Posted in World of Warcraft, Podcast, Music

Battle Bards Episode 222: World of Warcraft Dragonflight

Episode 222: World of Warcraft Dragonflight Battle Bards

Will our fascination with giant, skyfaring, flame-belching lizards subside? World of Warcraft bets not, as it's currently soaring through its Dragonflight expansion. Will the music also ascend to lofty realms or fall to the earth with a dud? You'll have to listen to the Battle Bards as they figure out the answer to that question! Episode 222 show notes  Intro (feat. "The Dragon's Hoard," "Riverbends," and "The Isles Awaken") "Take to the Skies" "Giants of the Span" "Windsong" "Tyrhold" "Ramparts of Valdrakken" "Gardens of Unity" Which one did we like best? Listener Notes: George and Bullwraith Jukebox Picks: "Encounter Elite" from Sea of Stars, "Jubilife Village Theme" from Pokemon Legends Arceus, and "Density" from Citizen Sleeper Outro (feat. "Life Pools") Talk to the Battle Bards on Twitter! Follow Battle Bards on iTunes, Stitcher, Player.FM, Google Play, iHeartRadio, and Pocket Casts! This podcast is produced using copyrighted material according to Fair Use practices as stated under Section 107 of the 1976 Copyright Act.
  1. Episode 222: World of Warcraft Dragonflight
  2. Episode 221: LOTRO Before the Shadow
  3. Episode 220: Guild Wars 2 End of Dragons

Will our fascination with giant, skyfaring, flame-belching lizards subside? World of Warcraft bets not, as it’s currently soaring through its Dragonflight expansion. Will the music also ascend to lofty realms or fall to the earth with a dud? You’ll have to listen to the Battle Bards as they figure out the answer to that question!

Episode 222 show notes (show pagedirect download)

  • Intro (feat. “The Dragon’s Hoard,” “Riverbends,” and “The Isles Awaken”)
  • “Take to the Skies”
  • “Giants of the Span”
  • “Windsong”
  • “Tyrhold”
  • “Ramparts of Valdrakken”
  • “Gardens of Unity”
  • Which one did we like best?
  • Listener Notes: George and Bullwraith
  • Jukebox Picks: “Encounter Elite” from Sea of Stars, “Jubilife Village Theme” from Pokemon Legends Arceus, and “Density” from Citizen Sleeper
  • Outro (feat. “Life Pools”)
Posted in World of Warcraft

World of Warcraft: Fish dude says ‘hi’

Man, I guess Blizzard was tired of pursuing the “cute but ferocious” murloc path and decided to go all out nightmare fuel with this expansion’s fish people. Thank you for this image, Blizz. I’ll be sure to wake up in cold sweats tonight.

Although there’s always a huge temptation in WoW to blitz through questing areas, I find it’s worthwhile to slow down and soak up the environmental details. This totem/nightlight is pretty nifty, I think you’ll agree.

One of the zone’s big storylines is tagging along with a centaur caravan while it migrates. I liked how there was a mount I could ride while some guy droned on and on about the history of the clan.

There are never awards for MMO skyboxes, but there totally should be. WoW would sweep those. Anyway, here I am being a total poser.

The last time I ever thought about WoW’s centaurs or remember questing for them was old school Desolace. They were pretty dull back then and only marginally less dull now. I kind of see them as four-legged Klingons, and I think that’s how the writers view them too. Honor! Raw meat! Battle! Grumpiness!

MEAAAAAAAT

Posted in World of Warcraft

WoW: Soaring into Ohn’ahran Plains

Week Two, and I’m still going strong in Dragonflight. It’s not an overwhelmingly amazing expansion, but it’s pleasing and comfy in the best of ways. I’m looking forward to a winter with it, at the very least.

If I could make one change with it at this juncture, it would be to have an option to slow down your dragon mount and/or allow for an “orbit” option. Dragonriding is great fun to traverse long distances or change altitudes, but it’s absolute rubbish if you’re trying to land someone specific in a cluttered field. It’s way too easy to overshoot stuff and be moving so fast that you can’t see where you want to go.

