WoW – Battle For Azeroth

From the media assets on the Battle for Azeroth web site.

In general, I don’t think about WoW very much, but when Blizzcon comes around every year, Twitter explodes with chatter about this game. Even more than the moderate level of chatter that persists year-round. It continues to amaze me how many people seem to live completely inside a Blizzard bubble.

I guess there’s nothing wrong with focusing completely on WoW, but, to me, WoW is just one game out of a hundred, a game that remains dormant roughly 22 months out of every 24 months.

But Friday, we learned there’s a new WoW Expansion Coming Soon, so it’s time to lavish attention upon it! (Incidentally, this expansion announcement comes about two years and three months after the Legion announcement.)

I enjoyed the last expansion, Legion, but I only played for a month. Actually less than a month, because half of my subscription fell during the pre-expansion Invasions, which were arguably more fun than the expansion (to me). I took a lot of screenshots in Legion, leveled exactly one character to 110 (another to around 105), and then stopped. I haven’t thought about WoW since.

So what’s in this new expansion? I actually wouldn’t know very much about that from Twitter chatter, so I consulted this post on MassivelyOP.

  • Level cap increase to 120! Yay, stuff for me to do! Leveling one or two characters from 110 to 120 will probably be the only thing I do in the expansion.
  • New races! What, I’m supposed to start a new character? From level 1? Are you kidding me? No thanks.
  • Jaina is back! … who? (Actually I think I vaguely remember this was the woman who inexplicably stormed out of some meeting near the beginning of Legion. I only remember that because a lot of people at the time wondered why she did that and speculated about whether it was SOMETHING. REALLY. IMPORTANT.)
  • Island Expeditions! Um, okay. Probably won’t be doing that.
  • Warfronts! Nope.
  • The Heart of Azeroth! What the what? If it’s anything like the Artifact thing I hope I won’t have to deal with it much from 110 to 120.
  • 10 New Dungeons! Okay. Unless they are similar to Legion, where there’s one at the end of each zone, I probably won’t be seeing these.
  • Level-Scaling! Yuck. Though it sounds like it won’t be full-blown yucky forced level scaling, but more of a compromise between yucky and good. “You won’t ever out-level the zone you’re in.” I don’t remember where I read that, but I like the idea of that statement. However, wouldn’t it be easier to just give out less experience for quest rewards? I guess they want people to experience the rest of the zone if they *want* to, but still give hardcores the option to zoom to the next zone after only completing 10% of it.
  • PvP! Nope.
  • Legacy Servers! I’m sure I will take a look at it out of curiosity, perhaps even record some videos, but it’s extremely unlikely that I’m going to pay a subscription to re-experience the days of taking 40 levels to get a slow mount.

I guess the all-important question is: Will I buy it?

Probably. Although at this particular moment, shelling out $50 (a guess) plus the $15 for a month of subscription seems like a fairly big ask just to write a few blog posts and record a few videos. When I think about how much I played the last expansion (less than a month), I’m not entirely sure it was worth it.

The Prestigious Endgame Viable Awards 2016

It occurred to me that the end of the year is approaching, and it’s time to do one of those year-end posts that bloggers love to do. Unfortunately I kind of hate doing them. It’s a lot of work. You have to actually look things up and think and count and multiply and divide and things like that. That goes against my normal principal of blogging by “just typing words into a text editor.”

Here are the 2015 awards. This year I’m going to award Biggest Disappointment of the Year, MMORPG of the Year, MMORPG Expansion of the Year, Game of the Year. In another post I’ll also be revealing my Most-Played MMORPG, and Most-Played Game.

2016 Contenders

As I defined it last year, my selections are based on the best game that I bought and played in 2016 which was also released in 2016. I also consider Early Access releases, to punish developers for releasing their game too early. You can have money, or you can have an award, but not both. :) Anyway since I only buy a handful of new games every year, the pool from which I can pick is often very small. Based on my extensive research of Steam emails, these are the 2016 released games that I’ve bought and played:

Battlefield 1
Black Desert Online
Blade and Soul
Civilization VI
DarkMaus
Dark Souls III + Ashes of Ariandel
Devil Daggers*
DOOM
Far Cry Primal
Riders of Icarus

* I can’t find out if there was an Early Access version available before 2016. Steam does an admirable job of “hiding” that games were released in Early Access before they were actually released.

Note: I could conceivably add The Division, but I only played an hour of open beta, so I’m discounting it. Same for Overwatch. Neither would have won anything anyway.

