Battle for Azeroth’s newest patch, Rise of Azshara, has brought a number of new systems with it that players have been receptive to. Upgrade processes such as Benthic Gear and the Pocket-Sized Computation Device have put a sense of tangible power progression back into user’s hands. Returning from Mists of Pandaria, the Daily Quest system has been coupled with Warlords of Draenor’s Garrison Bodyguards resulting in tangible character progression. One system that has received mixed, if not unfavorable, reception is the new Mount Equipment System.
Mount Equipment is Blizzard’s answer to the apparently eternal question, “Why do players grind for mounts?” Unlocked at level 100, the Mount Equipment system allows players to socket various pieces of equipment which affects almost every mount in your collection. There are currently four types of equipment available with varying effects, all produced by different professions. The Saddlechute deploys an emergency slow-fall on your character after being dismounted while high in the air. The Comfortable Rider’s Barding will prevent you from being dazed while mounted. Inflatable Mount Shoes allow your mount to walk on water, while the Light-Step Hoofplates increase your ground mount’s speed by 310%.
Players have been asking for the ability to customize their favorite mounts for years in the vein of Albion Online or Guild Wars 2. My personal favorite mount is the Vicious Skeletal Warhorse and its new Black counterpart. I would love to be able to customize and change some of the colors, add new effects, change the armor to match my Nightborne main. On paper, mount equipment sounds like a step in the right direction, but much like the rest of Battle for Azeroth’s systems, it ends up shooting itself in the foot.
Things started looking poorly when the reason for its induction was revealed by Blizzard to Content Creators at a private press event in April 2019. Timed with the release from the Rise of Azshara Preview Stream, multiple WoW creators including Bellular, Taliesin and Evitel, as well as Preach Gaming (who was barred for an exploit) later reported the reasoning behind the system. Blizzard believed that players focused on certain mounts such as the Azure Water Strider because they were mandatory to gameplay. This mount and its Warlords’ counterpart were rewarded from LONG reputation grinds focusing around the fishing profession and could walk on water in-game.
In an effort to reportedly combat the perceived ‘need’ from ‘high-end players to grind’ the mount for performance reasons, Blizzard designed the Mount Equipment system. In order to stop players from stacking mount and class effects to create a ‘super-mount’, Blizzard stripped most, if not all, mounts of their independent special abilities. There are of course some exceptions to that rule, such as the Sky Golem Engineering mount. This flying mount can pick herbs and mine nodes without needing players to dismount, making it a favorite of farmers and AH manipulators. Underwater Mounts still possess their unique swim speed bonus while all passenger mounts can still carry additional players. The Garrison Stable mounts can still be mountable while in combat. None of these mounts benefit from the new system aside from Vendor and Passenger mounts.
Those who made the long, painful Anglers and Nat Pagle grind (which are arguably worse than most requirements for Insane in the Membrane) instead received an account-bound version of the Inflatable Mount Shoes.
This in no uncertain terms seems to simply be another, ‘fix what isn’t broken,’ moment from Blizzard. Despite Game Director Ion Hazzikostas’ recent apology for past moments of this, including the infamously panned pruning ability from Warlords, the Mount Equipment system directly negatively impacts old legacy systems of rewards in Warcraft. In a similar vein to disseminating 310% Mount Speed from Gladiator Arena mounts to the masses, the Mount Equipment system clearly attempts to fix a problem that no player has; using one mount over all the others.
Let me paint a hypothetical picture as an example. We’ll pretend for a moment in Patch 8.2 that Mount Equipment doesn’t exist. The two heavily water divided zones in current content, Nazmir and Tirigarde Sound, may indeed be more traversable with a water walking Strider mount. However, they are not obtusely designed; aside from the occasional dip in a stream as a shortcut you will spend most of your time on land. Nazjatar and Mechagon do not possess deep bodies of water that are not traversable by other means. Mechagon itself features zone-wide equipment buffs that allow you to fly across the map freely. If you DO possess the water Strider it, like your vendor and flying mounts, probably takes up another spot on your hotbars.
Now let’s discuss a more realistic example. As Nazjatar is the main zone for gear progression, you’ll be spending most of your time there for this patch. Due to high mob density and large aggro radii for enemy creatures you’ll want to have the Comfortable Rider’s Barding to stop you from being dazed often. If an Emmisary Quest emerges in a water-logged zone, you’ll probably want to equip the Inflatable Mount Shoes as your Striders no longer work. If you want to switch over to older world content in Warlords of Draenor or Legion and you haven’t completed the Pathfinder achievements, most players will equip the Light-Step Hoofplates. For the rest of the world you’ll want the Saddlechute in case you’re dismounted while flying.
Unlike the new Essences system for the Heart of Azeroth, this Equipment functions like Gems. Every time you wish to equip a new one, the old one is destroyed forever. Due to the low sell-rate for profession items across the board (as only high-end raiding guilds require flasks and armor production is pointless unless you’re raiding on your crafter) prices for these items are at a HIGH premium. Mount equipment on my server ranges from 7000 to 20,000 gold PER ITEM depending on the item, all of which is unfeasible for a casual player.
Stepping away from a practicality perspective, this also needs to be viewed from a Class Identity and utility system. Just about every single item detracts from certain classes or professions; the Inflatable Water Shoes essentially make Alchemy, Shaman and Death Knight flavor abilities redundant. The Comfortable Rider’s Barding effectively negates several Blacksmithing and Engineering items, some of which were the only redeeming items for the former profession this expansion. The Light-Step Mount shoes do not stack with other abilities, meaning that not only do both Paladins and Death Knights not benefit from the effect, but no one in the guild does either. Part of the old guild-leveling system, which was introduced and sadly abandoned in Cataclysm features Mount Up!, was an ability which passively gives players a 10% mount speed increase.
With flying unlocked in 8.2 released with the Battle for Azeroth Pathfinder Part 2, all the aforementioned abilities will no longer be required once players meet the requirements. The only item that will possess any worth to players in current world content will be the Saddlechute, which may save player’s lives if they fall from their flying mount. Out of four items, only one quarter of this system has any long-term or worthwhile inclusion and ONLY for one character. While the system is not account wide, Pathfinding is. Once you have completed it, almost all of the equipment system becomes pointless.
In a patch with very little in the way of new mount designs or interesting rewards for high-end gameplay, it almost feels hypocritical to have such a detracting system introduced into the workings. Mount Customization, much like Player Housing, is a feature that has been requested for several years. Much like the heavily cut and ultimately detracting Garrison system, Mount Equipment too has become nearly invalid from the moment it was introduced. Most of this is due simply to the time-frame it was introduced; if instead it had been released with 9.0 and fleshed out further it may have become a more long-standing staple of the expansion. With Pathfinder Part 2’s inclusion of Rise of Azshara the system simply won’t see much use, nor will many of the professions benefit. Once players have unlocked flying wholesale for their account they frankly won’t need to invest in the system.
Much like the way of the beloved Glyphs, Mount Equipment is a poor cosmetic fix to a problem that didn’t need solving at the time. Stripping away aspects of a previous team’s design to reintroduce them with poorer concept, the system sadly won’t survive for the next expansion. Now if only these cosmetic gameplay abilities featured actual cosmetic effects, perhaps there might be a greater draw to them.