So, I played my first day in Dragonflight. I finished the first zone (exploration, story and most sojourner side questlines except two), and arrived at centaur tribe meeting in the second one, and I have all possible things to report.
Before logging in, I mercilessly pruned my toons, and left only 12 by number of classes – just in case I’d like to play them, as long as they’re all 60 and Korthia-clad in 215/220-ish gear. As for my main, that could very well be my only toon in this expansion, I picked my shaman Schlitzhen for a number of reasons.
Storywise the expansion is about elementals, so the class fits. I’m extremely enjoying her both combat specs. There’s nothing more perfect than Enhancement for questing and outdoors, very cool lightning strikes, awesome single/AoE power, the speed of rotation, excellent control and survival options, and mighty buffs to finish the fatter enemies. In short, enemies fall very fast, and with a flash and bang, while I’m easily keeping myself alive :) For dungeon/raid situations, I prefer to switch to Elemental as a ranged spec, which I’m also enjoying a lot. Slap on some utility like water walking, ghost wolf for quicker movement and self rez, and there’s nothing more you could want to explore the uncharted lands.
I think I’m cured from altoholism – it’s refreshing not to think about how I need my other alts to catch up or anything. One toon would totally suffice for the adventure, and I may take others to the field only if I miss playing the classes. So far I don’t, and I really like the thought how I would focus on one toon only.
Talent trees are awesome, I give Blizzard that. I’m a fan of less buttons, but making them more powerful, and I was let to do that. Upon arriving to the second zone I pruned some unnecessary extras like some wind and ice strikes, and focused my talents on Stormstrike/Lava Lash power and frequency, and that made wonders. I even have one more convenient slot to add on my hotbars. Now you can totally design a class and a spec up to yourself and your needs, and this can’t be underestimated.
I did not like a lot what they did to UI, but I could handle. Some tuning, mostly fixed the default ant-size of UI elements to a bigger, at least readable option, some reverse of the elements to previous positioning, and I can live with that.
The story is… ok, I guess. If you omit the premise – why dragons, when the weakest of them could decimate a regiment of mortals with a single tail swipe, would need to summon them for aid… I didn’t get any answer. I mean, as long as I’m here, they could use me as an asset, and I understand my own and League/Reliquary motives to explore the uncharted land and help. But why on earth to summon us in the first place from the dragon point of view? And not just a renowned champion and combatants, but a party of explorers that will only meddle under wing and clearly would get busy with their own exploration affairs, not the dragon troubles (which they do). Oh well.
The Waking Shore was about setting the goals and introducing enemies, and I think they coped very well. The lands of Waking Shore and Plains are super beautiful, and I can’t wait to go and see the ice land. It was refreshing to return to some real world from the mess of Shadowlands in any case, but terrain is awesome regardless. The Waking Shore is dragons, dragons everywhere, simply soaring and busy with restoring the place, and this surely created an awesome vibe. You can’t mix up this zone with other similar biomes.
The Plains – I’m very bored so far. There’s very little you could pull out from nomadic tribes theme, as there’s nothing to do in bare steppes, so it’s hunt (read: grind), caravans, some ritual from an animal bone and test of might, and it’s normally extremely boring as we’ve seen it all a zillion times before. Blizzard didn’t invent anything new, so I can’t wait to quit centaurs and get busy with dragons – so far I haven’t seen one or even talked about them in this zone. I’ll return with full story recap when I’m finished!
Leveling is super fast today. I barely did a couple of quest hubs in only the second zone, and I’m already 65,5. I think I won’t look for extra sources of XP and will reach 70 way before the story ends. There’s your common steep gear climb as you get a full gear upgrade set as you quest through every next zone, and I never felt undergeared – my 220 felt even too big to start an expansion.
I liked how they’re pushing Alliance/Horde cooperation in story and gameplay-wise (like sharing/helping with a kill and loot) – that’s very cool, and long overdue I think.
Now, to shovel piles of irritation and dirt – it’s Blizzard, so there are some, and ranging from minor to vital.
The smallest one that doesn’t really bother me, but rather amusing – is their representation efforts in the wake of last year scandal. I’ve told many times, and let me stress this again, that I’m more than tolerant for gay characters, gay-related media and gays in real life (I even rented a room in a gay owner’s apartment for a year, and we communicated with him and his lovers very well), I totally believe in and support equal rights and attitude to any human being no matter who they are, I detest violence, jokes and hate speech based on chauvinism of any kind etc etc.
