Battle for Azeroth: Story Development and Next Expansion

I’ve commented about this in several blogs already, and I think my speculation deserves a special post.

Alliance-last-troops.png

Remember how Genn said to Anduin in the latest Saurfang cinematic that these were the last troops? They would be recruiting farmers – farmers, and the war has barely started.

They would waste their fleets – and even their new shining Kul Tiran/Zandalari fleets – during the upcoming Siege of Zandalar. There are two warfronts – Darkshore and Arathi. We are running out of manpower. All of us – both Alliance and Horde.

Not only us, but all the people of Azeroth may be wondering why are we fighting now.

The war may be senseless for people, but not in the eyes of the Old Gods.

I think we will see that it was the Old Gods who whispered Vol’jin to make Sylvanas a warchief.

She is a warmongering bitch, and they simply knew that she she will immediately start a war. It was meant to be a senseless, brutal and devastating war to weaken both factions. Because when both factions work together – they bring down the Old Gods, two examples already – C’thun and Yogg-Saron.

And that is why Blizzard wants us to wait and see. We do not understand why we’re fighting, but we’re engulfed in rage and hatred – from Teldrassil, loss of honor, mutual casualties. We just won’t stop. And we’ve been played with.

And that is why the war makes perfect sense in the long run.

We are just puppets. Deal with it.

Like it or not, us and our feelings are part of the plot, of the grand scheme.

Let’s play our role, would we?

What of the next expansion? 

Sylvanas is seeing her last expansion as a warchief, that’s crystal clear. But I don’t think that we will kill her or explore the Void/Light theme further, nor travel to another planets. Not yet.

We are looking into the revival of the Death and Ice themes.

Death Knights have seen Bolvar in Legion, and he’s not your sacrificial nice guy which we left at the Frozen Throne. He’s already quite menacing and definitely not kind.

We’ve been introduced to Bwonsamdi, who claims he has another entity for a death boss. We have Gorak Tul and Thros – a local death dimension, but it’s a death dimension. We know that Helya is not dead. There’s Kalia Menethil, Arthas’ sister, now undead priest of Light.

Have we got enough lead-ins? Well, here’s one more.

Christie Golden was not being vain describing the talk of Anduin and Genn about his probable mate. Anduin stated that he does not simply need a noble match, it must be someone he would love.

*drumroll*

In BfA Blizzard has introduced Taelia Fordragon – an action girl, a perfect match for the king. What is more important, they leave to talk after the Alliance campaign – presumably about her father, but it’s perfectly possible that some feelings will grow from this. Surely it would be awesome to end the grim expansion on a positive note – like wedding :)

Taelia

The most important thing is: Taelia is Bolvar’s daughter.

It’s not a Chekhov’s gun, it’s a Chekhov’s bazooka now hanging from the wall.

And what could make more drama and epicness than the new Lich King and the new Queen of the Alliance clashed in a fight of all good vs all evil?

I’m thrilled to see it.

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Trivia: Digging, Digging Hole

Yeah, I know you love my spreadsheets :)

Nov7

1. My reps now range between Honored (blue) and Revered (purple), and I’m starting to hit Exalted. Micromantica has bought a couple of Exalted steeds, and these horsies are gorgeous:

Proudmoore-Horse

2. War Campaign depends on rep, so it’s just there for the sake of why not. Not the thing I should be tracking.

3. I’ve covered Exploration on every alt and opened every flight point.

4. I’ve decided to complete Jaina/Vol’jin questlines on every alt. Jaina requires a couple more Siege of Boralus runs, and Vol’jin’s questline, besides normal questing, requires completing 1 dungeon and killing G’huun on any difficulty. Waiting for the raid reset which is tonight.

5. Speaking of raids, I’ve been busy during weekend and carried a heap of transmogs out of Uldir. More to go, and no complete sets yet, plus weapons.

