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WoW Wednesday: Nazjatar and Mechagon’s Dichotomic Design

World of Warcraft’s patches have often seen a deep variety and swath of content introduced into the game. From impressive experimental concepts such as the Isle of Thunder’s region-based progression to injections of new reward-based content such as The Argent Tournament. With the release of Rise of Azshara Blizzard has tried to inject two major and incredibly drastic zones into Battle for Azeroth. Both possess their own independent purposes, but cross over in several different conceptual ideas. This week, with the beginning of the Mythic Raid race and the completion of Rise’s content introduction, it’s a good idea to look at what works and what doesn’t work in World of Warcraft’s newest patch.

The major focus of Rise of Azshara is, of course, her new native homeland. Nazjatar is a land deep beneath the oceans of Azeroth, and the last remaining prison of the Old God N’zoth. Here the Queen of the Naga has gathered a most interesting cavalcade of characters for her final plans. Parting the deep waters of the world using the Tidestone of Golganneth she has opened the land up to the landwalkers. Now, with a race against time, they must secure the Tidestone and breach Azshara’s Eternal Palace before they are overwhelmed.

Nazjatar is more of a traditional patch zone in its design. Featuring an updated Bodyguard system from Warlords of Draenor, zone progression is based around leveling various faction-based characters and low-level exploration. Unlocking further quests, which are necessary for entrance to the current raid tier, require daily adherence over the long-term. Pushing your reputation with your faction’s local resistance forces unlocks further quests and variability.

Nazjatar, for those wanting to experience the endgame, is the mandatory zone for Rise of Azshara. The Essence system cannot be unlocked without participating in several quests. The Eternal Palace raid cannot be unlocked without completing a tedious series of reputation-gated quests. Unlocking new raid-level crafting recipes for armor and weapons is gated behind the reputation. The currency which upgrades new Benthic gear tokens and is used to purchase items cannot be obtained without a steady dependence on recurring daily quests. Things are, on the surface, very plain as day and call back many times over to previous zones such as the Broken Shore.

Mechagon, on the other hand, is a far cry from its sister-zone. Based around the civil war of the Mechagnomes and their ideals on the Curse of the Flesh, the island is built on a system akin to the Timeless Isle. Cosmetic and traversal effects unlock as you explore and complete basic non-linear objectives. While there is one cosmetic mount reward from a series of daily quests the rest of the island’s rewards are based on merit and time; the more you participate, the more you can unlock. While the Rustbolt Resistance faction has unique rewards pertaining to it, there is nothing gated about Mechagon, save a few introductory quests to open up the island. While there are daily quests, they are not mandatory for your progression in the zone’s rewards. Instead the rewards are focused more on grinding zone-specific crafting materials.

Clearly these two zones are as different as night and day to each other. From progression to rewards Nazjatar and Mechagon are drastically unlike the other. The distinct division between the two goes down to their basic design concepts. One, however, is clearly superior to the other. Both have their fair share of problems in execution, such as Mechagon’s heavy reliance on grinding powerful mobs to deliver its rewards. Nazjatar, however, is clearly not designed for long-term gameplay aside from its daily repeatable content.

Every aspect of Nazjatar’s gameplay design feels like a roadblock in some form or another. No matter how you engage content when you first begin the zone’s design feels directly designed to slow your experience. Creatures in Nazjatar are incredibly more powerful than even those introduced in the Battle for Dazar’alor’s Invasion World Content. Coupled with an incredibly high density of creatures and the almost violent levels of verticality present in the zone’s level design, simply traversing the landscape without Mount Equipment is a task in and of itself.

Nazjatar’s storylines are also incredibly lacking. Whether for the fact they substitute characters that simply don’t fit adequately (such as Tyrande Whisperwind for Thalyssra) or simply the fact there are only three major questlines, nothing feels impactful. Even the smattering of side quests feel less than genuine, introducing and swapping out newer characters that will more than likely never see the light of day again. Quests feel more akin to past World Quests in merely killing so many enemies or interacting with a number of predetermined objects.

Daily and World Quests feel much the same. There is simply no life or creativity in most of what the zone offers. While there’s several unlockables and additional pieces of content, the only one that truly stands out is the Mrrl exchanging game between Murlocs. Everything else feels recycled from earlier zones in Battle for Azeroth and Legion.

Mechagon, on the other hand, feels far freer. Despite having little depth to its importance or need-to-grind mentality, the breadth of rewards it offers makes it immediately more enticing. Even if you’re partaking in the daily quests for reputation or your mount, you can simultaneously pursue other cosmetic rewards. Several blueprints that can be made via the island’s unique crafting system aid in traversal, such as the Anti-Grav Jetpack. Others, like the Mechanocat Laser Pointer can be utilized for cosmetic rewards outside of Mechagon. Even if you’re looking just to farm enough resources to create zone-wide construction projects, they are paths to other objectives you’re looking to complete.

Mechagon is a zone that, no matter where you go, everything realistically feeds into itself. Playing through and exploring its rolling landscape feels incredibly inviting. It isn’t a chore to merely get safely from Point A to Point B. Even its minimal story beats and quests feel uniquely refreshing in their tone. Objectives and goals, while featuring similar concepts to, “Kill this and go here,” often have enough flavor pushed into their objectives to make them exciting. Nazjatar simply feels lifeless in comparison.

Battle for Azeroth has featured conflicting design concepts since its release. Rise of Azshara’s new zones, however, seem to be dichotimic to a point of fault. While Mechagon is fun to get absorbed into, there’s little to the island once your grind is complete. Conversely Nazjatar has plenty to explore once you’ve completed the whole zone, but completing it is so utterly painful and dreadful its almost better to avoid it. That is, if you could; completing Nazjatar is mandatory to unlock not only a massive traversal perk for your account, but the current raid tier and thus the end-game. It creates an odd situation for Rise of Azshara. Why play the content you hate, when you can complete that which you enjoy until you run out of it?

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About Phil DeMerchant

A young pundit of the Industry, Phil first fell in love with gaming through World of Warcraft and the 3D platformers of the Playstation Era. Honing his expertise over years of reporting, he now focuses on investigative work on appraising and evaluating industry practices.