For kicks, I broke down some of the generic fantasy mishmash zone names in WoW into a chart so that they could be rearranged to make even MORE generic fantasy mishmash zone names. Blizzard, you may pay me for this service at any time, as I’ve saved you a small fortune in paying your writers.
And for fun, a fan cover of the theme done on a church organ in Germany:
“Over the past four years (Cataclysm launched at the very tail end of year six) [World of Warcraft] has lost an extraordinary number of subscribers. Its growth has stalled. This is a stark reversal when the game was in an upward trend for the first six years of its lifespan. Why is that? What’s changed its fortunes so thoroughly?”
As both gamers and people, we are creatures of habit. We know what we like and more often than not return to what is comfortable and familiar instead of forging new and scary territory. There’s a lot that can be discussed from that, such as why players clamor for wholly innovative products yet reject them when they’re *too* different (TSW!), but I mention that simply because I am quite aware where my comfort levels lie in picking MMO classes:
- Comfortable: Pet classes. Hybrid classes. Medium-armor jack-of-all-trades classes.
- Fringe Comfortable: Healers. Rogues.
- Uncomfortable: Tanks. Extreme glass canons (mages). Anything Elf.
During my adventures with Guild Wars 2’s Necromancer, who is now level 62 and practically unstoppable, I realized that I’m essentially playing my World of Warcraft Warlock (the original Syp) all over again. OK, Warlocks are into demonic binding and Necromancers call that yucky while animating corpse guts to do their bidding, but there are a lot of similarities in how they both play and the decisions I’ve made in building my GW2 toon:
- Light armor
- Swap between dagger/offhand and staff
- One big power pet (Felguard/Flesh Golem)
- Craptons of DoTs
- Tougher than they look
Running around dotting mobs up while watching my pet smack the crud out of bad guys is and was a relaxing joy. I love planting down a spell that ends up causing a lot of numbers to be streaming over heads for a while to come, as if I’ve infected a mob, they’re already dead, and they just don’t know it yet.
And I wondered if subconsciously I started playing the Necro like this primarily because it’s what made me happiest in World of Warcraft. Maybe. It’s been a long, long time since I played my Warlock with any regularity (I think we were in Northrend at the time), but old patterns and fond desires die hard.
Filthy neutrals, I hate them so much!
Anyway. Warlords of Draenor. Not a big surprise of an announcement at this point, but that’s fine. Not everything has to be a huge surprise. What we have here is an expansion that’s obviously drawing upon the fanbase’s love of The Burning Crusade by taking players back in time to show the world before it got blow’d up good. WoW’s moving forward by going back to the past, which makes me a little cross-eyed to consider.
It’s tempting, more tempting than Mists of Pandaria’s reveal was. Pandaria didn’t pluck at my emotional heartstrings whatsoever, and I didn’t regret missing out on it. This… maybe a little plucking. A few distant memories of Nagrand that glow in my heart. And big reveals tend to stir the nerd love.
It looks nice, overall, and I give two thumbs up to the character model revamps (the old ones looked old in 2007) and the garrison system. It’s sort of more functional player housing, which is cool, although what happens to it when expansion 6 launches? Do they move their headquarters back from the past and to whatever new continent/world they’re exploring?
I’m less thrilled with the Orc focus. Orcs are dull, dull, dull. I want to say this is a personal feeling, but no, it’s a universal constant. You can give them all the muscles and savage nobility you want, but… ugh. They’re Orcs. They should just be cannon fodder enemies like in every other fantasy game.
And even though I kind of just want to leave this can of worms alone, I can’t resist kicking it. I think it’s a huge mistake to give players an insta-level 90, just like I think it’s a mistake in other MMOs to level-skip like that. I have a huge rant/argument about this that I’m not going to go into now, so suffice to say that this is the latest part of the slippery slope that Blizzard made for itself. It kept adding more levels and making leveling far too fast, repeating that over and over, to now where we can just pretend that the pre-level 90 game doesn’t exist because you don’t have to adventure there at all. Whenever a company announces this feature, all I hear is an admission of failure of the leveling hole they dug for themselves.
This is really the answer of least resistance for Blizzard and I am not surprised. I mean, a mentoring/sidekicking system would’ve taken work. Horizontal progression would’ve required ingenuity. Just fiddling with numbers so that a counter goes from 1 to 90 in a heartbeat takes a few seconds of coding. Yes, huge level ranges are a real issue for hanging out with friends and getting to the new stuff, but there are better ways and I am just so sick of this mentality that the best solution is to hand out high level characters that nobody earned because a studio can’t be bothered to structure its game better.
See? Testy. I’m going to be happier on Monday.
This aside, I like that WoD is a little more serious in tone than Pandaland. Considering the subscription slide that WoW’s seen this year, Blizzard absolutely had to announce an expansion to stoke the fires once more. And as I said, it is tempting to think about coming back.
So two quick thoughts before I leave well enough alone here. First, this expansion is a safe, calculated play on Blizzard’s part. It’s interesting, but there wasn’t anything here that made my eyebrows fly off my face. Free-to-play would have done so, but Blizz isn’t ready to travel down that road yet, I guess.
Second, once everyone gets past the emotion of the day, the cold reality is that Warlords of Draenor will be pulling into the station in 2014 with WildStar and Elder Scrolls Online cracking their knuckles and looking for a shot. It’s going to be interesting.