This has been a very stupid week. I know this because any other week, World of Warcraft completely destroying the reason for acquiring new gear would stand out as the stupidest thing I’d heard all week. As it was, it was just the stupidest thing I heard on Wednesday. I heard it when I woke up, so it had an early chance to establish that lead, and while I couldn’t be certain it had no real way of losing that lead through the end of the day.
I don’t know if it’s the stupidest thing I’ve heard all week, but it’s definitely high in the running.
A lot of parts of Legion have produced some degree of controversy, and by and large, I’ve been on the side of these being good decisions that need to be made for the good of the game. This, on the other hand, is a terrible decision that does nothing positive whatsoever for the game. It hurts every form of content and reward currently in play, and it’s the sort of thing that seems so catastrophically ill-considered that your first thought upon hearing it is, well, that it can’t be real. But it totally is. And the eleventh-hour rolling back of several parts doesn’t exactly change the core problems behind the idea or why players immediately reacted with anger.
Boy, this is a time I am glad to be wrong. I was outright worried that Blizzard was going to hold patch 7.2 for a much longer span of time, but no, it’s hitting World of Warcraft on March 28th. That’s good! It’s still squarely aimed at trying to kneecap something else going on that same day, arguably, but at least it isn’t being held for months. I’m going to count that as a good thing.
In fact, there’s something very good baked into the announcement, something that’s easy to miss. Of course, there’s also something very bad baked in as well, or at least the hint of something bad, a thought I’ve stated before in passing but I haven’t really elaborated on before. So today I want to examine both sides of this. Why this patch date makes me very happy and very worried at the same time. (Mostly the former, if you’re wondering, but the latter is relevant.)
On October 24th, World of Warcraft launched patch 7.1, which contained a lot of not-quite-ready-for-launch Legion features and a bit of content. Since then, the game hasn’t really launched any content. Sure, patch 7.1.5 launched in early January, but that just added the Brawler’s Guild back to the game for content (which, admittedly, has a lot of new boss fights). We’re looking at a content gap that’s starting to spread out a fair bit already, and patch 7.2 is coming out… well, eventually?
Of course, MOP’s Bree and I are in pretty close agreement about when it’s coming out: June. Because that’s when a new Final Fantasy XIV expansion and The Elder Scrolls Online: Morrowind both launch, so they’re going to want to try to kneecap both of those launches.
At least from this side of the fence, that’s a pretty dumb plan. It’s the same plan that was in place for patch 6.2 of Warlords of Draenor, which wound up with lots of complaints about the delays, and it doesn’t seem to have really crippled the launch it wanted to “intercept” there, either. Still, it’s the sort of plan that Blizzard has used in the patch, and with two big competing releases in the same month it seems almost absurd to think it wouldn’t be tried. So what do you think, dear readers? What do you think the odds are of WoW holding its next patch until June? And how much grousing do you expect if people are waiting that long for more content?
So at the risk of being dinged for spoiling the current World of Warcraft expansion, let me say this: Azeroth is not going to be destroyed or completely overtaken by the Burning Legion. That’s a given. The threat certainly feels real, and I hope more than anything that when our victory comes it feels like a natural outgrowth of the story rather than an arbitrary “well, the story says you win right now so the Burning Legion just got dumb,” but it’s pretty much a given that we’re going to win out in the end. The basic premise of the game doesn’t work otherwise.
The question, of course, is where we go next.
A lot of people have been speculating whether Legion is meant to be the final expansion for the game for precisely that reason, and while I think that’s obviously wrong on the face of it (it’d be silly to turn down that money, after all), the point stands that from a narrative perspective, this is it. This is the big confrontation that has been built up since Warcraft III, and if you have no doubt that there will be a next expansion, it still raises the question of “where does it go?”
Let’s explore the possibilities.
Patch 7.2 is the first real content patch that we’ve gotten for World of Warcraft post-Legion. Obviously, 7.1 wasn’t devoid of content, but it was far more a patch about nudging in the things that just barely missed launch… and frankly, Karazhan (which was the centerpiece of the patch) didn’t really have a whole lot of staying power. It felt thin.
Mind you, 7.1 is still more of a content patch than 6.1 was, so I’m arguing more that it wasn’t substantial enough to really sell itself rather than dredging up some truly awful comparisons. Let’s not get ahead of ourselves here.
Regardless, 7.2 is a meaty update with a whole lot of stuff going on all at once, including a whole bunch of storyline content bringing us into the actual war against the Legion proper. I haven’t been testing a great deal of it myself because I tend to prefer putting most of my effort into stuff that’s not getting wiped so that I’ll have to do it all again, but let’s take a look at what we already know is out there.
