Wednesday, February 26, 2020

My Thoughts on Patch 8.3 Solo Content

As of this writing, others have been busy getting outraged over Warcraft 3 Reforged. Whether it's due to the definitively subpar rerelease of a game that was in a glitchy state that desperately needed fixing or the legalese that, while questionable in my eyes, has little power considering the current state of copyright law and previous court decisions regarding game ideas. Meanwhile, other aspects such as provisions that are intended to improve the Custom Game experience for both players and map makers are casually ignored, further proving that there are people out there trying to discover or manufacture controversy relating to Blizzard to fuel a cycle of hatred that seems to have no end.

In the face of what I consider to be yet another overblown outrage that overshadows legitimate criticism, I believe it's important to properly critique Blizzard's development practices. This is because in my eyes said practices are a major source of many issues relating to their operation including some of the issues relating to Warcraft 3 Reforged. As the title of this article states, I believe the recent patch for WoW is a good place to determine what can be improved.

Patch 8.3 is the last major content patch for the Battle for Azeroth expansion and with the faction conflict story concluded in the previous patch series, what is left is to address the threat of N'Zoth, which has been hinted at constantly throughout the expansion. In fact, I personally anticipated this possibility even before the expansion was announced considering the high presence of the Void in 7.3 along with what transpired story-wise during that patch series.

In any case, the battle to save Azeroth from N'Zoth has resulted in the addition of a significant amount of solo content and features related to it. Much of this has built upon previous iterations of content, including solo content introduced in 8.2 that I thought of reviewing in article form but decided against doing. After spending the better part of the last several weeks experiencing what patch 8.3 has to offer for a solo player and because I am so obsessed with solo content, this article will be devoted to reviewing said solo content and some related features.

Introductory Questline

I don't usually talk about one-time quests aside from mentioning that players are not going to spend much of their time doing it unless they are constantly implemented at a rate that may be unreasonable to develop. However, I do have a couple remarks to make on this particular iteration.

First is that I like that scenario skipping, a feature I recall being added in Legion, continues to be utilized since that wasn't the case during the introductory quests for the Battle for Azeroth expansion. There are several scenarios that need to be done and the first two can be skipped if a player has done them already on another character. I definitely would like to see this done more often especially with introductory expansion quests that are otherwise repetitive to do.

The second thing I want to mention is that the quest line integrates nicely with the solo content available. After completing the first scenario, players are tasked to complete an assault in both Uldum and the Vale of Eternal Blossom, with a few brief quests in between. After completing the second scenario, players are then given quests to obtain their legendary cloak and unlock the Horrific Visions content, which involves completing a couple more scenarios (that cannot be skipped). The zone content, which features daily quests in addition to other content, is something that players will want to complete sooner, so it's nice that it's accessible after only a couple introductory quests. I'd argue it's even better than the 8.2 introductory quest lines.

Zone Content

As part of the story for patch 8.3, Uldum and Vale of Eternal Blossoms, two zones from previous expansions, have undergone changes and received major additions that serve as a huge portion of the solo content that has been added. These additions are extensive and I have broken down what's available into sections to hopefully make my thoughts more coherent. There will also be one final section reviewing miscellaneous parts of the zone content that I didn't think were worthy of their own section.


Assaults, also known as invasions, have returned as a major feature for the two zones. However, things have changed from previous iterations of assault and invasion content. Assaults are now always active in both zones and there are two types: major and minor. Major assaults last a whole week and give significantly greater rewards when completed, while minor assaults last for half a week. Assaults affect specific sections of the zone, with each zone having two specific sections dedicated to minor assaults and one section dedicated to major assaults.

Assaults, much like previous iterations, consist of two phases. The first phase is similar to pre-expansion version of Legion invasions since it involves going throughout the zone and taking actions that add contribution until it reaches 100%. This involves defeating enemies, destroying interactable objects, and the like. Much like later iterations of invasion content, progress is personally tracked. Upon reaching the second phase, the player has to defeat a boss (that can be surprisingly challenging depending on the assault) and is then given their reward for that specific assault. Rewards consist of reputation with the faction associated with the zone (500 for minor, 1500 for major), Azerite, gold, Corrupted Mementos, Coalescing Visions (minor assaults) or a Vessel of Horrific Visions (major assaults), and gear up to item level 445.

I personally consider assaults to be 8.3's emissary quest equivalent since they give rewards that are similarly as great as BfA emissary quests (including 2000 gold) and a significant amount of reputation with the new factions added this patch. They can also only be completed once every few days or once every week, depending on the assault that's completed. Progress is also a little slow, though possible to gain in a reasonable amount of time. This particular detail suggests to me that one can passively complete an assault by doing the daily quests available, which reminds me of how emissary quests can be completed slowly over a few days. It also makes it more reasonable to complete assaults on many characters without missing out on the reward, though it's still demanding to do so.

Overall, I like this iteration of assaults/invasions. It's a suitable replacement for emissary quests that may make visiting the two zones every few days worthwhile long after reaching Exalted with the factions if only for the gold reward. I also generally like objectives that allow for great flexibility in how they can be progressed since bugs or other issues that affect specific content or features, which one should always expect a few instances of even from the best developers, aren't as problematic. Finally, the aesthetic of the major assaults, which are themed around the Black Empire, are wonderfully surreal and dark. Minor assaults make the zones more lively as well, though in a grim sort of way. I usually don't point cosmetic details like this out, but in this case I find myself doing so because it adds to the immersion.