And these are the MMORPG expansions I’ve played this year:

Rift, Starfall Prophecy
World of Warcraft, Legion

These are some games I bought and played in 2016 but were disqualified from contention:

Bastion (Released Aug 16, 2011)
Black Mesa (Early Access Release May 5, 2015)
Immune (Early Access Release March 25, 2015)
Miasmata (Released Nov 28, 2012)
NEO Scavenger (Early Access Release Dec 15, 2014)
Novus Inceptio (Early Access Release Oct 5, 2015)
Salt (Early Access Release Aug 22, 2014)
SOMA (Released Sep 22, 2015)

On to the awards!

Game of the Year: Dark Souls III

I mean, come on. Not even a contest. Other games on the above list are play-once-and-forget-about-it games (yes, even Civ 6, in which I have not even completed a full game, and kind of wish I’d waited for a sale), whereas I could replay Dark Souls III an infinite number of times and not get tired of it. I’ve played it through at least six times already.

MMORPG of the Year: Black Desert Online

Riders of Icarus barely rates a mention. It was between Blade and Soul and Black Desert, and to me the easy winner is Black Desert Online. I had a lot more fun with BDO. I’m not sure I even made it out of the tutorial area with Blade and Soul.

MMORPG Expansion of the Year: Legion

This was a tough one because I played both Legion and Starfall Prophecy for roughly the same amount of time: Less than a month. Both expansions are basically more of the same in their respective MMORPGs. It’s a toss-up, but I gave the edge to Legion. Legion had less bugs and an impressive array of cut scenes, while Rift had more friction with some frustratingly difficult gameplay.

Biggest Disappointment Of The Year: Far Cry Primal

I was really hoping that Far Cry Primal would have more survival elements. I was hoping it would be the first AAA survival game that wasn’t just a rushed-out-the-door indie train wreck. But it wasn’t a survival game. It was a Far Cry game, set in prehistoric times. It was fun, and they have a good formula, but it was essentially “more of the same.” (I have the same expectations for Conan Exiles now: That it will be the first AAA survival game.)

WoW Legion, Last Impressions

In this post I will share my thoughts on the new features found in Legion. This will probably be the last time I talk about WoW since, barring a last minute change of heart, I’m planning to let my subscription end today, the 12th.

A brief character status update: In case you’re wondering, the brick wall hits in Suramar, the fifth zone. That’s where the grind begins and you’ll start wondering why you ever came back to WoW. This is the exact quest that did it for me:

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I went looking for other fun things to do. For my Hunter, there is the Unseen Path quest line, but it also bogs down in a heavy-sigh-inducing grind at this quest:

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Not to mention the quest to complete five 24-hour plus Missions.

Eventually I found some more quests in Suramar, in Moon Guard Stronghold (which was a navigational pain in the butt) and in Suramar City (which looks very similar to Draumheim), but my heart wasn’t really in it. I was watching television most of the time I was going through the quests.

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Artifact Weapons

The basic idea is to get a weapon that you “level up” with mostly passive traits (as opposed to leveling up your character). I’m very ambivalent about the concept. Honestly I’m weary of never-ending “skill trees” in games. I don’t want to pick whether my weapon is better at one thing or another thing. I want my weapon to be equally good at everything. In any case, I don’t see where the Artifact system adds anything particularly great to the WoW experience. It just adds complexity for complexity’s sake in my view. If I had a choice in the matter, I’d go back to regular old boring, simple weapons.

Thankfully you can transmog your Artifact weapon, so if you’re like me and you hate the idea of being a Beast Master stuck with a gun, you can change it to a bow.

Class Halls

In a previous post, I hoped that the different class paths would provide some variety for alts. Well, that hope was dashed on the rocks and drowned in waves pounding over said rocks. There’s a unique quest line for every class specialization, to get your Artifact weapon, and that’s basically it. Beyond that, the main purpose of Class Halls is upgrading your Artifact weapon. But in leveling from 100 to 110, there’s little reason to upgrade your Artifact, so visits to your Class Hall are largely irrelevant, except to pick up occasional quests that start there. (There’s nothing functional in the Class Hall, like mailboxes or trainers or banks or anything, so Dalaran is always going to be your better choice as a hub.)

Maybe Class Halls were designed for people who liked Garrisons and managing those missions. Sort of like an optional Garrison component. (Like the Pet Battle system. If you like it, it’s cool, but if you don’t, you can safely ignore it.)

Zone Level Scaling

This is a neat feature, although it had little practical impact on my game. The only real effect is that you can decide which order to play the zones. But there’s only four zones to choose from, so it’s not a tremendous difference.

