Now, I know that this is only a first draft and will still change drastically until release, so there's no point in getting too excited about any individual talents and the like but... honestly, I couldn't help but feel incredulous when I saw what Blizzard apparently considers "spec-defining" for holy priests. All talent trees now come with a little description of what they specialise in, and the one for holy priests says:
A versatile healer who can reverse damage on individuals or groups and even heal from beyond the grave.
"Reverse damage on individuals or groups"? Really? What kind of weird wording is that? All you're saying is that holy priests heal people, both with single- and multi-target spells, which is something that all other healing classes do as well.
Holy paladins "invoke the power of the Light to protect and to heal", resto druids use "heal-over-time nature spells", resto shamans "call upon ancestral spirits and the cleansing power of water", discipline priests "shield allies from taking damage"... but holy priests just "reverse damage"? Could they possibly make the spec sound any less interesting?
But wait, you say, holy priests can "even heal from beyond the grave"! I'd still argue that that's less cool than actually having a properly definable healing style, but I agree that it's something. Spirit of redemption is quite an iconic ability for holy priests, even if we have a bit of a love-hate relationship with it - see nicknames like "fail angel" or "improved death". Except... spirit of redemption is still a talent and not actually what Blizzard considers the spec's defining ability. Instead the spell that you get at level ten when you decide to be holy, at the same point when arms warriors get mortal strike and feral druids get mangle, is - hold on to your hats - desperate prayer.
I struggle to express in words how much I boggled when I saw that. Desperate prayer is about as optional as a talent can get without being completely useless. I've been a holy priest for years and have never specced into it; in fact I still remember when it used to be a racial ability for dwarves and humans only. I know a lot of priests like it, but personally I never considered it more than an overglorified health potion. However, regardless of whether you like the spell or not, I don't see how anyone could possibly consider this a spec-defining ability. Hell, I'd rather have lightwell, and I've never specced into that either, but at least it's vaguely related to
I know this may seem like a petty thing to get wound up about, especially when it's most likely going to change completely before release anyway, but this is something that definitely hit a sore spot for me, and it kind of hurts that Blizzard could ever consider this a good idea at this point in the game. The times of vanilla WoW where holy priests were the only viable healers and thus didn't need any definition beyond "the healer" are so long gone now it's silly. With five viable and versatile healing specs you can't just define four of them as healers with a special flavour and then call the fifth one "someone who reverses damage".
In the current game, holy priests are powerful crowd healers using the Light. Don't just throw that identity out of the window again please. I don't see why other healers should get important talents that used to be thirty, forty or even fifty points (penance) down their main tree at level ten, while holy priests still stay locked out of circle of healing until level sixty or so. I mean, I'm not even saying that CoH has to be the spell we get at level ten, but something, anything actually related to what we do best - group-healing - would be nice.
I just loathe the idea of seeing holy priests once again get kicked into the dust as the one healer that can't do anything special. I've already seen it happen more than once and I really think that this is something that Blizzard should have a better grip on by now. This isn't a question of fine-tuning and game balance, it's about identity... and the notion that the developers still don't know what they want holy priests to be beyond "generic healers" after all these years is kind of terrifying.