When patch 8.2 added Nazjatar and Mechagon, daily quests made a significant return as an additional method for farming reputation. In the case of Nazjatar, the zone featured both daily quests and world quests. Mechagon, on the other hand, had daily quests and an overarching daily emissary quest-like objective that awarded a whopping 850 reputation. Zone content appears to be modeled more after Mechagon since dailies are back once again and are largely meant to accompany the zone assaults.

Each day, both zones will have 3-4 daily quests available to complete. The daily quests featured are drawn from a pool based on the active assault, meaning there's a decent variety of specific quests available. Quest objectives are about what one might expect from WoW with a fair amount of generic kill and gather quests along with those that involve vandalizing something that belongs to the enemy.

A few objectives can be especially frustrating to complete such as the ones that involve killing rare spawns or looting chests, which can take quite a while to do depending on spawn patterns. There were quests like this in the previous patch, particularly the overarching Mechagon daily "emissary" quest and I believe these continue to be offered in order to encourage players to communicate. From my observation, this actually works and the social experience of calling rare spawns and chest locations is reminiscent of the teamwork that occurred on the Timeless Isle in the past.

The rewards for normal daily quests are fairly meager but still significant enough to consider doing especially after the hotfixes. They award 125 reputation with the faction associated with the zone along with at least 250 Coalescing Visions. A small amount of gold, Azerite, and/or War Resources are also awarded, though some daily quests can award over 200 gold.

Overall, I don't particularly mind the way daily quests have been implemented in their current form. Some objectives are a little too demanding to do in a reasonable amount of time or may be riskier to do than players like, but I like that they can encourage cooperation. Furthermore, there are plenty of other ways to earn all the rewards daily quests have to offer such as assaults, which are consistently possible to complete within a reasonable time frame. This is a departure from previous daily quest systems where daily quests were basically the only way to gain reputation or certain rewards, such as the Crystalforged Darkrune, at all. However, I definitely approve of adjusting quest objectives that are too demanding like 8.2 hotfixes eventually did. Designing more daily quests that don't feature generic kill, gather, or destroy objectives would also be nice. Finally, I strongly urge Blizzard to make map coordinates available by default like in Final Fantasy 14, which allows you to link a map location in chat using coordinates, since it would make informing players of key locations easier.

Lesser Visions

Lesser Visions are a subzone that is available for access after the player obtains their legendary cloak. This area can be accessed in the zone where a major assault is taking place and features enemies corrupted by N'Zoth. There is a highly rewarding daily quest that involves completing an objective within the Lesser Vision. However, with this great reward comes great risk since players can only enter a Lesser Vision once per day and are subject to the Sanity mechanic, which kills players if they run out.

The most notable reward for completing the daily is 3000 Coalescing Visions for the first completion each week, or 1500 for subsequent completions. Players also earn a small amount of Corrupted Mementos. Mobs in the Lesser Vision can also drop both currencies, making it a potentially good place to farm for more dedicated players especially since there are ways to replenish Sanity within a Lesser Vision.

Overall, I like some of the ideas presented by Lesser Visions since there are mechanics within that keep players on their toes. However, I believe failing is too punishing especially if a player's internet or the servers don't play nice and a disconnection happens. I think it would be more reasonable if players get more than one chance to enter a Lesser Vision each day and would at least suggest a way for players to make additional attempts while maintaining the increased risk, such as by adding an increasing Coalescing Visions cost to re-enter a Lesser Vision on a specific day.


Events, or event set pieces as I like to call them, are a new feature in both assault zones that can be completed daily for a minor reward, change in terms of availability daily in what appears to be a rotation format, and involve completing world quest-like objectives, some of which are equally unorthodox. Events replace world quests in both assault zones and are available only in the area under attack, where they are marked on the minimap much like chests and rare spawns are. Events operate similar to FATEs in Final Fantasy 14 in that completing the objective of the event awards completion credit to every player who adequately participated in it. However, missing out on completing an event is not too penalizing since it respawns a few minutes later.

Completing an event awards 50 or more reputation with the faction associated with the zone along with a small amount of gold, Azerite, or Coalescing visions. It also increases assault progress by at least 15%, depending on whether the event features elite mobs (which also improve the event reward in general) or mobs that contribute to assault progress at all.

Overall, I really like events and believe they are a solid improvement upon other iterations of solo content design that could be utilized much more. They reward cooperative effort and encourage exploration since much like treasures and rare spawns, these events have to be found by the player. Also, much like some world quests, events make the world feel more alive because an otherwise static area can occasionally be altered by the event. I would hope there is more variety in the events that occur, however, since event availability appears to rotate between a few static sets and the objective of some events are literally identical. Both of these factors make the content feel more repetitive even though events change based on the area under attack. Also, I think completing events should progress the weekly quest that requires 20 World Quest completions. Incidentally, if events stay around, I won't need to make a suggestion that involves adding something like FATEs to WoW.

