As I worked my way up in levels and through more of the zone stories in World of Warcraft over the weekend, I realized something odd that summarizes just how different Battle for Azeroth feels from Legion. For some reason, I actively did not want any Azerite.
This struck me as wrong immediately. Azerite is quite literally powering the heart of this expansion. It grants you artifact power, which feeds directly into the Heart of Azeroth, which is also the actual leveling mechanic for this expansion (just like how your artifact was the real key to leveling in Legion). Why would I not want it? Why was I annoyed when a quest rewarded me a chunk of Azerite?
Then it struck me. It wasn’t that I didn’t want Artifact Power; it was that whenever that was my reward, it meant I was getting only that power, and it was boring. I would much rather have a piece of gear, or a new reputation unlock, or almost anything aside from a chunk of artifact power. It didn’t feel like a reward; it felt like a replacement for an actual reward. And if your main mechanic feels like it’s not actually a reward… boy, that’s an issue.
Let me tell you a bit about me and how I play MMORPGs. Between two jobs and a family, my gaming time is relegated to the deep evening hours where peace descends upon our household. If it’s a good night, I can get in two full hours of adventuring through virtual worlds before I grow too tired to continue. Some nights it’s less.
It has been a long time since I was able to sprint alongside the pack when a new expansion or game launches, so you have to picture me as the slowpoke waaaay in the back who keeps getting distracted by small details, stops to read the quest text, and takes screenshots like I’m putting together an art book.
That’s me, the fluffy casual, and while plenty of folks have devoured vast swaths of World of Warcraft: Battle for Azeroth this week (including our own excellent Eliot), I’ve been rotating through my roster of characters and experiencing this engaging expansion at my own tempered pace. Does that mean that I lack a perspective or any observational details? Absolutely not! In fact, here are some things that I’ve been thinking about and looking at this week from the position at the far back of the pack.
World of Warcraft: Battle for Azeroth has elicited a lot of praise from the community for its superb voice acting. Blizzard Watch put together a roundup of some of the key characters and their human counterparts, just in case you were wondering who was doing that voice.
And as players explore this new expansion, they’ve been uncovering all sorts of Easter eggs and sly references. Catch that Calvin and Hobbes or Winnie the Pooh nod, did you? Well how about the in-game tribute to the late R. Lee Ermey, who appears as a sergeant in the Alliance’s 7th Legion.
Blizzard recently sat down for an interview that covered the identity crisis that is hitting Horde players really hard right now. “Battle for Azeroth is absolutely an opportunity to look at both sides [honorable and evil] that have made up the Horde storylines throughout the years and pull them together,” said Narrative Producers Steve Danuser. “And maybe give a chance for the Horde to look inward and maybe become something new, something stronger than it ever was before.”
All right. Strap yourselves in, folks, because this is when we have to start talking about narratives and story and intended emotional reactions. In short, this is where World of Warcraft: Battle for Azeroth becomes a seriously messy piece of work, because this is an expansion in which the game posits that maybe colonialism is super great and native peoples are evil villains in league with dark powers.
Yes, that’s a thing that happens. No, we’re not going to leave it there, but I’m trying to minimize spoilers before the cut.
I’ve said on Twitter before today that the game feels like a $500 million movie with $50 spent on the script, and that still rings true. A ton of effort has been put into the presentation of this expansion, and there’s nothing to do but praise all of that; there’s honestly very little to fault in any part of the presentation of the story. The faults all arrive once you start examining the actual text of that story. And boy-howdy, that’s a mess.
Fair warning, people, there will be spoilers below.
The first part of this first impressions series yesterday was all about the mechanical changes made for this expansion. This time, I don’t want to talk about the mechanics of World of Warcraft: Battle for Azeroth; I want to talk about the actual content. Not the narrative text, but just the actual moment-to-moment stuff you’re doing in the game. Which, I think, is what this expansion is going to be judged on at this stage by a lot of people.
Put simply, the game could have the best combat it has ever had with the best gear enhancement system conceivable, but if the actual things you had to fight were a boring slog, no one would like it anyway. Solid content covers a multitude of sins.
There are several people who would likely argue that Legion had some of the best content we’ve ever seen in WoW, and while there’s room to debate that, I think it’s definitely worth considering. So BfA started off on something of the back foot, and that was exacerbated by the fact that it has not one but two continents to fill out almost entirely separate.
Hey, there’s a new World of Warcraft expansion, right? When did that happen?
There’s a bit of snark there, but perhaps less than you might think. The weird thing is that Battle for Azeroth kind of does feel as if it just dropped without warning; it was outside of the usual release schedule for expansions, with a long lead-in, as if the final product just showed up on our collective doorsteps one day. Assuming you were already logged on and had your pre-orders set, you could just jump right in and start the expansion, which hearkened back to the days of midnight releases after a fashion.
Needless to say, there’s a lot to talk about with the expansion so far. Now that it’s actually live we can see the mechanics and the story with all the polish that’s intended, with nothing left behind a curtain (other than Warfronts, anyhow). Coming off the well-received Legion, this expansion has some pretty big foot gear to fill, and it’s fair to wonder if any expansion wouldn’t feel like a bit of a downturn… but let’s not start there. Let’s just start in on one aspect of the game and go from there.
