Are you gearing up for the release of World of Warcraft: Cataclysm? So is Blizzard. Today, the company updated their 12 million player-strong MMO to Cataclysm pre-release patch 4.0.1, bringing with it a host of substantial system overhauls. This final patch will help set the stage for Cataclysm’s December 7th launch by introducing several of the expansion’s new features into the current version of WoW.
So, what are those substantial system overhauls? The most important gameplay adjustment in the patch is the radically simplified Talent Tree system. Replacing the original 71-point skill system with three smaller, leaner 31-point trees, players will chose a single branch on the tree as a "specialization" when they reach level 10, after which all earned skill points must be put into that tree. Each additional skill point will automatically increase the potency of abilities associated with that tier (along with unlocking new skills), but players won’t be able to put points into other specialization trees until they’ve reached the top of their their initial tree. These new specialization trees also come with class and tree specific “Mastery” bonuses that provide unique buffs to a class depending on how their chosen specialization.
== TEASER ==To compliment this simplification of the talent tree system, Blizzard has also gutted and replaced the current stats system to make gear selection and optimization more efficient. Some stats have been giving increased functionality (intellect, for example, now boosts spell power in addition to raising the maximum amount of mana for damage-dealing spellcasters). New stats, like “Mastery” will increase the general effectiveness of unique abilities that come from “mastering” a specialization, while old stats like MP5 (mana regenerated every 5 seconds) are being removed from the game entirely.
Beyond the statistical changes coming to WoW, patch 4.0.1 will also introduce sweeping adjustments to the core mechanics of many classes. Hunters will no longer use Mana for their abilities, instead gaining a dedicated “Focus Bar” for their many strike shots (and they start with Pets at level 1 to boot). Balance Druids gain a new “Eclipse” mechanic which will have players alternating between casting Nature and Arcane Spells to achieve buffs for the opposite spell type. Warlocks are now forever freed from the chains of Soul Shard farming, as that resource has been removed from the game entirely.
While all of those changes will be pleasing to WoW players in-game, the most substantial change in patch 4.0.1 actually exists outside the game: a new streaming launcher that will download WoW as you play it. You'll start off with a core WoW client file and download the rest of the game as you play, making it easier than ever to regress back into your old habits, and chase those old dragons one more time.
And that’s not the least of the changes coming in Patch 4.0.1. Also included in the update:
- A new “Flexible” Raid Lock system has been added to Icecrown Citadel and the Ruby Sanctum, allowing players to fight each boss in a raid instance once a week without having to worry about being saved to a specific raid group’s version of the instance. This system will be added to future Cataclysm raids.
- Players can now “reforge” items, taking a stat on a piece of equipment and changing it into a different stat.
- The “Emblem” system of gaining new high level gear has been replaced with a point system that more closely resembles the Honor and Arena Point system used for PVP matches.
- Ability and Spell Ranks have been removed from the game. Now, instead of buying new ranks of abilities from trainers, those skills will automatically scale up in power as players increase in level and invest into talent trees.
- There are now three types of Glyphs that characters can apply in game, up from the two in Wrath of the Lich King.
Phew! That’s a heaping pile of new features. You’ve got eight weeks to allocate Talent points, familiarize yourself with the new systems, and finally kill that pesky Lich King before Azeroth is torn apart in a massive firestorm. Get to it!