With all of those micro-holidays World of Warcraft is sporting these days, you’d be forgiven if you forgot that the MMO still runs full-fledged holiday events as well. The Midsummer Fire Festival has arrived to remind us all of enduring events and the cleansing power of the flame.
In addition to all of the content from previous years, the dev team has tossed a few new features for this year’s Fire Festival. Frost Lord Ahune has increased in difficulty and additional bonfires have been lit across Draenor and the Broken Isles. There’s even an achievement to finding all of the fires.
There are also two new rewards: a set of matches (burn baby burn!) and an Igneous Flameling elemental battle pet. Perhaps it’s better to encourage players to focus their pyromaniac tendencies in video games than real life?
I’ve been playing a lot of Ultima Online the past few weeks, but so many times I’ll be doing something that is objectively tedious (like taming or shuttling boxes of junk loot to the community trash box to turn in for points) and realize it and think to myself there is no freakin’ way that anyone who started playing MMOs in the last decade would put up with some of the quirks and conventions of the game. That’s no judgment on gamers, just the realization that it’s probably way too late to get into now if you’ve grown up under altogether different game design systems.
It’s not the only MMO I feel that way about; I’ve often felt that EverQuest II was too opaque and convoluted to return to, and oddly enough World of Warcraft has felt that way to me since Draenor.
Are there any MMOs you think are just too late to start playing?
The classic break-up line is “it’s not you, it’s me.” It is, of course, usually a lie, and it often gets followed up shortly afterward with a line that makes it clear that it is really you. But it’s still a not-terrible way to ease into a breakup, to convey the idea that you want to move forward without bad blood between you.
So I’m sorry, World of Warcraft, but it’s not me. It’s you. It’s really on you. And a little bit on me, perhaps, but the parts that are on me have more to do with the fact that I’m aware I have better options open to me. It’s like declaring that you won’t go to Dunkin’ Donuts any more when the store in your area is constantly on fire; a bit of that is on you, but you could put out the fire.
Wait, I already did that fire joke, didn’t I? Let’s move on.
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.