Now that I am finally on the beta I can give some first hand opinions on how things are looking over all and more importantly, for hunters. Conceptually hunters seem to be in a good place. In practice, not so much.
There is a lot I want to touch on but there is something I feel there is a need to address first.
Concussive Shot - A long time staple of any decent hunters arsenal is gone. When first starting my copied hunter I was setting up my bars so I could do some questing and could not find concussive shot. I really do hope this is an error and it was not removed, it is a staple of the hunter toolbox and is, as I see it, required. Lets hope and pray this is only an oversight and it was not intended to be removed.
When I first got concussive shot on my first hunter I thought, what is this crap. It wasn't until some time later, as I really learned to play my character that I noticed the power of this ability. It became my favorite ability when I got it while leveling a new hunter.
There are three things a hunter is known for. Their pets, their ability to crowd control and their ability to kite. Removing concussive shot removes our ability to kite, at least effectively. I am sure I would have never been able to kill the fel reaver at level 58 when I first entered hellfire if it where not for concussive shot. I am sure I would not have been able to destroy every retribution paladin I have ever met in PvP without concussive shot.
Concussive shot has been a god send when soloing, when in raids, when in dungeons, when in PvP. It has done so much for me and made my play time fun. It has been a part of what a hunter is and it is usually how you can tell a good hunter from a bad one, yes, sometimes something that simple was very telling.
Before I continue I would like us all to have a moment of silence for our lost friend. Concussive shot, you will be missed.
~bows head in a moment of silence~
Now back to explore my impressions of everything else while I hope that the hunters losing concussive shot is just an oversight and they will add it back.
Wing Clip - With no melee weapon we knew this one was going goodbye along with raptor strike to join their friend mongoose in the land of lost abilities but when added to the loss of concussive it is really going to hurt hunters. Wing clip was very useful at times and I don't know about others, but I used it often when in close range.
Defensive Dodge - They took hunter dodge off the map when cataclysm came out because they were always at range, they did not want them to be good on the avoidance front as well when in melee. Being hunters are losing two vital things they needed to stay at range, I say it is time to give us our dodge back to being based off agility again. Playing a hunter on beta you will find yourself in melee more then you had ever been or ever imagined possible and taking every hit is not a fun thing at all. Dodge should make a comeback for hunters.
Offensive Dodge - There is no way I am going to get used to the idea that my attacks can be dodged. Bad idea by blizzard. They say they wanted enhancement shaman and hunters to use the same gear, well, we do, just make sure it does not have expertise on it. That is what reforging is for. Let the shaman reforge into it, leave us hunters alone. It just does not feel right after all these years. Some changes make sense, others don't. This one doesn't.
Stamina - People are currently calling it a beta error that hunters ranged weapons do not have appropriate stats when compared to other weapons but we should continue to speak up about it or we risk the chance blizzard will forget about it. The fact it even made it to beta shows that they are not paying enough attention to weapon balance to begin with. How could they even make it into beta realizing only one weapon type has low stats on it.
So why is stamina so important? We are losing so many stats from losing a main weapon and we did not get them back with buffed numbers on our ranged weapons. This is leading to cloth wearing having up to 30K more health then we do in similar level gear. The lack of stamina on our weapon, which is the biggest chunk of stamina any class has on any piece of gear, leaves us with much less life. This will make us a liability in raids and dungeons, as less life means harder to keep up when compared to others. This will also make us an easy target in PvP. Less stamina means less life which means you die faster and with the loss of concussive and wing clip and having less stamina and no dodge we are dead ducks the second any melee gets in range.
Agility - Same as stamina, we lost a ton losing our melee weapon and it was not replaced on our ranged weapon. Please keep being as vocal as possible about this on the forums fellow hunters. If we do not speak up we risk the chance of this error in itemization going live. At the very least our ranged weapons should have stats comparable to melee weapons.
Black Arrow - Lets just say that I am really glad to hear they are changing it back. There is just so much wrong with black arrow I could right an article on it alone. Unlike other abilities that have have a cast time where you can preshoot, as in start the ability before you fire an autoshot, black arrow fires an auto shot the second it starts its channel. While not game breaking or a bad thing really, it is annoying as hell.
I've also noticed that the black arrow DoT has a weird application process. I've accidentally aggroed 4 additional mobs that my BA did not go through by firing a black arrow. It is also not a very smart ability. If you have a mob ice trapped and fire a black arrow at something past it, it will put the DoT on the trapped target thus breaking it out. Again, not anything game breaking or bad even, just need to pay attention is all, but it is annoying.
Add to that, while I can not say for sure, but it seems to be that BA is a huge DPS loss, at least when soloing. Any mob I put it on seems to live longer then it would if I just used the focus on an arcane shot. It might work differently when in a dungeon or raid situation where things live longer, but for questing, BA is useless as it is. So lets be glad they are changing it.
Pet Pathing - Not sure what they changed but our pets have went full on retard. I am going to guess it is a bug on pathing. In many cases if you are in the water and attack something on land, the pet will just keep swimming down and back up. They will not go on land to attack. Same for a mob on a hill, some hills at least. Your pet will stand there looking it as if it wants to kill it but it never does anything. It seems pet pathing is broken at the moment in many cases. I could go on with at least a dozen examples I ran across in the small time I played but it is not needed, my pet probably would have died if he attacked anyway, which brings us to the next thing.
