The following article is a guest post submission from Lakerti – Kazzak.
Just when I thought I was out
Saying you’ve fallen back into World of Warcraft has an alarmingly similar reaction to saying you’ve fallen off the wagon. Most people will tell you they don’t have any change and walk away, while few others will glare at you disappointingly, wanting to help you as much as wanting you to stay at arm’s length. Telling your friends won’t do much either, as they’re most likely snorting the same line through Azeroth anyway. So I’ll just tell you, dear reader, I got back into WoW… send help!
I came to the WoW party fashionably late at the beginning of Warlords of Draenor. Fashionably late is being optimistic. At this point, the only people left at the party were those that you would spend most of the party trying to avoid. They smell funky and are now too inebriated to leave. Those still able to speak kept saying it was an awesome party, and it would never be the same again. Draenor certainly had issues, and I can understand why so many fans felt let down. But despite that, I really enjoyed my time in Draenor. It was my first experience through WoW and what it had to offer. Completing the story quests and hitting max level. Grinding more powerful gear to complete harder challenges in heroic and mythic dungeons. I did my first raiding in WoD, and all that comes with that. The good of working in a coordinated team to successfully complete a challenge and being rewarded with mount drops and better gear. The bad of wiping on the last boss who had one percent health because someone never learned the first rule of WoW; don’t stand in the fire. And the ugly of listening to guild leaders and officers who took that title way too seriously. I had my first taste, and I was hooked. Left eagerly anticipating what would come next.
Unfortunately, life had other plans as it inevitably does. I played very little of Legion, which is a shame as there was a lot about Legion I really liked. I found playing with the artifact weapons to be a lot of fun and really enjoyed the improvements to world quests, and the champions system, where you unlock different champions to send out on missions. The class halls looked terrific and were a vast improvement to the formerly isolated garrisons. There was always something to do that was not only fun to do but felt rewarding. But, that was all life permitted me to get out of it.
Legion. As time passed, life settled back down, and Battle for Azeroth was announced. As with any WoW expansion, there was a lot of hype surrounding BFA leading up to its release. Like an ex who never really understood breaking up, WoW kept calling me. And like any single man, I figured, sure why not? It could be fun.
I couldn’t tell if I had unknowingly joined the inebriated group that everyone avoided or if BFA was really this bad. I may have started smelling a bit, but I couldn’t help feeling like the party was over and would never be the same again. Though the reception seemed worse than usual. Class halls were removed entirely, world quests felt tedious, and the artifact weapons had been replaced with a necklace. That felt as anticlimactic as it sounds. Head over to middle America, take away a farmer’s shotgun, and give them a heart pendant that says BFFs forever and see their reaction. What was worse is our new neck pain didn’t do anything. You leveled it up for the sake of leveling it up. Now I know from the outside this has always been a criticism of WoW and its player base. “Why do you play so much WoW?”
“To get better gear.”
“To play more WoW.” The element that’s missing in this conversation is how much fun it was to play WoW. In Legion, you would customize your artifact weapons, gear, and abilities to suit your playstyle or what you believed would work best for the content you desired to face. You would cater to the specific challenge. If you wanted to run Mythic keystones, you would try one idea. If you were raiding, you could try another. And if you had a constant group of people with you, you could customize in even greater detail knowing precisely who else would be there and what their approach was. All of that is still only the player versus environment content. We haven’t even touched the player versus player and the different ways to tackle the different battlegrounds, Arenas, etc. In BFA, a lot of that customization was missing. The solution was always the same, make the number bigger. It was boring. It was tedious. So I left, and it seemed like many did.
Angry Reddit posts about a game being ‘bad’ and that OP will never play it again is not uncommon. It also never actually seems to happen, but with BFA, everyone seemed to be leaving. I had left, the regular group I played with left, and a look at the phone app told me everyone in the guild had stopped playing too. And Like a car crash that people can’t help but look, the negative reception had spread. Even people who didn’t play WoW would come up to me and ask if BFA was really as bad as it appeared. Blizzard is no stranger to bad press, but this time around, the numbers must’ve scared them, or more accurately posed a threat to the bottom line. The current expansion was released in August 2018, and after two years of planning and development, I returned in March 2020.