Rare Spawns

Rare spawns have long since become a mainstay of solo content and a source of personal enjoyment in my eyes due to the many hours of entertainment and bountiful rewards it brought me in Mists of Pandaria. No iteration of rare spawns since Warlords of Draenor has succeeded in holding my interest but they are at least functional in regards to encouraging players to look around and the rare spawns this patch are no exception.

Rare spawns this patch are similar to some previous iterations in that they can only drop their rewards once per day, which in this case consists primarily of Azerite, Coalescing Visions, and item level 410-415 account-bound gear piece tokens. Some rare spawns also have cosmetic drops, with mount drops in particular being exceptionally abundant. The availability of many rare spawns, along with their potentially desirable drops, are limited to specific assaults.

Rare spawns, much like in patch 8.2, may also be the target of a quest objective. As I mentioned before, this can be annoying but with good communication, completing this objective is fairly fast and I highly recommend players do so. It's a good idea to communicate locations of rare spawns anyways since the rare elites in particular are incredibly powerful and generally not feasible to defeat alone. A decent number of them also offer what I consider a good level of mechanical challenge.

Overall, rare spawns are still not as interesting or rewarding as their Mists of Pandaria iteration. However, I do like that that some of them are challenging to defeat due to their mechanics rather than because of their high autoattack damage (though there are a few rare elites like this). Rares are also worthwhile to hunt whether it's for their typical rewards, the daily quest, or to gain 10-15% progress on an assault. I consider this iteration of rare spawns satisfactory and am at least thankful that Blizzard continues to show they have learned from the atrocious initial iteration of Warlords of Draenor rare spawns.


Treasures are another recurring feature that are present in the two zones under assault and they take the form of chests, much like they did in Mechagon in patch 8.2. They are like many past iterations of treasures in that they can randomly spawn in fixed locations throughout the zone. Much like modern iterations of treasures, anyone can loot the chest that spawns for a limited time, after which it will despawn. In addition, there are special chests tied to a specific attacking faction that are only available during their respective assault. If 6 parts of a key are gathered from mobs and reformed, this chest can be looted for greater rewards. Each specific chest can be looted once per day and the act of looting chests may be tied to daily quest objectives.

The rewards from the chests are fairly consistent as they award about 15 Coalescing Visions and 60 War Resources along with a piece of vendor trash. The special chests award 250 (non-Black Empire) or 500 Coalescing Visions (Black Empire) and around 100 War Resources along with some vendor trash. These chests do not award a lot of Coalescing Visions considering 250 can be obtained from each daily quest, but they can add up. The real prize here is the War Resources since the act of looting even a few of these chests can pay for some bonus roll currency, which is really useful for players who have many alts and not a lot of time to do all the available daily quests.

Overall, treasures aren't amazingly compelling this patch but do fulfill a practical role of providing War Resources to help players catch up on research and buy Seals of Wartorn Fate more easily. While I personally wouldn't recommend excessively grinding for Coalescing Visions to the point of farming chests, they are a good source of the currency along with rare spawns. This, along with the fact chests can be an objective for a daily quest, may make hunting for chests frustrating, though much like with rares, I believe players are also meant to communicate chest locations and I have observed and participated in the act.

Miscellaneous Thoughts

There are various aspects of zone content that I thought were worth addressing but didn't consider worthy of devoting a section to. This final section will acknowledge all of these details.

On Recycling Old Zones

The first is that both assault zones are zones from previous expansions that have been given a bit of a facelift depending on the active assault. While some may not be a fan of recycling content, I personally approve of it for a few reasons.

The first is that I dislike how new content additions, especially new expansions, tend to obsolete all content that comes before it. Implementing features that effectively revitalize older content such as Timewalking and level scaling is a good way to address this problem as long as content updates remain compelling.

The second is that the two zones that are affected deserved the attention they got. The Vale of Eternal Blossoms was left in an unchanging wreck at the conclusion of the Mists of Pandaria expansion and Uldum was very underutilized as an endgame zone despite its massive size because it had a sparse amount of daily quests or other compelling content. The addition of new content helped to revitalize the former zone (sort of) and give the latter zone some much needed content that properly utilizes its size.

Finally, the assaults themselves change how at least parts of the zone look at any given time. Threats throughout the zone are different even when an area is not being assaulted. Landscape, which is less subject to change, may also become altered especially during a major assault. This provides a stark difference to more blatant instances of recycling older content such as the aforementioned Timewalking, which players seem to dislike  out of an understandable desire for new, original content updates, which the current patch's zone content accomplishes to a greater degree.

On Anti-Flight Mechanics

Blizzard has recently been experimenting with ways to make players pay attention while they are flying. This is intended to combat the fact flight trivializes most quest objectives, discourages World PvP, and generally makes travel too fast and convenient. In patch 8.2, flying enemy mobs were added in Mechagon including one that eventually blasts the player with constant heavy damage unless they land. While some may find this annoying, I personally liked this addition since it improves the likelihood that flight continues to be available, which is especially important to keep in mind since removing it was a possibility in Warlords of Draenor. In addition, said feature is also not wrought with highly obnoxious inconveniences such as a dragon that fires dismounting breath at players.

