With Cataclysm right around the corner and many changes coming around we have seen the uniqueness of many classes go the way of the winds whereas Hunters seem to be becoming even more unique. While all classes are seeing some of their abilities being shared with other classes the Hunters seem to be moving even further away from the pack.
Take the Shaman class for example. Long has heroism/bloodlust been a staple of the Shaman talent pool. It was a unique ability that only that class brought to the table. Now Mages have that ability and one of the Hunters pets has that ability. Gone is the uniqueness of the Shaman class having that skill.
The Warlock class used to have soul stones and now they have the things that used to use soul stones working more on a resource basis. Mind you I do not know as much about this one myself as my warlock is the lowest of my characters so it is the one I read the least on but a change to a "unlimited" resource instead of a gathered resource is something that now puts the Warlock in line with every other class in the game.
All other classes have lost their uniqueness this expansion in one way or another in various degrees, except for the Hunter of course. The Hunter not only kept its uniqueness but it even expanded on it.
The Hunters unique features already included:
Ranged White Damage: Hunters are the only class that can do what is commonly refereed to as melee damage from range. White damage can be done from range from other classes, warrior and rogue to name two but no other class can do white damage from range effectively. +1 for uniqueness.
Minimum Range: The hunters are the only class that has to be at a minimum range to do its "natural" abilities. Yes, a hunter can melee, no a hunter should not be doing that. Casters can cast in melee and of course melee can melee in melee. Every class can do what their class naturally does in melee range except for hunters. +1 For the uniqueness.
Pets & Upkeep: Hunters are the only pet class with a pet that requires an upkeep. Not saying it is hard and with the right glyph all you need to do is hit mend pet to keep your pet happy but they are the only pet class that actually has to worry about their pet as if it were really a "partner" and not a "servant". +1 for uniqueness.
Pets & Names: Our pets are our friends. They are more then just a helper they are a companion. We can name our pets and even rename them if we realized that Bubba did not fit our pets personality with a little help from a Scribe. Warlocks minions, Mages elemental, Shamans elementals or wolves, Death Knights minions, all have names that are set in stone and can not be changed. They might be called pets but they are not companions like a Hunters pet is. +1 for uniqueness.
Pets: Then there is the concept of pets in general. Every warlock has the same exact demons for its spec in its arsenal. A mage and a shaman train to get theirs as do DKs. A hunter can pick and choose what pet they want. They can choose different looks for the same types of pets so even if you see a dozen hunters with wolves they might have a dozen different wolves. If you see a dozen locks with their viodwalker out they will all have the exact same voidwalker. +1 for uniqueness.
Feign Death: The be all end all of aggro dumps. Other classes have aggro dumps for sure but nothing like this one. This is a powerful tool. Whenever I talk with my friends I always say if there were one ability I could choose to have on all my classes (and I do play all 10) it would be Feign Death. I wish I had this on every character I play. While I wish I had this on every class I play it is also the one thing I hope that Hunters get to keep to themselves that is unique to them. +1 for uniqueness.
Traps: While none of the traps are completely game changing they are something that only Hunters have. Some other classes might have something somewhat similar but nothing like them exactly. From slowing to freezing to DoT inducing to poisons to pure damage they are the definition of utility and unique. +1 for uniqueness.
Spells: Using the term spells might be strange as Hunters, and some others, are not casters but all abilities are referred to as spells. Every spell in the game is shared in one way or another. Rain of Fire and Blizzard? Same thing. Swipe and Thunder Clap? Same thing. Every spell in the game is used for more then one class except for many Hunter spells such as traps and shots. Being there are no other ranged damage dealers in the style of Hunters there are no classes to share those abilities with. Steady shot, Serpent Sting, Chimera Shot, Explosive Shot, so forth and so on, they are all Hunter spells and they are all only Hunter spells. +1 for uniqueness.
With the upcoming changes to the game in Cataclysm the Hunters become a little more unique in some aspects while losing one of their previous unique qualities.
Ammo: Hunters were the only class that needed to make sure they had bullets or arrows and were basically useless without it. All other classes can do what they do without any such resource. If a caster runs out of mana even without something to drink they will get mana back. If a hunter ran out of ammo they were near useless. Melee damage just does not cut it. So we lost some of out uniqueness there but I do love having the extra bag space now. -1 for uniqueness.
AoE: Hunters where not unique in this area before Cataclysm. They had an AoE spell just like every other class in the game. Now they do not, Hunters are now the only class in the game with no AoE capability what so ever. For those that do not play Hunters I will clarify that Multi Shot, which changed to hit more then three targets, is still not an AoE. Multi Shot needs to have a valid target selected to be used. AoE spells just do AoE damage in an area even if there is no target selected. +1 for uniqueness. (But I consider that a minus for usage)
Utility: Many classes have a wide selection of utility but none have the expansive amounts of utility that Hunters now bring with them. Being all pets now offer raid wide buffs and every buff in the game in covered in one pet or another that means they Hunters can effectively fill any buff missing from a raid. It is kind of strange for something that helps remove the uniqueness from other classes that it is what makes the Hunter unique but it seems that is how Blizzard wants it. +1 for uniqueness.
Utility Without Sacrifice: Asking a Warlock to use a different minion effects the way they play. Some need a certain minion to be out to maximize their output. Some classes need to choose skills in their spec that they would prefer to use those points elsewhere to bring that utility. Asking a Hunter to bring a different pet for the raid buff it offers will not effect the Hunter much, if at all. All pets now have standardized damage (within class that is) which means that you no longer need to take a wolf to every raid if you like your cat. Your cat now has the same DPS as the wolf does. Another oddity that making things the same now makes them unique. +1 for uniqueness.
Ranged Traps: Gone are the days where all we could do was freeze a mob in place from a distance. Now, as true ranged specialists we can do anything any trap can do from a distance. This takes one of our previous unique features and steps it up to another level. (it is also the only good skill hunters get in the expansion in my option) +1 for uniqueness.
Focus: It is a brand new resource for the game being added just for Hunters stepping on the feet of DKs who where previously the only class with a unique (mana bar type) resource. Now the Hunters have a unique resource as well that is reserved just for them alone. +1 for uniqueness.
Mastery: Hunters are the only class that has a mastery that does not effect them in any way, shape or form. The beastmaster mastery Master of Beasts effects the pets damage and only the pets damage. Yes, Warlocks Master Demonologist is close as it effects the pet damage just like the BM mastery however the Warlocks mastery also effects the Warlock themselves when in demon form leaving Hunters as the only class with a mastery that does not effect themselves at all. +1 for uniqueness.
Hunters where always in a class of their own to begin with, no pun intended. Ranged "melee" damage. As the times move on where every class is starting to look the same the Hunters are moving even further away from the pack into their own little world more and more.
My own personal opinion on the matter is that more classes need to be designed like the Hunters class in terms of uniqueness. It seems more and more that each class is starting to look the same except for our beloved Hunters. Lets hope that our uniqueness keeps us from being placed in the rank and file of all the other classes that are becoming cookie cutters of each other.
I wish Blizzard would make an effort to start making the other classes their own again and not just have reskined skills with different names all doing the same things. Being that will never happen we can all rejoice as Hunters that we are, without doubt, the most unique class in the game.