(A more cynical view of level scaling would be that it makes the milestones of reaching levels 101 through 109 somewhat pointless, as no new territory unlocks upon reaching those levels.)

Transmog

By modern MMORPG standards, the new WoW transmog system for customizing your wardrobe is still a bit primitive, but for tourists like me, at least it’s within the realm of feasibility to change outfits. Given that you only get one gear set from Legion’s questing rewards, it’s a good thing, too.

Honor Talents

I discovered when I reached 110 that there are yet more traits available to customize your character, over and above the regular Traits. These are for PvP, though, so I ignored them entirely.

Bonus Objectives

I think these were in Draenor but just in case, I’ll include them here. (I don’t remember so many being in Draenor.) These are the larger quest-like objectives that you get just by entering an area, somewhat like public quests, except they are solo objectives for you alone, and typical reward Class Hall resources. At first I enjoyed them and finished all of them, but then I started to resent how much time it took to finish them among other competing players. When I realized that Class Halls and their rewards were somewhat pointless, I started to skip the Bonus Objectives.

For some reason, these Bonus Objectives stop at level 110. I guess at that point they turn into World Quests.

World Quests

From what I can gather, these are what you’re supposed to do in WoW for the next two years, until the next expansion. Basically you run to a spot on the map and do what it says to do, and then you get a reward which is usually either Class Hall Resources or Artifact experience or gold. They are somewhat similar to levemetes in FFXIV, except they are spread out all over the map.

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My choice to continue subscribing depended a lot on whether these things would be fun, and to be blunt, they aren’t. They are a treadmill of time-killing chores with negligible rewards (at least, rewards that are meaningful to me). I’ve heard they are better than the usual endgame status quo in WoW, and if that’s true, I’m very sorry for the folks in the WoW community who are unwilling or unable to try other games. Better to leave until the next expansion, when Blizzard will give us all the gear we would have gotten, without having to suffer through all this drudgery.

Companion Mobile App

It’s pretty cool, but as described above, Class Halls are not very interesting or necessary, and the missions therein feel very pointless to me. Therefore, the companion app is mostly an exercise in using up a phone battery.

Zones

I can’t remember enough about each zone to give individual reviews. But in general, I enjoyed the smaller scale zone stories and mini-stories found in side quests. (I generally prefer each quest to be its own self-contained short story anyway.) Often I find WoW to be too over-the-top silly, but I didn’t run into much of that, for which I was thankful. The overarching Legion story did not hook me, but I’ve never been invested enough in Azeroth to care whether the Legion destroys the world anyway. (The scenario at The Exodar was pretty cool, though.)

Val’shara had one of the more memorable and touching zone stories as I recall. I also remember Val’shara seemed very small compared to the other zones, and I got very confused after wandering into something like a PvP arena (Black Rook something I think?). I had to Hearthstone out of there twice after I got stuck in a section from which there was no apparent exit. After that I abandoned that quest line.

I remember thinking Stormheim was unusual in the way it was divided into a Norse area and a Greymane-versus-Sylvanas grudge match. It didn’t seem to “flow” from one story area to the other. Getting thrown into Helheim was an interesting twist, though, and it was pretty amusing to see all the people packed in there running around helter-skelter. The cut scene of Greymane facing off against Sylvanas was very cool. (Wish I could see it again.)

I don’t particularly care for the Taurens and their not-so-subtle Native American shtick, so that bogged down my enjoyment of Highmountain. (It always makes me slightly uncomfortable and worried that I’m indirectly supporting racism.) The scenario where you relived Hulm Highmountain’s exploits was pretty hilarious though (a clone army of Hulms!), and it was cool to see the Nesingway hunting party again. (I haven’t seen them since Stranglethorn, so that was one of the most nostalgic moment of the expansion for me.)

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All of the zones are visually beautiful. There are so many places where you simply have to stop and take a screenshot. In fact, many places actually look … hold onto your hats … realistic. Particularly areas of Stormheim.

At this point, though, I have to wag a finger at WoW, as I do most MMORPGs, for not having sufficient screenshot controls. How many times would I have loved to be able to pan the camera viewport up or down, left or right? Every time, that’s how many. And the names! The cursed, stinking, rotten names that don’t go away when you hide the UI. Eventually I just started playing with most names turned off. (I know there’s supposed to be macros to hide all that stuff before taking screenshots, but I don’t have enough patience to deal with that just for this one game.)