Patch 8.3 builds on this idea by making flying slightly more inconvenient with the addition of Great Worm From Beyond. Several of these patrol by flying over the area being assaulted and will periodically damage and debuff players who fly too close, reducing their flying mount speed by 30%. This effect can stack very high and lasts for 3 minutes, but if the player is paying attention they'll usually never get more than a couple stacks of the debuff. They can also usually be avoided by flying low enough to be out of range of them. The exception to this is that some worms may flying a little too low during the Aqir version of the Uldum assault, which I think should be adjusted.

Overall, while some players may find the Great Worms From Beyond highly annoying, I believe they serve their purpose at encouraging players to pay more attention while flying. I would also urge players to be happy with what they have since we could've gotten another Argus-like zone without flying, been grounded until we unlocked another Pathfinder achievement, or had lethal flight-related obstacles instead. With these points in mind, I believe the current iteration of how flight is being handled is reasonable.

Gnomebliteration Returns, Sort of...

There was a quest in Uldum called Gnomebliteration where the player is tasked with running over numerous gnomes with a giant fireball. It was one of a few vehicle quests that I wish were available as dailies during the Cataclysm expansion if only because I personally found them very fun especially compared to many of the daily quests available at the time. This quest makes a return of sorts in the form of a rare item that lets players do the same thing, but the objective is to run over Amathet mobs instead. Apparently, killing enemies while using this item can significantly progress the Amathet version of the Uldum assault (I personally got as much as 42%), so it's a nice bonus that players can occasionally earn.

Interactive Buffs/Debuffs

Interactive buffs and debuffs have been utilized for quite a while in various forms. Examples include positioning in a specific manner to benefit from an effect or intentionally gaining a harmful debuff to avoid a more detrimental mechanic. Solo content occasionally does this, though I find that buffs and debuffs tend to be more straightforward since players are usually meant to avoid harmful ground effects and consume objects for buffs. The latter concept has been utilized more since Blizzard has adopted developing endgame solo zone content and 8.3 has a fair amount of interactable objects of these kinds. I approve of having these interactable objects, but this is not the concept I believe deserves acknowledgement.

Instead, I have also noticed Blizzard has been playing more with buffs and debuffs that utilize both risk and reward. Specifically, they require the player to sacrifice something in exchange for an effect that is beneficial and sometimes also detrimental. Furthermore, the buffs and debuffs in question are related to specific assaults. While there may be more I have missed, these are the ones I have found and made use of:
  • Hysteria: This stacking debuff is applied by many mobs during Black Empire assaults. It increases attack and casting speeds, but also increases resource costs. This is usually beneficial but can make some abilities unusable if stacked too high. Furthermore, at 20 stacks of the debuff, the player is horrified for a few seconds.
    • I personally like to intentionally have a few stacks of this debuff when possible and some enemies leave behind harmful damaging effects that apply the debuff, making it easy to stack and refresh the effect if a player wishes to.
  • Might of the Sun: Some mobs during the Amathet assault apply this stacking debuff, which damages the player over time but also causes them to sometimes deal a burst of damage upon using an ability.
    • This debuff can be a little painful without sustain, but can provide some much needed additional damage that is useful for defeating large packs of mobs. Leech, which is much easier to get than some players claim due to spec mechanics and, more recently, Corrupted gear, can help to heal any damage taken.
  • Amber Casing: During the Mantid assault, players can interact with an object that grants a stack of this effect. Some mobs can also apply it. At 10 stacks, the player gains an ability that allows them to restore huge amounts of health, but doing so briefly incapacitates the player. This effect is stopped if damage is taken.
    • This debuff is the least significant of the ones I've discovered, but being able to basically heal to full on demand can be highly useful, even if with the drawback.
  • Lightning Rod: Within Lesser Visions, lightning will occasionally strike the ground. Being damaged by this will drain a fair amount of Sanity but also provide a buff that damages nearby enemies for 30 seconds.
    • This is a really nice buff to get for those who have a good grasp on Sanity control. It helps cleave through mobs in the area, making it easier to farm them.
Overall I think these buffs and debuffs are a neat idea since they challenge a player's decision-making abilities. They are prominently featured for anyone doing patch 8.3's zone content, who will have to make the decision of getting into harm's way or refraining from doing so depending on the situation, gear, experience, and personal preference. Players may also have to consider how much they are willing to harm themselves due to risks associated with Sanity and debuff effects stacking too high. I would like to think the result of such a mental exercise encourages players to think more for themselves and rely on online resources less (even if it's only a little less).

Horrific Visions

Horrific Visions are a new form of scenario content that is meant to make use of the Coalescing Visions players collect since 10,000 of them can be traded in for a Vessel of Horrific Visions. This item can also be obtained from the major assault reward cache. Because the scenario can be done solo, has rogue-like elements, and the acquisition of this item is somewhat hard time-gated, I find this content comparable to Withered Army Training, though there are elements of the Many Deaths of Chromie scenario that are present here as well. Horrific Visions may also offer a glimpse of what the future rogue-like dungeon Torghast, which can also be progressed through solo, has to offer.

