WoW Factor: Looking forward to World of Warcraft 7.2

Everybody dies.

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.

From a storytelling perspective, it makes sense. It’s a very powerful image when you go through a story only to wind up at the Very Obvious Final Region. It’s Pride Rock at the end of The Lion King, the Death Star in Star Wars, Mordor in The Lord of the Rings. This is the place, often a once-familiar location, that is the beating heart of darkness, the place that just approaching feels like a suitable conclusion. It’s also something that every single WoW expansion has tried to have as a designated endgame zone, and one that has never actually worked.

There are a few candidates in classic WoW, for example, but the most obvious one is Silithus, a zone that had been entirely empty before it was filled up with things for players to farm and fight over. Then there was the Isle of Quel’danas in The Burning Crusade, Icecrown in Wrath of the Lich King, Tanaan Jungle in Warlords of Draenor, Timeless Isle in Mists of Pandaria. Cataclysm tried to split the difference with the Firelands and the instances to wrap up the story, but even that didn’t entirely work.

And no, the reason really has nothing to do with pandas.

As an idea, it’s a powerful one. You’re no longer fighting minions; you are now invading the headquarters of your antagonists, their seat of power and your place of weakness. But none of these places has ever packed the emotional punch that would make it work, either because it’s a place that we as players have no emotional connection to (Silithus and Timeless Isle) or because it’s already just a place we’ve explored (Icecrown and Firelands). Tanaan especially didn’t work because we’d already been kicking the Iron Horde up and down the curb so thoroughly that an entirely new villain needed to show up at the end to actually provide a threat.

But the Broken Shore? We’ve been there before. And if you’ve already forgotten, that was where we lost. Badly.

While the story of the game thus far has had its highs and lows, it’s done a marvelous job thus far of setting up a scenario wherein we’ve accomplished a lot along the way while also accomplishing very little. Players have been picking up those Pillars of Creation, but that’s not solving the problem so much as cleaning up around the edges. At the end of the day, it’s always been an undeniable truth that this war will be won by plunging into the heart of the Legion and fighting back. They’re holding the cards, and even with all of the Pillars we need to bring them to bear.

So we’ve got a site of a major failure, an army that we lost against the first time, and the place we actually need to get to in order for all of these other efforts to mean anything. That’s a solid setup right there, and it feels like the Designated Endgame Zone in a way that no previous offerings have. All of that is reason enough to be excited.

This time, you knew I was coming.I’m also excited because, well, there’s a lot of other stuff that we know is coming with 7.2 that’s worth being excited about. Flying, for example, feels as if it was massively benefited by having a plan in place from day one; getting Pathfinder was always a good goal to shoot for, and having the conclusion of that goal coincide with the obvious capstone of the Broken Isles feels suitable. You’ll have to do quite a bit of content in the expansion in order to fly, and little of it requires navigating maps that are specifically designed around flying (looking at you, Draenor).

It also means that everyone is getting a class mount of some sort, which is something I’ve wanted more or less since forever. This was the expansion to do it, and it’s happening, and there’s some word that the mounts will even morph depending on your spec, which is excellent. Some of the mounts look a bit better than others, but the fact that it’s happening universally at all makes me happy.

Hearing it compared to the Isle of Quel’danas at all kind of puts paid to a thought that’s been kicking around my head for a long while; in many ways, Legion as an expansion feels as if it’s trying to turn back the clock to an earlier version of the game and follow a divergent evolutionary path. The idea of the Broken Shore as Quel’danas 2.0 seems to back that up, like it’s another try with the same core conceits.

I do wonder how that’s going to work with the emissary quests, but I suppose we can always wave goodbye to the Kirin Tor emissaries. They were always a bit of an uncomfortable addition.

Of course, we don’t have any idea how long we’re going to be waiting for 7.2; at this point 7.1.5 is still in testing, and I would honestly be surprised if we see that going live before February. (Not that it’s impossible, just that I’d be surprised.) So we’re speculating about stuff that’s further in the future. But for the first time in what feels like far too long, there certainly seems to be a plan that stretches further than “what we feel like tossing in the next patch” and that promises some actual development. Now, if we can hear about where we’re going after this expansion before the end of 2017 and actually be there before we’re all bored of the game in 2018, that would be swell.

Feedback, as always, can be left in the comments down below or mailed along to Next time around, we’ll probably be getting in close to that end of the year, won’t we? I mean, even more than we already are. That seems like a good time to look forward and backwards.

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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