Posted in World of Warcraft

The Burning Crusade 2: Cruise Control

warlordsOK, let’s talk about the next WoW expansion.  I’m game.  I’m also feeling a little testy today, so I apologize in advance if I’m not able to assume a Spock-like level of emotional neutrality.

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.

9 thoughts on “The Burning Crusade 2: Cruise Control

  1. I’m not feeling it. The garrison system seems a little interesting, but compared to all that was added in MoP, it’s very underwhelming from a features perspective, and I really don’t see a point to exploring an alternate timeline for a year before we get back to the real story. It’s just filler, and rather confusing filler at that.

    “This aside, I like that WoD is a little more serious in tone than Pandaland.”

    I can’t blame you for holding this misconception, since Blizzard did a terribad job of selling MoP as what it actually was, but Pandaria was actually very serious. Easily the darkest and most mature Warcraft has been since Wrath, and maybe even since Warcraft III.

    I like to use the Townlong Steppes storyline as an example. It starts with the player adventuring alongside the husband and wife team of Lin and Suna Silenstrike, two Pandaren warriors. Lin is captured by the Yaungol (Tauren + Mongols), and Suna is naturally beside herself with worry for her husband. Her commanding officer refuses to risk more lives on a rescue mission, though.

    Eventually, the pandas do take the fight to the Yaungol, and the player is sent to rescue Lin. But when you arrive, it’s too late. Lin has been tortured to death.

    Suna loses it. She ends up running into the wilderness, shrieking that she’s going to massacre every last Yaungol. There follows a lengthy quest to track her down. When you finally find her, you discover her grief has led her to become possessed by the malevolent Sha of Hatred, and you’re forced to put her down.

    There are a lot good reasons to criticize MoP, but not being serious isn’t one of them.

  2. I haven’t played sincerely since toward the end of Wrath. I dabbled a bit, for sure, but I never had an itch to return as much as a morbid curiosity to meet up with an old buddy that I don’t talk to anymore.

    Even if this is a calculated play at heralding back to both the grander days of the Warcraft series and the grander days of World of Warcraft (TBC), it failed for me in every conceivable way.

    Orcs are the zombies of fantasy games. Heck, sometimes they are the zombies too! I feel like we have touched upon every conceivable possibility of what it means to be an orc, play against an orc, and play with an orc in this game world.

    More levels without a new race or class or any sort of alternative advancement is just phoning it in. To make matters worse, they give everyone a ‘get out of leveling hell’ free card. Exciting! I am with you, if leveling is such a significant slog that people are actively complaining about it so much so you want to add a feature, then change it don’t circumvent it. Mentoring, mercenaries, alternate advancement, and even a level crunch would all be welcome.

    Garrisons are the only major feature here, but they don’t especially interest me. I love player housing, but only when it comes with a heavy dosage of collecting and crafting to really reinforce it as something worth doing.

    It looks like I am sitting out another one. Not that I mind anymore.

  3. Mentoring/sidekicking would have taken work, so Blizzard is lazy? May I point you at EverQuest II, which has had mentoring for ages now and who, after much work on that, will now sell you a level 85 character so you can go straight into the latest content. Perhaps Blizz figured out something it took SOE years to learn the hard way? Wouldn’t be the first time.

    The level based progression system clearly gets out of hand as time progresses, but Blizz is hardly the only one out there in that boat. And if the levels thing was unpopular, it wouldn’t be so wide spread. I was hoping for some alternate advancement option, besides a raid based iLevel gear grind, but I was pretty sure that it was unlikely.

    My bet is that the expansion is a year out. Plenty of time for me to get a character to level 90.

  4. “WoD” now referring to a WoW expansion instead of World of Darkness makes me really, really cringe. It’s like unloading a dump truck full of hamburgers on top of an antique picnic table set with red wine and brie. Plutonium hamburgers, since they will practically never decay in the history of video games.

  5. @Arcturus: What do you think Blizzard learned from SOEs mentoring system?

    I don’t think this is a case of being the wiser on mentor systems, but something of the culture at Blizzard we’re all pretty familiar with by now. They only care about polish and fun …and that goes double for development. They are the most conservative company in the industry. They simply aren’t interested or dont have the talent for “new”. I don’t honestly know which one is it, probably both, but it seems to me they aren’t interested. They have what they want and there’s no reason to change when you’re that rich.

    I’m actually excited about this expansion, first time for that in years.

    Yet Syp is right on every point. It’s pretty lazy. They will not care though. They’re rich.

  6. Blizz has been looking to spend the minimum amount possible while slowing subscriber decay for years now. Any ‘new’ stuff they have won’t be going into a 10 year old game that is in it’s autumn years.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s