Tuesday, July 22, 2008

How long will you play Wrath?

In contrast to all the positive spin the Wrath Beta is receiving, Syncaine over at Hardcore Casual forms a much different opinion. He wrote “[All WoTLK offers is] another few tiers of the same old raiding game [..], more grinding of a broken PvP system, and just ten levels of what actually made WoW great, questing and exploring new zones.” In fairness, Syncaine has expressed a pretty similar sentiment about Burning Crusade, so it really comes as no surprise that he is pretty critical of the WoW endgame.

And yet.. I found that simple statement echoes many of my thoughts about the upcoming expansion:

Another few tiers of the same old raiding game:
At it’s core, PvE remains relatively unchanged since the pre-BC game. Random loot drops will continue to cause the same gear progression woes and grinds we all have endured since the game was created. Boss/trash encounters will continue to be simply modified versions of something we have seen previously. I may be a bit jaded here, but I find that most boss fights can be described by simple terms like Tank & Spank or it’s like this guy except he does this like this other guy. Blizzard’s idea of spicing things up is to make “position” critical by having people dance to certain points at key phases or face instant-death. Big raids end-up being choreographed fights where you either play your clearly defined part or you wipe the whole group. The scenery on the episodes may change but the fundamental style and gameplay remains unchanged.

I completely 100% acknowledge that PvE raiding in Wrath will offer a 10-man and 25-man version of each raid instance. This is a great change and one that makes Raiding more accessible to people who could organize a Kara raid, but stumbled when making the transition to 25-man content. The downside is that while this is a good change, it is one step further removed from the truly Epic feeling that the 40-man content provided. In a Massive Multiplayer game like WoW, it’s a real shame that the best experiences come at the expense of requiring smaller groups. I can’t help but be critical and think that such problems are the result of poor game design.

More grinding of a broken PvP system:
WoW PvP boils down to two areas: Battlegrounds and Arena. Of the four available Battlegrounds, three of them were available at the level 60 end game. If you endured the Battleground grind at 60, you got to endure it again at 70. And guess what? You’ll get to endure it again at level 80!

Arena, the top-end PvP for WoW, is effectively Team Deathmatch. This proves to me more than anything else that Blizzard simply doesn’t understand what makes PvP fun. Arena is popular is because a) it provides Ratings, and b) it provides the best available PvP gear. The only reason they are even remotely successful is because the Rating system provides some measure of meaningful competition. However, the platform for that competition (Team Deathmatch) is an incredibly poor choice. I’ve maintained for quite a while that Rated Battlegrounds where you could pit Premades vs. Premades would be 1000x more enjoyable than Arena matches that are simply glorified Duels.

World PvP really doesn’t exist in WoW in any meaningful form. They are working to change that by introducing a new zone dedicated to PvP. The problem is that they are planning to use the same broken gear grind mechanics that exist in Battlegrounds. I wrote about more extensively earlier this month in my post titled Lake Wintergrind.

Just ten levels of what actually made WoW great, questing and exploring new zones:
Syncaine positions this as “just ten levels” and I think that sells the expansion a bit short. It’s not really “just ten levels” worth of content because the leveling speed will be considerably slower and the amount of content (including instances) at least as great as Burning Crusade. That’s quite a bit of content and a few months of playtime. For me personally, this is reason enough to buy the expansion.

But he hits on a key point. This really is the best part about WoW. The new quests, zones and story lines will continue to be interesting and fun to play. When I look back at my entire WoW career, I have to say that many of the highlights came while leveling my first character to 60, and then again when I went from 60-70. It was new, it was interesting and it was exciting. The last time I felt that way about the game is when Magister’s Terrace was released and that was only exciting until the third time I beat it on Heroic.

The problem with the best part of a game being new content is that eventually the content runs out. And that sums up my main concern about Wrath. I’ll certainly be playing the expansion and I’ll level at least one (possibly two) of my 70s to level 80. But what then? If I find that all the game offers me is the same boring endgame gear grinds that I already played at 60 and 70 – well, I just don’t think I am going to endure that again.

1 comment:

syncaine said...

The other issue Wrath has is the format is the same as BC. It worked for BC b.c it was the first expansion. 2nd time around, the 'newness' is just not there. We already leveled our old character ten levels. We already got more talent points. We already got 3-4 new spells. First time around it was ok (I still think BC is a weak and ultimately poor expansion), 2nd time around I don't think everyone will have quite as much patience.