Category Archives: WoW

BfA: Quick Thoughts

The latest WoW expansion quietly came out yesterday. I say “quietly” because I actually had no idea it was supposed to be released on Monday, rather than the traditional patch Tuesday. It also felt rather seemless traveling to Silithus again, grabbing the Heart of Azeroth, and then continuing on with questing in a new area.

As an aside, I was momentarily confused with Magni talking about how “the soul of Azeroth” was basically a clock floor in a Titan cave somewhere. Did I miss something? I get from context that Azeroth has a gestating Titan soul or whatever, but why does it look like that, specifically? Did the Pantheon craft around the soul? Then I realized none of it matters, and I went on with my life.

I started completing some of the quest hubs on the demon hunter before I realized that what I should have been doing is hitting all the resource nodes instead. There really is no better time to gather herbs/ore than the first few days of a new expansion. Three seconds of mining translating into 70g worth of materials? Yes, please. Here are some tips:

MAKE SURE TO TALK TO THE PROFESSION TRAINERS

I was hitting nodes for almost an hour before I realized that getting 1 herb was not normal. As it turns out, you have to pick up the skills from the Herb/Mining trainers before you start getting normal yields. Make sure to stop by again once you hit 25/50 skill, so you can start getting the Rank 2 versions, which increases yields again.

Check in with the Trade Goods vendor

Ask a guard for directions, and then buy a bunch of the ingredients. The base-level Cooking recipe can be made entirely with four different vendor items, which is nice. Even nicer is the fact that you can turn around and sell these 20s ingredients for like 10g+ apiece on the AH. Take advantage of it while you can. Also, people will apparently buy your food too, so sell the excess.

Jewelcrafting is back

At least for now, anyway. I have had incredible success in buying BfA ore for 30g apiece, and then prospecting it away for gems that sell, uncut, for ~400g. Unless you get a red one, which sells for ~1500g because it can be cut into a +5% XP gem that sells for 2000g (prices have crashed a bit). Or take those gems and turn them into rings that sell for a few thousand gold more.

Maybe Buy and Hold Instead

While there was some easy gold early on from selling herbs/ore, I did notice that by the time I logged off for the night, prices were in freefall. There are a lot of reasons for that, but the main one is that nearly everyone is going dual-gathering and hitting nodes left and right.

It’s tough to know what prices things will stabilize at, but look at the requirements for Flasks and such: dozens and dozens of herbs for one Flask. Nobody will be raiding for a few weeks yet, and no one is going to bother Flasking while they level, so demand for Flasks is zero. However… in a few weeks, everyone and their mother’s main tank will be gobbling up bushels of herbs. So the likelihood of BfA herbs staying around 10g apiece is minimal. In particular, you might want to check on Anchor Weed, as it appears to be a herb that replaces other herb spawns, and thus is going to be more rare.

In fact, I just looked at the TUJ and slapped my forehead. Around 9pm yesterday the price for Anchor Weed was 53g. As of this post, it’s 182g. I just talked about prospecting ore at 30g apiece, right? Now Storm Silver is up to 88g. That particular train has probably left the station already, but this seesaw action is something to keep an eye on in the coming days.

Farm nodes and sell when the price is high, buy and bank mats when the price is low.

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A Good Bad War

The final part of the War of Thorns pre-release event was released on Tuesday. Other than Elsa Jaina coming to the rescue on her father’s ghost ship, it was yet another exercise of Alliance impotence in the face of the only faction clearly capable of any strategic planning. But, whatever. Sylvanas needs a foil for her antics, and Anduin’s character is about as flimsy as aluminum foil already, so let’s all just buckle in for the inevitable “Sylvanas never prepared to face the power of LOVE!” arc.

What I wanted to talk about today though, was everything leading up to this point.

First, if you have a few minutes, I highly recommend reading A Good War. This is a short story that came with the collector’s edition of Battle for Azeroth, but was recently released for free. I’m going to “spoil” most of the biggest plot points below, but it is essentially “the rest of the story” in terms of the War of Thorns pre-expansion content already on Live servers.

One of the many, many poorly explained (in-game) motivations surrounding the actions of Sylvanas was why we were going to war in the first place. Yes, Azerite is bright and shiny and supposedly useful, but other than vague eye-brightening, is did not seem to have many effects. This is supposedly explained in the Before the Storm book, which I do not have access to, but we do have some quotes and a summary from Wowhead. The main takeaway is that when Sylvanas touched it…

She was no longer a Dark Lady or even a queen. She was a goddess of destruction and creation, and she was stunned that she had never understood how deeply the two were intertwined. Armies, cities, entire cultures – she could raise them.

And fell them. Stormwind would be among the first, yielding its people to swell the numbers of her own.

