Gear as character progression #Warcraft #EverquestII #TESOnline

We had an interesting discussion while playing World of Warcraft yesterday: namely on the issue of character progression for the last few expansions. This is a follow-on topic from yesterday’s post in part.

The complaint was that in modern WoW the levels are less meaningful or enjoyable because your character fails to grow in a meaningful way. Yes the numbers keep going up as you gear up, but there are no new skills or variations on your play style. I sympathise with this view as I prefer rich character build options and, preferably, the chance to try up different abilities on the one character without major barriers or costs.

I should clarify here that in Legion there were legendaries, some that subtly or overtly changed your specialisation’s play style – whether that was something you wanted or enjoyed in actual play was very pot luck. The devs decided which specs had what legendaries and a pretty harsh RNG system decided which players received what. In the later part of the expansion a hidden ‘bad luck’ system was introduced to slowly raise the drop chance on legendaries on a given character, but they were still random so no guarantee that you’d ever receive the one legendary you wanted to change-up the characters rotation.

A legendary from Legion

It was a byzantine approach to a standard problem – how to keep players excited about playing the same character through patch after patch of content. What keeps combat from becoming a boring slog? I guess for some players that is never an issue, for me the chance for some variation is important. For instance in Elder Scrolls Online, I have two different weapon skill sets to mix together that can be radically different, plus the more recent DLC content adds a new skill line or two that any character can learn to mix-and-match new abilities. Likewise in Everquest 2 there’s the alternative advancement system and more recent additions like Ascension abilities.

Changing things up with AAs

The counter argument is that the simplification of WoW’s character system, and the removal of talents, was an attempt to solve the feedback that there was skill bloat and general confusion over the talent system. ‘Tightening’ the rotations of the classes and specs has led to a better learning experience for those new to the game, but also for veterans trying a new class or spec. The gear as character customisation paradigm is the new method of progressing our characters and fulfils the same need without re-bloating the skill bars or adding yet another tier of talents.

It’s certainly true that too many buttons can be an issue. Content has generally gotten more fast paced in World of Warcraft, there’s more to avoid or react to during fights in open world content when you get into the Warlords, Legion and Battle for Azeroth expansions. So having tighter rotations makes sense.

I find myself wanting something new for levelling, I’m very used to standard progression styles from the other games I play. It’s early days for BfA so we may not have the full picture of what is coming for the Artifact gear system.

Does the gear as character progression work for you?

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7 Responses to Gear as character progression #Warcraft #EverquestII #TESOnline

  1. Pingback: Why are there Levels in Battle for Azeroth? | The Ancient Gaming Noob

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  3. Pingback: Why are there Levels in Battle for Azeroth? | WorldNewsBuz

  4. Meznir says:

    I think the gear levelling in Legion was more supposed to be levelling your artifact weapon to unlock roughly 3 new abilities and a load of new passives in a skill tree fashion – however most people unlocked them all within the first couple of weeks. Maybe that was one of the mistakes – maybe they should have unlocked a lot slower so we were working towards new abilities through the expansion. The counter aurgument there of course is balance for both PVP and raiding – if people are missing key skills.

    I really miss my imaginary green dragon and my conal breath heal 😭

    In BfA, gear-skill progression seems to be new skills via Azerite Armour. With a large amount of new abilities to pick from. They’ve tried to dial back on the RNG by having gear drops have specific abilities rather than random ones, so you can target a drop – though it’s still down to RNG as to whether you get it.

    Thinking on it, this seems a lot more interesting than just getting one new talent row when you ding 120.

  5. Gevlon says:

    The problem with complicated skill systems is that boss fights are static, therefore the optimal skill set to fight them is universal. Ergo, someone figures it out, everyone else just copies it or be called a noob. Actually experimenting and figuring out yourself is ridiculed.

    Since copying a website is not engaging gameplay, we are back to the primitive “farm AP to watch bar grow”.

    The solution would be dynamic fights where different skills would shine, but that would demand more from the players than “shoot skull, don’t stand in bad” which is too much to ask from 99%.

    • Telwyn says:

      The most fun fight I can remember in WoW was Anhuur, the first boss of Halls of Origination. The mechanics were simple enough – when he casts the area wide damage spell go pull two levers down in a pit either side of the boss. But the combination of this design and variety of available class abilities at the time (Warlock portals, druid dash, priest ally pull, etc) allowed for some very varied tactics to solving this ASAP. Different groups of characters in the trinity rolls made for very different experiences. This was good design IMHO – a static mechanic but one set in an environment where various abilities helped to mitigate the challenge of distance and all the fast spawning snake mobs that complicated the switch-pulling effort.

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