The world of Azeroth has literally changed overnight.
Pet Battles are now live on the beta servers. PokeWoW is real. And it turns World of Warcraft on its head.
It all starts with a quest to visit the pet battle trainer, and from there, you’re flying around Azeroth looking for more powerful critters to catch and other pet tamers to fight. There are trainers in each of the major cities, and after learning the basics and progressing through a few fights, you are off to catch ’em all.
The system is very basic. You can have up to three pets on your team at a time, and you can cycle which one is active during battle. Each pet has a type (undead, humanoid, elemental, etc.) and can choose from three of six abilities that it learns as it levels. You then go back and forth with the other team using your abilities and swapping pets until all the pets on one team are dead. There are also items that can be applied to your pets. If you are fighting a wild creature, once its health is low enough, you can throw a box at it to catch it and make it your own. I haven’t played Pokemon in many, many years. As expected, the basic gameplay is a lot like what I remember of Pokemon.
As you fly around the world, you’ll now see two additional icons on your minimap. Speech bubbles denote Pet Tamers. These are NPCs that have a stable of pets (usually running around them while you speak with them) that you can challenge for experience and items. There is a quest line that will lead you to fighting them, and it seems that the questline runs in tandem with the zone progression. I imagine that as you’re leveling up and progressing through the game, you’ll be encountering the pet battle trainers in the proper order. The other new icon is a little green paw that denotes a wild critter you can tame. Not all critters are tamable, and there are still plenty of them to be found. Yet flying around central Kalimidor I saw plenty of paws indicating that it shouldn’t be hard to find creatures to nab.
When a battle starts, the screen shifts to a side view like a 2D fighter, although it can be rotated around the center of the battle. You can see yourself, your active pets, and across the screen the other active pets and tamer. A bar across the top shows the health, name, and creature type for each team. A window at the bottom shows the abilities available to your active pet. Each ability has a pet type it is strong against, and a pet type it is weak against, and if you are fighting a pet type that affects the ability, a green arrow shows that the ability is strong and a red arrow shows that the ability is weak. You can mouse over the ability icon for more information.
You will need to be standing on relatively flat land, or else you can’t initiate the battle. This can be tough, as there are some critters that live underwater, and you’ll need to wait for them to surface before challenging them. I found several rats in the Dor’Danil Barrow Den that I could not fight because of the enclosed space. Also, the world moves in real time while you are in battle. Anyone (monster or player) that comes by will be visible. However, it seems if they get too close to the battle, they will phase out, so you shouldn’t suddenly be interrupted by a roaming hostile creature.
Upon finishing the battle, experience is rewarded to the winning pets that participated and survived. If you find your pets are too low for a zone, you may need to spend time with them fighting lower level creatures in a prior zone before you advance, just as you would with your character, although so far it doesn’t seem like it should take many fights to advance.
There is a Pet Battle Queue you can join at any time. It’s the same as dueling, except you don’t get any information about the person you are fighting. The game will track your win statistics, but not your losses. Between this and the very visible strategy recommendations, it’s clear the game is intended to be easy-going. My first thought was that this is targeted at kids, but since this is meant to be an alternative to raiding, it makes sense that Blizzard would put a simpler feature in so that after spending time perfecting their rotation and wiping repeatedly, players can take a break and relax with some pet battles. There will still be competitive people playing this, and there is plenty of strategy in composing a team’s pet types and abilities, but Blizzard is designing a system with a reduced penalty for failure.
The combat is still in beta and therefore incredibly buggy. Matchmaking for the queue seems off, as bringing a lvl 7, lvl 5, and lvl 4 pet got me fights with pets ranging from lvl’s 1 – 10. There was also a bug that stranded my level 2 orc monk in the middle of the barrens after failing to start a fight. I expect these issues will be worked out by launch.
What I noticed most was that as I was flying around looking for the green paw icon, I was completely ignorant of the world around me. I dropped into Demon Fall Canyon, amidst a swarm of succubi, and began running after a moth, disregarding the actual denizens of that zone. Critters used to just be flavor that Blizzard would use to add a sense that a place was real and alive. It makes sense that a jungle would have snakes, or a coastline would have crawfish, even as you’re there to hunt bigger snakes and bigger crawfish. Pet Battles turn all those creatures we focus on while leveling into background noise.
Battling at higher levels, mobs like the succubi are simply an annoyance. I’m sure lower level characters will want to collect pets, and I can see them having to clear mobs just to get at some of the critter spawns. But near max level, a shot or two with your weapon will drop any monsters that get too close and aggro. I could see someone finishing a battle in Un’Goro Crater or Hellfire Peninsula, only to phase back into the path of a Devilsaur or a Fel Reaver and get slaughtered.
Blizzard’s tried adding activities to revitalize Azeroth before, as with the archaeology profession, but this is the first time they have managed to change the feel of the world. The Azeroth you knew as you leveled is still there, but there’s a second Azeroth on display now alongside it. Depending on how engaged you get with pet battles, that world may become the only one that you see. Blizzard has literally turned World of Warcraft into two games in one.
Now, just wait till they bring in Farmville…
Dragon Soul’s Power Buff to move to 30%. When does Deathwing get his buff? Being the Aspect of Death is such a bummer. http://us.battle.net//wow/en/blog/6688645
Obsidian Nightwing is the new Recruit-a-Friend mount. That’s so much better than Obsidian Robin. http://us.battle.net/wow/en/forum/topic/6079748983?page=1
Blizzard unveiled new products at Comic-Con. I WANT WARCRAFT RISK AND I WANT IT NOW! http://www.gameshampoo.com/magazine/articles/498/sdcc-2012-blizzard-product-showcase.html
Sam Raimi willl not be directing the World of Warcraft movie. There go my hopes for a Bruce Campbell as Harrison Jones cameo. http://www.craveonline.com/film/articles/192085-comic-con-2012-exclusive-sam-raimi-wont-direct-the-world-of-warcraft-movie