WoW Factor: How WoW’s Corruption system breaks the redeeming features of Titanforging

In which I told you that story so I could tell you this one

In homeboy's defense, he really was a harbinger of doom.

Last time around in WoW Factor, we took a nice healthy look back at how itemization has evolved in World of Warcraft over the years. This time, we can focus on the mechanic replacing Titanforging in patch 8.3, which was why we had that whole column first to lay the groundwork. See, it should be pretty clear by now that people are not exactly happy about the state of itemization in the game, which is why Corruption is replacing Titanforging rather than simply being layered on top of existing mechanics.

The thing of it is that there’s an interesting idea at the root of Corruption, that it at least ostensibly brings back a game of weighing drawbacks and advantages. Unfortunately, not only does Corruption fail to provide enough interesting options for bonuses, but it also functionally removes the one mechanic the game actually had for making content relevant throughout the expansion’s life cycle while simultaneously failing to be bulky enough due to its status as an end-of-expansion saving throw. It brings all of the downsides of Titanforging and manages to gut the things that made it even remotely bearable.

If you’ve managed to avoid all of the datamining and test posts about Corruption, here’s how the system works in short. Items will no longer have a chance to Titanforge; instead, items have a chance to spawn a Corruption affix. These affixes carry with them a notable benefit of some kind (usually in one of three tiers) along with an increase to your Corruption stat. Nasty effects happen to you as your Corruption goes up. At the lower levels, that’s mostly a matter of randomly being slowed or whatever, but as your corruption rises eventually you start being a danger to other people around you as well.

Fortunately, you can cut down on your overall Corruption by wearing the legendary cloak coming with this patch. Beyond that, you’re encouraged to just find ways to deal with Corruption, or you can get both the positive effects and the Corruption effect cleansed off of the item altogether for minimal cost.

As a top-level descriptor of a system, this isn’t terrible. It brings to mind images of the always-fun double-edged sword of abilities, something that offers you a notable upside at a significant cost and encourages you to play to minimize the cost. Unfortunately, in this case the details start to drag the overall concept down, starting with the problem that this tries to make a drawback one-size-fits-all.

Bored, huh?

“Big bonus with a big drawback” builds and strategies have always been popular, and frequently lead to some interesting play possibilities. However, the usual goal is that the drawback is somehow tailored to the bonus. Final Fantasy VIII’s Limit Breaks, for example, were the most powerful attacks in the game, but they also required a character to be on the verge of death to be accessible. That meant you were in the best position to play at the same time as you were nearly dead. (Or you kept one specific character nearly dead while your other party members served as his nurses.)

Corruption does not quite do that. Corrupted affixes give you a big bonus and then a generic sliding scale of Bad Things Happening. They’re not Fallout-style Perks; it’s just a list of things you don’t want if you get enough things you do want. As such, it feels a bit more like the way that the game’s gear scaling works, wherein the value of a good thing is undermined by a Hidden Bad Thing.

But that’s nitpicking. A more material problem is the way that Corruption removes what had been a longstanding positive element of Titanforging – relevant content insurance.

In Wrath of the Lich King, every piece of content at the level cap had some relevance, because it all gave you badges and those badges were how you could reliably get gear. Some other game has doubled down on thatWoW has meanwhile dismantled that system and forced you to be entirely reliant on randomness… which meant that Titanforging was the only thing that kept Heroic dungeons worth queueing for. After all, this dungeon has no special currency and your gear is all far beyond what it could drop… but something might Titanforge and be an upgrade!

This was also the part that the most gatekeepy of gatekeepers hated the most, because how dare someone without a dedicated M+ group or top-tier raiding guild ever get equivalent gear? By keeping all of the good stuff for ourselves we are clearly creating a robust population of raiders and certainly not driving people away from the game in droves.


Anyhow, the point is that Corruption does not work this way. Instead, it just offers that flat bonus of content. Which means that there’s no longer a reason to hope for an upgrade from Heroic Tol Barad or something similar; you know it’s not coming, so why would you bother running it unless you have a quest there? Which means that fewer people are going to bother, especially since it’s the end of the expansion and there’s a decided paucity of people who still need quests done.

This is, in short, discouraging players from running content. This is never a good look. I don’t blame the people who already have characters decked out in good gear and don’t want to run these dungeons yet again. Removing the incentive to do so just means that people who still have to do this stuff will face larger barriers to it.


It also creates a much harder ceiling for players. Real talk, I cannot see people caring all that much about maximizing their legendary cloaks unless it looks particularly gorgeous, and even that is dubious. If you already have the major goals you want to achieve done by the time 8.3 drops… what motive do you actually have to focus on wearing Corrupted gear? Either you’re at the cutting edge of raiding and thus need it, or you’re not and you have no reason to care all that much. It’s just marking time when you know it won’t matter in half a year or so.

And remember, this also removes a lot of relevance for other content, so you’re even less inclined to care much about what might show up unless you are (again) pushing the leading edge. There’s no long-term progress being made her, so why knock yourself out over it?

Last but not least, it still leaves in the most basic problem of Titanforging while adding the old problem of reforging. If you have an ideal Corruption affix, then every drop has a chance to have that… or to have something you don’t want at all. Hooray, the old familiar situation wherein every drop is stressful! But if it’s an upgrade and you need to clear the affix, then… you need to wait to go back to town and make it usable.

On paper, I like the idea behind Corruption. It’s a neat idea for how to make gearing a bit more interesting. But this manages to both strip the existing (bad) system of its benefits while adding on some new drawbacks. It makes gearing more complicated, but not more interesting, and definitely not more fun. Which… is a pretty solid microcosm of this expansion as a whole, I suppose.

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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Paragon Lost

I have eight characters all of different classes who are at the cap and over ilevel 400 and upward. I have two more characters that I’ll take to the cap before years end and get geared. After that I’ll have two last characters to take from 100 and 103 to the current cap.

My plan is to focus on those two last characters and completely ignore the whole corruption crap. Basically the current expansion is over for me and I’m just tidying up and taking some last holdout characters that I’ve been procrastinating taking to the current and previous caps and getting them done. The Demon Hunter (currently 103) and the Death Knight will finally get capped and caught up.

Blizzard boggles my mind because they apparently are stuck in a permanent one step forward, one step sideways and one step back mode of mechanics creation. I’ve been done with serious raiding for years and just can’t embrace their antics at all when it comes to much of their content and mechanics ideas. (sigh)