Saturday, November 3, 2018

My Brief Thoughts on Battle For Azeroth

TL;DR version of this article: Perceptibly underwhelming != Bad

Several months ago, I took a hiatus from writing articles, citing reasons such as moving on to other projects and being critical of the state of World of Warcraft. Now that Battle for Azeroth is here and people have had plenty of time to form thoughts on the expansion, I can't say I'm surprised to see a lot of negativity. However, I'm also disappointed in how wildly negative some views and it doesn't help that there's meme phrases going around like "Beta for Azeroth" that convey such viewpoints. While I could go and address some of the longer posts, particularly on the subreddit, that's time I could be spending writing other articles or, more importantly, working on other projects. Therefore, I'll summarize my thoughts briefly in this article and follow up later with my thoughts on some of the game's content and suggestions regarding reward systems. Take it for what you will and for the double digit amount of viewers who read this article, feel free to ask me for more nuanced thoughts on various aspects of the state of the game.

To start, I largely stand by what I said regarding the expansion in the aforementioned article. I find myself in disagreement with some of Blizzard's design philosophy and believe they didn't address certain issues like the consequences of removing Legion's Artifacts or improving the game's leveling gameplay sufficiently. However, as I also anticipated, Battle for Azeroth turned out to not be a bad idea to play rather casually, which to me translates to focusing on solo content to make gold rather than doing group content.

Battle for Azeroth's start feels remarkably like Legion's in many ways, especially in terms of the content available. There's plenty of World Quests to do and as before they're fairly hit or miss. There's Mythic+ dungeons for players who want to do group content without the potential stress of raiding with many other players. There's a medium-sized raid with a new, larger raid on the horizon. There's a fairly lengthy, reputation-gated questline at level cap for players who wanted some story they can experience solo (and it's not as ridiculous as the Nightfallen questline in terms of reputation requirements or gated by missions, which are big plusses in my book). Other extraneous activities, such as Pet Battles and cosmetic hunting, also got some new content with this expansion, though it never hurts to have more.

In addition to this, there's some new things to do that were introduced with this expansion. Island Expeditions could use polish (shrine buffs seem kind of rare, etc) but are quick to group for and a nice way to blow off some steam. Warfronts can be fun and rewarding especially during the Battle Phase, but only when that phase is available. War Mode seems to have brought back a lot of world PvP and I also enjoy the risk-reward aspect because of the strength of many of the PvP Talents that would probably destroy competitive PvE. All of these activities are also rather extraneous and in the case of Island Expeditions and Warfronts, could use some improvement. I have plans to write articles on both of those features in the future.

However, much like in Legion, the reward systems need serious improvement. Titanforging and other random elements of gearing outside of getting gear to drop are still criticized heavily and I have suggested improvements to address player feedback. The currencies introduced in this expansion (War Resources and Seafarer's Dubloons) are about as useful as Legion's introductory currencies, making me wish once again the game had Justice Points. Character progression especially in later stages of the game could use improvement, not just in regards to the Azerite system, but I find myself in agreement with critique that players don't gain much character power outside of equipment after about level 90 or so. Furthermore, I find myself in strong want of more rewards that are eternally relevant, such as a Paragon Level system. If there's one thing of interest so far in this expansion though, it is Scrapping since it provides an alternative to vendoring useless gear since players can salvage raw materials instead.

To conclude, despite some treating Battle for Azeroth like it's a dumpster fire (un)worthy of comparing to expansions such as Warlords of Draenor or Cataclysm, I think the expansion is better than both and overall okay, but in need serious improvement. Patch 8.1 and 8.2 look fairly promising and assuming Blizzard doesn't do what they did in Cataclysm and cut content or downsize upcoming patch content (e.g. Abyssal Maw and War of the Ancient raids), what players are currently perceiving as an underwhelming start to an expansion may make the expansion more enjoyable.

...In the worst case, Classic WoW is coming soon and there's always similar options available (now if only Final Fantasy 14 actually had a WoW Token equivalent).

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