6. I’ve been clearing the quest logs, and some of my toons can boast with almost empty ones.

7. Speaking of quests, there is an interesting Ruin Has Come questline available both to Horde and Alliance – check the starting note in Brennadam/Warfang Hold, the quest also visible on a major map. It drives you to the island by the Shrine of the Storm. After you do the initiate quests, there is a new one after a while – I haven’t detected yet what are the conditions – is it time-gated, or rep-based, or both?

The next and quite new quest, Trinkets and Baubles, requires clearing the same caves in the island. The questgiver says dark things about sanity, resolve and being prepared. It’s clearly a build-up for the upcoming 2-boss raid here, linked to the Old Gods and Azshara – we’ll see how this unrolls further, I hope it won’t be about clearing the same caves again and again.

The Future of Allied Races: Possible Options

An interesting thought has struck me considering Allied Races, and it’s so simple. Here goes: every current race receives an allied version. 

Check out my list:

ALLIANCE

Humans – Kul Tirans (Drust)
Dwarves – Dark Irons
Gnomes – Mechagnomes (from 8.2.)
Night Elves – Void Elves (with Blood Elf models)
Draenei – Lightforged
Worgen – ?

HORDE

Orcs – Mag’har
Trolls – Zandalari
Tauren – Highmountain
Undead – ? (Dark Rangers?)
Blood Elves – Nightborne (with Night Elf models)
Goblins – Vulpera (same skeleton and animations)

Considering that 4 races of every faction are already done, we might as well take it as reality.

Your thoughts? :) And I’m most intrigued about the Undead and Worgen.

My Hands Are Full

Now that I’m all in endgame, I’m feeling stretched thin.

Here’s the list of my activities:

  • Cover emissary on all six toons – better not put it off for the next day, because you’ll be overwhelmed. Quick, but time consuming due to several alts.
  • Cover warfronts activities – either warfront scenario for 370 drop, or doing weekly quests to get resources to spend during the next warfront iteration at mission table and a 340 item.
  • Kill a world boss on every alt – for a gear upgrade/transmog chance and for achievement.

Having 2-3 hours to play during workdays, this pretty much consumes all my time. I’m adding Uldir on weekends to hunt for transmogs. Needless to say, I don’t cover the LFR wings weekly on all alts, or even most of them.

And still I have an arm-long list of normal questing. I have to see the Vol’jin questline for the Horde toons. I have gathering quests. I have Siege of Boralus to complete Jaina’s questline on three alts. I have scattered one-time rare kill quests – for 250 rep each – across continents. I have small side questlines for additional reputation (like Tortollans in the south of Zandalar – the one with murlocs and naga). I have an introduction questline for the upcoming tidesage/q’thir raid (Ruin to Come questline in Stormsong). I have dungeon runs to complete for some of the mentioned things. I have no idea when I’m gonna do this all :) And I don’t even mention my new shaman – most probably she will be left out until these things are resolved.

Surely practice makes perfect – for example, it’s only 5 toons today to run 7th Legion/Honorbound, as Micromantica is already Exalted. And reputation is most important to force today, before Blizzard drops something new on our heads. Besides, chasing it is fun to me, adding numbers to my spreadsheet with every emissary completed and literally seeing my daily progress on the same page.

Are we out of content? I don’t think so.

Dark Irons: Introduction Questline

…Through dungeons deep and caverns old
We must away, ‘ere break of day…

*warning: the post contains spoilers about Dark Iron questline

As you know, I’m not a fan of deliberate grind of any sorts. And yet Micromantica, my main, has spent two sessions of clearing Zandalar from all the world quests – even pet battles :) The reason was simple – Exalted with 7th Legion and access to the Dark Irons! Lo and behold, this is my first Exalted reputation in Battle for Azeroth:

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Yet acquiring access to Dark Irons is not that easy. First you need to quest a bit.

No one informs you about the Dark Irons upon Exalted with 7th Legion, so you have to guess that the questline naturally waits for you at the Allied Races embassy in Stormwind.