I thought I was done with Waking Shores when I found a quest cluster that I hadn’t done yet — an expedition camp devoted to studying primitive dragons. This ended up being quite involved, with several amusing quests and all sorts of picture-taking. The small arc involving a class of students that captured their own baby dragon and was trying to take care of it stood out as particularly memorable.

While I wasn’t in any hurry, the scarcity of remaining quests in Waking Shores meant I had to move on. One zone down, three to go!

Ohn’ahran Plains is a good transitional region. I’m almost always down for a good “plains” zone. They tend to be pastoral, pretty, and relaxing. This one may feel a little more packed than some others I’ve seen, but it’s still a whole lot of eye candy, so I’m not complaining. Also it’s a ton of centaurs who are calling me “Two Feet.” Hey, I get enough of that at home, thank you very much!

Now that the expansion’s been out a few weeks, I’m finding myself decidedly middle-of-the-road in my attitude toward it. It’s good and solid fun, and I never regret logging in. But I’m not on fire to play it, either. I think part of that has to do with my stupid head thinking ahead to what I want to do and see in the expansion. Get through the regular content, yet, but past that, whatever goals I want to set are going to make or break my interest.

This feeling may not even be related to WoW; as I said last week, I’ve been going through the ups and downs of gaming malaise and needing more passionate involvement than I’m currently experiencing in any game.

Posted in World of Warcraft

World of Duckycraft

You know how I was bemoaning the effects of a gaming malaise earlier this week? Dragonflight did a whole lot to kick that feeling in the butt, thanks to a surprisingly fun launch week. A rising tide lifts all boats, etc., and I’ve found that my interest in other titles have picked up as well. I’m glad — I don’t like feeling like I’m going through the motions in any part of my life. But it may be time for a personal break at some point.

Anyway, Dragonflight! I’ve been taking my time going through the opening zone (after all, there are just four and no need to blitz through them). A slower pace also helps to adjust to the different tone of this expansion, which feels a little more adventurous and wild. I still don’t care one whit for the dragons — nor do I think the dev team does, considering how often they have to disguise the dragons as “normal” humanoids. I’m sure there’s a great lore reason for that, but I think the practical reason is that the devs know we don’t really connect with or care for giant lizards that are hard to tell apart.

One thing that’s also made itself clear early on: This expansion is all about the ducks. Blizzard’s shoved ducks in every corner of this expansion pack, from pets to headgear (see below) to quests. And yes, WoW’s version of ducks are pretty adorable and I would die for them if asked.

Once I got dragonriding, I put a pin in questing to max out all of my glyphs (as probably most do). I appreciate that this only had to be done once and benefits all alts. And I really don’t resent having done it, either, seeing as how it (a) got me acquainted with the zones, (b) uncovered the map, and (c) got me used to handling a dragon.

The flying is fun and I’m glad we have it on day one, but I do hope we’ll be able to bring in our regular fliers at some point. Not all of us want to stay on dragons forever, and sometimes landing them on specific spots while flying fast (say, when you’re farming nodes) is much trickier.

There are many head duckies, but this one is mine. Together we are unstoppable.

All in all, I’m quite on board with Dragonflight. I anticipate another month or so of normal questing/campaign questing before transitioning into endgame stuff (reputation tracks, dungeons, crafting, world quests). I’m also not going to touch alts until the new year, and even then, maybe not until spring. For now, I’ll enjoy the day-to-day and see what kind of legs this expansion has.

Posted in World of Warcraft

World of Warcraft soars into Dragonflight, and I’m clutching on

In any other previous era of World of Warcraft, an expansion like Dragonflight would’ve been an event, but it also would’ve stood on its own. I honestly feel bad for it (as much as one can feel bad for an impersonal video game) because whether Blizzard likes it or not, Dragonflight has to also shoulder the responsibility of course correcting an MMO that’s steered into mistakes, criticism, bad design, nasty studio politics, and pretty much all of the negative aura that’s bloomed around this title over the last four years.

That’s a WHOLE lot for one expansion to handle. Maybe if it was Wrath or Legion, it’d be up to the task of surpassing expectations and single-handedly righting what once went wrong. I fear that the best this one’s going to be able to do is steer WoW in a better direction and lay some foundation for a more enjoyable future.

