And I'm back. More importantly, I am back with a D&D Insider Subscription. This allowed me to checkout the three level preview of the 4th Edition Druid. What I saw was... interesting.
Before I begin, I have to say I have always been a fan of druids in D&D. To me they were always the most interesting of the "second stringers". It helped that they could fulfill a number of different roles. If the cleric was down, they could act as a healer. If you needed help on the front line, they could Wild Shape into a bear, or lord help you, a legendary ape! Need someone to help the wizard with some combat spell-casting? No problem!
Druids in 4th Edition look like they are still going to be versatile, if a little schizophrenic. They get Wild Shape as a class feature right at level one in this edition. Wild shape allows the druid to assume their "Beast Form", and that is where the schizophrenia begins!
Druid powers are pretty evenly split between ones with the Beast Form keyword and ones without it. While the druid is in beast form, they are pretty much limited to using powers with that keyword. These powers tend to be focused on a single target, do decent damage, and have some form of secondary effect. In many ways, these powers are more like second hand striker powers, than controller powers.
The downside it that while Wild Shape is a class feature, your beast form doesn't do much by default. If you choose to focus on powers without the Beast Form keyword, you probably won't be using Wild Shape much.
On the other hand, those other powers might be worth it. The powers that the druid can use outside of their Beast Form are more in line with their controller role; in fact, they are currently the best controllers in the game!
Like their arcane cousin, the wizard, druids have powers that affect a large number of creatures at once. Unlike the wizard, almost every one of these powers has some secondary effect that aids them in battle field control. Secondary effects that immobilize, slow, slide, or otherwise lock down their opponents and limit their options are common. Frankly, I hope that the upcoming Arcane Power book introduces a lot more spells like this for the wizard!
I have to admit that I am still making up my mind on the 4th Edition druid. Seeing more than three levels will help. I can say that my interest has definitely been piqued!