Dungeons

This is the first time I’ve ever done any dungeons in WoW at the time they were released. I didn’t do any dungeons in Draenor, the only other expansion I played at launch, because I don’t remember there being any quests that led you into dungeons. Or maybe I just ignored them. Or maybe I did them and totally forgot about it. I honestly don’t remember much of anything about my time in Draenor.

The Broken Isles questing is organized such that the last quest in each zone takes you into a dungeon which finishes up the story and grants you the widget that Khadgar sent you to the zone for in the first place. I did the four dungeons at the end of the first four zones, two twice, one three times, for a grand total of seven dungeon runs. They were noticeably more complex than the dungeons I’ve done leveling from 1 to 70, but they weren’t exactly hardcore either. Deadly Boss Mods and previous MMORPG dungeon experience got me through most of the mechanics without much trouble.

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Most runs were 20-30 minutes, but one of them took about 40 minutes to get through–I think it was the one in Highmountain–and I felt like I was going to die of impatience by the end of it.

Interestingly, more than one of those dungeon runs included a Demon Hunter tank. Demon Hunters have been pretty popular on my server group. I’d guess a very healthy percentage of players decided to start out with a Demon Hunter, instead of continuing an existing class.

One difference I noticed in dungeons is a lack of need or greed rolls. The game automatically selects which person gets the loot, and only that person can loot the item from the boss. It’s a nice addition. I don’t know if that’s new in this expansion or if it’s been in the game a while, but it’s the first time I’ve seen it.

I’ve heard people complaining of dungeon queues, but I was in every dungeon as DPS within seconds, up until Saturday, the 10th, when I spent hours and hours waiting to get into Eye of Azsuna to get Advanced Corks.

Launch Issues

There were none for me. It was a totally flawless launch. One of the few things I do remember from Draenor was a lot of bugs, so this was a big improvement for Blizzard.

Wish List

I miss the pre-expansion Invasions. They were by far the most fun part of the expansion for me. Unless I’m missing something, there is nothing like that in the Broken Isles. They should bring them back. If nothing else, invasions would provide an alternative path to leveling from 100 to 110. (Once-in-a-blue-moon Kosumoth world bosses don’t count.)

I would have liked to see a lot more variety in the look of gear received as quest rewards. You only get one set of gear as an option, with minor color variations, all the way through. It made quest rewards totally unsurprising and humdrum. “Oh look, it’s another weird ring-shaped halo head piece for my Mage, same as before.” If you want anything other than “Standard Legion Class X” gear you have to grind dungeons or raids or transmog it up.

I mentioned this in my other post, but I would love to be able to read text from previous quests, replay cut scenes, and/or replay voiceovers and exposition, particularly exposition that happens during travel times. WoW tends to deliver story in very specific ways, and if you miss it or blink at the wrong time, you’re out of luck. I just want a little more control over the way I consume the story.

Curiosities

Why does the Dalaran Hearthstone sort to the bottom of my bags while my other two Hearthstones sort to the top?

Conclusions

Overall Legion is a fun expansion if you enjoy leveling in WoW, which I do, in short bursts. It is very much still WoW, though. It has not magically transformed into a new MMORPG. It’s still worth about one month of gaming enjoyment. But there isn’t enough “newness” in the expansion to make me want to continue a subscription.

In conclusion, I’ve seen a big chunk of the new stuff, I enjoyed it, I took a lot of great screenshots, now I’m ready to unsubscribe until the next expansion.

WoW Legion Status: Almost Done

Since my last WoW post, I’ve finished the first four zones, and leveled my Mage to 106 and my Hunter to 110. Total WoW time played since August 30, according to ManicTime, has been 55 hours. (It was a holiday weekend.) So yes, basically I’ve been playing nothing but WoW.

I intended to play my Mage all the way to the end, and started out going through Azsuna, then Stormheim, ending up at level 106. (By “finishing” zones, by the way, I mean I did all the quests I found and completed the final dungeon in the zone’s story which gives you the foozboozle piece you put in that Hall of the Guardian.)

Stormheim
Stormheim

Then I realized that I hated soloing with the Mage. It’s just so slow to kill things. I’d made a huge mistake starting out with him and I couldn’t bear the thought of going through two more zones like that. The Mage is much better suited to group play (say, for example, pre-launch Invasions).

I was annoyed to leave six levels on the table, so to speak, but nothing is worse than being bored playing WoW, so I switched back to my Hunter, which is the only other 100 character I have (no, I still haven’t used any level boosts), and went with Beast Mastery. It took a while to get the hang of the more passive, almost DoT-oriented play style, but it’s definitely a faster overall Time-To-Kill than the Mage. (At least it feels that way.)

