Last week, I talked about the story issues that World of Warcraft really needs to address in some form as we move forward into The War Within, but you probably guessed that this was coming, too. I mean, I did pretty much say as much in the introduction to last week’s column, so it doesn’t exactly take a genius to put that together, but it’s still true just the same. Even though some of what I said kind of already applies.
For example, I mentioned last week that the whole story-gating behind raids and time-gating raids is dumb and inconvenient. That kinda serves as a preview of something that’s already pretty strongly implied here, right? You can guess that if this is a problem with mechanics and content, it’s going to still be a problem here. So I’m not going to dwell on that; instead, I’m going to make a point about the content issues that I haven’t even brushed upon. Let’s get to it.
Dungeon design needs another look
It’s not really a good thing that a good chunk of every single dungeon is basically a quiz with lots of right and wrong answers. In every single dungeon there’s a whole lot of trash that you’re just supposed to skip, and quite frankly, it’s boring.
Functionally, while this has an impact on Mythic+ runs, it’s an impact of “either you do it right or screw up and everyone is mad at you.” In every other dungeon it’s just filler. The fights aren’t interesting, and skipping them is just a matter of not making mistakes. There’s no actual challenge, just wasted time.
You don’t need totally skippable pulls to make pulling interesting, either; you can get a lot of mileage out of mobile groups that you have to position to avoid until you’re ready, enemies you need to interrupt, and the like. Fewer avoidable packs and more interesting ones you need to fight would be a good change.
Beyond that, though, there’s another problem with dungeons… but I’m just going to roll that into the next topic.
We need fewer difficulties
One of the big ongoing problems the game has is sheer item level inflation. It’s been addressed twice, but the fundamental problem has not been, and that’s just having too many difficulties in this game for every single piece of content.
Four difficulties of raid with ever-escalating rewards. Three difficulties of dungeon. Most of these are not realistically used. Removing Heroic everything from the game would compress the difficulties down to more manageable levels and help consolidate somewhat, just for an example.
It’s a good thing that Delves are being added to reward a different sort of playstyle reliably, and I like what’s going on there at least conceptually. But that’s not the problem here. Adding a new form of solo content into a midcore playstyle is only a problem because dungeons got yoinked from their role serving that midcore playstyle by Mists of Pandaria. Not everything needs to be an escalating series of difficulties.
Old content deserves more of a workout
The good news is that Dragonflight has, realistically, moved the needle on this one. Adding older dungeons into the Mythic+ rotation is a good thing. It’s a bandage on a larger issue, though, and the fact of the matter is that it only matters if you do run Mythic+, otherwise you still have huge chunks of the game that are totally irrelevant.
I’ve said repeatedly that WoW is the game with the largest amount of useless content, and I’m not alone in saying that. There are years of raids and dungeons and general content that yearns for some kind of use by players, and the designers clearly know about it because of how Timewalking events run. The problem is that Timewalking is also time-limited and could be handled way, way better.
I’m not saying that Dragonflight hasn’t touched this issue; I’m saying that WoW still needs to find better ways to make old content relevant. Yes, I know the next two expansions after this one are explicitly heading back to older areas, and that’s a good touch. But this is still an area where more work can be done and more effort needs to be made.
Crafting is nowhere near working
I’ve been generally pretty critical on the Dragonflight crafting revamp for a lot of reasons. This is significantly helped/hurt by the fact that one of my favorite professions, Inscription, no longer bears even the slightest resemblance to anything that made people such as myself take it back in the day. Adding in gear and such is a nice attempt, but it’s another bandage on a much bigger problem.
The crafting order system is not very well-handled, the crafting mechanics/specializations aren’t terribly well explained, and what the various professions make is just weird at this point. So you might think that I would argue that the whole thing should be torn out, but no. That would just ensure another half-baked crafting revamp was abandoned. What the devs need to do is refine.
Right now, we have four professions that are thematically meant to enhance things (Inscription, Enchanting, Jewelcrafting, and Alchemy), three that are meant to produce things (Tailoring, Blacksmithing, and Leatherworking), and one that’s kind of all over the place (Engineering). I think the real key is going to be doubling down on those core identities. Inscription needs more cosmetic glyphs with more applicability, Jewelcrafting needs more and more interesting gems, and so forth. We need a solid crafting tutorial for how these stats are supposed to work, better management of rarities, and just a general polish pass for all of this.
You clearly put together this crafting system on a time constraint and without much care. That’s not great, but you have a chance to refine it. Do a better job this time.
Be better about gear
Dragonflight’s gear upgrade systems are just a damn mess. You have various tiers of gear that can’t be upgraded past a certain point, and you also have the ability to turn some tiers of gear into a tier piece, and it’s just an overwrought complex mass of systems that doesn’t need to be nearly this complicated. It’s like the designers are playing a game of jinx where anything that’s actually purely deterministic has to suck.
You know what would be a real breath of fresh air if we have to keep this system? It’s not honestly a terrible system, just let people upgrade gear to the next tier with enough resources. Yes, make it expensive and slower, that’s fine. It means that people doing Mythic raids don’t have to expend nearly the same resources, and that’s all right. Not only would it give players who aren’t doing that a reason to keep going instead of hitting a hard cap of gear improvement, but it would make doing lower-level content still relevant because maybe there’s a really nice low-tier trinket once you improve it.
“Wouldn’t that break gearing?” Dude, gearing is already broken. We’ve had two item level squishes and a level squish. Making it less restrictive matters more, period end.