Thanks to our easily exciteable kittens, I was up bright and early Sunday morning, and decided to give the PTRs a spin. They just went live this weekend with the 4.0.1 build that introduces the many UI and talent changes they've been working on for Cataclysm.
I uploaded a request to copy over a couple of my characters to the PTRs, but since the estimated wait was 4 days, rolled myself this baby druid to check things out.
The first thing I was struck with, other than the proliferation of little white tiger cats running around, was that I came into the world with Wrath on my bar, and had enough mana to use it like crazy. I admit I pinched myself to see if I'd fallen asleep and entered dreamland. But no, Blizz is actually making it possible for those of us who like to level our characters up as casters to be able to do so without a bottomleess bag full of beverages.
I should note that I chose to go in while I was just ad the "available" stage of my PTR download, which means it had a ways to go before being completed. Overall, in the lowbie area, this had little affect on my playing, though I could tell at least once when I was getting a just in time download. The opening cinematic started with a long black screen and stuttered midway through, presumably also due to my choosing to play before the download was complete. Pretty minor issues though, which makes me hopeful they've found a good way for breaking up the patch files so the least-likely to encounter data files are the last to download, and thus speeding up the patching process for everyone.
It was moderately annoying, however, that after crashing out on the PTR, and relaunching, I was confronted with needing several additional hours of downloading before being able to play again. That was a bummer and put a crimp in my leveling explorations.
Some of the best UI changes are around the management of spells. The above window shows my druid trainer's menu clearly showing my next trainable spell and its cost. No more clicking on a spell name in a long list to see when it will be available. Including its icon is a nice touch for those of us who are visual learners.
Similarly, I will never hustle myself back to the trainer to train some spell I couldn't care less about -- when you advance a level, you get both a tell and a big splash across your screen that tells you that a new spell is now available to you:
At level five, I ran myself up to Dolanaar and checked my mail to retrieve my BOA pets (only two of whom showed up-- eeep!) Which brings me to the many changes with the talent and spellbook interfaces.
When playing a new class, such as me playing my baby warlock, you can feel clueless as to when some of your signature abilities are trainable. Well no longer -- your spellbook can tell you. Your spellbook used to be a rarely visited place, sought out when pulling out a rarely used spell for a boss mechanic. But now, it shows you all the spells you have to look forward to training -- and notes at wht level you attain them.
You'll notice a few more tabs on your spellbook now -- companions and pets are no longer a part of the character interface -- they are subtabs of your spellbook, and have also gotten an overhaul.
No more peering at page after page of 12 tiny icons and trying to remember which speckled egg summons which companion pet. Now your pet UI clearly states the pet name next to its icon and pops up a picture of it in action if you select it from the menu. Necessary change on Blizzard's part? Certainly not. But does it make me happy with my 100+ pets on two toons? You bet it does!
Last night, I was able to get on and briefly play around with my shadow priest and my boomkin, and respec them. I think I actually giggled when my eclipse proc made my nature spell buttons sparkly. It felt really weird to be confronted with the new talent UI though. I was not prepared.
I'm a cuddly and adorable Forsaken shadow priest! Who're you calling a sinister shadow magic user? *cough*
It was weird to start at this screen then be shown only one tree until I'd met my 31-point quota. I spent those points, then moved over to the discipline tree, easily filling in my remaining 5 talents. It didn't really feel like I made many choices, mind you. Mainly "Silence, y/n/murloc", and "less dmg to self? y/n" The boomkin tree was more problematic, and made me feel as though I sometimes was forced to choose talents I didn't really care
to get down the tree to the stuff I wanted.
Overall though, no great dramas with the new talents. I can't wait to try things out on more than just target dummies.
I leave you with this beautiful scene, of a Darnassus without water, where boats float in mid air. Saefe travels!