In Dragon Isles though it seems that Blizzard wants to make up for the absense of minorities for the whole history of the game. I’ve met four story/quest couples so far, and they were all gay. Mind you, each of them is well written and touching, so they don’t feel like forced stories – but all the couples? So far it doesn’t feel like representation, it feels like replacement, and I can’t keep chuckling – it’s not the characters that bother me, it’s Blizzard’s too familiar extreme pendulum swing. We had no representation before, and we were reprimanded for it, now you get all of it in one place and time. I fully expect all future love stories to be gay too, and I’m not irritated, but interested how far they will go. By now, it’s 100%, 4/4. A deaf centaur leader is a great touch though, and deserves an applause.
Professions. The new system is quite simple. I don’t have enough mats yet, so I didn’t delve into crafting a lot – just a couple of items here and there. What I can definitely say is that they did their FFXIV homework, and stole several ideas from there – we’ll see how many once I level Dragonflight crafting a bit. The worst thing so far is: you DON’T SEE your character crafting anymore. The crafting window occupies the whole screen, and once you close it, you stop crafting. Well, unlike FFXIV which has at least 2 different animations and 2 separate crafting desks/tools for EVERY crafting and gathering job, there’s not much to see in WoW, but still. Crafting just “happens”.
Transmogs. Now I’m totally spoiled by FFXIV which has AWESOME, intricate and inventive armor/clothes – which do look like clothes. Returning to WoW made me realize how bad most armors actually look. I’ve collected my first questing set, and it’s like pieces of stone cobbled together. I scrolled through the new sets in catalog, dungeon, pvp and raid ones, and they’re totally ugly. Well, less bother for me then – and luckily I have great transmogs already.
NPC replies. Is it a bug, or they inserted more? For example, you interact – you get a common greeting, then as you click on a quest or talking line, they say a goodbye line every time, and then another goodbye as you end interaction.
And the biggest slap in my face from the game – is dragon riding which I hate with all my fibers as my only flying option in this expansion. I’m used to it to an extent, but all the problems that I predicted manifested at full scale.
First of all, it’s rather a glider than a mount. I can deal with that when I need to glide, but huge problems start when I need to ascend to a higher ground. I needed to collect some quest flowers on top of the mountain, and it was an awful experience. Two vigor stacks were not enough to climb it. Finally I had to rest midway on a cliff, as my wheezing creep took some breath and gathered strength. It just feels like… they rented me a sick dragon with asthma from its death bed?
Second – the very same flower case showed it most prominently – it has huge problems with precise navigation. I climbed the required height, ok (in two takes), now I needed to look around, locate the flower and land on that small spot precisely. I couldn’t do that, and when I did, it’s been seven sweats dripping from my back. You see, it starts to “fall” immediately, so you have to be very quick and frantic with your camera rotation and locating the spot. Then, it travels with a speed of a bullet train, so as you have precious little seconds in the first place, you also need to quickly and precisely target those couple of yards to land – and due to speed you just miss it by an inch and start over. All in all the dragon riding experience during questing is like trying to navigate a freight train in curved narrow lanes and alleys in a neighborhood.
Third, you can’t hover, so say goodbye to those screenshots from above, thoroughly picking the right angle and spot.
All in all, Blizzard did this mistake again: they invented a cool idea (the speed and long distance travel are really fascinating), they designed the terrain up to it (erhm… solution came before problem), but didn’t predict all the rest. Flying mounts have a lot of utility beside avoiding unnecessary encounters and travel between two points on the map, and dragon riding just cannot do that.
What I’m saying is: dragon riding should be an option, not a replacement. Every transportation means is a tool that applies to a current situation. You don’t buy a plane ticket to take your cat to a vet, or go to groceries. You should have “idle” options (gryphon/wyvern/dragon taxi), you should have dragon riding for dragon races and covering great distances, but also your common mounts to navigate the small spots where dragons feel just… excessive and don’t really work well.
And one thing more: your collection of mounts sits idle for the whole expansion.
Long story short, I caught myself on the thought that I shun summoning my dragon when I can. It’s fun when I need to cover a long range, but it’s a torture while actual questing, so I’d rather ghost wolf or ride a common ground mount instead when I can.
I think that will be all for tonight. The adventure is fun, the terrain is beautiful, and stories and quests are inventive and great. If not for dragon riding, I’d love the expansion. It’s not the very best or very inspiring storywise, but it’s totally valid and fun to be here. I think in total Blizzard managed the redemption trick and made up for the failures of the past, and I’ll spend my time here with pleasure.