She could deal death on a scale that —

In short, Sylvanas wants to destroy Stormwind, murder its people, and revive them as Forsaken. She wants to do that because, as explained in A Good War:

[…] “I believe that there will be no permanent peace with the Alliance—not unless we win it on the battlefield on our terms. And believing that, answer this, Saurfang: what use is delaying the inevitable?”

[…]

“She pointed at the map. There was a large marking in Silithus, the place where the Dark Titan’s blade had pierced the world. “No matter what I do, that will change the balance of power. Azerite sightings are coming in from across the world, Saurfang. We still do not know its full potential, nor does the Alliance. We only know that it will create a new generation of warfare. What will war look like in twenty years? In a hundred?”

Saurfang’s voice had dropped to a low growl. “A hundred years of peace is a worthy goal.” But as soon as the words left his mouth, he wanted to take them back. He knew what Sylvanas would say.

And he would agree with it.

The warchief did not disappoint. “If a hundred years of peace ends with a war that annihilates both sides, it was not a worthy goal. It was a coward’s bargain, trading the future for temporary comfort. The Horde’s children, and their children’s children, will curse our memories as they burn.”

This is the first major disconnect I see with people offering opinions concerning the start of the war. Sylvanas is starting a preemptive war, a war of opportunity, one in which the express goal is to completely destroy the Alliance forever, and to chain the people of Stormwind as slaves in undeath. Saurfang doesn’t necessarily know that last bit, but he knows the ultimate goal is the destruction of Stormwind. And he’s fine with that.

Until our navies are rebuilt, the high seas are wild again.

That would take years to change. And once that happened, yes, that stalemate would return, and war would become too costly to pursue.

And by all the spirits, Sylvanas was right, no matter how strongly Saurfang tried to deny it. War would come again one day, and if both factions were strong, that war would raze entire nations. How many different peoples on Azeroth would become extinct in that fight?

But before then, both sides have vulnerabilities and a limited time to exploit them. For a price, we can survive.

Just so we’re all crystal clear on this point: Saurfang and Sylvanas believe there can be no permanent peace between the Alliance and the Horde, that any attempt at peace is a “coward’s bargain,” and that they are actually doing everyone a favor in getting the war “out of the way” now, rather than later. And there are people crawling all over Reddit and elsewhere who suggest that this notion of war “makes sense” and is otherwise perfectly justifiable.

To which I say: I agree. The Alliance should have murdered the orcs as a race when they had the chance, rather than putting them in internment camps. That’s what we’re saying, right? There can be no permanent peace between the Alliance and the Horde because the Horde is a brutal faction of war-mongering monsters with no redeeming qualities. Well, maybe Taurens, but thus far they are simply a gelded race who lashed their ropes to a warchief that has zero respect for them.

In fairness, it’s possible Saurfang did not know about Sylvanas’ ultimate goal of torching Stormwind.

“And that is how you defeat Stormwind.” Saurfang was in awe. It was brilliant. Destroying the Alliance wouldn’t take a thousand victories. It would take one. With a single strategic push, the pressure on the Alliance would cripple them for years, just as long as they could not conjure any miracles on the battlefield. “You destroy the Alliance from within. Their military might counts for nothing if their members stand alone. Then we strike peace with the individual nations and carve them away from the Alliance, piece by piece.”

“If you want your enemy to bleed to death, you inflict a wound that cannot heal. That is why I need you to make the plan, High Overlord,” Sylvanas said. “The moment our strike begins, there will be no turning back. We can divide the Alliance only if the war to conquer Darnassus does not unite them against us. That only happens if the Horde wins an honorable victory, and I am not blind—the Horde does not trust me to wage war that way.”

Saurfang does not ponder on what it would mean to be a citizen of the Divided Alliance. I find it difficult to believe it would be pleasant, regardless of the Horde “striking peace with the individual nations.” It seems especially foolish considering how Saurfang already agreed with Sylvanas that peace was impossible anyway, given the atrocities committed by both factions up to this point. I have to imagine the point is that these nations would sue for peace because they were otherwise forever incapable of creating war. Peace for some, the torch for others.

In any case, we can see Teldrassil was intended to be taken as a means to shatter the Alliance with infighting. Crucially, the plan also hinged on being able to kill Malfurion and/or Tyrande. Taking out these faction leaders was not going to be a bonus, but a requirement. This was not explicitly called out in-game or even in the books, until later. When Saurfang hesitates in finishing off Malfurion, and allows him and Tyrande to escape, he Sylvanas reflects:

This battle was not about a piece of land. Even Saurfang knew that. Taking the World Tree was a way to inflict a wound that could never heal. Losing their homes and their leaders would have ended the kaldorei as a nation, if not a people. Even the loss of one leader would have been enough to create a tide of despair. The wounds of this battle would have bled, festered, decayed, and rotted the Alliance from the inside out. Anduin Wrynn would have lashed out in a final, desperate war, looking for a miracle, because only a miracle would save them.

But a miracle already had. A miracle granted by the honorable hand of a foolish old orc.

