A Mixed Bag

Now it is time for me to finally sit down and write the post I have largely been avoiding writing since Thursday. For those that have been living under a rock this week, or otherwise disconnected from the internet… Thursday was the time at which Blizzard broke with tradition and announced a new World of Warcraft expansion at a convention other than Blizzcon. For awhile now I had made the comment that if they had a shot in hell at keeping players interested… they could not afford to wait until November to announce what was coming down the pipe. Looking at the convention calendar the only slot that really made sense was either GamesCom or Pax Prime… and since they were planning a significant presence at GamesCom that was my theoretical choice. The truth is while I said this… I never actually expected it to happy until last week when they actually verified that was the case by posting the moment the announcement would happen. Thankfully for me it happened over my lunch hour and I freely admit I went into this announcement with a bunch of emotional hype. Deep down inside of me there is still a player that hopes someday for World of Warcraft to turn into the game I really want to play. You can’t be engaged in a decade long relationship with a game without having some glimmer of hope.

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A few days ahead of the announcement I posted my list of “serious” predictions… that in truth only had one valid prediction. After watching the final cinematic for Warlords of Draenor, there was literally only one place this expansion could go. We were going to be taking on the Burning Legion in a new invasion of Azeroth, and sure enough as the teaser rolled and showed our old buddy Gul’dan pulling another of our old friend Illidan out of some kind of green crystal prison… it pretty much set the tone of the show for me. At face value the idea of a Burning Legion expansion is pretty cool, but it also has a very “repeating history” feel to it. In truth this entire expansion is a tapestry of cobbled together ideas left on the cutting room floor from previous games that lore fanatics have been begging for. We are going to get to see the remainder of the Broken Isles and the Tomb of Sageras as well as finally finding out what is going on in the Emerald Dream. These are all awesome components on their own… but just because I love Peanut Butter and I also love Alfredo Sauce… doesn’t necessarily mean that putting the two together is going to be even more awesome. I am in this strange place because as much as I did not want to play a “Dances with Orcs” expansion… the Warlords reveal gave me all manner of warm fuzzies up and down my spine in spite of not really wanting them. This reveal on the other hand, had all of these elements that I should love… but left me not really feeling anything but skepticism.

Demon Hunters

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The biggest feature of the expansion is that we are adding another Hero Class to the game, meaning that they will start somewhere between 95 and 100 according to further elaboration in a similar manner to how Deathknights did in Wrath of the Lich King. This is a class that I have wanted so badly since I first knew there was going to be a World of Warcraft. Illidan Stormrage is quite literally the only Elf in the Warcraft universe that I like, in part because he looks badass and runs around with the Twinblades of Azzinoth. It seems that there is going to be a tank option as well for the class… which should make me even more excited to play them. I admit the whole angry half demonic tattoo’d elf thing largely works for me, and I’ve always thought the blind fold thing looked badass. I just feel like I should be more excited than I am about it.

Melee Hunters

I have images of me that I have posted her tanking Scarlet Monastery on my Hunter back in Vanilla. For better or worse I spent a significant amount of my time meleeing as Hunter, in part because I was frankly too cheap to restock bullets constantly. When I ground out the faction with the Firbolgs… I did pretty much all of it with a two-handed weapon and my pet. Is it wrong that the announcement that Hunters are actually getting a melee spec was the point at which I have gotten the most excited for this expansion? It seems that Beastmastery is going to work pretty much how it works today, and that Marksmanship is going to be losing the pet but essentially getting Lone Wolf like buffs. The problem has always been that survival did not feel sufficiently different from the other trees other than the reliance on traps. Now apparently Survival will be up close and personal in melee range while still keeping the pet, which makes it sound a lot like the Beastmaster soul in Rift. For a long while that was my dps soul of choice, because it let me run around beating on things… while having a really cool cat pet at my side. This might seriously be the best news for me personally in the expansion, because I love the idea of a hunter… I just never really enjoyed being ranged dps.

Class Order Halls

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This is another really cool idea, but one that I am deeply skeptical. Essentially the plan is to create special areas that only members of a specific class can go to. Inside of it will be the givers of specific class based quests, and a whole new follower system that allows you to go out on adventures with fledgeling members of your class order. All of this sounds pretty kick ass because I loved Archerus as a Deathknight, and having a specific area I could go to just for my class. The problem there is that it never really became a “hub” for players, and as Blizzard has moved on past Wrath it progressively became a bigger and bigger pain in the ass to have to keep going back there to Runeforge new weapons. My biggest fear however is that in WoW 8.0 this will become yet another awesome idea that has been relegated to the dustbin just like the Halfhill Farm, and soon to be Garrison and Shipyard. The WoW team is exceptionally bad at creating constructs that will leave on with the game past a single expansion. One of my key frustrations with the game is that it is a series of loosely connected disposable content packs rather than one seamless living and breathing world. While Class Order Halls might be fun for an expansion, I full expect they are already planning on the next new thing to replace them.

Artifact Weapons

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Apparently the Relic Weapon quest from Final Fantasy XIV is coming to World of Warcraft, but they are taking it further. If I am reading an interview correctly it sounds like there simply won’t be weapon drops in the Legion expansion at all. This is honestly not a horrible idea at least from a game design perspective because it means that content becomes so much easier to balance. Upgrading your weapon in any game tends to be the single biggest power boost a player can get, since it has a function… increasing your damage/healing/survival rather than simply being a random collection of stat boosts. By assuring that players evolve this power over time through the completion of content, this gives you a measured gauge to scale against rather than somehow trying to make things doable with crappy white quality weapons… but at the same time not an absolute train wreck when done by anyone with epic quality anything. Again they are making a stab straight at our nostalgia by having us reforge classic weapons from lore. The example they give is that we will be quite literally collecting the fragments of Frostmourne and reforging them into a new weapon. I have to admit this sounds badass… but the problem once again is… this sounds like a system that they will be all too happy to abandon come 8.0. If they promised that from this point out, we will be able to keep upgrading our weapons with ever more intricate designs and quests backing them up… then I would probably be extremely amped. I just lack the faith that this is going to be something that will be around for awhile.

It Could be Awesome

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I freely admit that the raw material of this expansion that was announced on Thursday could end up making an extremely awesome expansion. The problem being that I just do not have faith any longer that Blizzard will create a game that I want to play for the long term. I absolutely enjoy playing each expansion and leveling through the content. I fully expect that I will purchase Legion when it launches and enjoy myself while leveling a few characters. The problem is that the game doesn’t have enough that I want to do once I have gotten three characters to the new level cap. Three seems to always be the number, it was the case in all of the recent WoW expansions, and was the case in Rift and SWTOR. Once I have seen the content that third time… I am just done with it for the time being and ready to move on and do something else. The systems that are there just are not sticky enough to keep me logging in on a daily basis, and the majority of my time in Warlords was spent logging in for ten minutes to fiddle with my Garrison and then logging right back out. Now they hinted that they are trying to come up with reasons for us to run dungeons even after we have hit the level cap… and I look forward to seeing more detail on this one. That was ultimately the thing that kept me going in Burning Crusade and Wrath of the Lich King and the thing that ultimately felt pointless in most of the expansions since. It honestly feels like they are trying to borrow some ideas from Final Fantasy XIV… which is absolutely a good thing… pending they actually took the time to understand why those ideas work in that game. Right now I have zero faith… but there is a tiny fire in side of me that wants to be in love with Azeroth again. So here is hoping as we move closer to the likely Q2 2016 launch window that something will rekindle that fire.

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