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Shaman > WoWFeb 4, 2016 3:00 pm CT

Totem Talk: Thoughts on Enhancement in the Legion alpha

Down we go.

There is honestly no substitute for actually getting a class in your hands and playing with it. This was my core dilemma over the past few weeks. Obviously, I knew that Enhancement Shaman was playable in the Legion alpha, but not being in it myself meant that all I had to go by was the official ability rundowns, the datamined bits and pieces, and a fair dose of hope and speculation. But yesterday morning, I fired up the launcher and saw my Legion access. So that meant that I could sit down, play the game, and answer some relatively important questions, like “does all of that hope about the Enhancement changes actually translate to the class playing decently?”

Because let’s be honest — while I’ve been very loudly proclaiming that the changes being made to the spec are wholly positive, the truth of the matter is that I was basing that impression upon how things read. That’s why I started off by saying that there’s no substitute for getting the class actually in your hands and playing with it. On paper, the changes looked good to me, and while the resource changes were notable and there was definitely some sense of how the class design was cribbing off of the Fury template, I was optimistic. I hoped, very much, that this renewed focus still felt like Enhancement while benefiting from additional design and consideration. Does it?

Butts!

Yes, it’s definitely still Enhancement

It does.

I wanted to put this front-and-center as a consideration. Whether or not you’re entirely on board with the changes, in terms of actual play, everything feels right. There’s still the feeling of juggling cooldowns between various short-cooldown abilities next to those which are more readily spammed, but — and this is quite important — it feels as if all of those buttons do something now. Procs ensure that the frantic sense of “oh, hit that now!” hasn’t vanished from the spec either.

Truth be told, rather than feeling like a lesser version of the live game, this version of Enhancement feels like it’s had something added. Resource management is actually a concern now, not in the sense that I felt constantly starved for Maelstrom but in the sense that I have several different useful cooldowns and a short window to make use of them. There’s also some interesting interplay with Healing Surge at the moment, with the spell casting faster based on my stocked Maelstrom; on some fights it was best to empty Maelstrom as quickly as possible, but at other times I wanted to keep close to the max so I could bust out a rapid heal as necessary.

Heck, even the loss of range doesn’t feel too significant; Lightning Bolt is still there, and if you’ve got a fair amount of Maelstrom left it can work as something of an impromptu Execute to end a fight.

This isn’t to say that I have no concerns or that everything is sunshine and rainbows, but it feels like an important consideration. As drastic as the changes look on paper and as notable as they feel in play, the core of the class still feels very intact. Enhancement is still a melee-centric caster-ish sort in a way that no other class quite replicates. I can understand being nostalgic and missing things like Flame Shock or our elementals, but this version feels cleaner and more engaging.

All I never wanted.

Doomhammer’s twin is ugly

So you all remember that I really wasn’t on board with Doomhammer as an Enhancement Artifact, right? That made sense then. It makes even more sense now that we’ve seen what is being done with the weapon’s mate, since there’s only one Doomhammer and the whole point of Enhancement is to have two weapons. A magical duplicate of Doomhammer was always kind of a forced addition, but it at least makes sense.

Unfortunately, Doomhammer’s twin is a collection of magma and rocks in a vaguely Doomhammer-ish shape, and it can’t be changed. Which makes me roll my eyes so thoroughly that I put myself at serious risk of having my retinas detach.

It was always kind of absurd to give Enhancement an artifact without a second weapon, but the idea of a magical duplicate at least has some merit. This, however, looks ugly. It looks ugly just because the model is ugly, but even if you’re a big fan of the molten-hammer look that it has, it still looks painfully asymmetrical. And because it’s technically not subject to the same rules as our primary artifact weapon, there doesn’t appear to be any way to change it short of transmogging over it altogether, thus removing any sort of appearance customization.

I could be wrong, but I’m relatively certain every other dual-wielding class changes the appearance of both weapons at once, for the record.

This does seem like something that can or should be fixed, because right now it’s kind of a glaring oversight that you can’t have a unified look for your iconic weapon. Perhaps as more appearances are unlocked the offhand changes in sympathy and I simply haven’t seen it. At this point, it’s just ugly, and that’s on top of the fact that it’s a kludge fix for what is already a kludge fix. You’ll forgive me for not being replete with hope on that point.

Also I keep hoping that some day I'll remember to take more screenshots. I am bad about that.

What about those talents?

When we first got a look at the datamined talents, I took the opportunity to make some predictions about what would be cool, what would be less so, and what might be a massive benefit. Now I’ve actually had a chance to play with them a little bit. How was my aim? Decent.

I’ve noticed that at least early on, Spiritual Resonance is somewhat better than I had given it credit for — given how important filling your Maelstrom can be, having more of it on demand can provide benefits you don’t get just from Windsong. Gust of Wind is fun to play around with, especially for maneuvering about in the open world; there are some light jumping puzzles and that ability is not tied to having both hooves on the floor. I’ve also been pleasantly surprised by Tempest, which I sort of panned in my initial review; having two charges on a cheap Stormstrike is pretty useful and I find the proc rate reliable enough that I can count on it coming up. I picked it up by accident, but I’m enjoying it just the same.

By contrast, Earthen Spike is worse than I had originally expected — while it’s useful and has solid uptime, the matter of getting it up during a window when you can make the most of it is a bit more dicey than it seemed at a quick read-through. Enhancement generates and spends resources at a rapid clip, and that additional cost is not always reliable. I’m still not sold on the other two tier 7 options altogether, but they seem to at least have a nudge toward balance.

Overall, though, I’m happy. I’ve been enjoying stomping around with Enhancement in the early stages, and I look forward to more serious examination as the testing rolls on. It’s pretty clear that the current testing isn’t ready for prime time just yet, but I’m excited to see how the class keeps developing. It hasn’t felt this much fun to unleash lightning in melee range since The Burning Crusade first made it an option.

I’m also hoping that having alpha access will compel me to take more screenshots, because I am still terrible about that.

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