Taking advantage of the fact that you could do zones in any order, I went to Val’shara next (first zone for my Hunter, but third for me overall), which I came to think of as the hippy free love zone because of all the spaced out half-nekkid centaur ladies. The dungeon at the end was a mess of anxiety for me as I quickly remembered how stressful it is to play a Hunter in dungeons. First there was the panicked search for how to turn off Growl so the tank wouldn’t yell at me. (It wasn’t on the pet bar so I had to find it in the Pet tab of the Spellbook.) Then there was the constant fear of accidentally pulling mobs if one of my pets (and there are two now!) pathed too close to something. (I don’t know if that’s still a thing or not, but I assume it is.)

Val'shara
Val’shara

After that, curiosity got the better of me and I switched to the Survival spec and picked up the Talonclaw artifact before going through Highmountain. I knew from the Internets that a lot of people don’t like the Survival Hunter but I thought it was fun and well-suited to soloing. I usually enjoy spear classes, since they are fairly uncommon in RPGs. (I also like Dragoon in FFXIV.) I liked it right up until I got to the dungeon at the end of the zone and felt pretty worthless. I could just feel all the others in the group staring at me through their monitors thinking, “Why the hell is that weirdo playing a Survival Hunter in here?” Some post-dungeon research confirmed that the Survival spec is apparently not good for groups.

So I switched back to Beast Mastery. (Having wasted a bit of Artifact experience on the Talonclaw.) At that point I had no choice but to start repeating zones, so I went back to Azsuna again. After zipping through Azsuna and Stormheim at a highly accelerated pace*, my Hunter ended up at level 110. (I reached 110 in the middle of Helheim.)

Highmountain
Highmountain

Now it might sound like I’m playing through Legion pretty fast, and indeed I am, because I’m trying to “finish” by September 12th because, you guessed it, that’s when my subscription ends. At the moment I don’t see any compelling reason to continue subscribing, because unless something miraculous happens at level 110, my interest is probably doing to nose dive.

Don’t get me wrong, Legion is fun, and I’m enjoying it. But I probably won’t re-sub. There’s too many other games to play to get bogged down in WoW minutia.

Granted, I have not yet had a chance to explore the “World Quests” at 110. I have to finish another zone apparently before I have the reputation necessary to start that, so I probably won’t get to that until the weekend. When I reached 110, a bunch of people came out of the woodwork to give me new quests, too, so I’ll have to work through those, too. Maybe they will spur me to hang onto my subscription for another month, but I kind of doubt it.

In another post I will get into more details of what I think of the new features in Legion.

* I was listening to the MassivelyOP podcast on the way to work this morning and Justin wondered if the zones were going to be boring the second time through. The answer is unfortunately yes, yes they are. I was mainly going through the motions to finish the quests as quickly as possible the second time, as I already knew how everything would turn out and there was nothing new to see. Occasionally I stumbled on a quest I missed the first time, but it was rare. So yeah, don’t pay for a 3-month subscription. :)

Why I Can’t Follow WoW’s Story

I hadn’t had a chance to play much WoW since Tuesday, so I logged in Thursday night to continue my adventures with my Mage and his new Ebonchill gizmo. I hadn’t done much of anything since he obtained his Artifact.

When I logged in, I had a quest to turn into the Great Alakazam, or whatever his name is. (I can’t quite make it out in the picture below.) I clicked him and turned in the quest, not really paying attention to what it was. I vaguely remembered this guy was supposed to find more mages to bring into “my” class hall.

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He had another quest which I accepted. I didn’t remember anything about what I was supposed to be doing or why, so I expected to read this quest and have my memory jogged about what I was doing. This is the quest I got:

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Basically I was supposed to pick the first zone to go to in the Broken Isles.

On a game mechanics level, it was obvious what I was supposed to do and why. This was where the “scale-the-zones-to-your-level” started to come into play. I could go anywhere that struck my fancy.

From a mechanics perspective, that’s pretty cool. I like it.

But then I started to think about my character. Why exactly was I supposed to go to a zone at all? What’s my character’s motivation here? Am I looking for something? I already got my Artifact, which was the last thing I remember I was supposed to be looking for.

Again, this is the point where I would read the quest text to refresh my memory. Re-reading it, I see that I’m supposed to “get this show on the road” and “plan my first moves.” Um, what? Moves for what? What show? I’m holding the Great Powerful Artifact right in my hand. Shouldn’t I just go to Legion Headquarters and kill the Big Bad and save the world? I thought that was the whole point of getting the Artifact in the first place.