Upon arrival, Moira Thaurissan invites you to check out what they did to azerite by King Anduin’s command in Blackrock Depths. It must be said that there is no travel on your own during the whole questline, cause Dark Irons have mole machines at your service :)

So, the first step is watching Thaelin and Anvil-Thane forging a piece of azerite and defending them from a batch of azerite elementals. Then a dwarf comes running and informs you that goblins invaded BRD to steal azerite. You clear many of them and confront the boss – Rixxa, further the third boss from Motherlode (!!!!!!!!!). She has 1500k health, and you need to cope with 400k or so, then she runs for it.

It appears that the goblins in Motherlode (!!!!!!!) are from Venture Co, and they stole some important ancient hammer. They send you to the dungeon to claim it – could be completed on any difficulty, so I queued for both normal and heroic, whichever pops first.

Then we need a piece of Molten Core to repair the Dark Anvil. We are sent to the Molten Core raid, and we clear it… in a tank! You just need to drive straight from the entrance to Ragnaros chamber, eradicating the elementals with your ice cannon :) That was super cool. In the Ragnaros pool you fight a guardian, and he grants you a piece of Molten Core.

Said piece must be reinforced, and we are sent to Firelands raid to do so. We arrive by the bridge to Fandral Staghelm with Anvil-Thane only to be attacked by cultists and elementals:

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It’s not a surprise what the cultists want:

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Exactly this, resurrecting the fallen Firelord and selling all the Dark Iron’s asses to him. The paladin on the pic above is the ultimate boss, and you should be real quick to step out of the hammers he drops on you during the encounter, they hit like a truck.

Hooray, now we can boost our MoltenCore fragment, and return to Moira. She praises you for active participation – come on, during your what was meant to be a tourist trip you’ve defended them from the goblins, reclaimed an ancient hammer, fixed an anvil and unveiled the plot in their ranks! There is a little speech – King Anduin formally accepts the Dark Irons as part of the Alliance, and Moira states that wtf, this is just a formality, because they already are.

The achievement is yours, and yours is the ability to roll a Dark Iron toon!

Which I did immediately. There was small thinking whether it would be a Fire Mage or an Elemental Shaman, and it was Shaman. I like the idea of wearing a shield – moreover when my warrior is Fury, and there’s no paladin in my ranks. And here she is –

Jagda

Jagda reads in Scandinavian manner (YUG-duh), and I’m so happy the name was not taken yet, because otherwise we’d be in big trouble :)

The introduction cinematic is super cool, we get an ultimate inspiring speech from Moira, and we’re more than motivated to play a Dark Iron afterwards.

I chose her jewels/mining. The other option was a blacksmith, but neither of my Allies wears plate armor, so this could be a waste of professions. Jewels fits second best for the dark iron dwarves.

By all means I’m leveling her, and I’m eager to play her actively, casting shaman is one of my favorite specs in game.

So, one more thing to do during expansion – as a distraction from world quests and raiding :)

I’m eager to see the Mag’har questline for lore sakes (evil crusader Yrel intrigues me to the bones), but I’m not rolling one afterwards. But the Dark Iron… yes, please. She’ll be in her rightful and equal place among my alts.

P.S. The questline is filled with important lore scraps. We learn about the deep bond of Dark Irons to Fire, Earth and Azeroth core. We now also know that Blackrock, cleared of all abominations, orcs and dragons, belongs to the Dark Irons (to the Alliance) and the whole mountain is now obviously friendly.

Battle for Azeroth: Why Am I Enjoying the Expansion?

This post is an expansion of my yesterday’s comments. I’ve mentioned that I’m experiencing a huge gap between my own feelings and what I am reading, watching and listening in WoW-related media from other players. Likewise in Draenor – while my WoD gameplay was rich, full of events and kept me busy from day one to day last, people blamed it to be the worst expansion ever. Literally overwhelmed by the number of negative posting, I’m urged to express my thoughts – focusing on positive features.

Let’s go.

1. The new and the best from Legion systems are here.

Legion introduced lots of quality of life improvements and overall gaming experience.

