WoW Factor: Is World of Warcraft’s Battle for Azeroth fixing Legion’s many problems?

Back in May, I wrote a whole article about why I was leaving World of Warcraft behind. All of the reasons I had back then? Still valid. Fact is, I’m still proud of that column (to the extent that I’m proud of anything I write; low self-esteem is a hell of a drug). So why am I here talking so much about Battle for Azeroth? How are you supposed to reconcile those conflicting facts? Do I hate this game or not?

The answer to those questions, in reverse order, is this: no; I highly doubt anyone actually wants to reconcile anything about my stated views; and because what we’ve seen so far actually addresses a lot of the problems I wrote about back in May. New information means new evaluation.

Obviously, this is not a blanket statement of “the next expansion will make everything better” because there are far too many question marks left to feel smug or confident about that. But, and this is an important “but,” we’ve got signs that several of the problems from Legion are actually being addressed. And considering that Legion was pretty good already, that brings us to a good spot.

Random soup

Sometimes random works out, eventually. Emphasis on eventually.One of the big problems with Legion, as I’ve mentioned before, was that the dang thing was shot through with randomness from top to bottom. Randomness existing is fine; it’s the fact that random drops could literally make the difference between “playable” and “crap” depending on your luck with Legendaries. That is an enormous damn problem, and it’s something that should never have gotten to this point.

It may, in fact, be the biggest problem that Legion had. And it’s something we know right away won’t be coming back in Battle for Azeroth because the designers have outright said that Legendaries are being banished to the land of wind and ghosts.

Yes, the whole Heart of Azeroth structure resembles making your own Legendary equipment for certain spots, but seeing as how those items both cannot be Titanforged and can be reliably gotten, it eliminates the central problem. You won’t wind up feeling like the thing that you really need has not shown up in the countless places it could possibly and randomly show up, nor are you going to be saddled (hopefully) with abilities that have no positive impact on your character whatsoever.

We don’t know about the other rewards, although I’ve got hopes that they may turn out to be less of a randomized mess. But even just removing one of the game’s major “slay and pray” elements puts more control in the hands of the players. It’s a huge structural problem actually being addressed, which seems as if it’s been absent from the game’s design for a long while; there’s been a tendency to listen to the few people who win from a system instead of the many who lose.

Top-heavy grind-heavy

Artifacts ran into another problem insofar as you were, honestly, not in a fun spot once you got to the top end. Get more Knowledge, boost up your AP gains even more, stack insane number of traits… you get the idea. The whole thing was beyond messy, and it seemed to change from “level up your weapon alongside your gameplay” to “level forever.” Plus, in a serious ding to its actual playability, there were no sorts of caps to observe; more Artifact levels were always out there, and more levels were always what you wanted.

The Heart of Azeroth provides more power as it levels, yes, but it’s set up to have a very different progress structure that isn’t purely about “get more.” Once you’ve unlocked all of the traits on your armor, well, further levels are just banked insurance, not something you need to claw for religiously. While the system might not have some of the fun of getting trillions of points at a go, it ultimately isn’t as clumsy as artifacts turned out to be.

Of course, as I mentioned in the comments the other day, that’s not how artifacts needed to be… but it’s how they were. It’s a moot discussion now.

Give me your babies.

Reward structures

This one gets the most into speculation territory; there are a lot of reward structures we just plain don’t know about yet. I think the odds of actually getting away from the whole “bonus roll” system are fairly low, much as I’d like to, but there’s also space to imagine that some new content might have different reward structures. And while Titanforging isn’t going away, the sheer insipid nature of the hunt for Legendaries is going away.

I’m not going to say that this is going to wildly fix Legion’s reward issues, considering how much the current designers love letting you hope for gear you want. But it does seem as if a lot of tweaks are being made to the system to make things feel less obnoxious, and there’s spots for hope.

Differentiation

One of the problems that Legion had on a structural level is that – and I say this at the risk of being pedantic – there was nothing new to be seen on a new character. The level scaling meant that you could tackle the continent however you wanted… if you ignored the fact that most of your early quests probably didn’t start in Stormheim, anyhow. But more importantly, by the time you reached level 110, you had more than likely seen all of the existing zones, and any new character was going to be doing the same thing, regardless of faction. There were a handful of factional quests and that was it.

