actually have a true spell effect, to really seem like the burning power of the stars raining down upon our enemies would be a vast improvement to the overall visual appeal of balance druids. We are bringing down the rage and fury of the cosmos themselves upon our foes; that should look powerful, you should see Starfire and cringe at the thought that, hey, this spell really hurts. Instead it looks as if we're pinging the mob with radar. When I cast Starfire at someone, I honestly cannot tell if they should be flinching in pain, or gazing about lackadaisically wondering what just blipped them,
Starfire isn't the only culprit of bad spell animation though, there is also Typhoon to think about. I do not know how many of you remember back in Wrath of the Lich King beta when Typhoon was first introduced, but at that time we were told that the animation for Typhoon was merely a placeholder, a stand in effect that was slated to be updated to actually look like something. Sadly, this is just another one of the many things which Blizzard never got around to doing. For however good Typhoon may be as a spell, the animation for it is atrocious; just as much as Moonkin Form is, Typhoon has been a running joke within the WoW community. The spell looks right out of Pokemon, a game noted for having excessively poor graphic effects somewhat due to the system limitations that it posses. WoW does not have those limitations, why then does Typhoon look like it comes right off an old school Game Boy?
Forgiving Blizzard for everything else that they do add into the game, but the animation for Typhoon is simply unacceptable. It isn't a Typhoon, it looks like a little wave washing up onto the beach that threatens to annoyingly soak our enemies, not wash them away with the natural fury of the seas. I demand to be scared that I may end up sinking Darkshore into the sea if I misplace a Typhoon, not wondering if I might be able to knock over some kid's sand castle.
Every week, Shifting Perspectives treks across Azeroth in pursuit of truth, beauty and insight concerning the druid class. Sometimes it finds the latter, or something good enough for government work. Whether you're a bear, cat, moonkin, tree or stuck in caster form, we've got the skinny on druid changes in patch 3.3, a look at the disappearance of the bear tank and thoughts on why you should be playing the class (or why not).