How Blizzard Is (And Isn't) Changing World Of Warcraft's Combat

How Blizzard Is (And Isn't) Changing World Of Warcraft's Combat

World of Warcraft's been around for more than a decade. Combat is one of its cornerstones, but also, perhaps, a bit of a relic. In light of recent MMO evolutions like Destiny, I asked Blizzard how far they're willing to push WoW's combat.

Over the years Blizzard has, of course, added all sorts of new classes and skills to WoW while also doing things like revamping the game's entire talent system. Combat is, in some ways, a far cry from what is was back in ye olde vanilla(e) days, but other MMOs have taken the auto-attack + abilities formula further — or ditched it altogether. Tera, Wildstar, Guild Wars 2, etc. Meanwhile on console, Destiny offers combat so weighty and satisfying that players were willing to fight a veritable rogue's gallery of formidable foes — a bland story, repetitive mission structure, poor decision-making on Bungie's part — for a year before the game actually got, you know, good.

Blizzard does want to make WoW's combat feel better. They have just got to balance that with expectations of a millions-strong player base that ranges in age from 0.3 years old to Your Great Grandma On Your Mum's Side Who's Even Cooler Than You. Blizzard's compromise? Overhauling melee animations.

"One of the things we're experimenting with in Legion is that we've done a lot of work on the melee animations," production director John Hight told me during an interview at BlizzCon. "Part of that is to make combat feel more visceral, to involve you in that. Like with warrior attacks, they're cool and the sound effects are cool, but we felt like the animation just didn't quite sell it. So we put a lot of effort into revamping that. And along with that, I think it's gonna feel a lot more responsive. We're gonna keep an eye on that and see how people respond."

How Blizzard Is (And Isn't) Changing World Of Warcraft's Combat

Will World of Warcraft's combat ever get a ground-up overhaul, though? Never say never, but don't count on it. Hight, who was once production director on God of War III, explained:

"There's a segment of players that absolutely get off on [really intense combat]," he said. "You know, the Street Fighter player who wants that synchronised, really tight combat system. I don't know if that would appeal to as broad of an audience as we have. We want to make sure combat is accessible. We want to make sure that when you encounter mobs or other players, you don't have to have the reflexes of a 13 year-old to be able to master them. If we go that route of making combat more tactile, we also have to take into account a broad range of age, experience, and ability in our players."

I have to confess, that doesn't bode well for my equal parts triumphant and shameful return to WoW-aholics anonymous meetings. I burned out on the combat ages ago, and — try as I might — I just haven't been able to stoke those old flames again. That said, many elements of WoW are like comfort food, and obviously millions of people continue to adore them. It must be said, too, that Blizzard's doing some daring things to build out once taken-for-granted elements of the game's foundation (less gear-focused PVP, level scaling that allows players to tackle zones in any order, artifact weapons, etc).

Feel, however, is more intangible (and possibly more essential) than any of those. I'm interested to see just how much new animations and the requisite round of other tweaks impact that.


    Aion combat. Still the most satisfying sounding and feeling combat with great animations whilst still being a point and click system at heart.

      I still think Tera has the best MMO combat.

        agreed but the combat itself is a different beast entirely. Aion is still very much a press button when in range of an attack and damage happens, use cooldowns and rotations etc that is less reliant on a good latency to execute effectively (rubberbanding notwithstanding)

    I totally agree with the 'feeling' of combat needs to be visceral, for any combat based game it's one of the most important aspects - and in general I think Blizzard do an awesome job in this area.

    When it comes to WoW's combat though, my issues are with it's complexity.
    Don't get me wrong, I enjoy WoW and I love a challenge, but I can't be bothered constantly trawling through forums and math-crafting etc. to work out what abilities I should or should not use because they will make or break my DPS. Random groups are ok, because you get easier instances, but I've always found them a bit easy. And Raid finder... *mashes keyboard* yay we won!

    On the other hand, Diablo makes it a tad too simple in my opinion - just a couple extra buttons I think would have been good.

      I'm kinda the opposite there. I like the number of abilities and general complexity of WoW's combat (particularly in raiding) and whenever they prune abilities they always seem to take something away that I use regularly, like Clash for Brewmasters.

      If you don't care that much for working out an optimal rotation yourself, Icy Veins is the place to go. Their data is up to date (unlike Noxxic) and they'll give you an accurate breakdown of stat priority and rotation for every class and spec.

    Eh, back when I played WoW it was mostly as a mage standing 40 yards away from enemies and face rolling my keyboard. Pretty hard to make that feel visceral.

    WoW does what it does and it is very good at doing that. All these other games used as examples haven't come close to WoW, so why copy the failures? The main reason people have quit and aren't going back (myself included) is just because they played it for so long and can't get anything new out of it anymore. WoW was my last truly long term all-consuming game and I'll never have the same experience with a game again. Doesn't matter what they change, I've changed and won't be going back.

      Why copy them? Because some of these games ( e.g Wildstar ) actually had some good mechanics. I quite liked Wildstar's telegraphed system ( Besides the fact it was near impossible because of lag ). If WoW offered something like THAT, it'd definitely make it feel more interactive.

      But then as mentioned - It requires timing and reflexes.. And another but, Wildstar also offered auto-attack ( If I remember correctly ).

      WoW DOES need it's combat redesigned, there's no arguing that. I haven't renewed my subscription because the combat just doesn't hit with me. I don't like the whole "Go near this guy, click him to target, and then spam your hotkeys"

      Wildstar could have easily competed with WoW, no it wouldn't have been as good, but it could have held it's ground and kept it's players. The storyline was great, the gameplay was excellent. The issue was that they left all the servers in Dallas, Texas. Every single server was hosted there. So unless you were American, your ping was 200ms at least. This doesn't work in a game that requires timing.

      Since WoW has AUSTRALIAN servers, I think a telegraphed system could actually work. Not the way Wildstar did it, but similar. Factor in that older people are playing, make it a bit more lenient on hitzones.

      That's just my thoughts on it.

        Make any major changes like that to an existing game and you risk alienating most of your current users. Look at how much flak they get for even changing small things for balance, let alone a complete system overhaul.

        Maybe for something like WoW2 or their next MMO. WoW isn't going to change though, and by rights it shouldn't

        Many WoW abilities are telegraphed, they're just not as obvious as Wildstar's system. I think Wildstar's telegraphing was excessive and made positioning too easy, personally.

    Wildstar's combat was a terrible AOE spam/lagfest.

    WOW is dead to me. When they changed the core abilities of the Warrior class, that was the last straw. I'll let the newbies play the game, thinking they are so cool with the combat, when it's really just a POS now.

    I agree. Removing the intricacies of stances, and significant variations in the talent has made a good game dull (changing from 100 or so options to 21 is just stupid). The game now relies on smashing a few abilities (for the most part less than 10), I was a long time WoW addict that came back to check it out after a 4 year hiatus, and I will not be returning permanently. The game has been simplified to the point that a retard can compete.

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