Is it just me, or do the unique class mechanics stand out more in Warhammer Online than in most other games? The more I reflect on it, the more I see it in other games, but it just seems more prominent in WAR.
By “unique class mechanic,” I mean the special feature that guides many of a class’s skills/abilities. (They are not truly unique in WAR, because one class on each side has it.) The orc and elf tanks tier up, the chaos and dwarf ranged DPS summon turrets, and the human and dark elf healers have an energy pool they can refill with melee combat. The mechanic mattered to different degrees based on your class and spec line; it never felt all that exciting on my chaos healer, while my dwarf ranged DPS had turret- or gun-improving talent options.
My unsubstantiated feeling is that the earlier in the design process that the mechanic was added, the more vital it feels. City of Heroes gives every class something special, but it does not feel terribly special. City of Villains mechanics do feel special, because the classes are built around them. Brutes, Stalkers, and Dominators are defined by their special mechanics. Blasters and Defenders? Eh, it’s a bit of a bonus.
You get a reset on that timer if you completely re-do the class. Then you can re-build around a new core. I expect a bit of that to happen in Cataclysm, so that there is less feel of “mana or something slightly different,” although you do get rather different effects from bars that build up during combat and those that empty out. Or I could be completely wrong, because what do I know about WoW, but you have certainly seen classes re-done so that they fulfill the same role with radically different mechanics.
Unique class mechanics create additional balance issues, but for the moment I am wondering which I would prefer: designing classes entirely around the mechanics or just using them as a bit of flavor on whatever else they would do. There is a delicate balance in the latter, sometimes done well with race: if you can be a dwarf cleric or an elf cleric, you want there to be some interesting difference in how they play without making it an effectively forced choice because one race synergizes so well. “Sometimes” because there is that narrow range between “doesn’t matter” and “forced choice.”