Wednesday, October 3, 2018

My Life As A Gamer: Battle For Azeroth Summarized

It's been a few weeks since Battle For Azeroth launched for World of Warcraft. Already we've got problems, but first let me talk about the good stuff.

  • The art team nailed it, again.
  • Cinematics are fantastic.
  • The music is just as good.
  • The narratives are satisfactory, and often full of shout-outs to more famous examples of the genres presented.
  • The new hubs are different, distinct, and yet quite functional; you're not going to keep your Hearthstone bound to a location other than one of them (unless you're a Mage).

The problem is that, aside from the last part, those are aesthetics and aesthetics are not fundamental to commercial success in MMORPGs. Gameplay is, and that is what is severely lacking.

As with the past few expansions, the questing experience while leveling to the new cap is both speedy and satisfying. The route has already been optimized, such that an addon--Azeroth Auto-Pilot--is available to skip everything superfluous (cutscenes, non-relevant quests, etc.) to reaching the new endgame as fast as possible. The problem is that the past issue with replayability (with alternate characters) remains and as such the demand for speed-leveling addons remains; this is never a good sign, and that this still persists reveals not so much an issue with Blizzard (as this is an issue in all level-based games) as it is with the very concept of levels. (Which I have posted about previously.)

It's once you get to the cap that you start running into issues. There really isn't much to do. There is one raid, whose hardest difficulty requires stupid levels of metagame wankery to beat, and it's already been beaten. The dungeons are already getting stale, even with the revision of Mythic Plus, and the new content options have already started turning players off due to the lack of effort put into them- Warfronts (not PVP despite the name) and Island Expeditions (which might as well be Nephalim Rifts, as they feels the same in execution).

Crafting has already been revealed to be a joke in bad taste, the deflationary rebalancing of the economy is already taking its toll, and people are reacting with their feet: the unsubscription rate so soon after launch has been higher than expected. "WOD 2.0", a second Warlords of Draenor, is the summary meme for the problem-state the game is in right now. For my part, if there weren't two more playable race options to unlock I doubt I'd be playing either; putting two of them behind content gates from Legion and holding back two more for a future patch has not gone over well with the player base.

And yes, you come into this expansion grounded again, and you need to earn flight back in a two part Achievement- the latter half of which isn't in the game yet. Enjoy being stuck on the ground, despite the zones again being build with flight in mind.

And then there's the new gameplay systems: Azerite Armor and Power.

The Armor takes the place of class-specific gear sets from the raids. Each one has a set of traits attached, which you choose according to your character's class and specialization and limited by the level of your Heart of Azeroth medallion. The latter is your new widget, which are you expected to power up by farming Azerite Power; it levels up as you do so, and its level limits what your Armors can do. This would be staight-forward if not for the fact that higher-powered Armors require higher Heart levels to active; this means that an epic raid drop can be a downgrade in your power until you can activate its traits, which can be identical to an Armor you already wearing.

TL/DR: New system is over-complex, counter-intuitive, and runs contrary to expressed design objectives and thus is rightly shat upon by the players as being bad.

Recommended? Not at this time; if a later patch doesn't fix these problems, it will become a hard "no". For now, if you're not already in then stay away.

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