I am writing this on the eve of the second raid instance coming out, Blackrock Foundry and I feel like it’s time to give my early impressions of the expansion. I have pretty much played WoW exclusively since the expansion released on November 13th. First I will give an update on what I’ve been doing in game. A quick timeline on character progression:
I started the expansion with the expectation that my paladin would be my main. After a few hours of leveling I saw a chat ad for a recruiting raiding guild. I contacted the GM of that guild and after a short discussion it was clear that the group needed a shadow priest, so I obliged and began leveling my priest from level 90. After about two weeks of focus on the priest I was max level and geared up for the raid. After a couple weeks of mediocre DPS numbers and another discussion of raid team needs I decided to level my warlock who was level 77. Another leveling binge that lasted about a week and a half (in real time not game time) and my warlock was max level. It took another week or so to get geared enough to jump in with the raid team. Fast forward about a month and my gear ilvl at 660 (geared enough to raid mythic) the raid team had 3 warlocks. I can tell you that no raid team needs 3 warlocks. My DPS numbers again were not terribly high and I wasn’t terribly in love with the play style I decided that the raid team needs a death knight. I got my DK to max level this past week and got a decent amount of drops in the raids I got into. I feel terribly behind the rest of my raid team but I am in an ok spot DPS wise at my low gear level. The only thing that I am severely behind in that will be tough to catch up on is the legendary ring quest. I have also done a bit of tanking which I’ve never really done before and I’m enjoying it so I will be an off tank for the raid group. I’m still really excited about the game and feel like there is never enough time in a day to get to where I want to.
Now for my thoughts on the expansion, but first I have to preface my thoughts. I have never been more involved with the game and aside from a chunk of Cataclysm I have never played the game more. So this review will be pretty positive in terms of tone. It is my favorite expansion by far; however, that is not me saying that this is the best expansion for those that want to disagree I’m just saying it’s my favorite and that is due to what I’m doing in game and how much fun I’m having.
This is an easy place to start since it is primarily the first thing you do in a new expansion. I really like the feel of questing this expansion. I have mixed feelings about the opening quest line only because it offers no variance. The beginning quest line is a fairly long chain of quests that are completely linear and takes about 40 minutes to an hour and 20 minutes approximately depending on how quickly you level. I now have 9 of my 11 characters through that event so I’m pretty efficient at it. The experience the first time through is great and it tapers off in each subsequent play through. I know that is the case for questing in general, but that forced linearity seems to wear on you. Aside from the opening quest I think that the rest of the quest design was done really well. I will talk more about garrisons later, but the way that they incorporated them into questing and giving each zone a feeling of importance with an outpost that you got to choose was a great addition.
There aren’t one or two things that I can pinpoint to say “this is why questing feels so much better this expansion”. The development team continued with the use of solo scenarios to drive home major plot points. It gives a more cinematic feeling to the quest which I enjoy. They used more cut scenes in questing which I never have a problem with. In the grind that is questing I don’t mind the option to stop for 30 seconds to watch a quick movie, you can skip them if you want to plug along. I have never been a quest text reader; I always want to level as fast as humanly possible. I think they have forced lore into quests through NPC voice overs and other story elements going on to where I get story without having to stop to read the text and I really like that. Another garrison tie in to questing is that certain quest chains can award you garrison resources or followers which are a good carrot on a stick. While it still seems fun now, I will be interested if questing can remain fun for the whole expansion which I don’t believe has ever been achieved.
The big new feature to the game and arguably the lynchpin for the expansion is garrisons. A great feature implementation to a new world that captures the essence of being “away from home”. The concept of the garrison is that we are now in a new world and not connected to our own realm so we need to build a base of operations. If that was what they were going for then they succeeded. The one criticism to that is that Blizzard has been saying for the longest time that they want to get people out of the capital cities and back into the world to recapture that MMO feeling. They couldn’t have gone much further in the opposite direction. People spend a majority of their play time in their garrison. I don’t mind because I’ve never had a problem with the solo feel of the game. I like that you have control over when you want to play with other people and when you want to play solo.