Incidentally, the constant referring to Saurfang as “honorable” is downright comical. Huge sections of A Good War talk about rogues sneaking about, assassinating targets with poison, and so on. Tossing an axe into the back of Malfurion is about as dishonorable as, you know, all of the actions that led to that moment in the first place. I dunno, maybe there is room in the definition of honor for waging preemptive war and “ending the kaldorei as a people.”

Anyway, when Saurfang comes back empty-handed, Sylvanas conceals her rage:

This conquest of Darnassus would rattle the kaldorei people. They would grieve for their lost, fear for their imprisoned, and tremble at the thought of the Horde ransacking their homes. But they would not fall to despair. Not anymore. Malfurion’s impossible survival would give them hope. Their wound would heal.

Even in this dark hour, they would say, Elune still watches over us.

And that was almost certainly true, wasn’t it? Elune had intervened. Perhaps she had even stayed Saurfang’s killing blow. And she wouldn’t be the only force beyond the Alliance to oppose Sylvanas’s true objective.

Sylvanas’s anger grew cold.

She had known this would happen. It had simply come sooner than expected. That was all.

“Sylvanas’s true objective.” A bit ominous, no? I am still assuming this to be “torching Stormwind and raising all of its people as undead,” but it could be foreshadowing of another sort. Possibly one with tentacles.

The book leaves out the conversation between Sylvanas and Delaryn depicted in the Warbringer video, but it expands on what happens immediately afterwards, when Sylvanas burns the World Tree. It is worth posting it in full:

He struggled to form words. Finally, pure hatred made him spit out a condemnation. “You have damned the Horde for a thousand generations. All of us. And for what? For what?”

Her expression didn’t waver. “This was your battle. Your strategy. And your failure. Darnassus was never the prize. It was a wedge that would split the Alliance apart. It was the weapon that would destroy hope. And you, my master strategist, gave that up to spare an enemy you defeated. I have taken it back.

When they come for us, they will do so in pain, not in glory. That may be our only chance at victory now.”

He wanted to kill her. He wanted to declare mak’gora and spill her blood in front of Horde and Alliance alike.

But she was right.

A wound that can never heal. That had always been the plan. And Saurfang had failed to inflict it. The story of Malfurion’s miraculous survival would have spread among the armies of the Alliance as proof that they were blessed in their cause.

War would still have come. That had been certain the moment Saurfang had led the Horde into Ashenvale. And it would have been what he had feared most: the meat grinder, spending so many lives to achieve so little, ending with a whimper, and thus dooming future generations to a war nobody could win. Once again, Sylvanas had seen it before he had.

And so . . .

She had sent a message. This was not a war that would end in a stalemate. Not now. The Alliance and the Horde would both understand that the only choices were victory or death. Lok‐tar ogar.

If World of Warcraft were not an MMO, I might have been excited at this turn of events. This feels like the penultimate chapter, the crest of a wave. Things will be sorted out once and for all.

But it won’t.

There will be an expansion after this one, and another after that. There will still be the Horde faction, and Forsaken running around in it, blighting things with Tauren chewing their cuds in the background. While I am convinced Sylvanas will no longer be warchief by the end of Battle for Azeroth, I can’t be certain whether it will be due to some impossibly sparkly “redemption” arc or because she went into hiding.

What I am certain of is that the Alliance will continue to be the bumbling white hats forever extending their hands in love and friendship and peace, only to get shit on by the Horde time and again. That is in spite of the fact that there should be no redemption for the Horde this time. And I don’t mean because Sylvanas burned the World Tree with all the civilians inside. I mean because the most honorable orc in all the Horde agreed that peace with the Alliance is impossible, and thus started a preemptive war in an attempt to destroy the faction permanently.

Like, I don’t think I can stress this enough. Even “preemptive war” makes it sound like the Horde were simply striking before the Alliance can move their war machines into position. To be clear, there were no Alliance war machines. The Alliance did not even really have access to Azerite. Sylvanas had ZERO Casus belli, and Saurfang the Honorable Orc drafted the battle strategy with minimum fuss. In fact, he was happy to do so, because he thought it would save Horde lives down the road. Which is all “justifiable” until you allow the Alliance the same courtesy.

By all rights, this expansion should end with the genocide of all orcs and Forsaken.

I suppose we’ll begin to see how it plays out in less than a week. If the Horde skates without Jania or Malfurion torching the Barrens though, I will be very… not surprised at all.

Consequences for crimes is so 2015.

The Last Reset

This week is the last reset before Battle for Azeroth goes Live.

In the three weeks that I have been back playing WoW, it has consumed a rather large part of my gaming time, as it did in the past. I have since reached the level cap with my paladin, rogue, warlock, demon hunter, and death knight. Two additional classes are just barely past level 100 – the priest and warrior – but I have had great fun with playing them, so I plan on getting them to the cap as well.