How Horrific Visions Work

For more detailed info, check out this guide. I am only providing a summary of what to expect from the scenario content.

After obtaining the legendary cloak, Horrific Visions will become available. There are two different scenarios based on the capital cities of Orgrimmar and Stormwind that rotate weekly. Each has similar objectives in that the player needs to defeat an easily accessible boss to complete the scenario and rescue or defeat major NPCs as side objectives in areas known as Corrupted Areas and Lost Areas. Completing side objectives increases the difficulty of the final boss, increasing their health and granting them an ability from one of the elites encountered in the side objective. One to five players can enter the scenario, but all players must have a Vessel of Horrific Visions to do so.

Players have a limited amount of time to complete the scenario, much like in the Many Deaths of Chromie. This time limit takes the form of Sanity, which constantly drains and lasts for a variant amount of time depending on a number of factors. The following are some of the factors that come to mind:
  • Cloak level - Higher cloak levels decrease the rate Sanity drains within Horrific Visions.
  • Research - Research improves damage output, provides Sanity boosting effects, and other benefits that improve performance within Horrific Visions
  • Mechanical Skill - Some enemy abilities can drain Sanity. These usually can be avoided by dodging the attack, using interrupts, and so on.
  • Location - Different areas within the scenario drain Sanity at different rates, with the boss area, or Twisted Area, having the lowest Sanity drain.
  • Faceless Masks - Faceless Masks can be used to increase the difficulty of the scenario for increased rewards. Some of the difficulty-increasing effects directly affect Sanity and all Faceless Masks increase enemy health and damage.
  • Potions - These are objects that can be found within the scenario that may either restore or deplete Sanity. They can cause other effects as well, all of which are randomized each run. The location of one of the "bad" potions is consistent.
As one can see, there are many elements that affect how much time a player has within the scenario. One of the more uncontrollable ones is cloak level, since cloak progression is time-gated, which in turn affects how many side objectives a player may be able to do within Horrific Visions due to a lack of Sanity drain reduction. At the same time it is possible to complete many side objectives by being both skilled and knowledgeable because avoiding mechanics and understanding where to go and what to do reduces Sanity loss.

In addition to the randomness of potions, the scenario can have different Madness effects each week depending on the area. The ones in the Twisted Areas provide an effect that is often both beneficial and detrimental. Madness effects in other areas are generally detrimental and require counterplay from the player to ensure they do not suffer severely from the negative effects. These effects are similar to Mythic+ affixes, but focus more on providing additional mechanical challenge rather than directly making enemies more deadly and/or durable.

Horrific Vision Rewards

Horrific Vision rewards are a fair bit more substantial than rewards from Withered Army Training and The Many Deaths of Chromie. Many rewards scale based on whether the player completed the scenario or not as well as the number of completed side objectives and the number of active Faceless Masks.

In terms of the more notable rewards, players can earn Azerite essences and essence upgrades. Players can also complete quests to upgrade their legendary cloak, though as I mentioned above these upgrades are time-gated and players will have more Vessels than they need to earn most of the cloak upgrades. After the cloak reaches max rank, Horrific Visions can award an item that increases the cloak's Corruption Resistance, which will be discussed in an upcoming section.

When it comes to more mundane rewards, players earn Corrupted Mementos based on mobs killed, objectives completed, and number of Faceless Masks used. This currency is used for Titanic Research, which can provide beneficial effects within Horrific Visions. It can also be used to purchase a few items from 8.3 faction reputation vendors. Once Titanic Research is completed, players can purchase a few items from Wrathion, which specifically consists of a couple of cosmetics and a consumable item that adds a socket to gear without one.

Players can also earn gear from Horrific Visions, though unlike any solo content before it the gear reward from this scenario can award equipment up to item level 470, which is 5 less than typical Mythic raiding gear. Gear strength depends on the number of side objectives completed as well as the number of Faceless Masks used, so players will have to face a significant challenge to earn equipment of such power. Unfortunately, gear rewards seem to be limited, with rewards of specific item levels only being awarded once per week.

Finally, players can be awarded pets and consumable contracts that can recruit troops used in missions. The contracts are unbound, meaning they can be sold or sent to other characters who may find them more useful since they save on a small amount of War Resources.

Thoughts on Horrific Visions

Horrific Visions are a great form of scenario content that improves upon Withered Army Training and gives me some hope for what Torghast will be like. It can be done in a solo or group environment, the difficulty is highly configurable because of the bonus objectives and Faceless Masks, and there is a decent sense of progression specific to the content as players upgrade their cloaks and unlock research. I also generally like the reward system since it's a form of challenging solo content that rewards appropriately great gear, which is something I fondly remembered the long since defunct Shartuul's Transporter event for. It even addresses the issue of dealing with random sockets on gear, though I personally believe my suggestion on handling it is still superior while the current iteration of being able to add sockets to unsocketed gear seems more like a temporary stopgap (if the item was sold under a universal Justice Point system, on the other hand...).