To name a few:

  • We have got flight master’s whistle – a genious feature that allows us to walk out of the world quest area, hidden in a ravine.
  • The flight point approach is much different from what we’ve seen so far – they are plenty, they are convenient, and your travel time to the required area is literally 30 seconds upon landing.
  • The world quest system is simple, comprehensible, allows a lot of choice and is highly rewarding. BfA is now pulpably scaling the gear rewards, so your gearing up with WQ only could take 2 hours of gameplay to allow you to warfronts and LFR.
  • World bosses were new for Legion, and they are an extra chance to gear up.
  • Reputation tokens are your great help to boost rep.
  • Mob scaling may not be tuned perfectly, but in the long run it’s a bliss. While your leveling process may be a bit hobbled because of scaling, it takes three days of gameplay at most, and the rest of the expansion is your endgame. It is important that mobs stayed relevant throughout the expansion, and gearing up eventually makes ‘Three-five players recommended’ soloable without question on every class and spec.
  • Due to scaling, you have an extreme variety of options and zone leveling order, and quests are plenty and more than enough to get you to 120 without bonuses.

These all things made it to BfA unchanged, and they do work just the same way or better.

2. Some of the Legion’s systems were improved. 

Our mission table was polished once again. Now all our champions are capable of questing (no one left sitting on a bench), and the missions themselves became highly optionable. Azerite, pet charms and reputation tokens are an awesome addition to your routines, but they are totally not necessary. In other words, your mission table doesn’t feel like a chore in BfA. The champions do not require collecting gear to become efficient, and their gear provides bonuses for your professions if you wish so.

Profession quests are now limited to gathering, they do not require multiple dungeon runs, so they could be done in one seat, and overall provide a great deal of easy adventure.

3. Visuals

After endless elven/vrykul architecture and bleak landscapes of Legion (except Val’sharah and Suramar city), we’ve got a nice environment to be in.

In Kul Tiras we are deep in salty, sea theme of Tiragarde with its peaceful or pirate-adventurous soundtrack, Drustvar is your gothic British horror – but not all dark, due to sunny mountain regions, and Stormsong sways between Alpine and Dutch environments.

Zandalar offers all the range from adventurous movies – a jungle/Jurassic park of Zuldazar, magnificent bogs of Nazmir, swarming with life, and Arabian desert of Vol’dun. Each and every location is highly pleasant to be in, and there’s no one that I hate to visit (like Azsuna, Suramar or Stormheim, not to mention the demon-scorched grounds).

BfA is rich with details, so we keep wondering where’s the limit? Investigating a random house gives you a full impression that people do live there, and how they are doing it.

BfA offered new NPC poses – leaning on a doorpost, walking drunk, standing on guard is what you notice, and it really makes the world a lot more alive.

4. Soundtrack

The whole range of BfA melodies adds up to the zone ambience, and the job here is done greatly. Considering catchy melodies, BfA is well ahead from the previous expansion, and I just like every tune that plays along.

5. Azerite armor and necklace

Well, yes, it’s fine. Now that I get the routines, ways and goals to level it, it’s not that bad. Of course it lacks the convenient interface unlike artifacts, but I think of it the same as mission table improvement: it became easier and not that demanding as our weapons used to be.

With all the randomness of azerite traits, I don’t bother much about them. Earning a trait or an extra artifact necklace level is a pleasant bonus – I definitely don’t feel it like a chore to max it out or carefully pick and desire that one trait. I guess it’s the same approach as with legiondaries – people were hunting for the ‘best in slot’ items, but I never cared and just wore what dropped. What is important, azerite armor is earned fair and square through raids, warfronts, emissaries, and it’s a goal to follow rather than an elusive chance to get one.

6. Faction story/continent division

It’s arguable, but as I’ve said previously, you’ll never experience all the lore by playing only one toon – ever since Vanilla and starting zones. The most punishing in these terms was the all-praised Legion – 11 separate stories, rich and evolving, would be left unknown to your single character. Now you have only two.