People who understand WoW are probably screaming at their screens now about how obvious the answers are, but my point is that if your only source of information is the text in the quest dialogs, it’s not obvious at all.

I thought that perhaps the last quest had some crucial information that I missed, so I went looking for a way to bring up a list of quests I’d completed. If there’s a way to do that, I sure couldn’t find it. Once you finish a quest, all that knowledge is apparently gone forever. (Yes, I know I could go to a wiki and find every quest ever made. That’s not the point.)

I figured there must be something on the map itself that would give me an explanation.

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Not really. Just a list of zones. I zoomed in on one to see the explanatory text. Here’s the one for Azsuna, where I ended up going:

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Um okay. Khadgar is “planning an expedition.” That’s really informative. Why do I care about this expedition, exactly? Where is he going? What’s he hoping to find? (I’ve already gotten the Artifact, Khadgar!)

And, again, who the hell is Khadgar? :)

(Okay, I remember him from earlier in the expansion, but I still don’t know who he is or why I’m taking orders from him.)

Browsing over the other zones I discovered that Khadgar apparently had plans for all of the zones, simultaneously, a feat which I found somewhat incredulous.

(By the way, do we really need to see how much gold we’re going to get from quests any more? Is anyone even the slightest bit motivated by how much gold or experience a quest gives in WoW? 1.54 gold is not even a significant amount for me. That would buy, like, one copper ore on the Auction House.)

It turned out there was more information when you click on Accept.

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Okay, at least there’s a little bit of meat here. But it just raises more questions than it answers.

First, he says we need to reseal the Tomb of Sargeras. Okay, sounds good. You might think he would then go on to explain why we need to do that, but you’d be wrong.

The very next thing it says is that Khadgar has uncovered information about an ancient relic which might stop the Legion.

The first thing I’m thinking is that well maybe that information is in that Tomb you want to seal, Khadgar. Maybe don’t seal the Tomb then. And what is that Tomb anyway? Why do we need to seal it? What’s in there that’s so bad? Who or what is a Sargeras? Why do I care about him, her, or it? Why do I care anything about these Broken Isles? From my Mage’s perspective, I’ve never even heard of them before.

And by the way, I just got an ancient relic. It’s called Ebonchill, a supposedly devastating weapon of mighty power. Now you’re telling me I need another gadget? Nobody told my poor little mage that stopping the Legion was going to be an endless scavenger hunt. Maybe just let the Legion have the Broken Isles. What do I care? Are any of my Mage friends there? Do I have a Mage house there? Mage family? Did I go to Mage high school there?

No to all of the above. I clearly remember going to Mage high school somewhere around Ironforge. (And the Legion isn’t bothering them anymore.)

Somewhere on the Internet, there are probably very reasonable answers to all of my questions, but the point is that there are no answers in any of the quest dialog text. What I showed above contains every piece of information given to the player in the game. Is it any wonder that everybody just skips the quest text in WoW?

And that’s one small example of why I never know what is going on with WoW stories and lore, and why I’m never immersed in the game world. It’s purely a mechanics game for me.

Early Legion Impressions

So far Legion is … well, just like playing WoW.

On your mark, get set, ...
On your mark, get set, …

I only played for about an hour and a half last night. I stopped right after I got my Mage Artifact staff Ebonchill. Obviously I haven’t seen all there is to see in Legion, but it starts out with … quests. Just like you’ve done in WoW for the last 50 bazillion years.

As yet there is no emergent new gameplay to be seen, which makes it a bit less interesting for me than the pre-expansion Invasions. I hear there will be something like Invasions somewhere in the expansion, though. Here’s hoping.

As per usual, this WoW Lore newbie has no idea what is going on or who any of the people or places are that the quests refer to. They really don’t explain much in the quest dialog text itself. I can only assume that there are external sources (like the trailers maybe, or comic books, or fan sites that deep dive into lore) that give some context to all of this.

Not understanding the lore is nothing new for me and WoW, though, and it wouldn’t stop me from playing. I mention it though because it would be nice if they could put some thought into helping new, super casual tourists to understand the characters and story. (Inside the game that is.)