However, as that previous statement implies, Horrific Visions are far from perfect and while any suggestions I make won't provide an immediate improvement to the content, it could be considered and utilized for future iterations of the content. Specifically, any critique and suggestions I make regarding Horrific Visions is intended to improve Torghast, though I wouldn't object to Horrific Visions themselves being improved in a future minor content patch. This critique is divided into three specific sections, which are as follows:

Scenario Balance

First of all, while I understand the two Horrific Vision scenarios are supposed to be different, I personally find the Orgrimmar version to be a lot easier. Part of this likely has to do with the fact I am a Horde player, but I also believe the objectives are easier and there's a lot less running between the various areas of the scenario. Specifically, the Corrupted and Lost Areas of Orgrimmar are significantly more straightforward, with three of the four areas being incredibly linear and the fourth having minimal backtracking. Meanwhile there is more significant backtracking in at least two of the Stormwind Corrupted and Lost Areas. There are also not Corruption Tumors everywhere in Orgrimmar that may slow the player down. Finally, Thrall is a much easier boss to deal with than Alleria, especially for melee.

This brings me to my second point where I believe the scenarios are significantly more unfair to melee in general. Many bosses have mechanics that force melee players to be out of range of the boss or risk losing a significant amount of Sanity to encounter mechanics. This is worsened by Madness effects that force the player to position themselves, which also is likely to put them out of range of enemies. Finally, bosses can parry melee attacks, which is especially awful for players trying to solo the scenario as melee.

Aside from making bosses unable to parry melee attacks, there's not much I can suggest to improve Horrific Visions that doesn't involve significant change. I would however implore that Blizzard is more mindful of ensuring the solo challenge experience isn't disproportionately hellish towards melee or ranged players if possible; moderate imbalances that are unlike what melee have to experience in Horrific Visions at the moment are not ideal, but tolerable by comparison. As for future scenario design, having a wide variety of scenarios to choose from and rebalancing them based on what scenarios players choose to enter may suffice in terms of addressing imbalance between specific scenarios.

On a side note, I am thankful Torghast, which seems similar to Hearthstone's Dungeon Runs in a lot of ways, doesn't seem like it'll have a time limit feature. Therefore, I don't have state my preference to have scenario content that doesn't require the player to rush through it like I did in my Island Expedition article. While the time limit mechanic in Horrific Visions is interesting, it would be nice to have additional challenging solo content I can do at my own pace too.

Time Gating

As I mentioned before, there are time-gated elements for Horrific Visions. To start, there are soft time gates in the form of gear reward limitations, which I linked above, and cloak upgrades. I personally never really noticed the gear reward limitations, but I disapprove of it since Mythic+ dungeons are a readily available source of gear that isn't subject to such limitations. In fact, I would suggest that Horrific Visions always have a chance to award lower item level gear rewards to make the reward system similar to Mythic+.

On the other hand, I think the time gating of cloak upgrades is quite reasonable. The initial rank cap was 6, which is high enough for the on-use ability that temporarily disables Corruption effects. Sanity loss in Horrific Visions is also reduced by 40% at rank 5, which is significant enough to make a full clear of the scenario possible. It's also not too bad to catch up on cloak rank up to a certain point since every rank up to 9 requires one or two clears while players can easily earn at least 3 Vessels of Horrific Vision each week.

Unfortunately, as that last statement points out, there is something of a hard time gate on the amount of Horrific Vision runs a player can do on a single character each week. While it's possible to farm Coalescing Visions, the overwhelming majority of Coalescing Visions for most players will come from time-gated content such as assaults, dailies, rare spawns, and chests. This limits how much players can farm for rewards from Horrific Visions, which is likely why the content was hard time-gated to begin with since it otherwise may encroach upon raiding content, a form of hard time-gated content that the developers and some players seem to treat as sacrosanct since it continues to consistently award the best equipment available. More importantly, players are limited in the amount of attempts they can make on Horrific Visions, which discourages exploration of the scenario, makes failure feel more punishing, and prevents players from engaging with content they may find highly enjoyable.

Personally, I have numerous level capped characters, which means I have more Vessels than I know what to do with, giving me many more opportunities to experience Horrific Visions. I also find that ranking up the cloak every week, even when it requires multiple runs to do so, is surprisingly not as demanding as I expected. In fact, as of this writing I have a few extra runs on my main that I can use for practice while still maintaining the cap of 5 Vessels for future weeks when new cloak upgrade quests are available; I even failed a run on the first week due to inexperience.

However, I have a personal problem with hard time gating content and access to Horrific Visions is no exception. Therefore, I believe there should at least be a practice mode that has no Vessel cost but also has no rewards where players can explore, experiment, and enjoy themselves. This would allow players to fail as much as they want and experience the gameplay the content has to offer without upsetting players who may benefit from the time-gating, whether they are incredibly competitive or casual.

I would also add that Torghast should not have a time-gated form of access like Horrific Visions, Withered Army Training, and Shartuul's Transporter do or did. This would be seriously detrimental to the success of the content since Torghast competes to a degree with rogue-like games as well as features from other games such as Deep dungeons in Final Fantasy 14, both of which are readily accessible and not time-gated. Some players have also expressed concerns over Torghast because of the time gating of Horrific Visions. Ultimately, my point is that if access to Torghast is time-gated or soft time gating on aspects of the content such as its rewards is too aggressive, players may go play other games instead, which I doubt is something Blizzard wants especially in their subscription-based game.