Done everything already in Battle for Azeroth? Oh, you lie, but when you are done, you might want to keep your eye out for a super-secret quest line that Blizzard confirmed exists somewhere in this new World of Warcraft expansion.
The studio also incentivized the new island expedition mode by saying, “There are so many things in the rewards bucket that chances are, you’re gonna get something today, which makes it pretty exciting for your first 300 islands or so.”
Meanwhile as everyone is in the fun trenches of the leveling process, you might want to be aware of a cinematic bug that kept some players from seeing an intro cutscene. Also, Blizzard has been hotfixing some minor issues as the week’s progressed, so hopefully that’s leading to a smoother experience.
On this week’s show, Bree and Justin geek out over the confirmation of a Torchlight MMO, salute the late, great RuneScape Classic, prepare for Battle for Azeroth, and more! Also, we read some really great listener haiku because you guys are awesome like that.
It’s the Massively OP Podcast, an action-packed hour of news, tales, opinions, and gamer emails! And remember, if you’d like to send in your own letter to the show, use the “Tips” button in the top-right corner of the site to do so.
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All things considered, yesterday saw a fairly smooth global rollout for World of Warcraft: Battle for Azeroth.
But while many realms were up and players enjoying the seventh expansion for the MMO, some servers saw chronic issues that kept them offline for most of the night. As of this morning, seven game realms are down as Blizzard attempts to fix whatever ails them. There were also some smaller issues that players have reported, such as not being able to see the Heart of Azeroth in their inventory, although it is hard to tell how widespread this problem is.
One thing we do know for sure: The race to level 120 is already over. In fact, it was over four hours and 17 minutes after the expansion launch. Method’s Gingi accomplished the task with his Boomkin and a meticulously planned leveling strategy.
Did they getcha? Did they suck you in again for another go-round?
I have a flurry of guildies in World of Warcraft right now thanks to Battle for Azeroth, and yet I haven’t been enticed to go back. In fact, Legion was the first expansion I didn’t buy or go back during, and now we’re at the next one and I’m still in exactly the same shruggy place. I’m not saying I’m over it forever. I’m not saying I’ll never go back. The game just isn’t doing it for me personally right now. There are things they could do that would make me whip out my wallet: new classes (bards!), real housing, a meaningful economy – maybe something that replicates the exploration amusement of vanilla, the dungeon joy of Wrath, or the questing and farm fun of Pandaria. Probably plenty of cool things I haven’t even thought of could get me in there; the truth is, I am a sucker for the idea of playing The Big One, secure in the knowledge that it’s a sure bet for longevity.
But this expansion isn’t grabbing me, and that’s OK. Not everything has to be for me. And I’m glad it’s grabbing some of you – who doesn’t love all the buzz and hoopla? So did you go back to World of Warcraft for Battle for Azeroth?
Just one hour to go before you too can play World of Warcraft Battle for Azeroth! Just kidding, the only thing you’re going to be playing tonight is Queue Wars. And it’s almost here!
Blizzard’s posted a handy chart for the global simultaneous release so you don’t miss it. Although seasoned MMORPG veterans will probably be playing something else tonight and letting the rush subside, right? Nobody took off work this week believing play will happen, right? Right guys? Guys?
While you wait: VG247 has an interview today with Blizzard’s Gary Platner and Terran Gregory loaded with fun quotes. Here’s one that’s gripping and somehow chilling at the same time:
“Afrasiabi designed this expansion like it would be the last – don’t hold back, go for the mega, seize the day on design. Everyone on this team is absolutely committed to seeing that this thing is as powerful and relevant as long as we can. […] We’ll ride this thing until we’re old and grey – if time permits, of course.”
Happy Battle for Azeroth Day, everyone! Starting tonight, World of Warcraft’s newest expansion will release globally and players will evacuate the Broken Isles en masse for fresh content.
And while this should be a time of celebration, Blizzard isn’t making everyone happy. The studio quietly disabled the ability for the group finder to auto-accept players, a feature that was heavily used for world quests and world bosses in Legion. This move has broken several popular add-ons and led to frustration over the removal of a user friendly feature.
Blizzard said that it did this to promote more of social hobnobbing: “The challenge with mods like World Quest Group Finder is that by automating this process for quests that were designed for single players, that’s not actually a social experience — there’s no actual interaction going on. Oftentimes, in fact, it’s just leeching — players can be on their mount, flying in midair, and that quest autocompletes for them.”
One of World of Warcraft: Battle for Azeroth’s key features won’t go live when the expansion launches this coming week. Blizzard announced players are going to have to wait a while to experience Battle for Stromgarde.
“Similar to other types of endgame content such as raids and rated PvP, the Battle for Stromgarde will not be immediately available at launch,” the studio said. “Instead, it’ll open a few weeks later.”
Blizzard went on to explain how the Horde and Alliance will take turns controlling the keep and assaulting it, offering players on both sides a rotation for the PvE scenario. Warfronts remain one of the lesser understood new systems in this expansion despite Blizzard hyping them strongly during last year’s Battle for Azeroth reveal.