Monday, July 11, 2011

World of Warcraft Patch 4.2 – Rage of the Firelands

I've had a little bit of time to appreciate the material presented in the new content patch for World of Warcraft, and I think I'm ready to discuss a little bit about it. The release of a patch like this presents more content, new bosses, many of them are what would be a pricey bit of DLC or even a whole new expansion if released as part of many single-player or other non-MMO games. The story, for those who pay attention to it (as I do) is advanced with new cutscenes and quests, and a new Tier of raid content is introduced. The Tier 12 Raid picks up where the quests in Mount Hyjal left off, with Ragnaros the Firelord gathering his strength for another assault on Azeroth, and the war to enter the Firelands themselves to stop his return.

This patch brings back a lot of concepts not seen since the Vanilla WoW raid Molten Core, which also had Ragnaros as a final boss, and of course, flame and lava as the theme. Beyond those mostly cosmetic differences, this new content reminds me most of the Burning Crusade patch that introduced the Sunwell raid instance and the Isle that contained it. Both are lore-heavy, feature a new zone with an ongoing military conflict that is advanced through daily quests, and a wide-open raid instance that feels less confining than the traditional “Dungeon Rooms” of most raids. The patch also brings difficulty modifications (“nerfs”) to older raid content to enhance accessibility for more casual players, and introduces a new Legendary Weapon, a staff designed for DPS casters.

I like the new content overall, but currently I have mixed feelings about the environment that is currently present in WoW, and some of the burden of my lessened interest in certain aspects of the game falls at the feet of this patch. I feel that some elements were designed precisely as they should be for where Cataclysm is in its lifecycle as an expansion, but other aspects of this patch in particular feel somehow like

The Good:
The quests and raid encounters are rich with lore, tying into the Cataclysm plot well without having Deathwing turn up to cackle and twirl his evil mustache the way Arthas seemed to in every content patch in Wrath. The daily quests are combined with the phasing mechanic, which means the more you work personally on contributing to the war against the firelands, the more progress you will see. NPCs from many other quests and raids turn up to aid in the fight, I've seen Hemet Nesingwary, Argent Confessor Paletress and even Mankrik fighting alongside heroes in the war, it is nice to see these characters as people and citizens in a living world, rather than mannequins who stand around waiting to hand out quests or be killed in their own personal areas.
Fans of this guy will find a lot to love about 4.2.

The rewards for completing dailies and earning reputation are good, and the crafted items are some of the best I've seen in any patch since WoW launched. This means that good gear is attainable, but reasonable levels of effort are required, as even the crafted gear requires items that drop from raid bosses. The availability of epic gear is structured nicely for this stage of the game, with returning or new players able to play catch-up, but without it being so trivially easy that people who played since launch have grounds for serious complaint. (This, of course, won't stop many of them, but such is life.)

The Bad:
I personally enjoy raid encounters that ramp the difficulty up a bit, but some of the balancing between 10man and 25man raid bosses seems “off.” In certain encounters, the 10-man version is challenging but killable after a few night's practice, but the 25 man version seems insurmountably frustrating, with a single mistake by one raider to end the encounter with a wipe. This may be by design on its own, but it has some potentially unintended consequences.

What do you think he's been doing since Molten Core? Leveling up, same as you.

New raid gear can be obtained by killing bosses, earning reputation with the new faction, and using valor points. A side effect of 10-man raids being so much easier than 25-man raids is that if you are in a guild that wants to raid 25s, capping your valor points weekly is a brutal grind through old content. You might get a few hundred here and there for a boss kill, but you'll be spending many, many hours in heroic dungeons to rack up a few more valor points so that the week doesn't feel wasted. Personally, that grind sometimes makes it so I'd rather do something else, anything other than logging on to WoW.

The Ugly:
Players have developed some really bad habits since Wrath of the Lich King was released, and echoes of some of the development calls made in the name of greater content accessibility are still being felt. I'm all for WoW no longer only being playable at a certain level by elitist players and 95% of the subscriber base being locked out of content forever is a BAD THING. That said, when things are made easier, there is a certain class of player that isn't used to things being hard, and when presented with a challenge, they whine.

So you say the Legendary Staff of Dragons is actually powered by Noob Tears and Butthurt?

Nowhere else is the “whiner” factor more apparent than in any discussion regarding the new Legendary Item. Legendary Weapons aren't supposed to be something that eventually everyone in a guild gets. With a heroic amount of effort an cooperation, top guilds can expect to have one or two of these items in their entire raiding roster. New players (or those who learned the worst possible lessons from Wrath) aren't used to being challenged for the best gear. They only need to wait long enough, and it'll practically jump into their inventories. This isn't the case for the staff Dragonwrath, which is desired by every Mage, Warlock, Shadow Priest, Elemental Shaman and Boomkin Druid in the game.

The proliferation of the classes who might desire the item and the difficulty in obtaining even one for a whole guild is something that I am sure will create a lot of tension in many raiding guilds, and people will be kicked out of or quit guilds over it. This is the sort of weapon that characters will wait 5+ years to even be included in the game, and knowing they'll never get one upsets many, many people. (Hell, I'm 2nd in line for one in my guild and I might never see it completed.)

Miscellany, and Overall:
The art style of the new items is cool, consistent with the theme, and overall the content feels very well put together, but the complaining that tiny spoonfuls of content are being stretched out over progressively longer periods of real time gains strength with every new patch, and cut features. I think that by the end of this expansion, people will be pleased with the way content was stretched out over the lifecycle of the product, for for now, we hear a new 5-man has been cancelled and we're disappointed and angry. We complain that encounters are too hard, but we called the game a “joke” back in Wrath for being too easy.

I like what I see in the Firelands, I just wish the grind of it all didn't feed the whiny, complainy voice inside me that wants to agree with all the gamers whose complaints I find annoying.  Sometimes, when faced with running another random dungeon, I'd just rather go play something else, and I wish that weren't so.  
Best Blogger Tips
  • Stumble This Post
  • Save Tis Post To Delicious
  • Share On Reddit
  • Fave On Technorati
  • Buzz This Post
  • Tweet This Post
  • Digg This Post
  • Share On Facebook
Blog Gadgets


Alpha said...

It's unfortunate that grinding is so good for Blizzard's business.

Zombie Ad said...

"Noob Tears and Butthurt" LMAO! :)

The Angry Lurker said...

Something else that I don't play but I feel for you with patches that don't get it right.

Post a Comment