I am abandoning my mage at level 92, as I tried out all three specs and found them lacking. In fact, it’s pretty awful considering mage is the only class that can’t face-tank mobs, and yet cannot blow them up either. Or maybe WoD is still overtuned post-squish? All I know is that I accidentally aggroed a bunch of crabs in the the beginning Garrison quests, blew all my cooldowns, and still died. I don’t think I’ve died to non-elite mob pulls in… five years? Maybe longer.

Anyway, the shaman is a big Nope for me, Zappiboi notwithstanding, and I never was particularly serious about the hunter in all my time with WoW. I’m probably going to wait until I unlock Void Elves before using one of my three stockpiled instant-100/110 tokens on getting a monk up to speed.

This last reset is going to be somewhat important for me in the transmog department. Specifically, I have been trying to obtain the Tunic of Unwavering Devotion since the release of the Nighthold raid. A similar model drops from a world boss, but it’s one of 11, and the order was completely random week-to-week until recently. I’m not especially confident that Legion raids or the world boss will be soloable on a leather-wearing class at the beginning of BfA, nor do I imagine there being much interest in small-party raiding of old content. If I have to wait 2+ years to obtain these transmog items, well, they are effectively removed from the game as far as I’m concerned.

We’ll see how it goes. I will have six opportunities (3 leather classes + bonus rolls) to snag the chest piece, and potentially another two if the demon hunter tier piece chest (same model) can be used for transmog on other leather-wearing characters.

“Can’t I?”

The WoW community has been in a roiling boil for almost a week now over the pre-patch events transpiring in the lead-up to Battle for Azeroth. Specifically, there is a sense of incredulity surrounding the actions of Sylvanas. I recommend watching the Warbringer video below, but I will also include a little transcript:

Sylvanas: Secure the beach. Prepare to invade the tree.
Delaryn: (cough) Why? (cough) Why? You’ve already won. Only innocents remain in the tree.
Sylvanas: This is war.
Delaryn: No. This… is hatred… rage. Windrunner, you were… defender of your people. Do you not remember?
Sylvanas: I remember… a fool.
–Flashback of fighting, dying to Arthas, then being reborn–
Sylvanas: Life is pain. Hope fails. Now you understand.
–Tears fall from Delaryn, Sylvanas smiles–
Sylvanas: Ah, don’t grieve… you’ll soon join your loved ones.
Delaryn: I grieve for you. You’ve made life your enemy. And that is a war you’ll never win. You can kill us… but you cannot kill hope.
–Sylvanas glances at the tree, then back at Delaryn–
Sylvanas: Can’t I?
–Sylvanas turns Delaryn’s head towards the tree, and then looks at her commanders–
Sylvanas: Burn it. Burn it!

First, let me just say it: this cinematic animated short is amazing in isolation. Delaryn’s wounded coughing sounded a bit amateurish, but the dialog was tight, the imagery engaging, and it summarized Sylvanas’ entire character arc in less than four minutes.

Second, this is Sylvanas. “She would have had a more strategic plan!” Would she? I’m open for a longer debate on the subject, but to me, Sylvanas’ naked nihilism has been on display from the very beginning. Hell, I remember rolling a Forsaken character back in TBC and wondering how many expansions we would go before the Forsaken broke off and became a third faction. The casual sociopathy in plague deployment, and the understanding that the race only expanded by desecrating the dead always made it feel like the Horde accepted the Forsaken only grudgingly, out of existential considerations. The Forsaken were a part of the Horde, but stood apart.

That said, I sympathize with most of the outrage.

If you are a Horde player entertaining the fantasy of being part of an honorable band of misfits just trying to survive, Blizzard has been throwing you under the bus lately. I was not actively playing through the entire Garrosh arc, but the summaries are reading pretty similar already.

That’s not even getting into the problems that the Taurens and other Horde races/classes should be having with A) burning Teldrassil to the ground, B) being tasked with killing Malfurion (a druid leader to both factions), or C) working with a Warchief whose motto is “Life is pain, hope fails.” Sylvanas might get a pass during Legion, but if there is not widespread in-game, in-character outrage from at least the druid and shaman corners, then the Blizzard criticism is 100% warranted.

[Edit: Ah, Saurfang, you beautiful bastard. Well played, Blizzard.]

On the Alliance side, when turning in the post-fall quest to Anduin, he says:

You have shown courage and heart, champion. On this, one of the Alliance’s darkest days. My whole life, I have prayed for peace in this world. But that dream can never be realized so long as Sylvanas Windrunner leads the Horde. She expects this atrocity to crush our spirits. Shatter our unity. But this I vow… the Alliance will endure… and the Bashee Queen’s insidious reign will be ended.

So, regardless of whether Sylvanas retreads exactly the same path as Garrosh or veers into a more interesting direction, I think there is enough foreshadowing here to suggest, at a minimum, she will not remain the Warchief by the end of the expansion. Which is a rather high turnover rate for even the most diehard Horde fan to endure.

