Parts of the pet battling system are still missing and what CAN be previewed is incomplete. This makes reviewing the new feature a bit difficult since it's like critiquing a painter's latest work, except you're only given a small corner of the piece.
I'll be giving my latest impression of pet battles in its current (incomplete) state, but please keep in mind that this is NOT the final version, and until it is fully implemented for testing on the beta, we still don't have a good view of the bigger picture.
So read on if you are simply extra curious and would like just a small taste of any changes/updates of pet battles!
As mentioned towards the end of a previous post, some players were able to retain the ability to track wild pets and yes, even battle with their companions. This is not guaranteed and for most players, pet battling is still restricted to those of level 90. (The level requirement will probably change for the final iteration of pet battles.)
Currently, all critters and pets have at least one attack or ability enabled. This unfortunately means no more damage-free, experience grinding. Wild battle pets ARE capturable again, but experience gains are somewhat off and buggy.
Because of these factors, pet battling is actually quite difficult to participate in on the beta atm.
Companions that take damage during a battle retain the damage taken even after the battle is over. There is currently no way to heal your pets between battles, so you essentially have no choice but to go into the next pet battle with a pet at less than full health. I'm guessing that this is where the recently datamined Battle Pet Bandage will come into play, and players will have to manually heal and revive their pets between each combat session.
You can, however, "heal" your pet by caging them and relearning them. This wipes any earned experience gained, though. They retain their level and return to your journal with full health, but it's kind of pointless since the goal is to be able to battle and gain levels with your pets. This "work-around" will probably be removed in MoP, or be rendered unnecessary.
Anyway, until I can get my hands on these bandages, it's really not worth attempting to battle or capture critters right now. All of my pets are left with either 1 health or half health which makes them easy wins for the opponents. On top of that, since I haven't unlocked the second or third slot of my pet battle team, I'm pretty much forced to use one pet per battle. That adds up to a lot of boo-boos and owies that I can't cure! My poor pets. :(
Update: This post from WarcraftPets forum details how to heal and revive your pets! I haven't tried it yet, but I'm relieved that my little friends won't have to suffer with partial health anymore. :D
I wouldn't rule out the implementation or use of the pet bandages in a future iteration of pet battles, though. But learning a spell to heal and revive your pets is MUCH more convenient than having to buy bandaids to apply onto every pet after every battle.
Unfortunately, it looks like persisting damage and experience gain have been disabled again, which means leveling pets will have to wait for future testing and healing is no longer a concern (for now).
MOAR Capturable Pets
Speaking of capturing critters, it appears that the Pet Journal has been FLOODED with wild pets in the latest beta patch. Many of the critters that were thought to be uncapturable and just leveling fodder have been re-included as capturable wild pets. The very common ones such as rabbits, rats, and so on have multiple sources listed in their Info section.
I honestly don't know if developers are serious about allowing players to capture so many possible critters, or if they're simply attempting to throw us off the (premature?) search and hunt for capturable companions. If it's the former, we might very well hit 500 possible pets to collect (without many duplicates)! We'll have to wait and see what happens.
(click to view larger version of image)
The Pet Journal also revealed a new aspect of pet battles: quality type.
Most pets are listed as "poor" or of grey quality, however, I was able to capture two of the same pet, yet each had a different quality. One was of "common" quality while the other was of "uncommon" quality. Could this be the "breed" that was found in the client strings?
It's unclear at the moment since quality doesn't seem to have any visible impact on the companion atm. Pet stats are still missing for the most part, so other than a different text color, there really aren't any differences or bonuses for having a "better" quality pet. The quality of the pet seems to be randomly assigned as well, and I haven't found any real pattern or factors that would increase the chances of finding a higher quality pet. At least for now.
I'm not sure how I feel about pet 'breed' and if the random quality assignment should or will have an impact on their stats or abilities. It adds to the RNG of pet battles, but is it a necessary addition? Without it, the system seemed to have a healthy balance of RNG and "guarantees". With breeds, will it tip the scales and make pet battle gameplay more grindy than need be? We'll have to wait and test it before providing Blizzard with feedback.
Pet Combat Log
Last but not least, there is what I like to call a 'pet battle combat log'. It's essentially a log of the actions taken before, during, and the result of a battle. It's pretty nice being able to see the details of the combat session, and it will definitely make gameplay more convenient. I only wish it also listed how much experience each pet gained at the end of a fight.
Aaaand, that's it for now. More information about this new feature is hopefully on the way ("soon"), and then shortly after that... maybe we can haz pet battles? :)