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.
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.
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?