Returning to Azeroth was not something I had planned to do. I had my fun, then was let down and left. But like many people at the beginning of 2020, I found myself with a lot of free time. I wanted to play something persistent that felt rewarding to put my time into. If this sounds like code for I was looking for an escape, you’d be right, but who wasn’t? Naturally, I had a look at the current MMO market. There are some big names out there that are still going strong. Games that I had tried before but left after a couple of weeks. For whatever reason, I was never grabbed by Elder Scrolls Online, Final Fantasy XIV, or Guild Wars the same way World of Warcraft grabbed me all those years ago. So I researched the current state of WoW and was surprised to find a lot of videos and articles praising their new changes. And, once again, I figured why not? After a conversation with some friends, we all resubscribed and dove into patch 8.3.
When I left BFA, we had chased the Alliance ships to new undiscovered islands and were recruiting the island inhabitants in our fight against the Alliance. Coming back, we’re fighting Cthulhu… clearly, I missed a few steps. Though it quickly came apparent that I missed a lot of changes.
A lot more customization had been added back into the game. A lot of gear has passives to chose from in the form of azurite traits. The neckpiece has different active and passive abilities that can be unlocked and equipped. The way you unlock these different abilities is also pleasantly diverse from following a quest line, to completing certain dailies, or separate PvE and PvP challenges. There’s always something to work towards to improve your character in the direction you want.
Further to that, Blizzard added a corruption system. How this works is different pieces of gear will come with different passives, some extremely strong, but with a trade-off of stacking corruption on your character. The more corruption is accumulated on your toon, the more negative effects you have to deal with. This creates a trade-off system. For example, a new piece of gear may have a powerful passive but will put me over 40 corruption, which will randomly generate a shadow version of myself that will start to fight me. Funny but problematic when raiding. So I have to chose, equip the corrupted item and deal with the clone, use precious resources to purge the corruption from the piece of gear or another to keep my stacks below 40 but lose a dominant passive. Or not equip the new item at all.
Blizzard has also made some new additions to endgame content. Mythic Keystones and raids are still present. Island expeditions have been added as a new 3 player activity, which is both PvE and PvP depending on the mode. Warfront is an interesting mode that plays with real-time strategy elements, harkening back to Warcraft’s roots, though admittedly my least favorite addition. That title goes to the new horrific visions. This new activity can be done solo or with a group up to five, which as someone who likes to occasionally play with friends or no one at all, I really appreciate new solo player content.
Not everyone will enjoy every new change. I completely missed the Titan forge system, which seems to have been a failed experiment, but the bonus of having so many extra things to do is that if you don’t like something, its easy to ignore. Chances are that there is an activity that you do enjoy that allows you to reap a similar reward from the one you don’t enjoy.
Though if I do have one major knock on the new and improved BFA, it’s that with all the latest systems and unique activities, it is harder than it’s ever been to play on alternate characters. As someone who use to enjoy “monk Mondays,” “Warlock Wednesdays,” and “damn, it’s rogue Fridays.” This expansion is probably the least alt friendly WoW has ever been. Something worth knowing if you intend to jump in. There is a lot to do, and a lot to work towards and completing those different challenges on different characters takes a long time.
I have to give credit where credit is due, Blizzard managed to turn Battle for Azeroth around. Something that I did not think they would be willing to spend the time, or money, to do. The latest expansion in its current state is a lot of fun, with a lot to do and room for customization and personalization. The future of WoW looks promising too. Currently, there is no release date for the upcoming expansion Shadowlands other than this year, but a lot of the planned changes that have been announced seem promising. Including a level squish that should hopefully make a leveling experience more enjoyable and feel like a part of the game rather than something that needs to be endured to get to the “real game.” The new player experience looks promising, too, with more detailed tutorials and a better on-ramp into Azeroth.
If you’re someone who left after Legion, or someone who is new and looking for some fun, and possible escape. I’d encourage you to take a look at WoW. The future of World of Warcraft looks brighter than it ever has, which is more than I can say when I look out the window or dare to read the latest news.