There is so much to do in your garrison from gathering herbs and ore to crafting to invasions. For the first time they have implemented player specific mines and herb gardens where players can gather these resources without needing the gathering skill. From a crafter’s perspective that just creates things for his character or characters this is a great change because you can self-sufficiently gather the necessary ingredients for crafted items. For those people who use crafting or gathering as a source of income this is a terrible addition. Now that everyone has access to these reagents whether they can gather or not has flooded the market with them and the prices for the reagents and the crafted items have plummeted. At times you can buy the crafted items for less than the market price of the items used to create them. There are also cooldown reagents that you get through garrison work orders at the appropriate profession building. You can also get these cooldown reagents from a daily crafted action. This has put a timing gate on crafting and something that I’m not particularly fond of from a money making stand point. Since I have 4 well established garrisons and 5 more garrisons where my character is just building resources over time I like the fact that I can be self-sustaining with crafted items but it would not be this easy for someone who only has one or two characters.
The garrison invasions come along when you’ve built up enough of a notice from an NPC faction and they can reward you with early raiding gear, gold, and other items. I have only done a couple of them so I can’t speak much on them but they are a nice break in the monotony as long as you don’t do them too often and burn yourself out on them. You have large, medium, and small plots in your garrison to place different buildings. These buildings can offer perks such as increased crafting mats for profession buildings to the stables which offer daily quests that eventually result in earning new mounts. There are perks for each building and once you’ve constructed a building you can swap it out for another if you feel you would rather have another type of building in that plot. You must do this because you only have a certain amount of plots at each level of garrison. The resources you need take a while to build at first but after a while you eventually have more than enough to maintain operations. In the next patch, patch 6.1, they are placing new vendors in the garrison to allow you to dump resources on helpful things if you have too many saved up.
End Game Content
In terms of what you can do at max level I think Warlords has been a very successful expansion so far. Unfortunately this topic cannot be fully discussed as the amount and quality of end game content cannot be summed up until the last patch of the expansion is out and all of the raids and other events are fully realized. What we can take a look at is everything so far. I thought there were a fair number of heroic dungeons to run at level 100 which offered shared loot tables across the different dungeons. This is good because you no longer had to queue up for one dungeon to loot one boss for one specific piece of gear. You can now run many dungeons to get that one armor/weapon slot you need filled. I think that LFR is done beautifully with its level of difficulty. In the last expansion I think that the tuning for LFR was too high and the encounters were too difficult. That content has to be created for people not used to or not interested in raiding at a normal level or higher. If you want a challenge you can raid normal, heroic, or mythic level difficulty. The development of a new looking for group tool allows you to find a normal or heroic raid group cross server so much better than in the past, I particularly love this feature. Raiding isn’t the only thing that it’s used for since you can also group for quests, PVP, and more.
I have only raided off and on and very casually prior to this expansion so I can’t speak too much in terms of comparison to previous raids but I think Highmaul is a really good introductory raid for the expansion. My main focus in the game now is raiding and I have to say that Highmaul is really fun in terms of difficulty and offering different levels of difficulty and raid mechanics. From the first boss (Kargath) to the final boss (Imerator Mar’gok) there is a large difficulty curve. I think it is a good ramp up to progress your team and to allow you to improve over time. Blackrock Foundry looks to take this tier of raiding to the next level and offer even more in terms of mechanics and difficulty.
The legendary ring is a ring that is obtainable by all players and has multiple steps that will progress through the whole expansion. For anyone who played Mists of Pandaria it is very similar to the legendary cloak quest line. It seems a bit more accessible which is appreciated for someone with so many characters. Currently my priest is caught up to the quest line going into Blackrock Foundry, my warlock is about mid –way through, and my DK who is now my main is about 3-4 weeks behind. I’m hoping and thinking that this raid tier will persist long enough for me to get my DK caught up prior to the next tier opening. My personal challenge will be to see how many characters I can get caught up in the ring quest prior to the next tier of raiding. I like the pacing of this legendary quest and can’t wait to see what the final iteration of the ring will be and how it will influence performance.
As I explained in the beginning of this article I am having more fun in the game than I ever have. That’s a testament to Blizzard and being able to keep people’s interest in a game that just hit its 10 year anniversary. I have only been playing for 9 of those 10 years but I still think that is impressive. I plan to revisit this topic in about a year to see how I still feel about the game. I hope you all enjoyed this and maybe it will invigorate you to start playing World of Warcraft or jumping back in if you haven’t played in a while. With the one character boost to level 90 there is no better time to get into or back into the game so I really recommend it. If you do come join the Lothar server and find me! My DK’s name is Darrkknight or you can in game mail to Tirc who is my semi dormant hunter but I will break him out at some point since he is my namesake!
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