I’ll be honest, I’d expected a presentation, maybe some kind of official buildup, but in the end all we got was a single Tweet at 6.07pm BST on Monday.
— World of Warcraft (@Warcraft) April 18, 2016
And lo, it was decreed that Legion launches and Warlords ends on August 30th, 2016. I say it that way for a reason, because I don’t remember any expansion being waved off with quite as much enthusiasm as this one. In fact, the number of people celebrating the end of Warlords is not insignificant at all. It’s a shame, when you look back at all the best intentions that we came into this adventure with, and where the Warcraft Bus is now stuck. 6.2’s raiding lifespan will be (I believe) when we hit release a whole five days longer than the Siege of Orgrimmar. Despite all the best intentions, Orcs probably condemned this adventure along with a number of ideas that probably seemed quite decent at the time but didn’t provision for the now voracious appetite many people have for content.
In the end, Warlords isn’t a bad expansion. The problem ultimately is that in terms of what it preceded it, there simply wasn’t enough meat on the bones to make the hearty meal so many people craved after spending forever raiding and farming the same place. Some of those problems haven’t gone away either, so as Legion launches and Warlords ends, what lessons do we need to take from this experience going forward?
What Have We Learned?
This meme never gets old, and it reminds us that, like it or not, there’s always SOMETHING that didn’t work in an Expansion. In this case, it was everything past L100 that wasn’t raiding. Yes, I know how dangerously sweeping that statement is, but when close to half your player base only stick around to max out and spend a month in situ before vanishing? There are some questions to ask. There’s no argument from most that 90-100 the first half a dozen times you take part is actually fairly solid, and entertaining. Sadly for me, who stood on a pretty large soapbox and proclaimed their greatness, Garrisons probably did the job best of destroying people’s love of end game, such as it was, and add to that the woeful extent of ‘plot-based’ story-lines? Things ended up being pretty stagnant.
That meant that when you got to 100 you were faced with a mini-game that’s was only as good as the effort you were prepared to put into it, and if that ended up as nothing at all? Yes, you can still live with the moneymaking and mat farming but eventually, without variety or actual incentives, the point gets lost. That’s why Blizzard have introduced sweeping plots and Artefact functionality into Missions and your Class Order Halls, that you’ll have over 300 Daily World Quests to choose from once you hit 110. Except that isn’t that many: if you get five a day that’s two months worth of content currently tee-d up on Alpha. As Legion launches and Warlords ends, one assumes the designers have a long term plan up their sleeves to supply more as and when needed. As to the range of other activities? This time around it does look pretty solid, all told, especially if like me you enjoy your professions.
In fact, the quests to level those is probably the most excited I’ve been about anything for some time. Plus, as many people quite gleefully pointed out Monday when release was finally announced, the Wardrobe is coming. I only have four months to wait until all my bank space is freed. There’ll be tabards all lined up to use and you’ll have a system of aesthetic customisation that is capable of being utilised across every character on an account. For those who signed up for the long term in Azeroth this is the Holy Grail that means a lot of us will probably be a lot more accommodating to change this time around than we ever were in Draenor.
What Will We See?
There is absolutely no argument that Legion brings the bling in terms of visuals, with the Broken Isles and the Demon Hunter starting areas looking absolutely fantastic. However, what this serves to do is make the ‘Old’ World appear a great deal older than it looked before, and even with the current clamour for Vanilla content, you can’t take away the disparity between the graphical improvement. There’s also a systematic eradication of old world ‘skins’ which actually makes me quite sad, including the loss of my old bear from Winterspring which is replaced by a model that might look great to some people, but which seems oddly forced to me.
The pace of change is sadly dissonant when your world exists in varying different resolutions simultaneously: I am reminded of Wreck it Ralph where old 16 bit characters exist alongside high-definition models without anyone batting an eyelid. The problem is, of course, that because of the chaos wrought by Cataclysm, the design team are almost paranoid in their desire not to change what already exists, although at least an aspect of that issue is soundly put to rest in Legion with a very great number of existing storylines being pushed ahead apace. Yet the backdrops remain, not old and tired per se but certainly not subject to the same level of upkeep that is presented to the characters.
This continues to irk me: when Legion launches and Warlords ends I’d like to think we might finally get some long overdue construction works on the quiet. One can only hope that maybe there’s a way to bring everything up to the same level of graphical consistency, because I think the Old World deserves the attention. Otherwise all these lovely new skins just look like decoration on a very tired and old presentation.
What Will you Think?
This is probably the biggest issue of all, because from where I stand currently in the Community, all is not well. There is a surprising amount of disharmony, even from the Raiding Community which seems to have fared particularly well throughout Warlords’ life. Part of the problem of course is that, with enough money and unlimited time, you can effectively cheese all the obstacles thrown in your way to raiding competitively in a remarkably short space of time. In fact, the mechanics that 6.2 introduced pretty much trivialises the whole experience to the point that you can manage 90-100 in under three hours, and then be raid ready for Mythics in about a week.
The only stumbling block in all of this, of course, are the people, and what these changes will do is sow even more seeds of doubt in the minds of the lesser players. If you know someone else can pretty much lay waste to everything you’ve done in a couple of weeks? Is there any point in slogging away to begin with? I know this is an issue a number of my friends have wrestled with of late, and I say now what I said to them: this is a game, it should be about being happy. Except raiding often isn’t that at all, and becomes the equivalent of a job for many players when placed up against people who seem better at the task than they will ever be. When Legion launches and Warlords ends, I for one would like to think maybe this could change, but at the rate some people currently consume content? I doubt it will happen.
It’s only four months until expansion launch, and it makes sense that if you want to organise yourself, this is when you should announce the game plan. The fact that Alpha’s still that isn’t a worry either because with Pax East this weekend, I’d expect to see a lot more Beta keys being given away and that status changing in short order. I’ll be spending the next couple of weeks on my personal site going through the motions of how to properly prepare yourself for the change, but ultimately for some, enough is enough. A very long-term friend and player gave up for good yesterday, the announcement of Legion the final straw in a process where he had come to understand that ultimately, he was done. For him the announcement galvanised a decision to go back to College and restart a life he’d effectively put on hold in the first place to play a computer game. That’s the thing here that many people like to overlook for the sake of being part of a ‘Community’ that isn’t nearly as solid and brilliant as some would like to think. This is only a game, and in the end all the virtual gold in the world will not buy you happiness.
I’d be clearly a fraud and lying horrendously if I said I wasn’t looking forward to Legion, but this time I come to the experience considerably wiser and more detached than I ever have been, and in fact that serves me well right now. I’m more than happy to be an occasional player and not the hardcore casual I used to be. There’s lots to do in life, after all, and Warcraft is only a part of that.
Four months really won’t be that long to wait at all.Related: Alpha, Beta, Blizzard Entertainment, Column, MMO, World of Warcraft, WoW Wednesday