WoW: the gulf between content and system changes

Although I’m on a break from World of Warcraft at the moment, mainly waiting on a date for the pre-expansion mega patch, I’m still following the news and discussions on the development of Legion. It seems of late that there’s a gulf growing between what I’m looking forward to with this expansion and what I’m not.

That gulf could be drawn roughly on system vs story lines.

 Good stuff  Bad stuff
Night Elf zone/lore Glyph removal/Inscription changes
Balance Druid changes? Artifact weapons
Vrykul zone/lore More ability pruning
Non-Orc enemies (Demons, Naga etc) Garrisons vs 2.0 (a k a Class Halls)

It’s a bit of a scratch list but it covers the main points I’ve heard or read about so far. There are system aspects to the expansion that may be positive – the level agnostic zones could make group questing easier or just could equally make the zones seem disconnected from the expansions story. The changes to tapping rules are probably a bonus but how well will they actually work in practice? Of the points I list only one system change is positive (Balance druid changes), while every negative I’ve heard about is a system change.

Otherwise I’m just not that happy with the general direction of most of Blizzard’s system changes. I’m not a “Vanilla WoW or bust” diehard, I played enough in Pandaria and Draenor, but there’s been quite an accumulation of simplifications over the years and it seems that Blizzard still hasn’t finished along that path. Given that the game’s population stopped growing years ago I’d say investing in yet another round of simplifications and outright system removals is a big waste of money and dev time at this point – surely they can’t still think that nerfing everything yet again will bring back all the players they’ve lost? The fact that they have held meetings with the Nostalrius private server team with much PR fanfare may at least hint that the devs are aware of some dissatisfaction among the playerbase over what WoW has become.

I’m looking forward to Legion for the storytelling primarily. Draenor had some pretty great story arcs despite me not really caring for the Orcs, Orcs and more Orcs core theme. Legion will move us on to enemies that I’m much more interested in any way: e.g. the Burning Legion and (maybe) Naga. They’ll also give some spotlight finally to the Night Elves – my original druid character is a Night Elf. There’s also a tiny ray of hope that they’ll finally remove the loathed straight-jacket ties of the Eclipse mechanism from my beloved Balance spec. That’s a system change I await with some optimism.

Yesterday I listened to the latest BlizzWatch podcast (ep. 76) and was disheartened to hear about the probable gutting of the Inscription profession. I’m oblivious to any stated reasons for doing this, glyphs have been a real fun addition to the game; indeed in Pandaria and Draenor the devs showed real imagination in adding lots of non-combat/cosmetic glyphs that add fun aspects to characters without any combat/power implications (e.g. Glyph of the Flapping Owl). I expect some effects will be kept in some form (I think they mentioned on the podcast you buy a book from a NPC instead); but why on earth gut such an imaginative profession? *shakes head*.

The expansion is all about Class Fantasy apparently yet some classes are a shadow of their former selves and at least one is losing more still in the coming expansion.  It’s been a long time since my current Shaman main felt whole. Totems were gutted some time ago reduced to reactive short-time buff spells instead of the positional/stackable buff spells they once were. Warlocks are losing some abilities to the new Demon Hunter class, they already lost some in the past to Death Knights. Oh and Shadow Priests are all going to suddenly convert to worshiping the Void

Of course I’m not in Beta testing, I don’t want to spoil storylines or deal with bugged quests ahead of the launch so I’m just reacting to non-spoiler generic news articles. I will play Legion at least for a few months to see what shape the game is in come the Autumn. Generally story trumps systems in my book, at least so far as the first or second playthrough. But the system changes, in particular the class tinkering and endless simplifications, do add up to a disconnect with the longer game – I’m not the altaholic I once was and I barely care about professions anymore. Here’s hoping I’m pleasantly surprised when Legion launches!

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2 Responses to WoW: the gulf between content and system changes

  1. Shintar says:

    Well, system changes in general have become a bit of a bane of WoW in the past couple of years, haven’t they? They’re constantly adding and removing things as well as changing the way classes work… you get the impression they aren’t happy with their own game.

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