Oh! I just thought of something they might try. They could link to the previous quests in previous expansions that would give you the background you need for the current story. In the quest text somewhere, it might say, “Click here to get the Level X quest that introduces Character Y.” (Like Khadgar, for example. I have no idea who he is or why he’s important in this expansion. And the whole thing where Jaida(?) stormed out of that one meeting. Who the heck is Jaida?) They could provide a whole list or index of the previous quests. Something like that. Maybe somebody could make an Addon like that.

Anyway, on to other things. I really like the concept of the class halls. It ensures (I assume) that each alt you play will have a different Legion experience. I don’t know how far the unique class path goes, but I hope it goes beyond the point where you get your Artifact weapon. So, for people who play lots of alts, this should be a bonanza. (I only have two characters at level 100 though.)

Unfortunately it was a huge disappointment when I got my Artifact and came back to my class hall to find a whole bunch of other players were trespassing all over the space that I thought I would have all to myself. Let’s hope I don’t have to spend a lot of time there watching people run in circles and jump up and down.

One thing that was a big surprise to me was how hard it was to get my Artifact. I’m playing a Frost Mage, who I just leveled from level 74 to 100 using Invasions. I thought I had all the ilevel 700 gear, but I got killed six or seven times in demon-occupied territory.

Likely to be attacked indeed...
Likely to be attacked indeed…

(I’m sure it had nothing to do with the fact that I learned nothing about how to play my class solo from those Invasions.)

My experience of soloing with the Mage class over the years is basically that you need to stand there and kill the other guy before he kills you. Kiting is usually not an option since all the best spells have a cast time. The Mage has nothing in the way of self-heals, and also when starting Legion, I realized I had no healing potions because in leveling to 100, all of my previous potions became obsolete, and I never bought any new ones. (I don’t even know where to buy them.)

Usually the mobs in WoW are pushovers so killing them quickly is easy. But it wasn’t the case here. So it was that in fighting the Big Bad to get my Artfiact, I had to pull out every trick I could think of to increase my damage output and mitigate damage input. I think it took four tries before I got him. It was a very unexpected obstacle to overcome, since I seem to recall blowing through everything at light speed in the last expansion.

This is a good thing, right?
This is a good thing, right?

Not that I’m complaining, mind you. It’s kind of cool to be challenged in WoW for a change. As yet I can’t tell if it’s just me or if they have actually designed it to be challenging. (My bet is that it’s me. I probably missed an obvious button I was supposed to push that would insta-gib the guy.)

WoW Invasion Level Tally

WoW leveling tallies from the Invasion events so far: Mage from 73 to 87. Warlock from 50 to 60. Priest from 34 to 52. Druid from 23 to 32. My goal is to get the Priest and Druid to 60 before the end of the event. That will give me three choices from which to pick my two level boosts (one to 90 and one to 100). (My understanding is that if you boost from 60 it will also boost your professions too.)

(In truth it will almost certainly be Warlock and Priest, because I don’t like the Druid class that much. On paper it’s awesome but I don’t like the look of any of the shape-shifted forms.)

It seemed like the experience gains were about right to me over the weekend. However it’s definitely on a curve: The higher your character level, the less experience you get per Invasion, and thus the slower the leveling.

I got noticably more XP from participating instead of AFKing, with bigger mobs generally giving more experience than littler mobs. Also it seemed like all you had to do was tag a mob to get the full experience from it. Many times I came up late to groups killing the big skull-mobs, threw in a hit or two at the very end, and still got a bunch of experience from it. (I was never in a group so I don’t know if that affects XP gains.)

I’ve long since lost interest in opening any of those Legion chests. The chests fill up my inventory and when I run out of space I put them in the bank. My assumption is that if I wait until I get to level 100 to open them, they’ll have ilevel 700 gear in them. Maybe that’s wrong. I guess I’ll find out in the coming years if these characters ever get to 100. (Of course, I’m sure the first quests in Legion will also have ilevel 700 gear so it doesn’t matter either way.)

I have to admit to having a lot of fun with the whole Invasion process this past weekend. I spent more time playing than I intended to, and cancelled some boring chores because of it. It just seems like time disappears when you’re "into" WoW. One minute it’s morning, then the next minute it’s afternoon and raining and too late to mow.

Maybe "fun" isn’t the right word exactly. Maybe "comfort" is a better description for the feeling from playing WoW lately. These kinds of large-scale group events where you can participate anonymously are especially comforting to me in a way that dungeons aren’t. They are easy and predictable and I know exactly what to do. That’s really an attractive prospect at a time when everything in real life seems nerve-wracking and chaotic. (EG. My house is now covered with boxes and I have no idea where any of my possessions are, and the task of finding and organizing them is completely overwhelming.)