Pet Health - In most cases you can not pull two mobs and hope your pet will handle them because your pet will most likely die. If you have three on your pet, start moving yourself to a nice position to feign death because even rolling mend pet 100% of the time, your pet is dead. They are being hit as if they are level 50 pets trying to tank a level 87 mob. On 2 occasions I've seen my pet one shot by a quest mob. From full health to zero, instantly. I'm going to chalk this one up to the fact that pet specs are not in game yet, or at least I could not find them.
Misdirect - I'll say this is a bug with 100% certainty but that doesn't make it any less annoying. Misdirect does not work on pets. Remember the ZA/ZG patch when MD did not work on pets for a couple of days? Yeah, it is just like that. While it is a bug and I know it will be fixed, it was worth mentioning so any hunters that get on the beta know that ahead of time.
Spellbook - Okay, not a hunter only thing, but still something I want to comment on. Everything is on one page now. I don't like it, not at all. Remember when even if you where marks or survival, the things like mend pet and such where under beast mastery? Well, no more, they are all under the same spec, which ever one you are in. Not to mention, weapons proficiencies, class passives, race passives, etc, all under the same thing. Everything you can use is in the same thing. Although they are in alphabetical order it is hard to find things. There are pages of things that are passives, things that should be in general, things that should be in other specs, etc. They should add two more tabs. One for general class abilities, that all three specs have, and one like we already have that has all the other junk, like race passives, hunter passives, weapon abilities, etc. The spellbook just looks cluttered. Over cluttered.
Leveling - Another thing that is not exactly hunter specific but I wanted to mention because after all, hunters have always been known as questing machines. In the short time I played I am up to 86 and 92%. If I play for a few minutes tonight I will be 87. I only played for 4 and a half hours. I crashed due to beta errors over 50 times. I suffered one world server down for about 15 minutes. I had to compete with 100s of people for the same quest objectives. I was making notes of every bug I ran into so I could report it. And I still nearly made 2 levels with all those things going on.
I think leveling is WAY too fast. But then again, that is nothing new to hear from me. I will say that there are some really hard packs to deal with. Without my wing clip and concussive at my disposal and my pet dying if someone sneezed in its general direction it made some fights a lot harder then they should have been. However, I only died once, and they was due to the fact that I DCed with 5 mobs on me. They where all close to death, sure, but without having a pet that can do any serious damage and can't take any damage at all, my pet could not save me while I was DCed.
So even with our losses, hunters are still the best questing class in the game, by far.
Size - Size matters, at least when it comes to world size, get your mind out of the gutter. The world feels roughly the size of northrend and it is all connected. As lame as this might sound, it made me feel good, really good, about the future of the expansion just for that alone. Not sure why it matters but bigger and connected just feels good.
Look - Unlike the sometimes all over the place design of cataclysm it is nice to see something that looks as if it belongs together. There are no areas I have run across yet that seem out of place. You know, kind of like how nearly everything in the twilight highlands seemed out of place.
Hemet - The greatest big game hunter that ever lived has returned and I was excited as any hunter could be to see the man we all look up to. What I was not excited about was how quickly his quest line was done. I was left saying... is that all? Maybe it is not. There is still a lot of content to be released but based on the last quest I did, which I will not give details about, it sure seemed like it was the end quest of the story line. I did have to face a big baddie, that was actually an elite that did not die nearly as quick as regular quest mobs. This is what makes me think, along with why I was killing him, that it was the end of the line. Here is to hoping they flesh it out some. As it is it has to be the worst hunt he has ever sent us on. 20 minutes worth of quests while competing with all those people for mobs? What is it going to take when you do it alone, 5 minutes? That is not the normal hemet epic quest line if you ask me.
Trap Launcher - It is now a toggle ability, like a rogues blade flurry. You can leave it on, so it launches all the time or leave it off so it drops it at your feet. I have been leaving it on all the time, if I need it at my feet, I just place it there. Easy enough. This is a very nice quality of life chance for us hunters.
AoE Looting - Oh... my... god... I can not express how much I love this. Collect 10 of something? Just kill them all, bring them back to the same area, bend over once, get all 10 at once. LOVE IT! This will make soloing easier, grinding for items easier. There is no real bad side to it if you ask me. And with my pet sucking as bad as it does, everything dies at my feet anyway. It will take a tiny bit of getting used to. The first few times I killed a few mobs I went to loot the second and third and had to remind myself I already looted them. The learning process was quick however, but as I am still learning the range of the AoE looting I still sometimes hover over things to make sure I looted everything, I can see me doing that for a while. It seems like the range is pretty decent.
Melee Hunter - I am not used to this at all. Even if I can fire point blank I still always try to get away. It is a lot harder without wing clip and concussive. Give us concussive back you bastards. I am not sure if I will ever really get used to being a melee hunter, but with my pets issues it sure seems like I will get a lot of practice. It generates no aggro because it hits like a wet noodle. I can not misdirect to it. It all adds up to many mobs on me. Speaking of giving us things back, give us our dodge you took away too. While it is nice to kill something point blank, it just does not feel right. I'll get used to it but I don't think I will ever change from the idea I want to be at range.
That is all for now, I will do another beta thoughts post as more things pop into mind.