Patch 6.2 for World of Warcraft released on July 22nd, 2015. After the atrocity of 6.1, this is the first major content patch for the faltering Warlords of Draenor expansion. It promised more than a selfie camera. Raids, a new zone, and content galore!
I’m only going to talk about a few things today. I’ll be excluding Timewalking and Tanaan Jungle for a later post. I’ve been preparing for and then moving over the last couple of weeks, so I wanted to get this post out whenever I could. I also think that those two features can have a dedicated article each.
Garrison Shipyard – “Content”
One of the major selling points of patch 6.1 was the garrison shipyard. Admittedly, it’s pretty cool to command your own armada of ships. Selecting your own types of ships, from transports and Forsaken battleships to submarines. Renaming them is a nice touch too. Some of the favorites I’ve come up with or appropriated include a submarine with a Pandaren crew named Blossom’s Echo, a destroyer named Kun-Lai’s Call, and a battleship named Revengeance.
Unfortunately, the fun really stops there. It’s no surprise that shipyards turned out to be an inferior incarnation of the follower system. Follower traits are random, but the inn lets you instantly recruit followers with an ability or trait of your choice once a week. Over a period of time, this allows you to build up your own specialized group of followers. There’s a random element to it, but at least you have some control over it. You can also reroll follower traits or abilities with items.
Ship traits, such as crew, are assigned upon constructing a ship. Ship abilities can be changed for the cost of 500 garrison resources each. Doing so also requires finding the proper equipment out in the world, often on rare mobs or inside instances. The best strategy is to decommission ships that aren’t rare or epic and make another one, hoping for one of the two higher rarities. The result is another layer of RNG that is inferior to a system that already exists.
Getting another ship means constructing it, which is a process that ranges from 30 minutes to a couple of hours. It’s a modified work order system from profession buildings except you can’t queue multiple ships in a row. Each has to be started and retrieved individually, creating a needless timesink.
While followers can fail a mission and have no repercussions aside from wasted time, ships that fail missions have a chance to be destroyed forever. Destruction means starting the entire ship process over again, at crafting and rerolling for rarity.
It’s also difficult to 100% naval missions. I’m not entirely sure what Blizzard’s goal was here. I can understand trying to encourage players to send followers out on missions that aren’t 100%, but creating a system that punishes players for doing is a pretty stupid way to go about it. Trying to obtain a 100% success rate for naval missions requires bleeding 500 garrison resources per slot to optimize your ships for one mission.
The end result is a system that just isn’t any fun at all. The failure states of the shipyard missions unfairly punish the player for trying to play it. Trying to avoid mission failure by equipping ships individually is prohibitively expensive and forces them into situations where RNGesus decides all. The player has no real control over the result — it resides in the roll of the dice.
The shipyard is a great example of the “content” that is rampant in Warlords of Draenor. The player isn’t really doing anything. They’re clicking through menus, sending their followers and fleet off on grand adventures while they sit in their garrison. It feels like the player is doing something. They are, after all, clicking and managing followers. But there are no real choices. You want to try to 100% a mission, but it’s okay if you don’t. If you fail the shipyard mission, it’s just a hassle to rebuild them. There are no meaningful choices to make. It’s a glorified Facebook game placed into World of Warcraft.
From what I’ve seen in the first wing of LFR and Twitch streams, Hellfire Citadel is kinda cool. I’ll have to PUG normal mode before I have more complete opinions on the fights themselves, but my limited exposure makes me think that the raid has some interesting fights.
My problem with Hellfire Citadel is that it continues a disturbing trend in raid structure that has been the case since Cataclysm. It and Mists of Pandaria both launched with three major raids while Warlords launched with one. Blackrock Foundry came later and had its item level boosted to effectively make it the second raid tier of the expansion. This makes Hellfire Citadel the third and final (based on word so far) tier of the expansion.
Contemporary raid structure does not rely on options and diversity for players. The void created by a lack of content is instead filled by the new difficulty, Mythic. Raid groups are expected to progress through three difficulties of the same raid. This is false content, much like the shipyard.
I like heroic raids. I think that hard modes were one of the best parts of Ulduar. When done correctly, there can be a novel difference between the normal and heroic modes of raids. Ulduar is perhaps the best demonstration of this with divides between normal and hard mode fights like Mimiron/Firefighter and Yogg-Saron/One Light in the Darkness. Progressing through heroic is often not doing anything new. Instead, it’s a way to lengthen the lifespan of “content” by forcing or encouraging your player to run it multiple times. Normal mode is a vestigial difficulty compared to the divide between heroic and mythic.
This is something that I’ve never understood about raid design since Wrath of the Lich King, but especially after the introduction of LFR. Wrath of the Lich King introduced Trial of the Crusader in patch 3.2. Due to both the raid’s ease and short length, it was common practice for players to run the raid multiple times, in both the 10 and 25-man versions. 25-man progression guilds would run the raid a total of four times. 10-man normal, 10-man heroic, 25-man normal, and 25-man heroic.
This contributes severely to player burnout and actually shortens the lifespan of the raid. It becomes a chore to do lower difficulties to fill out the necessary slots in your gear but it’s also boring to do easy content. LFR is actually the same thing, especially in its earlier incarnations in Dragon Soul. Ultimately, I can’t help but see strong similarities between raid structure currently and Trial of the Crusader. Do the lower difficulty of the raid to progress to the higher difficulty. Repeat as long as there is another higher difficulty, and more can always be added.
A lot of my struggles with Hellfire Citadel and mythic raids infect my opinions on mythic dungeons as well. It would be unfair for me to judge mythic raids so harshly for damage and health bloat and then not criticize mythic dungeons for the same thing, because that’s exactly what they’re doing. Mythic dungeons are heroic dungeons with mob health pools and damage inflated. Mechanics aren’t changed.
While that sucks, and while I’d like to see more 5-mans in general, mythic dungeons kinda rule. I’ve always been a fan of 5-mans. I think difficult 5-man content is an avenue that WoW has not explored heavily outside of challenge modes. Doing the challenge modes in Mists is one of my favorite things I’ve ever done in the game.
Heroic dungeon difficulty swings back and forth with every expansion, but I’ve always been a sucker for the tough ones. I adored Halls of Reflection, the Zul’Aman remake, and Magister’s Terrace. I crave challenging 5-man content. So I can’t tell if I truly like mythic dungeons or if they’re filling a hole that I’ve wanted for so long.
I can tell that mythic dungeons are simply number bloats to challenge higher item levels. I’m just doing content that I’ve already done before. Now it’s just scaled. I can also tell that I find something really fun in mythic dungeons.
I just think I’d like something original even more.