The Hunter

One thing I didn't mention in my list of casual Vanilla endgame activities was levelling alts. It was still a thing of course, but less so than nowadays simply because each character took so long to level. On the other hand it was extremely rewarding in some ways because the classes were so different, so that each time you levelled a new one it had the potential to subject you to new and unexpected experiences.

One of my SWTOR guildies mentioned that he rolled up some characters on Kronos too, most recently a tauren to play with another friend of his. I used this as an excuse to also do something that I'd already been thinking about for a while: recreate my own tauren hunter. Unlike my priest, she is another good candidate for a nostalgia tour because she was mostly a solo character, meaning that I won't go around missing my friends all the time.

Back in the day, she was originally meant to be part of a levelling group consisting of the same couple of people with whom I had levelled on Alliance side, but it just didn't work out that way. One just didn't have that much interest in his new shaman alt, another one got so into her Horde druid that she raced ahead like a maniac and left the rest of us in the dust. I was left feeling awkward in the middle and mostly puttering around at my own pace, taking in the new and (to me) strange lore of the Horde races. I didn't get much pugging done either - I distinctly remember being quite frustrated that I couldn't get a group for Wailing Caverns for ages, as I had a quest for it that rewarded a nice blue item. In the end I hit a high enough level that I could solo it, and did so just for the sake of being able to say that I'd done it.

Re-creating this hunter on Kronos, I felt extremely excited almost immediately. I think that hunter may very well be the WoW class that has undergone the most drastic mechanical changes over the course of the game's evolution, maybe tied with paladin. Do you remember when hunters started without a pet? Used mana? Needed ammo? Their ranged attacks had a minimum range, so you couldn't just shoot things in the face? They had a "dead zone" where they could hit neither with ranged nor with melee attacks? When melee attacks were a thing? So many memories.

Compared to my paladin, the hunter immediately felt more "active" in terms of combat, since she had both a melee and a ranged auto-attack (on different buttons) as well as a melee special on a cooldown. It may sound weird, but more than anything it struck me how... "cool" the combat felt. Shoot the beast, it comes for you, you dodge and try to hit it with your axe - action-packed! In comparison, I watched a video of a hunter running a dungeon in the Legion alpha the other day and I kept thinking how stupid the animations looked, with the constant shooting at crazy angles while running around non-stop. The way the torso mechanically rotated around the hip to keep up with the movement made the whole thing look extremely unnatural.

Low-level hunter life was - somewhat to my surprise - much harder than that of my paladin. While my pally didn't suffer her first death until some Defias cornered me in a cave in Westfall, I had several near-death experiences in the Bristleback village in the tauren starter area (and saw people die around me left and right), and once I went out into Mulgore proper, I soon fell victim to some vicious wildlife myself. The problem was that the mobs' auto-attacks actually hit harder than my own, so every fight was a race to spam that special attack fast enough to win the hitpoint race, and if even a single add joined in? Forget it. On the plus side, this encourages you to try to learn to kite early on, even before you actually have the tools to effectively do so... because there's nothing like that moment when you realise that you're clearly losing against that mob while fighting in melee, hitting war stomp to stun it, and then making a run for it, trying to get a few shots in from range.

Committing hunter sacrilege by killing a rare.
Of course the truly exciting moment came when I hit level ten and was given the quest to learn how to tame my own pet. I remembered one of the quest steps for tauren being a bit of a pain because the swoop you're supposed to tame has a knockdown that interrupts your taming attempt, and Kronos didn't disappoint in recreating that experience. Since the cooldown of the swoop's knockdown is just a bit shorter than the duration of the taming channel, and the taming rod for the quest only has three charges, I had to abandon and re-pick the quest about five times before I succeeded. I finally got lucky when one of the swoop's knockdown attacks missed and was able to complete taming.

That of course raised the question of what pet to tame to be my (more or less) permanent companion. Back in retail I levelled a hyena and a cat in tandem - something that every guide advised against, since pets needed to gain their own XP (another throwback!) and trying to level more than one at a time meant constantly juggling them and visiting the stable master a lot. This didn't stop me though.

My first permanent pet was a hyena called Skullgrin. Hyenas had a reputation for being well-rounded pets, and if you look at them from a certain angle I think they look absolutely adorable.

They also weren't very popular, which allowed me to feel like a hyena hipster.

My second pet was Echeyakee, the rare white lion from the Barrens (renamed Snowpaw). The funny thing about him is that while his looks were indeed rare, he is easily summoned for a quest if you're Horde, so the number of Horde hunters that went "ooh, rare" and tamed him was actually pretty large, which made him a lot less rare as a hunter pet than you would have thought.

I soon decided that I definitely wanted a hyena again, but I wouldn't be able to tame one of those until my teens. The kitty though... maybe it was time to mix it up this time. After a quick consultation of the Petopia that once was via archive.org, I decided that I was going to get myself a striped moonstalker from Darkshore. That was well into enemy lands and far enough away to be an adventure, but not so far away that I wouldn't be able to complete it in an evening (assuming everything went according to plan).

Fortunately, it did. I only got ganked on the road once, and by a priest no less. (I thought they were supposed to be nice!) However, I ran into far more Alliance players that were kind enough to ignore me, though I got pretty nervous once I got close to Auberdine, simply because there were so many of them and they were actually close to my level, so I wouldn't have blamed them for being tempted to pile on me. I turned on humanoid tracking to avoid people more effectively and hid behind trees as well as I could, until I finally spotted a cat of my level and dashed in to tame it. As soon as the process was done, I hearthed out.

I like how it looks like the strider in the background is laughing at me.
Now the true adventure can begin... plus I need to learn some pet skills out in the wild, a system that hides an astounding amount of depth that players of other classes often weren't even aware of back in the day.

So much hunter love.


  1. Yeah, I think hunters lost the most in Blizzard's streamlining of the classes. The thing is that I do think hunters had an excessive number of fiddly bits, and if you look at each individually, there's an argument to remove it.

    Only removing *all* the fiddly bits was way too much. I especially miss pet happiness and loyalty levels.

    I wasn't a fan of the way you learned pet skills though. That was a little too opaque, and I grew attached to the pet, and then was unhappy about having to release one back into the wild to learn something new.

    1. That seems like a reasonable way of putting it. I certainly wasn't hardbroken when they made each individual change (removing ammo etc.) and the arguments for each one seemed reasonable. But going back and seeing everything that was removed again, I can't help but think: WoW, this was so much more fun.

      Personally I really missed mana, ammo and pet levelling for some reason.

  2. Ah, pet taming. I remember wanting a rare pet, I tried to tame a ghost saber in Dark Shore and failed several times (after making all the effort to spawn them), all the while not realizing I couldn't tame something higher level than me. ( was level 19 and they were all level 20. Oops. Vanilla lesson learned. I went on and leveled to 20 and came back an got my ghost saber.

    She was my main pet up to the ability to tame exotic pets was put in the game and the Devilsaur became the pet to have.

    I do agree about learning new pet skills. That was not a good implementation, especially with the limit of three pets in the *stables* and only one pet with you.

    So many fun adventures, though, because these mechanics kept you out in the world. Whether it was to get The Rake (the irony of your screenshot) for his fast attack speed, or Humar just to be able to boast, hunters had plausible reasons to be out and about.