The Expansion So Far

Thus far, the expansion has been the least fun I’ve had in WoW. I began playing towards the end of Burning Crusade and WoD is hands-down the worst playing experience I’ve had in any expansion, and by a wide margin. Granted, a lot of its problems stem from the same thing – the lack of flight – but that is far from its only problem.

  • Travel is terrible. Being grounded sucks as much or more than I knew it would based on the beta. The fixes they promised never came (there’s a shocker!) and we’re left with a slow, convoluted mess when it comes to getting around. Despite having the smallest zones of any expansion so far, travel takes longer than ever. Flightpaths still weave across the map like a drunken albatross, so it’s just tab out and wait. And they rarely go to where you want them to be, anyway, meaning that even after your taxi lands, you have a long, winding slog through trivial and irrelevant mobs and ridiculously mountainous terrain before you get to where you need to be. False paths and dead ends abound, meaning you will waste literally hours of your life trying to find the right path up the mountain. Oh, and don’t think being trivial means the mob won’t daze or dismount you. It might be green and have no chance of killing you, even with 10 of its buddies, but it will still gladly waste your time in the attempt. It just flat out sucks and there’s no way to sugar-coat it.
  • Jump puzzles are meh, to put it politely. Even if you complete it correctly the first time, the sense of accomplishment/reward is minimal: they simply aren’t that much fun. Sorry, guys, but if you’re left with a sense of frustration after completing the puzzle correctly, it’s just bad game design. And heavens help anyone who makes a mistake. You take 5 minutes to travel from the nearest flight point to get to the dot where the item is supposed to be, only to discover that it isn’t there. It’s really on some other strata of the map, perhaps dangling from a tree over cliff, or hidden in a cave, but there’s no way to tell that from your map. So now you’re going to spend another 10-15 minutes running in circles looking for the cave entrance or the path leading up the mountain. Now that you’ve finally found it, you can actually attempt the jump puzzle. Hope you didn’t mess up, or you’re going to have to run up the mountain to try again. On the bright side, now that you know the way, it’ll only take 5 minutes to run back up. In short, the jump puzzles simply take more trouble than they’re worth, and the effort isn’t the challenging or fun sort, it’s the boring, tedious sort. In the end, it’s enough drudgery to suck even the simple joy of collecting things out of the event, leaving you with something that is, best-case scenario, an annoying exercise in frustration.
  • Gearing is a pain. I was really excited to have hit 100, and after finishing up a few quests to clear out my log, I went to queue for normals. I knew I didn’t have the gear to queue for heroics yet, but I was prepared to start in on the endless chain of normals that I knew I would have to do to get there. Imagine my surprise to discover that I couldn’t queue for normals in my quest gear. No, really. Despite having finshed half of the final questing zone (Nagrand), I was still 12 ilevels shy of being able to queue for a normal dungeon. Really, Blizz? That’s just really, really bad game design. I shouldn’t have to do over 12 hours of questing, grinding, and rare hunting after hitting level cap in order to get the gear to queue for a normal dungeon, but that’s exactly what it took. On the plus side, now that I’m able to queue for normals, the pacing seems quite nice, so kudos there.
  • Mobs hit too hard, swarm too much, and have too much CC while leveling. The relative power level of mobs may fade quickly after you reach level cap and gear up a bit, but they’re not so trivial while leveling. This may simply be a case of having an under-tuned class (my hunter handles swarms easily and barely needs to use mend pet), but I think probably not. While leveling up, my shaman spent as much or more time healing as she did dealing damage in her elemental spec and still died with some frequency. I’m a fairly good elemental shaman, and I used all of my tricks (earth or fire elemental totems, capacitor totem to stun, thundershock to buy time with knockback, hex to CC a mob, interrupt/grounding totem to minimize damage), but quite often it simply wasn’t enough. I would be fine when I could pull small (say 3-4 mobs total), but there were many times that I would get hit with more than that. That’s just ridiculous. And that’s without getting into mobs that have CC or other annoying abilities (shadowstep, disarm). There were a few packs of mobs that felt like PVP because of how much I was being chain-CCed (I’m looking at you, packs of wolves in Nagrand). Those annoying abilities may be mostly avoidable when you are fighting 1-2 of them at a time, but when they travel in a pack of 5 and dismount you from range, that’s not exactly an option. At that point, one stun and you’re chained forever. The next stun will go off before the first is over, and unlike PVP, there’s no rule of diminishing returns, each and every one will hit your for full duration. All I can say is I hope what I experienced was a bug, because if that is working as intended, it’s really, really bad game design.
  • Garrisons are not quite right. Most of what Garrisons are, they do well, but it’s a bit frustrating. Overall, I enjoy them, but they are simultaneously too much and not enough. I think this conundrum mostly stems from how mandatory they are. Garrisons seem to be too big, too involved, and require too much upkeep to be an optional thing, so you can’t fix it that way. But for something that is mandatory, it doesn’t do enough to cover all of the bases. Even adding on a plot or two wouldn’t solve the problem on its own. A big part of the problem is that certain buildings have bonuses that are so good that they’re practically mandatory (Lumber Mill, Salvage Yard, Dwarven Bunker), so that I end up choosing them for the sake of progression instead of things that seem like more fun, but are mostly optional or cosmetic (Inn, Stables). Another is that certain quests require you to complete certain buildings (Barracks or profession buildings) to advance in the garrison.  Even if you know that you can change these later, it’s a waste of resources that is difficult to absorb, especially early on. This is a basic design flaw in the decisions process. Choosing between fun and efficiency isn’t a fun or meaningful choice. Instead, we should be choosing which aspect we want to make more efficient, or choosing between which fun thing we want. I think the best solution would be to make some of these buildings (the barracks and lumber mill, perhaps) “baseline,” meaning that they do not count towards your plot limits (like the mine, herb garden, fishing shack, and menagerie). This way you still have the options aspect intact, but your bases are better covered. The other option would be to do more to equalize the usefulness of the buildings, but that’s a much harder thing to balance (as evidenced by how imbalanced they are to begin with).
  • Alt-friendliness is at an all-time low. After the MoP fiasco I didn’t think Blizzard could conceive of a less alt-friendly system, and I had also thought they had learned their lesson on that account and wouldn’t try to do so, anyway. Boy, was I wrong on both counts. There is so much upkeep on a single toon that I am struggling to keep up without ever even touching an alt. I am hoping that this is somewhat alleviated later, when I’m not so busy with the gear grind, but until then, I am simply left to sit here and ponder “good lord, Blizzard, why do you hate altoholics?” Back to Garrisons, again, and we see the problem. The Garrison is such a time sink that it’s hard to keep up with more than one. Having a single account-wide garrison would be too much of a shortcut and leave you with too few options… unless! What if leveling the Garrison on your alts unlocked additional plots to your account-wide Garrison? Perhaps you could unlock access to the account-wide garrison where you would normally unlock access to your personal garrison and then just continue to gain extra plots or perks where you would normally unlock personal garrison abilities. For example, the point where you would normally unlock the mine would grant you access to your shared mine (at level 2 or 3 or whatever it is leveled to) and slightly increase the yield (say 10% or something like that) instead of creating a new one at level 1. Instead of building a new barracks, you unlock access to the shared barracks, and for the same resources that you would have spent to make a new level 1 garrison, you expand your current garrison and increase your follower limit by a small amount (let’s go with 10% again and say 2). And so on and so forth. Granted, these sorts of sweeping changes would be hard to implement now, but I can’t imagine that nobody suggested something like this during the creation process. Why wasn’t this hashed out before launch?

 

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