And I guess everyone’s missing how logistics were masterfully solved – considering the enemy continent. I feel myself at home both at hostile Zandalar or hostile Kul Tiras – multiple and convenient flight points are making travel through enemy’s lands a breeze. In many cases taking a ship from your harbor to a world quest is WAY faster than your enemy would fly from his capital. So, both continents offer equal opportunities to both factions.

7. Plot 

Continents provide a range of small stories, and we get the deepest insight possible to the local societies – societies we were speculating about since Vanilla. It’s not your no-name Highmountains or Nightborne you’ve never heard of before – it’s Kul-fucking-Tiras, heroes dating back to Warcraft II, and Zandalar, the heart and spiritual center of all troll tribes we’ve ever met. What factions could have been more epic? And they really are interesting and very well worked out.

We may not like how the events are unrolling considering faction war, but we can’t deny it’s very logical. When you put a genocidal bitch in charge of one faction, it’s only a matter of time when the bomb will go off. This was clear right after Vol’jin appointed her as a warchief, and this happened in the beginning of Legion. Don’t you worry, it’s not for long, as even the Horde (most of it) is not happy with what’s going on. It is crystal clear without spoilers that the infamous banshee will not survive BfA as a warchief – and it’s damn intriguing how this will happen. Are you not interested?

The faction war itself rolls on very logically. Both factions coped with the multiple internal Kul Tiran/Zandalari troubles – the islands were an utter mess before our arrival. And we’ve not only established bonds, not only that. We guide a very aggressive campaign – there’s more outposts on the face of Kul Tiras and Zandalar than pimples on a teenager’s face. The Alliance has prepared everything for the direct onslaught on the troll capital itself, while the Horde also has an ace in its sleeve.

There are the fattest hints possible considering N’Zoth and Azshara – the only major threat left on the surface of Azeroth. The long anticipated meeting. Of course, we couldn’t have got the raid in 8.0, but presence of the Old Gods is literally overwhelming throughout even the initiate stories.

And while it’s yet unclear how we heal the sword wound, it’s also a plot we never forget about. Druids, shaman and Magni are frantically working on a solution, while we aid our small aid during our adventures. They never let us forget that the situation is dire – even the world quest music plays Azeroth’s sad and ominous theme whenever we’re stepping into the Champions’ task territory.

Long story short, there are four major and rich plotlines, and we cannot say any of them is not paid for enough attention. They may be dark, they may be grim, but they are certainly well done. They keep me motivated, they keep me rolling, and they keep me intrigued – what else could you desire?

8. Pursuing my goals

I’ve written a separate post about how we’re lacking an extra progress system we got used to in previous expansions (artifact weapons, order halls, garrisons, crop farm), but this doesn’t mean we have nothing to do. My goals are now back to the basics: reputations / gear / profession leveling and raiding for transmogs, and I’m having my hands full now.

And I cannot say that anything is holding me back while I’m pursuing these very goals. The gameplay is smooth, fun, relaxing and provides alternate options with the smallest grind amount possible. Even the smallest gaming sessions of 30 minutes long let you make a significant progress towards this or that thing, and that is totally plausible.

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There’s more I could possibly remember later, but these are the main reasons why I find the expansion:

  • Interesting
  • Engaging
  • Non-grindy
  • Playtime forgiving
  • Alt-friendly
  • Overall – Fun

My subscription ends in November, and by all means it will be renewed the minute it goes off. The expansion has its drawbacks – mainly because its new systems are unpolished – but it really is awesome. There is no question if I’m playing it or not – I just do.

The Only Problem of Battle for Azeroth Is…

…you’re not feeling progress. And everything you dislike about the expansion is largely described by this paradigm.

Of course the core idea of getting gear to become stronger and getting access to higher endgame content is here. It will always be. Raids and PvP have always been your ultimate goal why you’re doing this – to melt faces more effectively. But definitely this is not enough in today’s WoW.

