A look at one of the often over looked characters in WOW.
Of the many different character classes in WOW, each having a different accepted role, there is one lauded as superior by those who play them, and scoffed at by those around them. There are a few responsibilities that must be filled for a group of adventurers to succeed in a dungeon. There must be a “tank,” someone who gets the attention of the monsters they are attempting to kill. A healer is important to keep the group alive. There are damage dealers who are primarily responsible for slaying the monsters in melee or from a distance. Characters in charge of crowd control stall certain targets to make taking down others easier.
Each class generally fills one role with ease and can switch to another if it is needed. The Warrior, for example, is first and foremost a tank. Warriors are given the most abilities to generate and maintain the focus of the foe. But in a group with two warriors, or if another class wants to try their hand at tanking, the warrior can be used as a damage dealer. The WOW Paladin, normally used in instances as a healer and support character, can generate cause enough threat to hold the targets attention.
The Druids of Azeroth, made up of the Night Elf and Tauren populations, have an interesting mix of abilities. To WOW, they are the shape shifting Jack of all Trades. They can heal the party, with efficiency topped only by the Priest. In Cat Form they can deal melee damage and sneak around their enemies with the guile of a Rogue. If shifted into Bear Form, they are capable of performing tanking roll of a Warrior. While in Moonkin Form, they can dole out massive damage by raining down arcane and nature spells on the target. This wide range of abilities makes the druid the ideal member of any party, if one person fails, the druid can switch over to the vacated role and pick up the slack.
This is not often how the party views the situation, however. In small instance groups of five people, the druid is often taken only if they are willing to be a healer, despite their versatility. A druid desiring to fill another role, especially the popular role of damage dealing, is shunned. The WOW developers gave druids certain abilities, such as moon fire or faerie fire, which are very visible spells. These spells have beneficial effects for the group, but a druid casting them on a target will often be ridiculed from the party for ‘wasting mana’ that should be reserved for healing.
The issue stems from two major problems in WOW. The first is the lack of healer classes. There is only one class out of eight on each faction that is a dedicated healer, the Priest. There are two other classes on each side that are capable of healing, the Paladin for Alliance and Shaman for Horde, then the Druid. The low amount of available healers leads to less players playing them, which feeds right into the next dilemma. The second problem being that most players are too shortsighted to see beyond the Druids healing ability. There are many people with the immutable mindset that if a druid can heal, he should heal. While they are an effective healer, they are quite effective at every other role they can fill as well.
No one would ever accuse Blizzard entertainment of being hasty with their decisions. WOW and their other games have had their release dates pushed back many times. In the past hardcore fans of Blizzard’s work know that this delay is for the best, the company labors to produce the finest quality product. The Druid went through months of internal testing and balancing before the concept became a reality. By giving the druid all the basic abilities of a rogue, a warrior, a mage and a priest, it is quite clear they had a greater intention for the class than staple healer.