Greetings dear WoW community and potential community manager or class developer,
I’ve had the glorious chance to have played TBC and WotLK, especially WotLK, as a Paladin, specifically Retribution. I’m completely in love with Paladins, but the revamped design since Cataclysm, introducing the holy power resource system for Ret as well as the other specs has made me drift away from my favorite class in WoW. I want to play the class, but it doesn’t feel good to play gameplay wise and therefore thematically compared to what it used to be, and here’s a very detailed and thorough post about why that is the case:
- The Holy Power Resource System.
I understand why this system was introduced. In WotLK, ret had -immense- burst potential, even more than in TBC due to divine storm being a very high damage holy spell, ignoring armor.
Essentially, the pally popped wings and within a very short period amount of time dropped a nuclear bomb with huge divine storms, judgements (seal of blood being a heavy hitter too), crusader strikes, etc. It was extremely dangerous and could be unleashed without any previous extra setup time. Which was of course, incredibly fun as a paladin player, and it felt like being a burst dps was a defining strength of the class.
Outside of cds, you still dealt some damage, but were utilizing more of your defensive toolkit. Utilizing that wrongly also meant you were especially vulnerable to death during your burst, making the spec still punishing to strategic mistakes, especially in PvP of course.
While you did rely on buffing yourself with a seal, unleashing it, following up with crusader strikes (or later divine storms), consecration etc, essentially waiting for the cooldowns to come back up as you auto attacked, it was satisfying to use the abilites regardless because each of them had a very visible and distinguishable impact, visually and numerically.
Each button had significance in itself, and the damage was awesome and fitting for each of them. While you waited for the next time to hit your next ability, you could utilize the “attack downtime” to use your defensive toolkit either for yourself or your team, allowing you to really get into the whole theme of your spec, as a holy warrior carrying out justice and protecting the vulnerable.
Now, while holy power fixed the situation of a pally just doing huge burst in a split second and going completely bonkers on someone, it also made the spec a lot less unique and it’s combat abilities unsatisfying to use, even though, or rather because you had to build up to them by using a combo point system which already had a special place for other classes.
- Why combo points work so well for the original users of it
Rogues, Monks, Feral Druids are (among arguably more classes to a just very slightly altered effect, like arcane mages, unholy death knights, warlocks etc) all use a combo point system. The reason why that works so well, and fits wonderfully with these specs, is because they are agile leather users, utilizing energy and quick attacks to build up these points swiftly (especially even faster when they get their passive that gives them extra points on crits), allowing them to use their points up very quickly on a regular basis, be it for cc or dps finishers.
Due to their energy resource system, the playstyle feels very fluid (even more so with good gear that has plenty of haste to make it even swifter), and any ability that builds up these combo points feels completely fine to use, as the gcd is low and the points build up fast, allowing you to use your big dps abilites just often enough and make them special enough to make them awesome to use everytime especially with 5 combo points.
Also, due to how quickly you built them, it allowed for a little bit of improvisation to use low combo point finishers on either a small, but crucial cc, or a small but fatal hit able to just finish off a target in time.
- Why combo points feel out of place with the Retribution Paladin
Now the ret paladin on the other hand, to put it in perspective to these other combo point/energy classes with leather, is a heavy plate wearer with a heavy sword/axe/polearm, and limited movement increases which fit the class theme. Their strength still lies in their defensive capabilites, that balance out their lack of swiftness, allowing them to stay strong and stay that way by eventually buffing or healing themselves (or others) so they can stand their ground and get back into the fight. It’s a unique concept and allows the Paladin to stand out from other classes, and definitely fits the whole idea very well.
Now, in TBC and WotlK, it felt exactly that way, and on top of it, when it came to fighting it made a lot more sense both thematically and gameplay wise that the paladin would be a slow, strong, potentially very bursty heavy hitter when they started to buff themselves with immense holy energy (even incorporating the pallys iconic strong, varied buffs into their offense ability as well), as they relied on their cd’s all the way, making each attack feel slow but significant, and as said before, allows a time window to utilize their other defensive aspects.
As you got more gear, you really started to see those abilities become more deadly in an obvious way, as you didn’t have many of them, and the ones you had you recognized the damage of them very clearly, and every boost to them was exciting and satisfying.
And of course, during wings, you felt like the fist of justice itself, and using your judgement, hammers, -divine storm- during that was a thrill everytime. It never got old. It was very powerful, and made the class a spectacle of holy energies that was very fun to play if you enjoyed that kind of slow, supportive, even strategic (due to the defensive buffs) gameplay.