Was Cataclysm the last expansion where we were happy with it? Because ever since Pandaria we’ve received some other goals to chase, something to follow throughout the expansion:

  • Mists of Pandaria – Halfhill farm and epic cape
  • Warlords of Draenor – Garrison, Shipyard and epic ring
  • Legion – class stories, mounts, order halls and epic artifacts

Each expansion had this extra feature we actually liked to develop. We’ve seen our progress.

We liked to see our bases slowly grow and provide us more benefits – up to the very last days of expansions Halfhill farm and Garrison produced valuables, well-earned, fully functional places we could call home.

We did not see that big of a development within order halls, but we got our own very special class stories, which opened gradually and provided new cool stuff.

There is no such thing in BfA. Our ship is basic, it doesn’t improve anyhow, and establishing new outposts in the enemy lands are basically about opening a new flight path with no stories involved.

We’ve seen our progress with the ring and the cape – having a well-set goal to collect x1000 of this and x100 of that to pass on to the next level, and this was exciting. Providing lore questlines along the way also didn’t hurt. Legion artifacts had this grid to fill – even if you were not chasing the highest weapon levels possible, completing the puzzle, filling all the gaps was motivating even for casual players like myself. You saw and noticed the improvement immediately, and you chose a path to reach the most desired perk.

Battle for Azeroth and its azerite necklace are devoid of that. Your perks are scattered across 3 pieces of armor, your next gear up will offer completely another perks – and you don’t know which. Basically you don’t see where you’re heading with all this. And collecting azerite just to add one more level to the necklace – a digit change – is kinda counter-productive.

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Island expeditions are a big failure. There is no story involved, even the scarce optional pieces of lore that were present in Pandaria scenarios. You can’t do them in your own pace due to competiton, so it’s a race with a single goal of fastest grind – not the thing a group of 3 holy priests would enjoy. Most importantly, it’s a grind for nothing – you may or may not recieve a pet, a mount or a transmog, and azerite collecting is not that exciting. Yet again, there’s no feeling of progress anywhere.

Warfronts are a big playground, which I personally enjoy, and yet their potential is not fully developed. You’re not going anywhere with them – again. Drops are totally random, and grind (although an easy one) is still grind. Introducing the means to work towards the transmog set, the mounts, the toys would help a lot. Reputation has always been a nice and tested way to do that, but there could be something more.

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For example, clearing a certain hub could mean your advance towards a certain piece of gear. Some troll-hating group of Alliance soldiers awards you points for slaying Witherbarks, and they will grant you a chest piece in the end. You get points for killing 20 for a quest. You get points for killing rares – once per week.

Finally, they could introduce a Witherbark assault (or our assault to Witherbark) as an event. As in ‘Oh waily-waily, the Witherbarks have a big fat witch doctor who will rally them and attack our lumbermill if we’re idle’. Or they actually attack a lumbermill. Repel the invasion, kill a boss, get your points for Witherbark slayers.

Yes, it sounds like reputation idea, but could be presented in an easier way. When ‘exalted’, Witherbark slayers say: good, now we’re safe from the troll threat! and give you this chest piece (and a couple of mounts).

Storywise, we are also devoid of the endgame progress. Remember Firelands playground where we put together a blooming outpost in the ash, or majestic Suramar which opened the story slowly? Now, freeing Jaina, we have to wait for another patch for further development. I totally believe that this will be absolutely great… but we have no progress today. It worked perfectly in Legion – so why not use the same in BfA? For example, Jaina’s story requires dungeon runs in three zones. They could have been gated behind Proudmoore – Order – Storm’s revered, and/or opened gradually, week by week. Now we’ve burned them through in a couple of hours, and wait for another content to happen. Or was it us who complained about rep gating for the Suramar questline? :)

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Long story short, the intentions of Blizzard were obivously great. They made the whole Garrison/epic gear things a lot easier in many ways, addressing many troubles. They’ve introduced completely new features. They’ve tried to address lots of player concerns (when they have shouldn’t in some cases).

Yet they forgot about the feeling of progress which makes MMORPG a MMORPG game. We’re now back to gear upgrades as the only goal where we feel this progress, and for us and for modern WoW this is just not enough today.