We’ll see how it plays out in the coming months and patches.

Let me just say though, oof, that Alliance quest inside the burning Darnassus was rough. And brilliant. It took my 10+ years of completing quests in WoW and used it to twist the knife in a way that not Arthas or Sargeras ever could. We can kill Old Gods… but how many civilians can we save from the flames?

Twenty-five. I saved twenty-five. Out of nine hundred and eighty-two.

Combat Flow

I have been playing a lot of WoW the past week or so. While the original goal was to grind some reputation to unlock Allied Races, I am now focusing my time on getting my stable of alts up to level 110 prior to BfA going Live. And in that time, I am finding it fascinating how great (or horrible!) combat feels for the different classes.

My “main” in Legion has been a druid Moonkin. The thought process was A) I wanted to DPS, and B) my historical knowledge of Feral was that you basically had to play Dance Dance Revolution perfectly to only achieve adequate DPS. Thus, for pretty much the entire expansion, I stayed Moonkin. That is in spite of Moonkins feeling terrible to play.

I say Moonkins feel terrible, but it’s difficult to enunciate why. There just doesn’t seem to be any particular flow. Let’s say that I’m facing a fresh target 30 yards away. I can start with a New Moon rotation, which is a 3-spell sequence of escalating damage and cast times. The target is likely to die by the time they get hit with the third spell, and I’ll have enough Astral Power to fire off at least two Starsurges (instant-cast, hard-hitting spells) to finish off anything that survives. Then the clunkiness comes in. While the New Moon rotation is on cooldown, I pretty much just spam Solar Wrath until I can Starsurge again, or I toss on two dots and hope for instant-cast Lunar Strike procs from being hit.

One of the alts I’m leveling is a Demo warlock, so let’s compare there. Starting at 30 yards, I cast Summon: Dreadstalkers, followed by two Shadowbolts, then Hand of Gul’dan. At this point, the mob is either dead or about to be dead from the force of like 6-8 demons auto-attacking. When the Dreadstalkers go away, I get two Demonbolt instant-cast procs, which are mini-Pyroblasts that also give me Soul Shards to recast Summon: Dreadstalker and/or Hand of Gul’dan.

There is a flow with the Demo warlock that practically turns into a roiling boil if you immediately engage another enemy. Compare that to the Moonkin, with it’s anemic refractory period inbetween possibly blowing one mob up.

Another flow impediment is just a clunky rotation. Exhibit A: the Unholy Death Knight. Festering Strike costs 2 runes, and gives your target some Festering Wounds. If you hit them twice, they’ll have four debuffs, and you can spend your two remaining runes on Scourge Strike to pop two of them. And now… you wait for runes to regenerate, or possibly throw out a Death Coil. Alternatively, you can only Festering Strike once, and then Scourge Strike four times, the latter two of which won’t deal extra damage. If there’s a 2nd mob, you just sort of face-tank them for a while. I mean, you have AoE options like Outbreak or Death & Decay/Defile, but those consume runes too, and you’re left with awkward gaps in the rotation regardless.

Retribution paladin used to be the king of awkward rotation gaps, but I have been enjoying it since the 8.0 patch thus far. Judgment, Blade of Justice, Templar’s Verdict is sometimes enough to kill a mob outright. If not, Crusader’s Strike and another Blade of Justice (via Art of War proc) will get you another 3 Holy Power for another Templar’s Verdict. If the mob still ain’t dead, or if something else wandered into range, Wake of Ashes hits hard and instantly gives you 5 Holy Power for some additional Templar’s Verdicts. Point being, there may be some gaps later on, but they only show up after prolonged combat.

Sometimes the rotation is fine, but there is something else that is ever-so-slightly grating about the class, which interrupts the flow. That has been my experience with Havoc (aka DPS) demon hunters. Nominally, the spec feels fine. In fact, it is extremely satisfying when you gather up mobs and watch them literally melt from Eye Beam every 30 seconds. The problem is… the sounds. The auto-attack and Demon’s Bite and Chaos Strike abilities make a discordant “ching-ching” sound, like metal on metal. It’s annoying as shit, and just about enough to get me to not want to play the class entirely, despite loving everything else about the kit. I might seriously investigate if there’s an addon or something that can change the sounds that those abilities make.

Of all the alts I’ve played thus far, the one that was the most surprisingly satisfying to play has been the Fury warrior. As far as I can tell, the spec is not even that particularly strong. But, guys, seriously, give it a go sometime. Charging your foe, hitting with Raging Blow/Blood Thirst/repeat, then launching into that amazing Rampage animation… glorious. Left, right, both swords. If you’re not careful, there can be a 1-2 second boner-killing gap in buttons to press within the rotation, but it’s otherwise a very good time. The sounds, the animation, the damage, the flow – the whole package.