Yet when Paladins received holy power, suddenly that theme became very diluted. Crusader Strike became a means to an end, it’s damage insignificant, wings or not. Judgement stopped requiring seals, and at a point became just another, mediocre damage ability to build up points.
It became all about building up to 3 holy power, at which point you either buffed yourself with inquisition (which felt and still feels unsatisfying, because it feels very slow to even get to that point, and when you do, it’s more of a relief than an exciting buff, because it will allow you to build up HP faster, which doesn’t feel fun in the first place).
Or, unless you had your builders up again to build up more to 5 HP, you used it on your now “big” finishers, divine storm for aoe or 2 targets, or templars verdict for single target. These finishers put out significantly more damage than any ability building up to it (with the only thing coming somewhat close being blade of justice, but even that blurs in with judgement and crusader strike way too much aside from it’s 2 HP generation), making the other 3 abilities that are so iconic to the paladin by now seem like a chore that are hardly distinguishable from eachother damage wise, that you just have to push to get to the good stuff, that honestly is not nearly as exciting to use as divine storm in WotLK was, both visually and numerically.
Divine storm was basically instant gratification that felt great everytime, single target or aoe, while a 3 HP “finisher” after the redesign tried to be a WotLK Divine Storm moment, but fails because the way you get there feels out of place for this spec/class, and is very unexciting and formulaic. Although templars verdict visually looks lovely now.
Also, as soon as you have used up that finisher, it is such a letdown to start up the same low hitting, unexciting ability chain back up to the next “finisher” again.
- Okey, but why does it feel so bad?
Because unlike rogues, druids, and monks, Paladins still have their normal gcd gameplay wise, while thematically missing the mark by starting to try to swing their sword or throw hammers as fast as they can, resulting in little damage until they’ve done it enough to get to a point where they hit harder for just a moment, being incredibly predictable.
It appears like they are trying to be heavy plate wearing, 2 Hand using, slow holy rogues that instead of stealth use highly defensive buffs to get out of trouble and care a bit more about others too. It doesn’t make sense.
Gameplay wise, haste does help speed things up eventually, but even then as it makes things a bit smoother technically, it conflicts with the class theme as you suddenly get to the point where you almost spam your builders all the time to generate points and spend them as efficiently as you can, barely if at all leaving time for throwing a flash of light or anything in that defensive toolkit in your usual dps combat.
You specifically have to stop to play defensively, encouraging paladin players (especially in PuG’s) to have a very good excuse to ignore their class theme of being selfless, because they would lose damage by interrupting their HP building if they started to embrace the defensive aspect of the class to help out their group instead, even just for 1 GCD.
You could then say, well they are on a crusade and have got no time for doing any of that defensive stuff during that. But that is not a paladin. They are meant to be selfless, and even though they are the bringers of justice in a quite brutal, imposing way, they will always have time for their allies woes. Again, TBC/WotLK honored this by giving Paladins a spell called “Divine Intervention”, which even sacrificed their own life to save anothers, granting them complete immunity for a couple minutes. Which was very situational, but it made me love my paladin even more.
- But what if you build HP very quickly?
Warriors on the other hand, or hell, rogues or ferals, much more so can just go crazy and go berserk or have an adrenaline rush that makes them go into a battle trance. Paladins however are very different in their attitude compared to them, but in dps players this doesn’t reflect much at all anymore because they are always on the quest (especially if they are crusading with the talent) to build up those points like a wannabe rogue, feral or monk, except those classes are much more suited to that type of combat.
Personally, i think these classes are much more rythmic in their gameplay with the way their combat style works, and very fun because of it. Hitting fast makes perfect sense with their theme and type of weapons/fighting style. It just does not work for the slowpoke heavy Paladin, and i think that’s how it should be because when it was exactly that way, i enjoyed the hell out of this class more than even druids, which thematically i love just as much as paladins.
I’m not a class developer, therefore i’m not suggesting a direct solution to this. I know you can do this much better than i ever could, and i just want to give you the perspective of a big, longtime fan of the class if you have the time to read it or be redirected to this post.
If a developer ends up reading this, first of all thank you for taking the time to read it all! I just want you to know i dearly love this class, and everything it is about. And i really, really want to play it. I just can’t recognize the Paladin i got introduced to and fell in love with in TBC/WotLK anymore, and i tried to give insight into why the class is not fun to play anymore, be it gameplay or thematically.
I know I’m not alone with this, then again these are my personal observations and opinions. Thank you very much for reading my feedback, and i hope you’ll give it a thought!