The problem that I’ve always had with WoW, though, is that it tends to become repetitious or unrewarding too quickly. It’s too easy to see behind the curtain, where it’s revealed that nothing fundamentally new awaits you no matter where you go or what you do. Let’s hope Legion will be different.

P.S. It’s amusing to participate in these events sub-level 60, and especially sub-level 40. Everyone else takes off to fly to the next boss, leaving you in the dust to hoof it on your roughly-turtle-speed ground mount, hoping to even reach the next boss before everybody else kills it. There’s always a few stragglers putt-putting away along the ground, having to go around obstacles instead of over them, straining and hoping to keep up with the cool kids, looking somehow vaguely embarrassed about their slowness.

Legion Pre-Expansion Invasions Are Fun

I had fun with the WoW Zone Events aka. Invasions over the weekend.

But first, the biggest news from my weekend was that I finally moved all my furniture from the old rental house into my new house. I achieved my goal of picking the hottest day of the entire year to move. I believe it was upwards of 95 degrees Farenheit with a heat index of 105. (Google tells me that’s 35 and 40.5 Celsius, but that doesn’t sound nearly hot enough to me.) The temperature reading inside the old house was 92 by the time we left. Since I am not currently dead, I must have stayed sufficiently hydrated.

But enough about that. I re-subbed to WoW on Friday night because I kept reading about these pre-expansion Invasions. They sounded a lot like Rift Zone Events, which are pretty fun, so I thought it was worth $15 to check them out. I logged in to find that my talents were reset and I had no idea how to play my 100 Hunter anymore. This is not surprising, because it happens basically every time I log in after being away for a while.

I’m no expert but this time it seems like they’ve really pared down the number of rotation keys, because now I think I’m down to three abilities with Beast Mastery. I’m probably doing it wrong though. (I routinely forgot to summon my pet, so that’s how good I am at playing the Hunter right now. Not that it matters, because you can almost auto-attack everything and still succeed in WoW.)

Friday night I went through the Broken Shores quest thingy, which was kind of cool I guess. I literally had no idea who any of the characters were in that story so I had zero personal investment in it. I must be the worst WoW lore consumer in the world because I kept seeing all these people doing these heroic things and I kept asking myself, "Am I supposed to know or care who this is?" The answer must obviously be yes, but I sure didn’t. The only name I actually recognized was Sylvannas, but it took me quite a while to remember where I knew that name from. (From the early levels of playing my Undead Warlock ages ago.) Perhaps they should have put a refresher course in one of those cut scenes at the beginning for people like me who only pop into WoW for a month or two every couple of years.

Side gripe: I found it kind of annoying that the cut scenes were in a lower resolution than the actual game video.

Later I learned that most of those names in that Broken Shore event were found in my Garrison, which explains why I didn’t recognize them, since I stopped playing WoW about the time I finished my Garrison. I hadn’t even built a Shipyard. Strangely, when I looked around my Garrison, it seemed like there were quite a few more people there than when I last left it. It looked like a thriving metropolis. I guess it expanded while I was gone.

It wasn’t until Sunday that I got to experience my first Zone Event aka. Invasion. In short, they are fun. (I hate to be a smug sarcastic bastard about it, but seriously, if you like the gameplay in these WoW Invasions, you might want to check out Rift.) I picked up a bunch of item level 700 welfare epics for my Hunter (previously I think I was somewhere around item level 580-something). In typical WoW fashion, the events are really easy, except for when you get killed for no apparent reason. But since the Invasions typically take place right on top of a graveyard, it’s no big deal.

Then I discovered the true purpose of the Invasions: Leveling alts. I spent a little time playing my Mage (73) and Warlock (43), participating in one or two events each, trying to figure out how the new specializations and rotations work. Again, I feel like everything was simplified. It’s like they really, really want you to play one specific way with these updated specializations. Any skills that deviate from the baseline are gone entirely. Also am I crazy or can I switch between the 3 specializations at will now? I think you used to have to pick only 2 of the 3. Maybe I should, like, you know, read the patch notes.

At any rate I give the Pre-Expansion Invasions a thumbs-up. For me, they’re going to be a nice way to grab some levels for my alts without having to resort to dungeons or questing. I like doing group events without having to know or care who I’m playing with. Actually I wish they would make these Invasions a permanent addition to WoW because they were my favorite things to do in Rift. Unfortunately Rift’s population is too low to sustain the zone events everywhere now, but even in these dark days WoW still has a comparatively huge population to support something like that.