Battle for Azeroth makes that better right out of the gate by ensuring that both factions get their own storylines, even more so as you realize that scaling is spreading through the whole world and gives you more options about what to explore. It’ll probably spread into a muddled mass at a certain point, yes, but the important element is that you have a larger pool of new stuff to see. Not an endless font of it (that’s impossible), but more.

So it justifies twice, at least. Maybe not three times.

“People just leave”

Ah, now we hit the crux of the matter, the comment that really just set me off in my May article. It was this idea out of Blizzard that understanding why people leave wasn’t important – the studio’s apparent conviction that a high rate of attrition was inevitable and should be handled with a shrug and a glance to the audience in confusion. This was the part that bothered me the most, coupled with boneheaded decisions that made it painfully clear why people left.

Unfortunately, Ion Hazzikostas is still there, so that’s not a great sign that something has changed. But the changes on prior points and the overall tenor says, at least to me, that if asked the same question, he might not say the same thing again – that somewhere, something clicked, an idea that perhaps “why people leave” is a problem to be addressed even if can’t be completely solved.

It seems to me that a change took place somewhere along the line, maybe even after those incredibly dumb words were spoken. And it feels, at least to me, as if someone’s gone back to giving a damn. Not that the work wasn’t being put in before (there’s a difference), but that there’s something more driving the expansion here.

I’ve spent the past week writing about the expansion, clarifying points that were there but weren’t really explained clearly, surveying reasons why this is the game’s next expansion. And the thing is that projects where that’s not usually clear tend to come about for a reason. You’re usually looking at someone’s passion project, something that someone wants to exist even if no one else gets why it’s important.

Explaining a passion project is hard to do because it’s important to you and you know it’s going to connect with people. If Warlords of Draenor was an appeal to the past and Legion was throwing all the obvious crowd-pleasers together, Battle for Azeroth looks like a time when the team is willing to try ideas that, on their face, might have a hard time connecting with players.

And yeah, it might be crap. It could, in fact, be in the Cataclysm tier of expansions. But at least it’s going to be trying some weird and new things along the way. That’s worth points for effort, and that’s enough for me to say, “Yes, these things are finally being addressed” enough for me to return.

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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32 Comments on "WoW Factor: Is World of Warcraft’s Battle for Azeroth fixing Legion’s many problems?"

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Kherova

I will definitely not come back. I am still so annoyed that they have put flying behind such a grind wall which as a casual player I failed to climb the last two expansions. And it seems they have no intention to change that.

amkosh
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amkosh

“Unfortunately, Ion Hazzikostas is still there”
Yep, and unfortunately, I don’t see things changing. The only way I could see it get worse is if they bring back Jeff Kaplan.

I never thought I would type this, but I pine for the days of Greg Street. Maybe it is the end of days.

That above being said, I will likely play BfA, whether I play it at launch will depend on what else is out at the time, and if Blizz has any incentives to actually do that. I don’t think I’ll play it for very long, haven’t done that since MoP really. Too many other games out there that are more fun than WoW.

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Sandra Y.
    lol, cata had the best pvp alongside tbc, all the other expansions were rly bad
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Utakata

My gut feeling is this is going to be another Cata/Warlords type expansion in degree, structure and the asinine. As I mentioned in another Mr. Eliot’s “internal struggle on returning to WoW” article, as Armsbend-san so put in a few comments down…WoW doesn’t do so well when they revisit content as their expansion themes. For some reason, the good ideas that supposedly come with it are usually botched in implementation. As are the new mechanics that are supposed to resolve the issues of the last expansion.

So Mr. Eliot, I don’t really have much hope for this. As always, I’ll give it try…but I am expecting to take an extend WoW vacation like I did with those other mentioned naval gazing expansions. My pigtails are open to be pleasantly surprised and proven wrong, but I will be expecting the worst. Sorry. :(

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Fluffy Magical Unicorn

You and your pigtails xD

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Utakata

<3

Richard de Leon III
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Richard de Leon III

From the looks of it there isnt much old world revamping, at least so far. We get 2 new islands to explore at the very least. I think silithus is the only truly revamped zone. The question i would have is whether thatll be all, where will the endgame be? Will we truly fight the voidlords in the void? or will we be stuck on azeroth, which wont be bad as long as there are some truly new areas to explore.