Having said all that, it’s entirely possibly I have been doing things wrong. Talents play a huge part in rotations and spec feel, and I may have simply picked the wrong ones. For example, I’m looking at Icy Veins right now, and it’s saying that the New Moon talent for Moonkins is crap, which probably has a lot to do with how weak/clunky the spec feels. I’m not sure that spamming Solar Wrath or casting DoTs on mobs that should ideally die within 10-15 seconds will feel better, but maybe. The rest of my alts are all sub-110 also, so it’s possible that mobs scaled below max level are weaker than my druid main is used to fighting. As I bring each one to the level cap – almost entirely from doing Legion invasions once every few days – we’ll see how they feel.

It has been an interesting experience playing all these classes/specs nonetheless. A lot of people have kinda railed against the notion of making leveling new classes a trivial exercise, between heirlooms and XP streamlining and other nerfs. But I feel like it’s a great tragedy for new players of WoW to be coming in and possibly losing on the character creation screen. Or if not outright losing by sticking with a clunky spec/class, missing out on a class/spec that they would enjoy playing 1000% better than whatever they originally picked. This isn’t FF14 where you lose nothing in particular by switching classes. I’m stuck with the druid main at least until BfA – unless I’m willing to forever abandon unlocking the Allied Races – because I sure as shit ain’t grinding up the reputation again.

In any case, it’s my goal to get a stable full of max-level alts ready for the BfA release. And, you know, hopefully find the one that’s the most fun to play.

Waiting Games

The Alpha 17 patch for 7 Days to Die has been pushed back from “late July” to August. There are some sweeping changes being done to guns and weapon mods in general, in addition to introducing new vehicles and such. It will remain to be seen if these changes are enough to make the game feel fresh, but honestly, it won’t take much to bring me back anyway.

Fallout 76’s release date is November 14th. I was hoping that “beta access” actually meant beta access, but it’s more like the now-current industry standard of pre-release. Evidence? Beta will take place in October, starting with a small group and then getting larger, and XBox users will be first.

Battlefield 5 will be released on October 19th, or slightly earlier if you’re subscribed to Origin Access. There should be an open beta sometimes in September, which I suppose matches the “beta” of Fallout 76. Hopefully the “open beta” is actually open, e.g. free.

WoW’s latest expansion will be hitting August 14th, of course.

In the meantime, I’m mostly playing the waiting game. I log into WoW, check the Emissary quest, WQs, and Order Hall mission lists to see if there are any easy reputation gains, for Allied Races purposes. I recently upgraded all of my heirlooms to level 110, and equipped them on all my alts. I have recently discovered how lucrative the Invasions can be from an XP standpoint – with 55% bonus XP, clearing the map is basically an entire level – but the quests are account-wide, so I’m kinda cycling through my characters. If there is time/interest leftover, I do some mog runs.

Honestly, I should probably be spending this time playing something else entirely. But, as always, it’s tough to play something else when you really want to be playing something in particular that you can’t. In my case, since they have not be released/updated yet.

goals, Lowercase

I have unlocked Legion flying.

The process was not nearly as painful as I was anticipating, primarily because the reputation requirement was only Revered, instead of Exalted. Well, that, and the fact that I had already unlocked Pathfinder Part 1 before I stopped playing last time, in addition to doing some of the beginning quests at the Broken Shore. In any case, flying is as majestic and freeing and worthwhile as it has ever been. Although it annoys me greatly that Blizzard will continue dangling it in front of us, that simply confirms the notion that it is a carrot worth pursuing every time.

Unlocking the Alliance Allied Races was a secondary goal that I may well abandon entirely. The requirement is Exalted with two factions introduced in Argus, and completing all the quests sticks you at the beginning of Honored. While the reputation is a bit easier to grind out nowadays – most World Quests give you both factions’ rep, and at 75 a pop – that is still… an inordinate amount of grinding. Blizzard is apparently sticking to their guns in terms of still requiring Exalted into BFA, which is just further mind-boggling, considering you then still have to level up new characters from level 20. I suppose Blizzard considers this a sort of cosmetic Thing To Do, but it’s bizarre to me that they’d go through the trouble of creating entirely new skins and racial abilities and heritage armor, and then leave it in soon-to-be-dead content with an expansion around the corner.

I mean, it’s one thing to leave in the WoD grind to unlock flying, as that just impacts WoD. But imagine if new players had to grind Cataclysm reputation to unlock flying in the vanilla zones. Six expansions from now, there will likely still be Void Elves running around, provided that anyone gets bored enough to spend 6+ weeks grinding rep.

Instead of that, I have been turning my gaze towards some of my alts. As mentioned before, I only have the one max-level character: the druid. For my other alts, I made sure to do the beginning artifact quests, so they are generally level 102. Thus far, I have only touched two since patch 8.0.

