Burn it! BURN IT! So Sylvanas attacked the city she called home before the Lich King raised her to be the Banshee Queen. In a stroke a genius and courage Blizzard had the Horde war chief burn down Teldrassil. Setting the tone for an entire expansion for Horde. It should’ve been a warning for Alliance players that their factions response would be a half-baked effort to retake Lordaeron ending in failure again.

For those who love lore the Horde‘s Zandalar zone are ambitious and detailed. Questing never takes you far from the central story line of securing the assistance of the Zandalari, the fleet Sylvanas so badly needs, by securing internal security for the Troll nation. Nazmir a gloomy and atmospheric swamp zone, it is dark in very good way and never becomes the oppressive and difficult grind of vanilla Duskwallow. The struggle to contain the Blood Troll threat and prevent them from summoning their Loa dominates the questing experience.

Voldun is a desert zone, but like none other. Where Tanaris is a featureless sand dune waste peppered with troll ruins, Voldun is a varied and multifarious zone…peppered with troll ruins. In the north, where the Tortollan Seekers have a base the zone is dark with dripping trees and Naga on the coast. Further south there are salt pans, dunes, rocky outcrops and Vulpera. I could talk about the Vulpera all day. These cute little fox people are fun and at the same time engaging and they weren’t enough with their adorable caravan mounts and alpacas then you get equally cute little snake people too. If these two are not playable races soon then Blizzard have missed a trick…Vulpera are all Horde Blizzard.

If I have one criticism of Battle for Azeroth (BfA) it has to be that the levelling is too quick. I started in Nazmir (the yellow zone), progressed to Vol’dun (the red zone) and dinged 120 in no time and had even reached Zuldazar (the green) zone. So much, so concerning…a three zone expansion with very fast levelling completed in two zones. There are another 3 zones on another island, but, trust me, I’m coming to that.

Sooner or later you’re going throw away those last legendaries and hung up you spend Artefact Weapon and reach the requisite item level for normal 5 man dungeons. This is probably where your first big shock is going to hit you. Blizzard have torn up their own rule book and gone back on many things they said they wouldn’t. Threat mechanics are back. This may seem like a retrograde step, but the advantages, if Blizzard stick to their guns (taking bets they won’t), are manifold.

Tanks are tanking again, this mean more emphasis on collecting up mobs, positioning them well and maintain aggro on them all. Less emphasis is now placed on active mitigation, which increasing became a synonym for self-healing. If tanks are tanking more, struggling to keep aggro, and self-healing less healers will be concentrating on the main task of keeping their tank alive. Think about it…tank healers will make a return in raids and with them raid healers. The best DPS in raids and 5 man content will not those with the flat-out highest metre numbers, but those that take the least damage, therefore require the least healing, and also put out good DPS. This adds complexity and depth to group compositions and reduces the tank/healer overlap.

The substantial nerf to threat for tanks has exposed some really dire practice and even worst tanks. I’m looking at you Demon Hunters. Demon Hunters have become the new Death Knights. You zone into a dungeon and see the tank is a DH and consider just leaving and waiting 30 minutes to queue again. Seriously. One good thing about the threat chances is it will make DPS think twice about switching into a tank spec, queuing as tank and think they can tank. Yeah queues for random dungeons may get longer, but the upside of even this downside is more Guild group are getting organised, even to complete a quest in an heroic 5 man. Hopefully as many real tanks will get rolled and levelled, we just want have to tolerate the shitfest of people who cannot tank, blithely tanking for an insta-queue. I’ll tolerate a slightly longer queue time for that. Some people are talking about the threat reduction, from the ludicrous 1700% (try ripping it off me bitch) for tanks in Legion, to around the 400% mark as being a return to vanilla tanking. You clearly were not there. 400% is a level more appropriate to Mists of Pandaria and no cried their, while I did as tanking was becoming derisory, but no one listens to people begging for more difficulty in pockets of the game.

Here’s another backtrack you will notice in 5 man content: dungeon size. Dungeons are bigger. Blizzard are putting the same 3 to 5 bosses in them so how do you fill the space? Trash, of course. Massive amounts of trash are back! I love big detailed rambling dungeons: Stratholme, old-Blackrock Depths, Zul’Farrak. I hate ramshackle messes: old Uldaman, Maraudon, Dire Maul. Sadly the MOTHERLODE! for one falls into the latter category…too many repetitive trash packs, simply stretching the run out to fill the available space. Take some trash out and put in another boss, it’ll take less time and be more fun, it’s not rocket science.

Picking up where Legion left off we have profession related quest chains. Now this was a potentially a great addition, I say potentially because in Legion it introduced discreet expansion profession levelling and RNG recipe drops. Professions now are discreet in the sense that you can level them in one expansion regardless of your progression in another. My Legion enchanting can be 1, but I can still level and max out enchanting in BfA. This plays heavily to the convenience and utility crowd. If they level an alt or any new character they want to barrel through to max level at max speed. Then they want their their professions to be ready to roll in current expansion content.

What is the downside of this change? Immersion and commitment to you character development. This is was a RPG after all. Yes I meant was. For those is a real rush there is a character boost, it takes you to the maximum level of the previous expansion, why not max-level of two professions with a basic set of recipes and training ready to start in the new expansion. Perfectly good solution. There should be a reward for those who put in all the work to grind out the profession levels and a sacrifice involved in throwing it all in and taking up new professions in a new expansion. If there isn’t where is the character progression…how is my 14 years character with max level professions and esoteric recipe back catalogue any more valuable than a character rolled and boosted yesterday?