3/1/2020 Update: Coalescing Vision rewards have been increased due to a hotfix the previous Tuesday. Furthermore, legendary cloak rank increase requirements have also been lowered at higher ranks and players can hold more than 5 Vessels of Horrific Visions. This should allow players to run more Horrific Visions and have more freedom over when they run it, which I think are reasonable changes to make. I suspect Coalescing Vision rewards will continue to be increased over time as something of a catch-up mechanic or something else will be implemented to accomplish a similar goal.

Progression and Rewards

I personally think the progression system for Horrific Visions is designed fairly well, but it is also simplistic. Cloak levels effectively increase the time a player can spend in the scenario in addition to allowing them to fail mechanics a little more. Research, on the other hand, provides far more robust benefits including some fantastic Haste buffs and the ability to find lootable chests. However, there are so few types of research available that I can count them using my hands.

Meanwhile, the rewards from Horrific Visions are decent, but for some reason certain rewards are missing. For example, Azerite doesn't seem to be awarded from Horrific Visions and considering that Heart Level 80 is effectively the end of significant Heart of Azeroth progression, I don't see why Horrific Visions shouldn't have awarded some Azerite to help players get closer to that goal. There also doesn't seem to be much to spend Corrupted Mementos on, which is a big deal since Horrific Visions are a great source of the currency. Once players finish all the research and purchase the available cosmetics, there is only a single consumable item available that may be of limited use especially after players socket all of their gear.

I don't think much should be done to improve the progression aspect of Horrific Visions since while I do have problems with the simplicity, I also believe the available research and cloak progression will suffice. On the other hand, adding an Azerite reward along with more items to purchase with Corrupted Mementos, such as moderately useful consumables, gear (for a steep price), account-bound gear tokens, and so on would make Horrific Visions a little more tempting to do for players who finished their research, fully upgraded their cloak, and don't need to add sockets to their gear.

More importantly, I am hoping for substantial progression and rewards from Torghast. It should absolutely have some typical rewards that are useful outside of the instance such as gear, money, and certain currencies that will likely be more Justice Point analogues. At the same time, a significant amount of the rewards should be exclusive to Torghast, which should prevent the need to time gate access to the content. This is because the rewards could largely serve to benefit a Torghast-exclusive progression system that could feature an extensive skill tree system and the like with many useful effects beyond what Titanic Research currently offers. Having this closed system of progression would keep Torghast progression from strongly affecting performance in other competitive content, which should at least prevent players from feeling like they're forced to do Torghast to gain a general advantage. I would go as far as to say power-related Paragon progression in such a closed system would be okay, which provides a lot of breathing room in terms of the rewards and progression content such as Torghast could offer.

Corrupted Gear and Corruption

When patch 8.2 came out, Benthic gear was introduced and instead of randomly Titanforging to increase item level, the equipment had to be upgraded using Prismatic Manapearls instead. While this only affected Benthic gear, I approved of the idea since it was similar to what I suggested to address the annoyance of not acquiring gear that randomly upgrades itself through the Titanforging system, even though the result of this randomness is strictly beneficial and in most other games would likely be appreciated by players.

Patch 8.3 built on this by abolishing Titanforging for the time being in favor of granting most level 120 gear rewards a chance to become corrupted. When gear becomes corrupted, item level doesn't increase, but instead equipping the gear provides a randomly determined beneficial effect at the expense of increasing Corruption. Beneficial effects have three levels of strength, with stronger effects increasing Corruption by a greater amount. Some gear is also corrupted by default, specifically weapons from the Ny'alotha raid that have unique equip effects. Corrupted gear can be cleansed at the Chamber of Heart for a small fee of 5 Corrupted Mementos.

Corruption is a mechanic that causes negative effects based on the player's Corruption rating. Players will be subject to additional effects every 20 points up to 80. The severity of all effects increases with rating, generally scaling in a linear manner. There is also an Azerite trait that increases all secondary stats if Corruption is 25 or higher that is considered strong. Personally, I try to keep my Corruption below 60 when possible because Thing From Beyond becomes very dangerous at 60 Corruption or higher, though I've heard the recommendation is to stay below 80 since reaching that threshold increases damage taken and decreases healing taken.

Corruption can be reduced through Corruption Resistance. This will primarily be provided by the legendary cloak, which starts at 5 Corruption Resistance and reaches 50 at the maximum rank. Corruption Resistance on the cloak can be increased further after it has reached rank 15 by using a consumable item obtained from Horrific Visions or the Ny'alotha raid. Azerite essences added in patch 8.3 also grant 10 Corruption Resistance, but this benefit is unique and cannot be stacked.

While I still believe that Titanforging has a purpose to serve in the reward system and believe it would be much less frustrating for players if upgrading equipment was an option, corrupted gear is a suitable alternative for now since high item level gear can be earned from solo content. In fact, challenging solo content awards gear that is nearly as good as what can be gotten from raiding and Mythic+. I also like how corrupted gear has a risk-reward system that is similar to some iterations of cursed items in other RPGs. This is because cursed items in some other games provide significant benefits but also come with a serious drawback, which is captured well by the fact corrupted gear provides a useful equip effect but increases Corruption, which can be lethal to the player.