The first was the Demon Hunter. I… just don’t know about this class. The whole double-jumping and free-gliding aspect of it make the class extremely fun from a mobility perspective. From a fun perspective though, the button-pushing aspect leaves something to be desired. I guess technically it’s extremely similar to Rogue mechanics – press A to build up resources to press B – but I think the key difference is that all the attacks feels like the same on the Demon Hunter. Stab-Thrust-Spin feels a lot more varied than Spin-Spin-Spin, even if you’re doing comparable damage.

Alternatively, I could just be annoyed how little self-healing Demon Hunters have (at this level?). I was in Stormheim and there was one of those quests where you have to weaken a mob before using an item on them to make them stop fighting. Which is normally fine, whatever. However, the regen mechanic with Demon Hunters is based on the mobs dying and dropping health orbs, which… doesn’t happen when you don’t kill the mobs. Can’t just bandage anymore either, unless you have a Tailor or buy bandages off the AH. And who carries food around these days?

The other class I played for a bit was Rogue, and it’s as fun as it’s ever been. Stealth, blowing mobs up in a few GCDs, re-stealth and go on to the next one. I’ve stuck with Outlaw thus far because I like Grappling Hook and Pistol Shot, but I do miss being able to Shadowstep to the next mob and basically ninja my way around the world.

In the coming days, I want to give the Paladin, Death Knight, and Warlock another go now that War Mode is a thing I can keep turned off. Also, I have never had a Monk past level 20, so that would seem to be a good target for one of my free level 100 boosts. Don’t know what I would use the other one on – perhaps an Allied Race, if I ever unlock one? – but I’m tempted to boost a Horde character either on my current server or another one, just to get access to the Horde storyline.

Provided, of course, that my attention span for WoW holds out.

War Mode

The patch 8.0 rollout in WoW was, if not the worst ever, certainly numbered among them.

However, War Mode has made it all worth it to me.

It is incredibly silly to admit, but in my 10+ years of experience in WoW, I have never played on a PvE server. Starting with the Recommended server of Auchindoun-PvP back in early TBC, my Warcraft experience has been spiced with the occasional dirt nap from other-faction ganking. I cut my social gaming teeth tanking Scarlet Monastery with a group of Alliance who ran like madmen in front of an enemy capital just to zone into a 5-man dungeon. In fact, that was such a harrowing experience for all of us, that we stuck together in-game until, years later, meeting several times in the real world was no longer weird.

I bring this up because for most of my WoW experience, PvP was a spice. It kept you on your toes, it dictated which zones you leveled in, it made for some amusing situations around the raid stone. The encounters in which you met someone with red text and didn’t come to blows was meaningful. For the other encounters, well… there was fun of another sort adding them into your Kill On Sight addon, which automatically placed a skull on their nameplate.

Those halcyon days have long since passed for me. Something tells me they were only halcyon in the first place because I happened to be on Alliance-dominated servers in the first place. And by “something tells me,” I mean I experienced the hell that was Cross-Realm questing, where it felt like a decade of pent-up Horde aggression was unleashed all at once against every Alliance character. And vice versa, for other lopsided servers, I’m sure.

The common refrain was that “it’s your own fault for playing on a PvP server.” Nevermind how Blizzard shuttled unsuspecting new players into “recommended” PvP servers in the first place, charged exorbitant fees (on a per character basis!) to transfer away, merged servers together such that your low-pop realm suddenly got much busier, and all the other incremental design steps taken to ensure players were always in close proximity to one another. While the entire Artifact mechanic severely punished alts in a direct way in Legion, it was actually the direct experience of getting ganked multiple times on alts that finally snuffed out the lingering flame of my desire to play WoW.

War Mode has rekindled everything. Specifically, keeping War Mode turned off.

While finishing up some loose ends in the Argus questline the other day, there were moments in which I felt like I was playing GW2. Upon seeing someone in the distance fighting some Rare Elite mob, I rushed over to add my Boomkin to the scrum. Upon looting the corpse, we tentatively faced each other, orange nameplate hanging in the wind, seemingly waiting for the other to fire the first shot. No shots came, of course, because PvP was not enabled. But we both felt it, the learned weariness that came from seeing the other faction approach, knowing you might die.

It will take a long time to deprogram ourselves, but a day will come when we breathe a sigh of relief, and forget the absurdity of faction warfare. Possibly a few weeks into an expansion seemingly centered entirely on it.

WoW Again, Redux, Part 2

Tuesday was pre-expansion patch day in WoW, and it is once again (temporarily) relevant to my interests. I actually resubbed a few days ago, but close enough.

What brought me back? The realization that what I was doing in most of the survival games I played isn’t so different than what I do in MMOs. In Conan: Exiles, for example, I routinely went back to a fast-respawn pirate area so that I could grind XP and potentially enslave new Thralls. When I was wasn’t doing that, I was farming mats for building materials. Longer-term goals included traveling to far away places and repeating that entire process at tier N+1.

