Let’s get something out of the way first and foremost. I am not going to count Warcraft III: Reforged as a smart thing for World of Warcraft, even though it is literally the thing I am most excited about coming out of the convention. Those models look gorgeous, the game looks great, it’s all of the stuff I loved from the original but no longer looking like, well, a game from nearly two decades ago. Seriously, this is something I want so desperately.
Last week, this column focused on all the dumb things WoW did at BlizzCon. But there were some smart decisions made by the developers too. It doesn’t really counterbalance or outweigh the dumb stuff, I’m sorry to say, but it does at least ameliorate some of it. Or… provide a counterbalance, of sorts. It offers some things that aren’t elaborately bad. Look, let’s just enjoy the good stuff and agree to leave discussions about all of the bad stuff for last week – can we go with that?
Smart stuff for 8.2
I’ve already pointed out that the 8.2 reveals had at least one that landed like a lead balloon, but that was notable in part because everything else went over pretty darn well. Not one but two new land masses on display certainly helped matters; we don’t know how large they’re both going to be, but assuming they make up about a zone’s worth of exploration, that’s definitely a lot of open-world content for people to explore even if they don’t fully address the problems with the game’s other endgame activities.
Obviously, we’re not yet clear on what all of the rewards for this patch will be, due in no small part to the fact that it’s a bit further off in the distance. But it does look at least from a quick glance like we’re getting regions closer to the structure of Argus, Timeless Isle, Tanaan, and so on – places with lots of things to do for reliable rewards, which is a good thing. We saw something similar with the Broken Shore in 7.2, so it seems likely that the general cycle will repeat itself here with 8.2 (and then a similar addition in 8.3, by extension).
Sure, it’s all speculative now, but it would make sense. It’s an intensification of conflict, but it also pulls our attention in other directions with the added invasions to the main continents of the expansion, which is… a nice promise of further development, albeit one that makes only passing sense from a tactical sense, and darn it I said I wasn’t going to be talking about bad decisions this week.
I also do appreciate that it’s offering a nice diversity from where we’ve already been. As I mentioned before, Legion had a bit of an issue with feeling like the game’s greatest hits album right up until 7.2, when it was just all demons all the time. This feels more like a breather before we get into the real final act, wherein the final boss is going to be Sylvanas and I start biting my tongue hard enough to draw blood.
Smart talk of cosmetics
Out of all the answers from the Q&A, the one negative answer I actually agree with was the talk about how making transmogs open for any wearable armor matters more to Paladins than Mages (to summarize). This is actually a worthwhile and important element to consider when it comes to balancing out transmog restrictions, even if it’s only a halfway solution and relied a bit too heavily on the tired “silhouette” argument already dismantled with the existence of Pandaren.
But there was actually a lot of good acknowledgement and development of cosmetic options, which is a good thing. The reveal of Tauren and Gnome heritage sets was a good thing, even if it feels like we should be getting a lot more of these sets a lot faster. It’s difficult to believe how slowly sets actually get put together and revealed, all things considered, when you factor in the size of the team and the complexity of the sets, and heritage armor doesn’t even have the usual excuse of having to fit on multiple races. It doesn’t have to; that’s the whole point.
Still, these kinds of sets are things I want to see for literally ever reputation in the game. I’ll take a partial success over no progress at all, and it helps that the sets we’ve actually been seeing say something pretty fundamental about the races in question. The Gnome set in particular isn’t a set just for engineers, but it plays up how fundamental engineering is to the race as a whole; you can’t separate one from the other.
Having more options for one-handed transmog helps, too. It’s something that Legion made a bit worse with Warglaives, which make sense as being exclusive to Demon Hunters in broad terms but causes problems in terms of having limited crossover with other classes, but fixing the issue with fist weapons and daggers is a more pressing and long-standing problem.
It’s also nice to see that Worgen in particular are getting retouched. Yes, Goblins are getting updated models as well, but that model feels like it’s aged reasonably well. Worgen didn’t launch terribly well to start with, and the fact that the female model has been hideous basically since launch has turned a lot of people off from the race undeservedly. I look forward to seeing how the overall spread of changes will look.
Smart pricing for classic WoW
It’s a known fact that I’m not particularly excited for classic WoW, and the reasons for it were so well summed up by longtime reader Utakata that I can’t add anything she didn’t already state. In short? The problems current WoW has are in almost every case the problems vanilla WoW had, with the added benefit of being all old content. But the team definitely got one thing perfectly right with the decision to bake the subscription price in with the existing price.
My own speculation would have been that it would be a separate subscription or possibly a boxed price, but both of those have their own issues. A simple buy-to-play would reinforce the image that this is an archival product, which it is, but it doesn’t need the extra kick of planned obsolesence. And making it a separate subscription would encourage splitting the playerbase or having players choose to be invested in one version of the game over the other.
Having the pseudo-progression unlock helps too; it definitely gives players something to look forward to if the game’s launch state is more like “launch WoW, but with later systems and revisions.” As someone generally opposed to making later-day changes in the classic experience, this feels like a fair compromise point, and it probably works out better than just having all of 1.12’s content ready to go as soon as the game loads.
Last but not least, while I’ve gone back and forth with it in my mind, it’s probably also the right call to not have any unlocks in classic WoW for the main game. Part of me feels like it reduces motivation to play the title, but that part of me is quickly told to shut up because reducing motivation is the whole point. It means the people playing classic WoW are only the people who want to play the game wholly on its own merits, and seeing how large that community actually is in the long run.
Of course, in light of all this, the question becomes in part whether the smart stuff outweighs the dumb stuff. And in response, let me say… gee, it sure took a while to get that experience reduction for leveling, huh? It seems like that should have happened faster.