Am I the only one who feels like there’s actually been a bit less news about Shadowlands ever since it opened up beta testing? Or maybe I just haven’t been focusing as well. Could be a bit of both. What’s definitely the case is that I was paying attention when some of the systems underpinning the new version of the previous weekly chest system that’s now been in World of Warcraft for two expansions was uncovered.
I think it’s an interesting change. Interesting enough, in fact, that I wanted to talk more about it. Partly because it could conceivably be an interesting alternative way to offer a more reliable source of gear than the random drops players have gotten sadly accustomed to, and partly because it’s a different way of arranging things where we don’t yet have a clear picture of how it’s going to work. So, hey, speculation! That’s a thing I do a lot anyhow.
For those of you who missed how the chest has worked in the past, either because you don’t particularly like running keystones or you just weren’t paying attention, here’s the basic idea: Running Mythic+ dungeons means that you’ll get a special weekly chest you can loot with stuff inside based on how well you did, and… eh, it’s not actually all that complex.
What’s been found in Shadowlands so far is that the weekly chest is actually designed a bit differently. There are three different challenge tracks for the chest: running M+, killing raid bosses, or earning Conquest points. The more of these boxes you check off, the more pieces of gear you get to choose between, but no matter what you will have to choose between the gear or an allegedly valuable currency. And you will only ever get one piece of gear.
Also, it looks as if the item level of your rewards will be somewhat organically upgraded by the hardest content you did over the course of a week. I’m not sure exactly where that will fall on the spectrum of high-end raiding compared to M+, but those are the broad strokes.
So. On paper, this looks like a… well, mixed approach to solving a consistent issue that has plagued WoW for years, and that’s actual protection against bad luck. I know I’ve mentioned before how tone-deaf the whole “with currency you could just mark on your calendar when you’d get upgrades” argument was from the start, and now it seems like we’ve finally actually changed that in some way. You can reliably get some upgrades.
See, we currently don’t know the actual algorithm for determining what upgrades you get or when you get them. We know that more objectives cleared means more choices and you will get to choose, but that could easily mean “if you’ve cleared one objective you get one random potential reward” or “if you’ve cleared one objective you will only get a chestpiece or pants.” The latter, obviously, is a kind of weaksauce option that doesn’t really fix anything.
Rather than being that doom and gloom, however, I think it would also make perfect sense if you essentially just got more rolls on a loot table comprised of the stuff you did in the last week that was definitely going to be spec-based. So more rolls is a good thing, but you can still fill in a much-needed upgrade even if you only get one challenge. More is just… more chances.
The fact that the alternative is some kind of currency is also interesting. It does open up the possibility of gear vendors, but it seems like that would have gotten some pop before now. Probably more related to crafting legendary items or something similar.
This particular setup also highlights the sheer pointlessness of Heroic difficulty right now. Honestly, that could be an article unto itself, but there is basically no reason to ever run a dungeon at Heroic at this point other than for a one-time achievement at best. I haven’t the faintest idea why it’s even there any longer, other than historical inertia.
But at its core level, I think this is a good change… allowing for some exceptions for execution.
Right now, it looks like LFR still counts for the raid track, so players who prefer a more casual and less structured pace for content will have an option for advancement if they want it. That could change. I’m not saying it’s likely to change, but it could, and that would render the whole system pretty much irrelevant to the people who aren’t pushing for high-end stuff.
There’s also, as mentioned, the potential limitations with how your expanded choices work. Again, I don’t feel like “no trinkets for you unless you do at least five challenges” or the like seem probable, but they are certainly possible. That would also do unpleasant work at cutting off the positive aspects pretty early.
Perhaps most notable among all of this, though, is the simple fact that the addition of an extra loot roll by itself does not address the central problem already being borne out by not having a currency system and a way to actually plan out your upgrades. You can say either that the system doesn’t mesh with what the designers currently want for the game or that the ship has sailed on actually making this sort of thing work correctly, but the fact remains that its still a problem.
If we don’t have Titanforging or the like, well, it’s good that we’re no longer going to have a nonstop game of hoping that maybe this time you get the drop you need and with enough upgrades and with the right secondaries. I appreciate that reduction in overall layers of randomness. But it’s still treating random outcomes as if they are exactly what we should be pursuing, that removing some randomness is good but we can’t actually just give you a reliable path to gearing.
Still, I don’t want to discount motion in the right direction, even if it feels like it could have been better-handled. And the core idea here is a solid one. It provides a bit more feedback and rewards for actually taking part in the game, and while it could stand to be a bit more inclusive it’s still a positive change for the game as a whole.
And if done right, it is something genuinely different in how the game handles its rewards for content and its overall pacing. It’s not the way that I personally would have necessarily wanted us to get here, but it is functional, and I can see a lot of advantages to the approach if done well. Heck, it’s the sort of automatic tracking that the game is well-equipped to handle on a whole.
So yeah, we’re going to have to see how this plays out over the course of the beta and into launch. But at a glance? I think it’s a neat idea, a good implementation, and something unique for the game that can potentially do a lot of good in the long run. The devil is in the details and support, of course… but isn’t that always the case?