Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Wrath of the Lich King: Hits and Misses

I'm always thrilled when I see a new post from Rohan. Blessing of Kings was the first WoW blog I ever read, back when I was looking for some good Holy Paladin information. Today, Rohan asked ‘How was your Wrath?’ I was going to answer her over there, but it would take up too much space. And I was due for another post, anyway, so here we go, with my own personal Hits and Misses.

Hit: The Scourge Invasion

Much as we started playing Cataclysm about three weeks ago, Wrath began around October 15, 2008 with patch 3.0.2. New talents, revamped specs, achievements – and major nerfs to BC content. The first patch effectively killed my interest in raiding; content that was still challenging for us as a guild became trivial after the patch. And so I began exploring, and playing with my new abilities.

The real start to Wrath began with a bang with the arrival of mysterious crates that touched off the highly-controversial Scourge invasion. The ensuing ghoul-fest was the highlight of the pre-Wrath period for me: Cleansing infected souls (at first by request only. Later I cleansed anyone whether they asked for it or not), killing those that transformed, and attempting to eat others when I found myself zombified. After a few days I decided to do my best to stay ‘clean’ and did not deliberately try to transform. All this while running the Hallows’ End quests.

Miss: The End of the Scourge Invasion

The simple truth was, as much as I loved the event, a lot more people hated it even more, and were very vocal about it. Blizzard has said they didn’t end the event early, but it sure felt that way to me. Once the cure for the plague was found, the remainder of the pre-expansion period was anti-climatic. I did globetrot in pursuit of Scourge necropoleis, or ziggurats, or whatever they were, but that scene was far less fun to me than the chaos of the ghoul invasion.

Hit: Leveling

As much as I enjoyed Wrath leveling and how it was done, it really wasn’t until I recently started pursuing (albeit halfheartedly) Loremaster that I truly appreciated how greatly Blizzard improved things for Wrath. Quest hubs are better designed – I think the pinnacle may be Zul’Drak in terms of hub design. And the stories – on the whole it was wonderfully done. I’m not a role player or a so-called lore nerd, but story is important to me. I read quest text, I watch cut scenes, I like to know what’s going on and why I’m doing it. There was a feeling of urgency about much of the questing, especially early on, and I felt like I was part of something bigger.

Drop rates for quest items improved (for an understanding of how truly bad old drop rates could be, go quest in the Blasted Lands before it changes), the Lich King was everywhere, and there were some epic questlines involving the major players in the game: Tirion, Bolvar, Thrall, Saurfang. Yes, there were some sidetracking (*cough*Nesingwary*cough*), but as a whole there was a tight theme running throughout.

Hit: Vehicle quests/combat

Ride an elephant and trample the bad guys! Drive a siege engine around Wintergarde Keep! Fire Chain guns to let the good guys get away! Wrath gave us vehicles up the wazoo, and it mostly worked. Some were a little clumsy to work, others nice and easy. By and large vehicles were fun, a nice diversion to smashing with maces and firing spells. But…

Miss: Eye of Eternity

In my view EoE misfired because of the design that had you fighting as yourself for the first six or seven minutes before mounting up and fighting as a dragon. With a completely different set of abilities. In an environment that was hard to ‘see’ in (I’ll note that I have some issues with depth perception in-game. Vile Spirits on LK are tough for me, too). I actually love phase 2 of that fight, where you’re frantically running around trying to stay in anti-magic bubbles while trying to knock floating blood elves out of the air. I don’t mind vehicle fights in general, and Blizz got it right for Ulduar and Oculus, where you can get used to your vehicles before fighting the boss. It was not well-executed for Malygos. Little wonder that we pretty much stopped going after we killed him for the first time.

Miss: The Argent Tournament and ToC

I’ll admit that I ground my way up to exalted with the five families of the Alliance and earned my Argent Crusader title, tabard and mounted squire. I’ll admit that I made a lot of gold doing so, and that the heroic ToC 5 man was a challenge on release. I’ll admit that I liked fighting Jaraxxus, the Twins, and Anub’arak. I can admit these things.