Don’t get me wrong, that’s not a bad thing in and of itself. I fully anticipated Dragonflight to be a fun, accessible package, and so far, it’s been exactly that. It’s just not going to be the one thing that saves WoW overnight.

Anyway, this week Dragonflight launched with the typical Night One disasters. Obligatory “gee there were a whole lotta people on the dock that day!” shot. Snide “hey where’s the boat?” complaint.

Really, other than having to wait for that dumb boat for a half-hour, I had no problems. Went right over to the Dragon Isles, got into questing, even found a treasure early on.

Any MST3K shout-out is fine with me! And any humor is, too. I like it when WoW leans away from DRAMADRAMADRAMA all the time to inject some tongue-in-cheek gags and writing in its adventure. Makes me actually want to read the quest text.

If you only listened to most of the WoW websites or YouTube channels’ advice, it was imperative to rush-rush-rush your way through the opening night and first week to get to level 70, fully level up dragonriding, and accomplish a dozen other “must do” tasks for some reason. To keep up with everyone else? To get right to the endgame grind and grow bored of the expansion in week two? I dunno.

My approach for this, LOTRO’s recent expansion, and pretty much anything else new these days is to draw from years of observation and experience that rushing really doesn’t help anything. It’s far better to realize that this is a rare deployment of a huge amount of new content and to take time savoring and enjoying it. So what if you end up a week or even a month behind? You’ll be getting the last laugh as you’re not developing a hernia waiting for that next patch; you’ll still be having a pretty good time.

Posted in World of Warcraft

Gears of warcraft (or, how I learned to love the timer)

One of my pre-expansion goals for World of Warcraft was to dust off my old roster of characters and settle on what I wanted to play going into Dragonflight. While new alts are always a possibility, I am pretty content to hang out with my core three: Draenei Unholy Death Knight, Worgen Balance Druid, and Gnome Beastmaster Hunter. The last of these I got up to level 60 before I went on vacation, which checked off another to do item for me.

Most likely, I’ll be leading the charge with my DK, as she’s always been “first” in my mind since Legion. It’s a pretty hardy class with a lot of pets, AOE, and low-stress combat.

Next up was taking advantage of the primal storm invasion event to gear up as fast as possible. Two weeks should be more than enough time for three toons, but the need to get them all geared up and the time limit put a lot of pressure on those first few days until I got the sense of how long this should take. And since I spent a good chunk of this time in the Badlands, I also got in a bit of mining for if/when I go back and do classic engineering.

Fortunately, gearing up comes swiftly and without much sweat in this event. The first night, I got my DK up to 252 with plenty of currency left over. I appreciate that you always have a chance to get gear drops, but if you don’t, you can spend currency to fill out the rest of your slots.

And having the main event take place in the same location allowed me to take a much more laid-back approach for alts #1 and #2.. I’d log in, wait until the boss popped, help defeat it, then set timers for 20 minutes after it died. Then I’d tab out, get some other stuff done, and come back three times an hour for a quick boss fight, a handful of tokens, and a chance at a gear drop.

Additionally, I used the downtime to do some more guild shopping. I’ve been trying out a few different oufits, but none had that right mix of friendliness, chatter, and personality that I was seeking. I finally found it in <Socially Distorted>, which made a big deal out of “kindness” being its core virtue. The folks have been great, and I’m encouraged to spend an expansion with them.

Posted in World of Warcraft

Blizzard and NetEase end World of Warcraft in China

As the hoary saying goes, the only thing that could kill World of Warcraft was Blizzard itself. And as the events of this past week go to show, this is more or less true.

Last week we got the news that NetEase and Blizzard are by and large terminating their working relationship in China, which means that World of Warcraft, Overwatch, Hearthstone, and everything that isn’t Diablo Immortal is going dark in that country as of January 24, 2023. That is, of course, unless Blizzard can figure out another solution to this incredibly undesirable situation.

There are two facets to this tragedy here. The first is the business side, which is the latest and most serious breakdown of the relationship between these two game companies. This past year hasn’t been great for Blizzard-NetEase, with Diablo Immortal’s poor critical reception being blamed on NetEase’s design and the cancelation of a mobile Warcraft game. But now it’s gotten so bad that they couldn’t even hack out a publishing agreement for some of the largest online games in that region, and now both sides are going to lose a whole lot of money because of it.

