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The Care and Feeding of Warriors: Are warrior attacks boring?

The Care and Feeding of Warriors Are warrior attacks boring
Every week, WoW Insider brings you The Care and Feeding of Warriors, the column dedicated to arms, fury and protection warriors. Despite repeated blows to the head from dragons, demons, Old Gods and whatever that thing over there was, Matthew Rossi will be your host.

Are we boring?

Obviously I don't think so or I'd be fairly unhappy with my choice of class. But when you see certain statements like this one from Ghostcrawler, you do start to wonder. One of the difficulties I had in writing a wishlist for the class in the future was that our toolkit is fairly limited. We don't channel any weird energies like nature or divine magic or chi, we just get angry and use that anger to smash things, yell at things, and then there's the 'pinball in a washing machine' and 'here is my flag' aspects of the class.

Aesthetically, I enjoy the warrior class quite a bit. But that aesthetic comes in the form of plate armor and is hardly unique to the class - death knights and paladins can wear almost all of the same gear as we can, especially now that transmogrification exists. The fact is, as much as I hate to admit it, Ghostcrawler is right and warriors don't look all that interesting when we attack.

The question becomes, why does that matter? And the answer is, it matters for the overall health of the class and its representation.
The Care and Feeding of Warriors Are warrior attacks boring
It could be argued that it is more important that warrior tanks get more damage (we're still very low on the tanking damage front) and be able to survive than to look pretty doing it, and I've certainly heard more from other warriors about our damage output (which is pretty solid right now) then any complaints about how we look while damaging things. These are fair points. But it doesn't mean that our aesthetic while attacking isn't important.

For myself, I don't want warriors to have pretty attacks. A fluid series of graceful strikes? So not us. No, warriors should look ugly when they attack. Ugly like Marv in Sin City, ugly like a room after Conan of Cimmeria gets through with it. Rogues are the class that uses deft strikes and stabs from the darkness, monks are the graceful dancers, paladins charged with holy light, and DK's seethe with death magic. Warriors don't do any of that jive. We smash. Our attacks should reflect that.

As for why that's important, it has to do with an important element of player retention: satisfaction. Players want to be satisfied with how their character looks and even feels. I know at least one player who switched to a warrior tank over his paladin purely because he liked how Shield Slam sounded when it connected. While I would agree that it is more important that our damage and survivability be equal to other classes, that doesn't mean that our overall aesthetic is unimportant. Far from it. Because while players may switch to a class when it is overpowered, they'll only stay in that class past the OP phase when it satisfies them.

For that matter, class aesthetic holds the majority of the class in place. Amazingly, most players don't reroll to the FotM, because most players don't read the forums or peruse websites that would tell them what that is. So for them, the class they play is in great part determined by what they enjoy most, and the style of the class' attacks determines some of that enjoyment.

Since I believe we've established that how a class looks and sounds is as important as the numbers it puts out (or nearly so, at least), let's talk about what that should be for warriors. If we accept that our attacks are boring, how do we fix it?
The Care and Feeding of Warriors Are warrior attacks boring
Step one is to take an aspect already present in the game and emphasize it - each race has different attack animations. Some of them are already pretty amazing. A pandaren warrior with a 2h sword, a forsaken woman going buzzsaw infinite with two axes, a draenei tank whirling to bash with the shield. It would help if the races with less interesting combat animations could get a pass to see if they can be improved. In many cases it would merely take a bit of exaggeration from where the attacks are now to get them to be more impressive.

More important, however, are attack animations for special attacks. Let's face it, the vast majority of warrior specials date back to the original game for many races. Most specials simply use one or two 'special attack' animations that can be easily found in model viewer, and especially for the races that predate Burning Crusade these attacks are simply more of the same. While the protection warrior attack Devastate has a special animation that accompanies it (a glowing sword that appears and strikes downward on the target - on certain large mobs and bosses, it can be quite impressive) the actual attack is the same as any other special with a 1h sword and shield equipped. Similarly, Shield Slam uses the same animation as the defunct Shield Bash did.

My suggestions for what the class needs for more interesting combat aesthetics:
  1. Unique animations for individual class-defining special attacks. Attacks like Mortal Strike, Colossus Smash, Overpower, Bloodthirst, Raging Blow and Wild Strike should have unique looks. A Mortal Strike shouldn't look anything like any other attack a warrior does - it should capture the idea of a brutal, punishing strike that inflicts a wound that just doesn't heal right. Overpower should feel like an attack that exploits an enemy mistake, a blow that batters through enemy defenses. Raging Blow shouldn't borrow a rogue animation.
  2. Special attacks should vary depending on weapon. Consider fury, which has two viable styles of weapon, Titan's Grip and Single-Minded Fury. SMF warriors should use a frantic, frenetic style of attack and their specials should reflect that - a SMF warrior hitting Raging Blow should be using a series of explosive strikes to overwhelm their target, while a TG warrior should bring those two gigantic weapons down like twin hammers plowing into an anvil. You could expand this idea so that arms warriors had slightly different animations depending on what kind of 2h weapon they were using, and protection based on what kind of 1h but since fury could easily be using a sword in one hand and a mace or axe in another, it would be harder to do that for fury.
  3. Each spec should have a different feel, and that includes SMF and TG fury from each other. Springboarding off of point #2, arms warriors should feel like the huscarl of Harold of Wessex or the Varangian Guard of Byzantium, elite weapon masters who focus on a single great weapon and master it. An SMF warriors attacks should all emphasize speed and reckless abandon, a brutal disregard of one's own well being in favor of lightning fast attacks with two weapons. A TG warrior becomes a beast of war, a brute swinging weapons almost her own size in punishing arcs of death. A protection warrior is a wall of iron that dares you to come close enough to hit it, using a shield not only as defense but also to batter foes and weapon strikes to pay back in kind.
I especially think more protection warrior attacks should involve the shield being used offensively. When a prot warrior uses Heroic Strike to bleed some rage, a shield-edge attack (very common in actual use of shields) would be a nice way to represent that. Shared attacks like Heroic Strike, Charge, and talent-based attacks like Storm Bolt, Bladestorm or Shockwave should still vary depending on spec, so that an arms warrior's Bladestorm is more of an precise series of strikes, while a protection warrior simply hurls herself forward in a blur of shield and sword, and a fury warrior becomes a raging wind flinging herself around.

Next week - should we have to switch talents on a fight by fight basis, and do we actually have to?
At the center of the fury of battle stand the warriors: protection, arms and fury. Check out more strategies and tips especially for warriors, from hot issues for today's warriors to Cataclysm 101 for DPS warriors and our guide to reputation gear for warriors.

Filed under: Warrior, Analysis / Opinion, (Warrior) The Care and Feeding of Warriors, Mists of Pandaria

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