My World of Warcraft subscription ended weeks ago, and the last time I actually played was September 3rd, a month ago. I meant to go back and complete the Siege of Boralus but I got too involved playing The Witcher again. I rescued Jaina though, so that was a good-enough ending for me.
I figured I should finally post what I thought of the expansion.
I get the impression there’s a lot of people complaining about Battle for Azeroth. I don’t see that myself. I only see the people saying, “Gosh there’s a lot of people angry about this expansion.” I don’t know where people are looking to see all these angry people, or why people are even looking there. I’ve only seen people reporting what I consider to be legitimate criticisms in a fairly respectful way.
As for me, this expansion was “okay.” I probably had more fun with Legion. This one was kind of a slog to get through. I don’t attribute that to any egregious flaws in the game, though. A big part of it was my own fairly meh attitude toward MMORPGs right now.
Mechanically, Battle for Azeroth felt identical to Legion. That might sound like a dig, but it’s actually a compliment, because Legion felt pretty good. It’s just that … it was more of the same. There was nothing “new” in the gameplay to experience. I mashed the buttons and watched monsters die in exactly the same way as last time. (I’m sure min-maxers would disagree, but in the questing game, none of the numbers matter in the slightest.)
There was one exception: The Azerite armor mechanic. I didn’t like it. It was a needless complication that I didn’t want in my life. I don’t want to unlock “powers” for my armor. I didn’t want to unlock “powers” for my Artifact weapon in the last expansion, either. I understand the development reasons why they do these kinds of things, but it’s just not as fun for the casual tourists who only stop by now and then. I can only assume that it was intended more for the people who eat, sleep, and breathe WoW 24/7. Fortunately (or maybe by design) I was able to ignore it during questing and did not feel like I was missing anything.
I like to see stories play out in MMORPGs, like I’m reading a book or watching a movie. I don’t remember which game gave me the idea that MMORPGs could even do that well (perhaps GW2 or FFXIV), but now I look for it all the time, and it’s probably the primary motivation I have for even playing RPGs these days. I saw a number of people praising Blizzard for upping their storytelling game, but I personally didn’t see evidence that there was much change in technique. I enjoyed the cut scenes, and the quality of those cut scenes is fantastic, but that occupied maybe 10 or 15 minutes of the nearly 40 hours that I played. The rest of the time, with some rare exceptions, you might as well be watching Netflix while ignoring what’s happening on your computer screen. The vast majority of the storytelling I saw came in the form of one-off “kill 10 rats” quests out in the world, which occasionally made me chuckle, but usually made no impact whatsoever.
I did enjoy Jaina’s overarching story, and I really liked the Disney-style cut scenes she was in. You can watch them on the World of Warcraft channel on YouTube. You don’t have to buy or play the game to see them. In fact, I strongly recommend you don’t buy the game if that’s what you want to see, because you’ll be wasting your money. I mean, unless you think it’s fair to spend $65 for 10 minutes of cut scenes. (I don’t.)
I have criticisms of that story though. I can’t get into it too much without spoilers, but I’ll just say I thought Katherine made a complete about-face without any discernible motivations. It was a big disappointment because that change of heart would have made a very compelling story. How exactly do you get from an angry “she is nothing to me” to a contrite “oops I made a mistake?” Katherine’s story would have been far more interesting to me than Jaina’s, which turned out to be somewhat passive in the end.
Oh one other little complaint I don’t think I’ve mentioned before: I found myself having to fight my way back out of quest areas more than I liked. This should be one of the things that every MMORPG developer must know by now: Nobody likes to complete a quest objective and then have to waste time fighting their way back to the quest giver for the reward. It’s boring and repetitious and unnecessary. Age of Conan was particularly bad about that, and I thought we as a species had evolved beyond it.
Despite that, WoW looks and performs better than it ever has before. The graphics are superb, the environments are gorgeous. Unfortunately that kind of stuff doesn’t hold my attention for very long anymore. It remains an MMORPG that you play for a couple of weeks and then leave until the next expansion. In this case though, I’m not sure it was worth paying the $65 for those couple of weeks. Next time maybe I’ll just wait until they throw in the expansion content for free.
Anyway here’s a 30-minute video I put together of my reactions to the first few hours in the expansion.