We still do not know exactly when World of Warcraft will make allied races playable. What we do know is that it sure as heck looks like it’s going to happen before the next expansion is out; that’s not announced, no, but there is an awful lot of material about them already on the test server. Everything points to them being a pre-launch thing, most likely along the lines of Demon Hunters with Legion. All well and good. And we also know the preliminary requirements for these various races, which is… more contentious.
There’s a lot of stuff we don’t know yet, of course; while achievement tracking is account-wide, it’s not yet clear if you need to have the reputation and achievements on multiple characters or just on one. (It’s plausible, for example, that you might need to have the reputation on the character but can get the achievements on another.) But there’s already some debate about whether or not these requirements are too steep, and I think it’s an interesting thing to discuss and analyze, even while I’m of the mind that it seems pretty reasonable thus far.
First and foremost, what we’ve seen so far is what has been datamined, not an absolute truth. There’s nothing saying that we can’t have the reputation requirement reduced before the races go live, or achivement requirements changed, or so on. So we are by necessity looking through a pinhole at something not yet outright stated, and there could be new pieces of information that significantly changes what we know right now.
None of that changes the fact that if you have been playing World of Warcraft at the level cap since 7.3 dropped, you probably already fulfill the requirements. Speaking personally, my main character is a little shy on more recent reputations but is all primed in every other respect, and I took a lengthy gap in the middle.
That doesn’t mean it’s not a fair amount of time investment. To unlock the Horde races, you need to more or less clear out two zones and grind up two separate reputations; to unlock the Alliance ones you need to finish up a longer series of quests (it counts for both) and work on two reputations that have the disadvantage of being hard to get bonus tokens for. (The Kirin Tor offer nothing for Argussian Reach or the Army of the Light.) Assuming you put a lot of emphasis on your emissary quests, it’s going to take a while for you to hit Exalted alone, and the quest achievements require some dungeon running and a fair number of quests.
And yes, “play a Void Elf” is a big selling point for the expansion. So I can understand people who want it to be fairly straightforward to play one, since the expansion is selling you on the premise of making one.
Of course, allied races are hardly the first thing with some requirements in place even when you buy the expansion. You couldn’t make a Death Knight if you had just bought World of Warcraft: Wrath of the Lich King; you had to level a character first. If you wanted to play a Demon Hunter, you had to do some leveling. New classes have long been locked behind some gameplay.
New races, traditionally, have not. Except that part of the point behind allied races is that these are the racial equivalent of hero classes. Just like how Death Knights are not making up the majority of the Alliance army, Lightforged Draenei are meant to be rare in-universe. You have to jump through some hoops and work at getting access to these, and once you do, they remain in place.
“But I don’t want to just grind reputation!” Dude, I don’t know how to tell you this, but if you don’t want to do world quests and earn reputation now, you are probably not going to want to do so when Battle for Azeroth releases. And if you think that’s not still going to be a core part of the gameplay loop, well, the exact opposite has been stated by the designers. That side of the open world is unlikely to go anywhere.
That’s not to say that this is a casual task you’ll finish in two days. If you played Legion a while back and want to jump back in, it will take some time to finish earning your reputations. But it won’t be undoable by any stretch of the imagination; just doing the quests for the necessary achievements will get you a good chunk of the way anyhow.
And from the point of view of the designers, this is something to get you in and playing now rather than a year from now. There’s work to be done, but it’s the sort of stuff that you can take in small doses for an extended period of time.
Do I think these are fair requirements? That’s a more mixed concern. I think that the achievements required are pretty unambiguously fair, but the reputation requirements are a little less so. And that has everything to do with the game’s current emissary setup and frequency problems.
If you’re playing a Horde character, odds are high that you already have either all of your requirements fulfilled or most of them. The reputations and quests have been in place since the expansion launched, you’ve had ample time to clear them. You also had the benefit of when the game’s factions were on a reliable week-long rotation; each faction would have one emissary quest per week, and one of those emissary quests would always be the Kirin Tor, so it was easier to boost a reputation that was lagging behind. Simple and straightforward.
On the other hand, there are three more reputations that have gone into the rotation since then, and two of them do not get tokens offered from the Kirin Tor. Instead of getting that big boost once every 7 days, you’re getting it once every 10 days, and if you need to boost Argus reputations you really only have two Emissary offerings that help you much. (And, if you’re lucky, some Class Hall missions.) The problem is simply that it’s too infrequent if you’re working to raise your reputation.
Plus, at this point it makes some of the other reputations feel particularly pointless. “Oh, I could get reputation toward the allied race unlock… or I could get more repuation toward the Wardens. Boy. Hard choices.”
So I think we need a bit of a boost for these reputations to make things feel more equal. A more rapid emissary reputation might be a bit much, but more reputation in general would be a good thing under the circumstances. I suspect we’ll actually see that in the ramp-up for allied races, or we’ll see the reputation requirements eased slightly.
Yet I think there’s always going to be a disconnect there. The same thing happened when the method of earning flight in the Broken Isles became a point of contention. I’ve seen people grouse about the huge amount of work necessary to accomplish it, but when coming back to the game (I stopped before the second half of the achievement was out) it literally took me about a week. It didn’t require anything more onerous than doing the stuff that was, you know, what I would be doing in the game anyhow. And now it’s universal. It feels fair.
Of course, I had to play the game in order to do that, rather than just logging in and getting it (or just dropping gold). But I think that’s kind of getting at the heart of what makes the game an MMO. I’ve argued before that persistence is at the heart of the genre, but “play the game to get stuff you use in the game” is something close to the heart, too. Perhaps a rib or two. The point is that asking you to play the game in order to get the prestige rewards in the game is not an unreasonable requirement.
If the requirements for playing the races involved quests that could only be cleared through Normal or higher raids, that would be unreasonable. If you had to have a minimum Prestige rank, that would be unreasonable. But this asks you do things that are literally core to the game. At worst, you’ll have to sit through one Raid Finder queue and one dungeon queue. This is pretty darn accessible while still asking you to put some effort in.
So while there are some mild structural issues, the core conceits here are solid. I approve of the idea, even if I can nitpick some of the specifics. And hey, it gives me a project to focus on while we wait for some kind of official confirmation.
Feedback, like always, is welcome in the comments below or via mail to firstname.lastname@example.org; I would stress again that everything we know about these requirements is still, you know, datamined rather than announced. If they later turn out to be lighter, this will feel rather silly. (If they get worse, of course, that could be a problem.)