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Utakata

While there will new zones added in the way there where with the endgame/leveling content in Cata. We won’t be spending most of our time on there to my understanding. As Undercity and Darnassus will no long be the respective faction cities. And the Eastern Kingdoms and Kaldimor will become faction only continents save for the holdouts of Exodar and Silvermoon City. I’d say that’s a pretty big eff’n revisiting of older content. o.O

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Simon F

As long as they don’t make titanforged complete bullshit again, I’ll probably be happy. Also, I’m a bit annoyed at mythic+ pretty much being required to progress in raids effectively. I played as healer, druid for those that care, and it felt like no trinkets were actually useful from the first raid. Meanwhile, the dungeon items were for the most part amazing. However, I really disliked mythic+ because it’s just not fun for me. Even then, unless I got extreme rolls with titanforged, which at best would’ve been on a trinket and at worst just some odd trash item, yeah, that’s not fun.

I think their intention was good and all, but if they want people to have steady progress, then give back upgrades, not RNG bullshit. That way your new fancy mythic loot isn’t just complete trash because you got the heroic version titanforged with higher ilvl already. That’s just disheartening. As for raid finder loot, oh, just fuck those titanforges. Did a raid finder for fun, saw a guy get something equivalent to heroic gear. That’s just not ok.

Richard de Leon III
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Richard de Leon III

Dont worry about another person’s gear. Titanforging is great for people who cant play often to grind valor or go on raids. It gives em a reason to keep playing content they have access to. And thats what is good for the game, more people playing longer and staying subbed.

As a lot of heroic and mythic raiders say, skill matters just as much as gear, that guy that got heroic titanforging from an LFR run still might not be good enough to take your spot.

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Ryan Allgood

Everyone hates on Cataclysm, but it’s probably my second favorite expansion. ><

Of course I also consider Vanilla WoW my least favorite "era" of WoW, so I think I'm not the usual WoW player.

I do hope this expansion addresses the randomness as that was literally the only reason I left. It just felt like nothing was rewarding. I'd do all kinds of content and go days without any kind of upgrade because I got unlucky and nothing warforged/titanforged. So I just ended up with a bunch of useless junk.

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Bruno Brito

Cata wasn’t a bad expansion per se. The issue was the patches that made the heroics easier, and Dragon Soul as a raid.

hurbster
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hurbster

Horde player ?

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Ryan Allgood

I prefer Horde, but have to play Alliance because of all my friends. =\

Thank the Light for Draenei. =p otherwise there’d be no races I like on Alliance side.

quark1020
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quark1020

I sympathize. I remember in vanilla, I didn’t care for any of the alliance races either. Draenei improved upon it, but it wasn’t until Worgen that I started to enjoy making alliance.

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Bryan Turner

Every game has its faults, even GW2. That said WoW knocked it out of he park this expansion, they literally threw everything into this and managed to have reasonable content droughts.

Sure I may not play he ell out of WoW any more but I consider hat a me problem not a hem problem, while you might consider that to be the case as well.

Perhaps you could sell me on FF14, after it goes back I the same boring questing between story arcs I lose interest and cancel my subscription, this happens every time.

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Ashfyn Ninegold

Don’t worry. I, too, have a love/hate relationship with WoW. I love my characters and I enjoy playing them from moment to moment. I generally dislike the constriction of the world, the necessity of following very specific quest chains (they being the only ones), the rote progression and, after so many years of being solo-friendly, the about-face to a far more dungeon insistent design than ever before. Even the spatial design of Legion, Broken Isles and Argus is constraining and claustrophobic.

As if in their thoughts the whole intent of landscape is to funnel you through the content as they want you to play it, having finally found a way to exert control over how players interact with their world, even to their continued beat down on flying, so that there is no way to escape what they want you to do the way they want you to do it.

I imagine all the things I don’t like about WoW will continue in BFF. Only if there is room in the new expansion for me to enjoy the part of WoW I love, playing my characters the way I want to play them, am I going to be interested in the expansion.

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Necromonger

My wife is a proffesion hoarder and have always progressed all proffesions in game to max.

Legion killed it for her with the insane long questlines, the forced dungeons and raids and everything gated behind a hurdle she doesnt like to be forced trough.

We started in Vanila day one and went trough many breaks and comebacks to WoW but this is by far the most dreadfull expansion when it comes to having fan together with Cataclysm.