I am deeply curious the conversations that are going on at Activision-Blizzard’s board level and what hell to pay will be caught from the investors. I also wonder what effect this may have on the upcoming Microsoft buyout.

Maybe it’s recoverable. Maybe another round of negotiations might find a solution, or Blizzard might find another local operator. But even if that’s the case, the fact that all of this degraded so badly shakes everyone’s confidence in both companies and the future of these titles in China.

The other side of the tragedy is the playerbase losing their online worlds. By some reports, China made up half of WoW’s global population, which is not inconsiderable. And all of those players are about to see the MMO go dark and their characters disappearing into the void — just weeks after Dragonflight’s release, no less. I can’t imagine what that does to the mindset of a player. If it happened in North America or Europe, the meltdown would be immense. And when it comes to China, I’m not even sure if there are ways with VPNs and whatnot to get around the government’s firewalls and play in other regions.

It stinks for those players caught in the crossfire of this deal gone wrong, and I do feel quite sorry for them. If I was there, I don’t know if I’d keep on playing WoW while hoping that a last-minute solution might be found or if I’d simply jump ship now.

Word is that a lot of this can be laid at the feet of one “jerk,” as NetEase’s boss put it, which most have taken to mean Bobby Kotick. Or Sylvanas. One or the other. If so, it goes to show that those in positions of power and authority have immense responsibility to consider and care for those under them rather than trample them down.

Posted in World of Warcraft

Farewell Shadowlands — hello Dragonflight!

Having played Shadowlands the least out of the last four expansions World of Warcraft had, I can’t say that I have any fond feelings for it whatsoever. Some of the zones were interesting, I guess? But the borrowed power systems, the unengaging afterlife setting, and the extremely dull capital city kept any of this expansion from sticking to me.

So no tear is being shed to see the baton be passed from Shadowlands to Dragonflight. What’s weird here is that I don’t feel like there are any stunning tentpole features of this new expansion, but instead it’s more focusing on shoring up the game’s weak points, providing more long-lasting character progression, and maybe even returning us to some of the fun we had during the Legion expansion. I’m cool with that, if so.

While the pre-patch is upon us (in its multi-phase glory), the expansion is still a month away. So now is the time to get my characters ready and figure out which character I’m going to be maining come Nov 28th. I have four characters at or near the level cap, and since the reset button is about to be slammed, all are eligible.

I’m also entertaining myself by going on a tour of many of WoW’s past expansion raids. I’ve never had any opportunity or motivation to see them, especially when they were the current endgame. Now? Now I can rofflestomp bosses, see all of the art and scripting, and (especially) snag some transmog.

It also makes for some pretty fun screenshot opportunities. Oh, silly boss, you gonna die in about four seconds. Five, tops.

Pre-patch day was as messy as you might have expected, with extended downtime and bugs and whatnot. By the next day it was mostly better, and I turned my attention to figuring out builds for each of my characters and then taking them out for a spin. My first go at the new talents, with my Death Knight, felt really strong. I gave her a focus on pets and throwing out as many diseases as possible, and she is handily stronger than she was back in October.

Druid was pretty fun as well. I’m finding that I can basically make more or less the same build as I was previously using, only with more stuff — more actives and passives. I loved getting some extra abilities, like doing a whole flurry of casts or having a little dragon pop up next to me during attacks. I’m sure my build isn’t optimal, but you know what? It’s mine. It’s my playstyle, and I’m happy with it.

One character that I’ve been giving increasing attention to is Yonderly, my Dark Iron Shaman. She looks so amazing, and I haven’t had a Dwarf main for a long, long time. So I started power leveling her up through dungeons. After having played a Shaman in Classic for several years, it’s nice to see that a lot of the feel of Enhancement is still there — just maybe a bit more flashy.

Posted in World of Warcraft

Cautious optimism in WoW: Dragonflight is rising

When Dragonflight was first announced this past April, my reaction to it was “rather underwhelmed.” The dragon focus, the lack of a huge tentpole feature, the dorky new class/race… none of it hooked me in. I sighed, wrote it off, and went my merry way.