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.
Talking about World of Warcraft in 2016 is really different because the game had two different years this year. And unfortunately for anyone trying to develop a comprehensive picture of the past year (yo), we’re on the positive side of the year.
I mean, remember when Legion launched at the end of August and everyone was pumped? I sure do. I remember the prepatch and the events leading up to that launch, too, and everyone was excited. You could run around and get weapon skins and transmog outfits, that was nifty. And you could level your alts up nice and quickly; I took major advantage of that. There are issues right now, sure, but the general feeling is that Legion delivered what it promised with aplomb.
But I can’t just talk about the past three and a half months because before that came eight months with nothing. No expansion, no patches, no new content, nada. I freely admit that I’m spoiled by the content cadence of other games, but it makes this past year – and its much busier last third – a very complex thing to discuss in the context of WoW.
It’s been a little while, friends, but that happens. Last time I was making bets about what we’d see for World of Warcraft at BlizzCon, and as it happens I came up within a pretty solid margin of error. Since then, it’s been a pretty straightforward few weeks of plugging away at the test server whilst punching at various enemies on the live servers, running through world quests, looking for Legendaries that never appear except by pure, blighted luck.
Of course, seeing as how luck has been the watchword of every part of this expansion to date, it’s not exactly a surprise.
I could rant about that, obviously, but at this point it seems a little counterproductive and not particularly new; the fact that this expansion is a soup of random rewards with random stats at random intervals is a problem, but not one I haven’t already discussed, and not one I want to dwell on right now. Instead, I want to focus on the patch after 7.1.5, because we’ve heard enough about 7.2 that I’m already looking forward to it, even though it’s a way away. It’s something every WoW expansion has tried to have, but this time it might actually get pulled off.
As we start to come to grips with the fact that we will be turning over the calendar into 2017 in one short month, it might just be for the best. In the real world, 2016 was a rocky, unpredictable year, and even among our collective favorite hobby, it featured some highs and lows that very few saw coming.
This will go down as the year that Daybreak broke our hearts, a mobile game erupted into a global phenomenon, drama over an illegal emulator sparked multiple stories, and some of the biggest MMORPG launches came from eastern imports.
So while there might be a few more huge stories left in 2016, let’s spend some time revisiting the major headlines to get a better feel for the shape of the year that we are about to leave behind.
Hey you! Yeah, the player who actually reads quest text and lore entries when all of the other hooting madmen are furiously clicking past them so that they can go back to the digital bloodbath! There’s no shame to settle in with a good book that just so happens to feature your favorite MMO or touch on the genre as a whole. Many of us at some time have cracked open novels, art books, and even graphic novels to dive more deeply into the worlds of the games we love.
So if you’re looking for a printed companion to help you while away the hours this winter, we have a list of recommended reads for you today. You can get many of these as e-ink digital books, of course, but the bibliophiles should be happy to know that these are all available as physical tomes as well.
Getcher credit cards ready, folks. It’s time.
(New additions are at the bottom!)
The holidays are almost here! Seriously, they’re rushing forward at a rate of two seconds per second, or something. Which means that it’s time to start buying gifts for the Blizzard fan in your life, and also buy gifts for your parents in all likelihood. Depending on your family, that may involve a single trip. Heck, depending on your parents, they might be trying to buy presents for you and you’re a huge Blizzard fan. This gift guide does not discriminate.
So what is this gift guide? A quick rundown of some cool things to get the Blizzard fan in your life. There are games, there are books, and there’s even a shiny helping of awkward pauses in the middle of a Q&A session. In spirit. Use it, send it to friends who want to know what to get you, or hey, pick up a little extra for yourself because you never knew some of this stuff existed. This gift guide also does not judge.
My original plan this week was to talk a little bit about patch 7.1, but two things have made that less than possible. The first is that a rather nasty depression jag has kept me from having the gumption to do everything required to hit the inadvisably limited revamp of Karazhan, and the rest of the patch just feels like, well, the parts of the expansion that were pretty much finished but not quite ready for launch. The other is the fact that this is the BlizzCon weekend, and that means I really ought to be talking about that first and foremost.
Last year, obviously, BlizzCon managed to hit some weird notes for World of Warcraft, made worse by some baffling decisions surrounding Legion‘s test schedule and information release. This year, of course, the expansion is already out, so we’re not waiting in an awful drought of information. So it seems like now is an excellent time to predict what, exactly, we’ll see out of BlizzCon for WoW fans. There might be some stuff for fans of other franchises too, but that’s not what I’m here for at the moment. So what are the odds we’ll hear about this stuff?