WoW Factor: Impressive Influence and the ongoing half-hearted Battle for Azeroth apology

Nothing else has worked.

To my great disappointment and chagrin, Blizzard turned out to not catch the same winds (of wisdom) that influenced the extending of experience boosts in World of Warcraft. Impressive Influence is gone, and with that goes a lot of my desire to play the game with my max-level characters… and the motivation that was there mostly concerned getting the reputations for Allied Races that I didn’t already have. On the bright side, I did actually get two of the three reputations I cared about finished, so that was a positive.

It’s pretty clear from the upcoming changes for buying Corruption that the team is still trying to motivate people toward the top end right now, of course. But I feel like the two approaches have one clear winner and one clear loser, and the reason that one worked and one didn’t ties into stuff that we’ve talked about before. So let’s talk about the difference, starting by pointing out that in about half a year, we all know this isn’t going to matter anyhow.

Here’s the thing about farming for gear at the end of a WoW expansion: It always, always suffers because of the simple reality that the designers know not everyone will bother. Rather than creating any kind of steady slope, the reality is that you either have top-end raid gear that’s not getting replaced for a couple of levels, or you’re replacing your old gear immediately and you’re still able to handle the early quests just fine. For most players, it’s probably going to be the latter, so farming new stuff is kind of pointless.

This problem is compounded in Battle for Azeroth because there’s not much else to get. You could see the end of the fight with N’zoth… but it’s an incredibly brief ending, helped in no small part by the fact that the entirety of the buildup against N’zoth is hideously bungled and not compelling. The actual antagonist of the story to date left the building a patch ago. This doesn’t feel like a culmination so much as a declaration that now we’re fighting this guy because reasons.

Remember how I mentioned that we’re all just farming Nature Resistance gear now? Well, Corruption is the most Nature Resistance-y gear possible. It’s gear tied to mechanics that’s going away without much utility as soon as you replace it with better things that aren’t going to hurt you for wearing them. Once Shadowlands comes out, you’re going to stop caring about it even more than you already don’t care about the Heart of Azeroth.

This is a problem, because it further increases the people who just aren’t playing at the level cap. And allowing people to buy specific Corruptions isn’t really addressing that, because… well, it’s Nature Resistance.

A dispatch from the days when I bothered.

By contrast, look at the end of Legion. Yes, farming for gear then was still going to have the same problem… but you had new appearances, cosmetic rewards, three new zones to explore, easy catch-up gear, and a story that was actually wrapping up a larger meta-arc. And then once you had finished a good chunk of that, you had access to another system for your Artifact along the way. It was all solid and fun enough that it was easy to actually forget that you were getting gear you were going to replace soon enough.

And the funny thing is… they actually did help motivate people to play more at the top level with Impressive Influence. Because that felt like a key to unlocking things that would stay relevant.

Yes, there is the datamining/rumor that we won’t need Exalted reputations for Allied Races in Shadowlands, but in lieu of an actual announcement I’m not betting that way. And even if that plays out, hey, Allied Races now instead of later. These races are unlocked and ready to go. Mounts and cosmetic stuff, hooray! This is going to actually serve a lot better in the expansion than pieces of gear that will get thrown toward a vendor at high velocity.

You’ve probably noted that I’m conflating a reputation buff with an endgame progression buff. And there’s a reason for that because both of these things feel like they derive from the same root goal of apologizing for Battle for Azeroth. It’s just that only one of them actually works.

Allied race reputations are easily one of the most loathed elements of BfA. (I’ve also talked a lot about how those requirements made sense for Legion but didn’t work now, just in case I hadn’t made enough deep cuts to prior columns yet.) The reputation requirements for Pathfinder, similarly, seemed to generally be regarded in much the same way as you would treat a tonsil infection. So the offering of a series of buffs to make both of these elements significantly less obnoxious? That’s noteworthy. Players who aren’t enticed by other stuff are going to care more about this.

Similarly, Corruption and cross-account essences are also hated systems, so that being changed is also a positive thing, right? It’s something players didn’t like about the top end being made easier, that’s good! But… it’s missing a very important element along the way because this apology doesn’t matter any longer.

Dead in the water.

The reality is that none of the systems being added to “fix” the Heart of Azeroth have ever really done anything of note. The problems with Heart of Azeroth are so deep-seated that no one was ever going to like this thing. Essences were a patch on a system people didn’t like. Corruption was a patch on a system people didn’t like. The issues with these systems were transparent from a while back, and the problems were never purely mechanical but philosophical.

What makes Corruption so bad isn’t that it’s hard to get the Corruption you want; it’s that it removes the one positive aspect of Titanforging and replaces it with an all-downside variant. Being able to control that now is a good change, but the problem is how the fundamental system is designed from the ground up.

Combine that with the fact that we all know this gear isn’t going to matter, and the whole thing feels like a fix that should have been rolled out back when the system was introduced… which, you know, people were saying even at the time. Catching on to it months later after people had already moved on is not much in the way of an olive branch.

Do I think that players would have been happier to just have Impressive Influence extended? Yes, but I can understand why it might not be ideal (if you can start chaining out Paragon chests at max level, things get messy). But there’s still a lot of space for buffs that would actually motivate people to play more at the top level. It’s just that those buffs aren’t going to be about doing the top end of content. If someone hasn’t done that now, the window for that has long since closed.

Ah, well. Another week, another bad decision. Who’s feeling super hyped about the next expansion right now? Maybe I should write about that next.

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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