Tuesday, September 27, 2016

Legion's Gameplay Loop: Artifacts

Sorry about the lack of articles. Legion's been eating up a lot of my time. Click here to go back to the intro article on Legion's Gameplay Loop to view other topics.

Artifacts were a feature unveiled early into the Legion -related announcements. When I initially heard about them, I was highly skeptical for many reasons. For example, I had issue with how weapon upgrades would work since they are typically a substantial part of increasing the power of one's character. I also had issues with the longevity of such a feature, especially since Blizzard seems to enjoy making major changes to classes with each new expansion, which means Artifacts would be affected in some way. While the live version didn't alleviate all of my skepticism, I do see some aspects of Artifacts that can improve the rewarding aspect of gameplay substantially. This means various systems related to Artifacts have an impact on gameplay loops associated with content in Legion, hence why I'm reviewing it first.

Artifact Rewards

Artifact-related rewards seem to be split into three categorizations: Appearances, Relics, and Artifact Power. The degree of impact each reward has varies due to the effect each has on the Artifact, so I will review them individually in the following subsections.


Appearances serve to complement the Wardrobe feature added in Legion, which strongly incentivizes the collection of gear appearances for Transmog by saving appearances for later use even if the player deletes or sells the gear later. While personally I prefer to use existing weapon transmogs, I think there's merit to having some rare (and not-so-rare) cosmetic rewards that players have to hunt for, even if the method for unlocking some are highly infuriating. However, the impact of adding rare appearances for players to collect likely has niche appeal and a minor impact relative to other rewards, such as...


These are basically miniaturized weapon upgrades that still provide significant impact on player power in themselves due to the fact they increase the Artifact's item level and increasing the effect of a potentially powerful trait. They might not be as significant as a single weapon upgrade, but it's still quite nice to get them when they drop much like with other gear, which makes them a fairly decent reward to acquire. There's also a bit of depth to consider since each relic benefits a specific trait, which means item level increase isn't the only metric to consider when slotting relics into one's Artifact.

A potential issue to consider is that old relics are discarded when new ones are slotted in, but it may be optimal to use certain relics with specific traits in specific situations. On the other hand, Blizzard may have intended relic slotting choices to have an air of finality, and farming relics is always an option.

Artifact Power

Artifact Power is what interested me the most since the more I learned about it, the more I realized it had some parallels to systems like Paragon. This is because Artifact Power rewards come from nearly all of Legion's content including literally just farming mobs. Furthermore, progression is lengthy since a lot of Artifact Power is needed to buy the 54 points of currently available traits (34 main traits, 20 "bonus" traits). While Artifact Knowledge increases the amount of Artifact Power earned and serves as a slight anti-incentive for collecting Artifact Power early on (Artifact Power-yielding items do not retroactively update with Artifact Knowledge), unlocking traits seems to slow down over time and I expect this trend to continue in order to make Artifact Power rewards worthwhile to acquire throughout Legion. Therefore, I think Artifact Power serves the role of extending the lifespan of endgame content since as a reward, players will almost always benefit from earning it, which is also the role Paragon seems to fill.

However, Artifact Power and traits raise some concerns when this comparison is made. While I have plans to write an article about the future of Artifacts in which I'll discuss Artifact Power rewards more extensively, the general idea is that if there's ever a scenario where Artifact Power gains are discarded, a lot of progress a player has made is also discarded in the process. Unlike with other "disposable" rewards like gear that can be worn after obsolescence, disenchanted, or (now) saved in the Wardrobe, it's difficult to think of a fair compensation for a possible future where Artifact Power spent is effectively wasted as Artifacts are discarded and their traits replaced or made baseline.

Ultimately the above point shows how impactful of a reward I think Artifact Power is. While players will likely eventually get at least all the main traits through casual farming due to Artifact Knowledge, it's possible to be rewarded for a more dedicated style of play that results in being many ranks ahead of other players (though I guess that in itself can pose an issue).

Final Statements

Aside from my previous skepticism that I'll address in another article, I think Artifacts bring a much-needed reward-based incentive to participate in Legion content mostly through the relic and Artifact Power systems. Between acquiring parts of gear pieces that provide significant power and a long-lasting system that provides tangible player enhancements in a way comparable to the endgame-extending Paragon, I almost want to spam premade Heroic Dungeons already. Appearance farming should also have an appeal, though Artifact appearances may only end up being part of a broader incentive. That said, there's plenty of room to add more Artifact appearance rewards to entice players to participate in specific content. Overall, I consider Artifacts and their rewards at the current time to be great for Legion's content.

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