Reputations are back with a Mists of Pandaria style vengeance. Why gate gear behind reputations? For most of us by the time we’ve reach revered with a faction we don’t want the gear they will now sell us. What the hell are pets doing behind all the reputation walls too. I now have to join the rep grind to access all the companion pets I want. While we’re on the subject some things do not need to bleed into the rest of the game. PvP can remain hermetically sealed from the PvE game, achievements and quest chains. So can Pet Battling…It beggars belief to see people not interested in Pet Battles doing them for Azerite Empowerment and reputation rewards!?

Speaking of PvP…War Mode? Never had it on. Island Scenarios a scenario with faux PvP. Need I say more…more than 25 pets drop randomly in Island Scenarios. I don’t know what Blizzard are trying to prove but it seems like they will incentivise all their bad content to get people to do it. Warfronts. Warfronts are just dogshit. It’s like a ramped up capture the flag faux PvP LFR. I’m not even sure it’s possible to lose. I’ve seen people riding around aimlessly or ignoring all the objectives and farming rares for loot. Again utilisation will be high as 340 loot can drop randomly and weekly reward for completing this time sink is 370 gear. Yeah that’s gear that’s better than the normal tier 1 raid gear. What is it for Heroic raiding? I’d like to say something positive about War Fronts.

This week it’s Monday and the War Front is 88% completed. I keep hearing the same arguments I dismissed for Timeless Isle in Mists of Pandaria. I said the island was dogshit and night and day compared to the Isle of Thunder. My Guild Master at the time disagreed and farmed Timeless for all he was worth. Sadly their were no powerups to player skill or a good person boost. I returned that if he was leveling through¬†MoP the Timeless Isle would get no use whatsoever even if it does offer an ilvl boost into the next expansion. Once the gear is farmed out no one will ever go there.

I was wrong about that…there are random pet drops from the rarer spawns on Timeless Isle that ensure people (like me) keep revisiting. We don’t go there for any other reason and no one holds warm memories for the Timeless Isle which will always be remember as one of Blizzard‘s less subtle and well formed catchup, added area content zones.¬†War Fronts are tedious and frustrating by the very fact it is impossible to lose. Just add a skip option to the loot and find out how much people actually like playing through a War Front. It will come as a surprise to no one that you can ride around a War Front doing nothing, engaging nothing, picking up no wood or iron and win and get a gear upgrade. If it can be done you know people already are.

Which brings us around finally to the raid…first impressions (5/8N) is that the raid is over-tuned. As a introductory raid in a new expansion it’s a very tough challenge and a poorly paced and scaled. the first two bosses are pretty good fights with some interesting mechanics and, although occasionally punishing for minor mistakes, pretty well designed. However, the apparently item level requirement to make an easy mode run comfortable, and not a complete ball ache, are way to high. The dungeon should be pitched to heroic dungeon graduates, perhaps taking their first steps into raiding, with an average item level of around 315 – 320. Experience suggests that a raid will struggle if most of their members are not somewhere around 340. This requires your new raider to have run Mythic and LFR arguably, neither of which should be necessary for a normal (easy mode) raid. Which begs the question is there is going to be a step between top level Mythic raid gear and next raid tier (not necessarily easy mode gear, but certainly heroic gear) how what is the gap between easy mode t1 and t2 gear going to be like and are we going have farm LFR and Mythic +6,7,8 to get a gear level to make us competitive against the second tier content? BLizzard have got off on the wrong foot and have created an issue when the y balance between tier the whole expansion going forward.

Raids should ramp up in diffuclty too. First boss has traditionally been a straight forward, almost tank and spank warm up. Second bosses introduce a new mechanic and a jump in difficulty. Four boss are usually tricky and sharpen up your team (Tortos, the raid breaker). The first boss in Uldir (Ulduar, no Uldir), Taloc, is an interesting fight. OK it’s not terribly challenging and Mother ramps up a notch in the difficult stakes. She’s pretty easy to overcome and quickly mastered however, we had her on farm (easy mode) the first night pretty much. The Fetid Devourer is ridiculously simple, much more of an expansion’s first boss encounter. Third? It’s as if you climb on the raid progress ladder with Taloc, climb to the second rung quite easily and hesitantly pull up another notch passed Mother. At Letid Devourer you climb up easily and then the rung snaps and you drop to rung two snapping that and taking rung one out as well. Climbing up from the ground to Zek’Voz look and feels like a giant step up now and it is. After three relatively easy bosses you laughingly cantor forward and faceplant the fourth boss. Echoes of Mists again as boss five, Vectis, is stupidly easy. Stand here on this mark until an add spawns, move to other mark, kill add. Back on the boss. Rince and repeat. Phase two, soak one (and only one) red circle each per round, but soak all red circles as a raid, and avoid the waves of spikes shouting out across the floor from the boss. Phase 1. Rince and repeat and boss dies. You wouldn’t want to spend 40 minutes talking tactics.

As much content as Legion if not more? True, but it’s not the PvE content I was looking for. Warlords of Draenor 2.0? Certainly not, well it’s too early to tell. The launch was as bad as WoD is some ways with more people crowded onto realm servers thanks to sharding and phasing tech, with no thought to the effect on trade systems, crippling mail, guild banks and Auction Houses. The Warcraft Devs laid down a good blueprint for content delivery in Legion and if BfA metes it out at a similar rate and doesn’t deliver the content drought of WoD then it will be a success, albeit a qualified one.

 

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