WoW Factor: The state of professions in Legion

The state of World of Warcraft’s professions in Legion is a weird one because it’s obvious how much work has gone into crafting for the expansion. So much of it is nice and effective work; it’s clear Blizzard put a lot of effort into professions to make them engaging. I’d even go so far as to say that most of the professions are in a better state than ever, simply because you can jump right in rather than having to do a bunch of tedious catch-up; you can easily log in and start doing what you want, progressing organically.

Unless, of course, you want to make something that’s actually relevant at level 110. Then you’re straight-up screwed.

That’s the central problem I see when talking about all of the work done on professions for this expansion. It’s very clear that tons of work went in to making a lot of content for all of the various professions, and the development team wants you to really push the envelope and play with all of them. It just failed to give much in the way of reasons to do so.

Some expansions really can screw up crafting forever; case in point.Let’s start with the bad, or more accurately, the pointless: The amount of time needed to actually make useful gear at the level cap is absurd. You could spend days on end crafting, gathering, breaking things down, and slowly advancing gear… or you could just go do a handful of world quests and wind up with something better in seconds. The whole concept seems like it’s an attempt to port over part of the Warlords of Draenor enhancement without any understanding of why that needed to be in place, and without even pretending to fix the mess that was crafting in Garrisons.

Of course, not every profession centers solely around crafting things to wear; while Tailoring, Leatherworking, and Blacksmithing are going to be in a rough spot there, there’s still Inscription, Enchanting, Jewelcrafting, Alchemy, and Engineering, right? Except that most of those have similarly been hit hard with the absurdity bat. Inscription has basically become about making making gear, since glyphs are now hopelessly anemic and wildly optional, while it’s anyone’s guess whether or not any given equipment will even have a slot for Jewelcrafting. Engineering has always been a profession for whatever, to boot. No one really benefits from the setup.

I recognize that we’re seeing the endgame of a design philosophy that wanted players to stop feeling like their new shoulders would be great once those shoulders were socketed, enchanted, and so forth. That’s understandable. It’s just that this shift is ignoring the fact that there were entire crafting professions in place to handle the socketing and enchantment. Taking that away takes away a lot of what made those professions matter.

It’s also kind of baffling because once you move past that mess, the professions are really well-handled.

For one thing, I really enjoy how every single profession has quests associated with it. I like that for several reasons, not the least of which being that it gives each profession at least a little individual flavor. This is huge in this particular expansion, simply because there’s only one leveling path for any given character that always involves all four Broken Isles zones. Anything to break that up is a good thing.

The fact that you can learn increasing ranks of a recipe also helps as motivation, since the higher the rank, the more efficiently you can produce something. Rather than just becoming a matter of simply climbing the power ladder, it’s a matter of steady improvement and overall upgrades, allowing you to do more with the same set of resources.

Most of the usual gripes for the expansion professions don’t bother me nearly as much. Yes, there’s always a dungeon quest, but a quest that can be completed on any level of the dungeon doesn’t bother me all that much; you can always queue up for a normal dungeon and wait for it to happen. (I have my issues with the dungeon design, but that’s neither here nor there when it comes to the existence of the quests.) Similarly, you’re probably going to have to head into the open PvP area in the sewers… but that’s as much of a breadcrumb quest as anything, exposing you to the idea that you can do more down here if you want to.

If the game actually had a crafting-centric progression path (as in some other games I play and write about) it would bother me, but this is WoW here. Crafting has always been a side activity to other content. The number of quests and activities related to it are good things, including the fact that you’ll find various world quests hanging around for your chosen fields.

Conjuring food should not be the most efficient sort of crafting.

It’s just that all of this effort goes into something that’s going to be completely meaningless aside from amusement at level 110. And that’s the biggest problem; there’s no sense of reward, no feeling of payoff for all of the effort along the way. Hooray, I can make ineffective stuff that looks like leveling equipment in the unlikely event that someone didn’t get that appearance elsewhere. Yay, my scribe can pen a handful of cosmetic glyphs. You get the general idea.

Steps have been taken, of course, to address this issue. But they still rely upon the same sort of grinding tediousness, and I wonder if some of it is wasted effort. The reality is that professions are not being targeted to provide much in the way of viable gear. At the level cap, that’s not what they do, and far too many resources are going into making that less true rather than focusing on what professions can do well.

Engineering, in its own way, has always had the answer: Give people fun things to make, and they’ll make them. Give people toys, weird additions to their lineups. Give people appearances, let them wear new outfits. I’ve said many times that if all I can do is produce appearances on my scribe, I should have every reason in the world to be producing tons of cosmetic glyphs. I want to be choking on them.

“But what about utility for raids?” We already have a model for that in Alchemy and Inscription, too; people are always going to need consumables in small numbers, and if that’s the primary thing that each profession offers, then it becomes less about “everyone should be profession X” and more about making sure you have all of your consumables in line. But let’s stop pretending that this game is ever going to have a setup wherein you can level up Blacksmithing to the point where you just use that for gearing. It hasn’t happened yet and it’s not going to happen. Simple as that.

Feedback, as always, is welcome in the comments below or via mail to eliot@massivelyop.com. Next time around, we’ll doubtlessly have more stuff going on for the 7.2 PTR, so I intend to take a look at all of that and share my thoughts on the matter. Wish me luck.

War never changes, but World of Warcraft does, with a decade of history and a huge footprint in the MMORPG industry. Join Eliot Lefebvre each week for a new installment of WoW Factor as he examines the enormous MMO, how it interacts with the larger world of online gaming, and what’s new in the worlds of Azeroth and Draenor.
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