If I’m just grinding shit for something to do, why not do so in WoW?

…that’s not actually a good reason for anything. The unspoken assumption in the back of my mind is that WoW is a game that matters, in some ineffable way other games do not. I mean, what other game do you still play 10+ years later? But just because I seem to fall back into the familiar groove of a bad relationship, doesn’t mean that I shouldn’t be trying something newer, even if I’m going through the same motions.

Trouble is, I’m kinda waiting for Fallout 76 and Battlefield V and the next 7 Days to Die Alpha release. Alas, here we are in the meantime.

My original goal was to unlock Legion flying. I left right before it was fully implemented, but I had unlocked everything in the Part 1 of the achievement. Part 2 was simply… getting Exalted with a new faction. Which will take literal weeks. [Edit: Only takes Revered, apparently. Still, it’ll be days of work.] That in of itself wasn’t the worse thing, but the process essentially being “hope there’s friendly people around to help kill these outdoor bosses” was. And, you know, bored/angry Horde characters wanting to pick fights for no reason. War Mode couldn’t come fast enough.

So, I gave up on unlocking flying for a bit, in the hopes that perhaps Blizzard would make it slightly easier in some future patch. Instead… let’s unlock some of the new races!

…and it requires Exalted rep with the two new factions in zones I had not even entered once. I’m actually a bit miffed, because the two new Horde races require Exalted reputation with factions that have been present in Legion since the beginning. What kind of bullshit is this?

All that aside, it’s kind of funny coming back to the WoW side of things from a combat point of view. Like, I have no concept of what kind of enemy I can safely face-tank, which is pretty much the default playstyle of Boomkins. I kept trying to dodge-roll out of melee range, like in GW2 or Conan. Druids have 37 different kinds of buttons anyway, so I sort of just embraced the 5-10 buttons I could comfortably press and then hoped that Shadowmeld would get me out of any serious binds.

What I have realized though, is that without flying, playing the druid is a real drag. Instant mounting is pretty much the only reason to play a Boomkin over any other ranged caster, and I’m pretty sure I’d have more fun on the rogue than Feral. All my other characters are below level 103 though, and I don’t want to run around in a full-PvP world in which flying exists for everyone other than me.

So, we’ll see.

WoW Aside

Blizzard was running a free weekend of WoW just a few days ago. This was basically me:

I still have the Curse Client – or the Twitch client now, but Amazon owns it? – so I was able to get all my addons updated and the screen to basically look the same as it did the last time I logged in. Which might have been 400+ days ago?

Blizzard has made a big deal about some of the artifact appearances going away permanently with the next expansion’s pre-patch, which itself is going Live within a few weeks. I looked through them, and pretty much the only ones I would conceivably care about were the Feral and Guardian druid ones. My average ilevel was 840 when I left, and 910 is basically the floor for attempts. Some guides have mentioned that you can reach that ilevel with about a week of dailies and such.

No thanks.

Cosmetic rewards in gaming is in a weird place for me. As rewards for completing content, I feel like it’s a good choice over straight (gear) power. As a means of funding games (e.g. cash shop), it is probably the least offensive, provided they do not come in loot boxes. But eventually… does it not just end for other people? Like, you enjoy the way your character looks and that’s that?

I spent years and years trying to get the Raven mount out of a TBC heroic, and I eventually did. And now I’m done with land mounts – any other mounts I ride are due to utility (flying, water-walking, etc). It doesn’t matter what other mounts Blizzard releases, and so mount-chasing just ceased to be compelling for me anymore. Same with transmog, really. Once you get a good set going, whatever else gets released would need to be way better than my current one in order to move the needle. You can only wear one costume/ride one mount at a time, so why both acquiring multiple ones?

Thus, with Mage Tower unlocks not being a good use of my time, I’m left with… well, too many things, actually. There’s two full raids worth of bosses to tour with LFR, plus an entire demon planet to quest through, and a half-dozen Allied races to unlock, oh and flying is a thing now which requires a whole bunch of assorted tasks and reputation grinds and, and, and etc.

Yeah, that’s gonna be a no for me dawg. I’m out.

Well, out is probably optimistic. I never uninstalled WoW in my life, and I am sorta interested in the train wreck of an expansion (lore-wise) that Battle for Azeroth is shaping up to be. There is just too much shit I have to shift through and prioritize and decide on at the moment. When a new expansion is released, things are much easier. Go quest, gain levels, unlock abilities, repeat until level cap. Once you hit said cap, things go sideways in terms of shit to do. Each patch adds more and more and the only way to keep your head above water is to have been treading this whole time. Makes it a bit tough to come back after an extended break.

I dunno. This may come as somewhat of a shock, but I sometimes overthink things. But I figure if I’m going to need to dedicate some time to (re-)learning some things, I should probably take that time to learn something new, e.g. playing something else.

WoW will still be there later, as always. Waiting.