I especially like that unlike other randomized gear effects such as tertiary stats, bonus sockets, and Titanforging, corrupted gear is not always a good thing to have. I have personally run into situations where my alts ended up with too much corrupted gear to the point that despite the equipment providing better stats, I would risk reaching dangerous levels of Corruption (sometimes as high as 200) if I equipped everything. Thankfully some gear, such as the equipment produced by BoA gear tokens, cannot ever become corrupted. Corrupted gear can also be cleansed after the legendary cloak is acquired, so if players get "unlucky" and end up with a lot of corrupted gear, they can cleanse gear until they have a comfortable level of Corruption.

I also like that there seems to be many options when it comes to utilizing corrupted gear. I expect players to set personal limits on how much Corruption they believe is reasonable like I mentioned above. To that end, it's worth considering that weaker equip effects tend to increase Corruption by a lesser amount, meaning that players may have to make decisions about whether they want a strong equip effect or a few weaker equip effects. Furthermore, some equip effects have situational benefits or are better for specific classes and specs, meaning that a universal corrupted gear effect tier list seems implausible.

With that said, players will still value some corrupted gear effects over others if only because of how competitive they may be. This in turn may lead to frustration when players don't get the effects they want because RNG hates them. Alleviating this frustration may be important much like with the Titanforging system, such as by greatly increasing the amount of gear that becomes corrupted since it can be cleansed if the effect is undesirable anyways. However, I believe corrupted gear as a random equipment effect is more reasonable since as I mentioned above, the random effects are not entirely beneficial. Furthermore, I am personally satisfied as long as I can maintain a level of Corruption between 25 and 59 and I would like to think there are other players who share this opinion.

Finally, I want to highlight the immersive aspect of corrupted gear. It makes sense that an Old God-themed patch would include such a feature, so that's a good start. What I especially like is that the various Corruption effects, while not amazingly compelling mechanically, do force the player to position themselves and move around. Since players can only see their own Corruption effects, they will look insane in the eyes of other players as they attempt to avoid the Corruption mechanics.

Closing Thoughts

Patch 8.3 has brought some decent additions. It has an interesting overarching theme involving risk and reward that promotes good decision-making. The solo content, while not entirely original, improves upon previous iterations in numerous ways that I have mentioned throughout the article. Group content has also become a bit more tolerable to do, with Battlegrounds and Island Expeditions being especially lively from my personal experience. The Auction House was also given an update that generally improves its functionality and makes it impossible to post hundreds of stacks of a single item.

However, that doesn't mean this patch isn't without its problems, some of which I brought up in the previous sections. It's slightly annoying, though understandable, that the legendary cloak-related scenarios cannot be skipped. It's also annoying, but understandable that Engineering modifications cannot be applied to the legendary cloak since it already has a use effect. There have also been bugs with this patch and while I have personally run into nothing seriously gamebreaking, some bugs such as broken events have negatively affected my playing experience. There are also occasional lag problems primarily caused by too many players doing too many things at once in a shard, which I find weird since Legion also had sharding yet this issue wasn't present as often (though the world server did crash a fair amount).

As I mentioned at the start of this article, the focus of community vitriol towards Blizzard seems to be centered around Warcraft 3 Reforged. That is understandable considering the remaster appears to be more of a downgrade and I certainly wasn't happy with the hard drive space that was eaten up because of the update to my normal version of Warcraft 3. I also think there's some cause to be concerned about the revision to the Custom Game Acceptable Use Policy, though I think people are making too big of a deal out of provisions that might not even be enforceable.

However, as I also said, I think it's important to be constructive and civil with feedback whether it's positive, negative, or a bit of both. Mindlessly praising or complaining, at best, provides a general idea of how some part of the community might feel. Meanwhile, manufacturing controversy using falsehoods or misrepresentations is an act of intellectual dishonesty that I have witnessed and strongly disapprove of. As for those who hate Blizzard and wish to see them burn with an intensity greater than a thousand suns, I think it's better not to give them any money or attention. In any case, I should practice what I preach and put an end to this absurdly long article with what I think of patch 8.3, the concluding major patch of the Battle for Azeroth expansion:

Overall, I'm very much enjoying myself this patch even if the featured content is far from perfect and, in my eyes, further proof that a major objective of the Battle for Azeroth expansion is to address stray plot threads left by Cataclysm. The patch has added solo content that interests me and while there are some chore-like aspects, I have found ways to make them fun. I have felt motivated to invest time into many of my characters this time around and don't intend to take any sort of major "break" any time soon. This is important to note, since over the years there have been times I have gotten tired of the game, especially because I managed multiple characters, and taken something resembling a break as a result (like I did before patch 8.3 came out). To put all this another way, I am having fun and it seems like World of Warcraft is in a good spot thanks to this patch, which easily could have been made subpar intentionally for the sake of putting an end to a poorly received expansion.

I can only hope that Blizzard considers the many points I have made throughout this article along with any constructive criticism others have made to further improve the game and continue this trend of positive actions, even if some would prefer to exclusively focus on their negative actions.

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