And it’s entirely possible that this will end up being the middle-of-the-road expansion that I initially predicted: neither great, nor terrible, nor distinguishable. But since turning my gaze back to World of Warcraft retail in the last month and combing through all of the previews and beta reports, I’ve got to say that my mood is shifting for the better.

Dragonflight wasn’t ever going to overhaul the whole game or bowl us over with a “gotta have this now!” feature set. But the next best thing — perhaps the very best thing for the game right now — was for it to be incredibly solid with a lot of engaging gameplay and reward systems. The more I read up on it, the more Dragonflight is giving me strong Legion vibes. And that’s a good thing.

I’m the most delighted to see that, at least for the time being, Blizzard is FINALLY changing its idiotic “borrowed power” design philosophy that’s plagued (and ruined) the legacy of the past four expansions. Garrisons? Artifact weapons? Heart of Azeroth? Covenants? Well, hope you enjoyed those for two years, because you were never going to get to keep them. Same with legendaries, I guess. Giving us toys for a while — toys that we have to work pretty hard to attain and perfect — and then taking those away after two years because the reset button demands it was always a dumb idea.

Dragonflight appears (appears!) to be more about laying the foundation for systems that can continually grow rather than be removed. The main focus here are all of the new talent trees. It’s been a decade since WoW had a proper talent tree, and I’m among the camp that’s very glad to see their return. It gives us a character progression reward every level that we get to keep, and it’s a system that can be added to and expanded in the future. Heck, even if the next expansion only grants 10 new talent points without any additional talents added, that’s still permanently growing characters. And it’s far better than what we’ve gotten since Legion.

There are smaller but other foundational changes, like the reputation system reward track, the crafting overhaul, and the fact that Chromie Time now goes up through level 60 and doesn’t force you to go through Shadowlands. All really good changes that can be built upon and improved for the future. I like how they’re already discussing what’s going to be done with dragonriding and normal flying in the post-Dragonflight era. I really appreciate that a lot of unlocks will be account-wide rather than per character.

Dragons aside, I’m quite digging the zone designs and the sheer variety of activities to be done in them. This is really what brings to mind Legion for me, because the Broken Isles were a perfect two-year stomping ground. BFA split up its zones between Alliance and Horde, and Shadowlands’ zones were fragmented and not connected.

But I acknowledge that none of this is informed by personal experience, yet. There’s the pre-launch hype that colors everything, and that can influence one’s perspective. But for someone who has a lot of other MMO options and didn’t have a dog in this fight, I am gaining more confidence that this expansion might be a bit of a sleeper hit in the making. I guess we shall see.

Posted in World of Warcraft

WoW: Gradually shifting into dragon gear

It’s both a weird and exciting time to be getting back into World of Warcraft. This week officially marks the end of the Shadowlands era and the start of the Dragonflight one (I guess WoW is doing one-name expansions from now on?), even though Dragonflight isn’t actually here yet. Yup, it’s the one-month pre-patch limbo! I used to be more mixed on the idea of the pre-patch, but these days I’m far more favorable toward it.

I guess it’s because I like to prepare. Having a month to get used to basic system changes — in particular, the new HUD and talent trees — is helpful so that we can hit the ground running when the new zones open up. I also applaud Blizz for giving us lapsed subscribers gear catch-up events so we don’t have to walk into the expansion wearing the equivalent of wet paper towels.

It is kind of strange that the pre-patch is being split into two phases — I mean, c’mon, I know the studio likes to milk this for all the PR it can get, but this is ridiculous. It’s only going to give us two weeks to do the gear events, which isn’t a lot of time if you’ve got a stable of undergeared alts. But I supposed two weeks is more than enough time to power level a new Dracthyr character to the cap if you’re so inclined. Which I am not. I may, however, check out the new Uldaman dungeon as I have nostalgic memories from that place.

Apart from the gear issue and figuring out good builds, I’m more or less ready now to jump into the Dragon Isles. I’ve got two level 60s (my Druid and Death Knight) and am finishing up leveling a Hunter to 60 as well. I’ll just need to pick one character to be my main for a while and then go for it.

So it won’t be the busiest month of WoW play, but at least we can scrub off Shadowlands’ stink and cross our fingers that this expansion will get a whole lot more right than not. I’m ready to move on and see what’s ahead.