I hated the panda’s but i loved the MoP design with the big island and stuf.
Loved WotLK and the gear progression in both Pve and PvP and Wintergrasp was awesome when it was balanced.

I hope they nail it again with the next Xpac but for some reason i fear they will find a way to mess it up again.

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Thomas

“after so many years of being solo-friendly, the about-face to a far more dungeon insistent design than ever before…”

This pretty much sums it up for me. The “dungeon-insistent design” completely backfired in my case, as I ended up unsubscribing to WoW/Legion much sooner than I usually do after the release of a new expansion. The kind of content that keeps me playing WoW longer — crafting, story quests, personal character development — was all buried in the dungeons in Legion in a lame attempt to coerce players into dungeon grinding. Pfft.

As far as I can tell, BfA looks like more of the same. So, um, no thanks, Blizzard.

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Bannex

Today marks the long climb back lol

I think eliot is a great writer (not sarcasm, I think he’s pretty funny and his personality really shines in his stuff!) but he so aptly chronicled the love hate love cycle most gamers have with WoW that he should portfolio them as his magnum opus.

Looking forward to the expansion hype followed by the why BoA sucks and I’m going back to FFXIV aka WoW:Japan.

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Rumm

A reason, not the only reason mind you, but a reason that I left the game towards the end of the first tier of Legion was that I couldn’t get the one legendary that would allow me to complete with other players of my same class. There was no worse feeling than finally seeing that orange pop-up on your screen, just to realize that all of your bad luck protection went into a bottom-tier legendary whose sole purpose was to boost your item level. Then you got to experience that again when your next legendary drop was even worse. I’m incredibly glad that legendary drops are being done away with, however I would like to see something akin to the MoP cloaks, or even the Ulduar healing mace / ICC 2hander make its way back into the game – something that you really have to work towards over the course of a raid tier or the entire expansion.

I’m optimistic about Battle for Azeroth. I think that Legion can be looked at objectively as one of the best expansions that WoW has yet had. Content cadence, replayability and scaling content in the form of M+ dungeons, and unique class content were all big pluses in my book. By removing the random elements such as legendaries, and hopefully toning down the scale of Titanforged pieces, will be a good step in moving forward to the new expansion. I will never level another character again unless they open up every dungeon to every level, so the new races don’t really appeal to me, but I am looking forward to hearing more about the island expeditions, warfronts, and seeing more dungeons at xpac launch than we’ve had since WOTLK.

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Armsbend

Article pitch to Bree:
An article entirely written by the MOP comments section.
Subject: Are these articles Eliot is writing on November 10th, 2017 simply an internal struggle he is having with himself concerning a WoW return?

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TomTurtle

Thinking about how much trouble Blizzard has had with gear and loot across the game’s lifetime, I’m left wondering whether getting them “right” is really that difficult or not. The cynic in me says Blizzard keeps reinventing these systems since they keep trying really grind-heavy systems aimed at retaining players for longer periods of time and then having to change when players express their frustration. It’d also serve to keep things fresh by constantly reinventing them.

I could see part of the issue being that no one system will ever please everybody, and Blizzard is too eager to change each one when its particular detractors speak up. Detractors who may not necessarily be the same people who complained about a previous system.

I’m not sure how much Blizzard should be lauded for the cycle of fixing and breaking such systems when there are other things they could also focus on in regards to expanding the game.

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Mr. ColdFury

I would posit that Warlords should supplant Cataclysm as the ultimate ‘shit tier’ expansion.

Cataclysm gave us old world flying. Warlords we had to *cajole* Blizzard to give us flying.
Cataclysm gave us guild perks. Warlords stripped them away.
Cataclysm revamped the old world, updating the storyline. Warlords revamped continuity, breaking the storyline.
Cataclysm gave us multiple raid tiers. Warlords gave us two.

I’m not trying to sell up Cataclysm, but Warlords was really bad.

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Thomas

Heh. And here I think WoD is the best WoW expansion since Burning Crusade and is considerably better than Legion, imo.

Burning Crusade > WoD > Mists of Pandaria > Cataclysm > Legion >>> WotLK (the absolute worst)

Whether one likes an expansion or not depends on what you’re looking for, I guess. I enjoyed the self-contained alternate storyline of WoD; it was far more interesting to me than the “real” storyline.

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Bryan Turner

They were all blah or bad after Wrath, only Legion felt like it was better an Wrath with intent and lore bombs.

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