I admit, if you've only started playing World of Warcraft fairly recently (say, late Wrath or even Cataclysm), then patch 5.0.4, with its significant changes to the talent and glyph systems and new hit and expertise rules, plus changes to tanking and removal of ranged weapons for melee and melee weapons for hunters -- all of this may seem very daunting. So it's worth saying that while the details are a lot to absorb when you see it on a website like, well, this one, they're not actually all that daunting in terms of when you log on.
When you log on Tuesday, Aug. 28, things will be different. That's absolutely the case. If for some reason you don't have Cataclysm installed, you'll still be able to play a worgen or goblin, for one thing. Your talent points will be refunded, you'll have up to the level 75 talent tier, and many of your class specializations will have changed to absorb what used to be talents.
But it really does bear repeating several times that the changes actually feel fairly seamless, and doesn't take a ton of effort to grasp the basics of the new system. If you've been playing WoW, you're not suddenly going to find yourself in an incomprehensible new game. It's still very much World of Warcraft.
Starting over or just restarting?
One of the good things about getting a pre-expansion patch like this one with a month or so before the game launches is that we get plenty of time to adjust to the changes, great and small. Sometimes, the changes appear to be a lot more significant than their actual effect is on play. For instance, weapon damage is going up across the board -- this is the Axe of the Tauren Chieftains on live, and here is what it will be next week. At first glance, that's a massive upgrade, but it's not going to mean you're suddenly doing a ton more DPS. The game systems have in many cases changed how they calculate damage, that's all.
We've seen pretty significant change between patches before. The pre-Cataclysm patch at the end of Wrath of the Lich King saw some changes that required patches and hotfixes to address, and the patch that landed between the end of The Burning Crusade and the beginning of Wrath led to a significant nerf of all raids and the inclusion of powerful 41 point talents that saw an explosion of disproportionate power. People figured things out, and play continued. It will this time, too.
Based on my experience in the beta, there are only a few classes so radically changed that they'll require a significant amount of relearning. Tanking, despite the active mitigation changes, actually feels more or less the same. Now, if you're a warlock, you have every right to be a touch daunted, but rogues don't have much relearning at all. Classes that got whole new resource systems in Cataclysm actually required more learning that patch than this one - I'm looking at hunters and, to a lesser extent, paladins here. Several classes actually end up playing a little more simply now, with quality of life changes such as not having to apply Rend anymore or the removal of passive totem buffs.
I'm not trying to downplay the patch here. It's a big patch, and a lot is changing. But what's easy to be daunted by when taken all at once isn't so bad when you log in and start playing. Glyph changes, talent changes, spec changes, even mechanical changes don't hit you all at once the second you log in, and many of the changes are even explained to you in game so that you don't have to stand there wondering what's going on with your class. It's probably the most painless implementation of sweeping change I've seen in the game to date. You're going to figure out the changes pretty quickly, I'd bet. And of course, we're here to help with anything that you feel you'd like help with.
So don't let yourself get overly concerned. Just log in Tuesday, and take a few minutes to explore the changes. You'll start getting back into things very quickly once you start taking it out for a spin. At its heart, it's still the same game you've been playing.
It's open warfare between Alliance and Horde in Mists of Pandaria, World of Warcraft's next expansion. Jump into five new levels with new talents and class mechanics, try the new monk class, and create a pandaren character to ally with either Horde or Alliance. Look for expansion basics in our Mists FAQ, or dig into our spring press event coverage for more details!