On the whole the Argent Tournament was a miss. The raid itself, while providing some challenge, was dull and lifeless. I like trash, I like movement in my raids, I like feeling like I’m going somewhere. On top of that, the whole tournament felt like a terrible diversion. Shouldn’t we have had this tournament before embarking to Northrend? The whole expansion has been about fighting Arthas, hurry, hurry, hurry. Now we’re taking a break for the Olympics? Sorry, didn’t work for me.

Hit: Ulduar, OS, Naxx

Some say Naxx was too easy. It sure kicked our butt initially. I found the size of both Ulduar and Naxx to be appropriately epic. As someone who had only been in Naxx once (and that was the night before 3.0 dropped) the fights were fresh for me. And I love fighting undead.

Ulduar just felt epic all the way. It looked great, there was lots to do, and a lot of interesting fights. I think Blizzard scored big-time on this one.

Hit: Icecrown Citadel

I think Blizzard really hit the mark well here. The instance is big, with plenty of trash (although you get to fight three bosses – LDW, Gunship, and Saurfang – with only three trashpacks in between) and some really interesting and entertaining fights. The encounters really showcase a breadth of skills that required good teamwork and communication from the raid. You might be able to crank out the dps and healing required to down Festergut, and then find yourself utterly unable to master dodging slime spray on Rotface. Extremely well done on Blizzard’s part.

Hit: The Strength of Wrynn/Song of Hellscream

I’ve covered this one before. I think this was a very elegant way for Blizzard to allow guilds like mine to progress without straight-up nerfing. Yes, while increasing damage output equates to a nerf of the boss’s health, it’s not the same as increasing the cooldown on Defile, for example. There is a bit of a miss in here, though; as the buff increased, it did encourage sloppy play. At lower buff levels you still had to get out of Death and Decay. At 30%? Not so much.

Hit: Gunship

As much as this was decried as ‘Lootship’ right from the get-go, I found this one to be amazingly taxing on my supposedly limitless mana pool. This fight was so different from the others, and a lot of fun. And now I can’t listen to Muradin without thinking of this gem of a video:

Miss: Gear inflation

Simply put, I feel that our gear escalated far too fast. At the risk of trotting out this old BC argument again, it felt like BC heroics remained a challenge far longer than Wrath heroics. It could be that I never geared up far enough in BC (attaining T4/5/BoJ levels) to trivialize the heroics, but even the ‘easy’ BC heroics like Ramparts and Slave Pens could put a big hurt on you if you weren’t careful. By the time we had cleared Naxxramas for the first time pretty much all the on-release heroics were easy.

Hit and Miss: Achievements

Yes, there’s something fun about falling off a zeppelin, surviving, and seeing an ‘achievement’ pop up. Or riding around the world and trying to get into the enemy’s capital city for a world explorer title. Yet achievements have a downside. First it was ‘LFM link achievement’. While I understand group leaders want to be successful, this sort of thinking led to the exclusion of capable players from groups. Next, I think that Achievements encourage a more selfish playstyle, which is not something you want in a group game. Fun overall, but sometimes annoying.

Miss: Emblem of What?

Back in Burning Crusade, we had Badges of Justice. In Wrath we’ve had Emblems of Valor, Heroism, Triumph, Conquest and Frost. I think Blizzard maybe even confused themselves with this one. Instead of having different badges for each level of gear, I think it would have been better to stick with one type of badge, have less gear available for those badges, and simply make higher-level gear more expensive.

Hit: The Lich King

What a great fight. And what a feeling to beat him. I hope the Deathwing fight is as good.

On the whole, Wrath was a big hit for me. I loved it on the overall. I had a blast. I know I’m missing some things from this list, but it’s already too long and I’ve taken too much time to write this. What about you? What are your hits and misses from Wrath?

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