Thursday, January 18, 2007

Bittersweet Expansion Thoughts

After a little technical difficulty (amazing what the slightest smudge on a CD can do to an install...) Gorthaal and the rest of my cabal of characters entered the age of The Burning Crusade. It's been a moment myself and millions of other World of Warcraft players have been waiting on for over a year. Was it worth it? Yes and sadly no.

My first half hour of play was spent re-speccing Gorth from full Resto to full Feral. I will fully admit that I seem to have made a terrible mistake over the last few weeks, putting the end-game adventures of the guild before the preperation for the expansion. Having +768 healing does -nothing- for you if you are questing. You cannot heal the mobs to death! That left me feeling rather gimped in my new feral form. Where I had managed to assert myself as consistently one of the top three raid healers in the Guild, now I'm back to 'token feral guy with good equipment'. Of course, this isn't wholly a bad thing - I can pitch-hit pretty well as a healer still, but it feels a little sad.

Anyway, that sadness was mitigated wholly when myself and Dave teamed up for levelling once again as a gallant duo of feral druids. Oh boy! Being able to happily deal with two or three mobs at the same time is a very nice feeling to have. Seeing us take down a level 60 elite, in cat form, in seconds, was even more satisfying. It's nice to have the power back.

The expansion areas themselves are pretty damned good. The graphics are sweet, the mobs look fantastic and there seems to have been a change in the way that the quests have been structured thats a little less linear and has a bit more storyline. One thing which struck me is that very early on you get the chance to do a 'bombing run' which is immense fun and shows off the flying graphics really well AND you can repeat the quest for fun. Thats a nice little sideshow. I slipped through Hellfire Penisula and Zangermarsh and wandered around Shattrath City for a while and did a load of quests. I ended the night about 75% of the way to 61st level, which I was very pleased with.

However, the competitive soul in me is CRYING about the people who are levelling faster. Goddamit, I used to be the levelling machine. I was the one that was first to do everything. Not you guys. Me! Oh what a seriously flawed little munchkin I am!! However, on the other hand, I really want to experience the quests and the content a little more. It's worth it - which I will come onto later - and it's what I have been waiting for. But still, every DING! I see in guildchat makes me tug inside. Faster Faster Levelling Master!

Similarly, I felt really left out last night knowing that guildmates and RL mates were plumbing the depths of new instanced content together. I guess after months of doing everything as one massive group and sharing the highs and lows together, I'd forgotten the nature of 5-mans.
Maybe it's just a case of so much to do and so little time before it becomes passe?

Anyway, whats good? Well the drops and rewards are pretty spankingly awesome! FINALLY Blizzard seem to have some understanding that quests should have decent rewards - and these are DECENT, obscenely so. There has been much documentation about it, but I will say it again. Greens that are better than Epics. Thats all that needs to be said. I got my fair share of decent drops last night too, which was kind of cool. Don't know quite what I will do with them though.
Of course, this nirvana is balanced by other factors. Everyone is there. I logged onto my bank alt in Orgrimmar and there was nobody there. OK, thats a slight understatement. There were about eight characters there - mostly bank alts. The place was dead. The Alliance could have come in and had a party in Thralls knickers and no-one would have cared. That seems a shame.
Similarly, I realised that the expansion has rendered a load of the old content dead-in-the-water. Loot powers the game and the quest rewards in Outland outstrip almost everything you can get in Stratholme, Scholomance, Dire Maul, BRD, LBRS and URBS. They are simply distractions now - stuff for people who like quests to do once or twice before they hit the real content in Outland. It's like if there were a dozen instances you could have chosen from at 50th level instead of Sunken Temple and Mauradon. Blizzard might as well close the Molten Core server down. Who will want to grind their rep in Zul Gurub for a chest piece that gets replaced by a quest reward in two days time at level 61?

Now, I can see the reasoning and the hard decision that has had to be made. I can understand that Ragnaros has been defeated, Nefarian thwarted, Ossirian spanked, Cthun blinded and Kelthuzad burned. The old threats are gone and new ones have come around. Thats great, but the instances are still there. Hakkar is still stood on the top of his bloody pyramid for anyone stupid enough to get him.

I feel sorry for those people buying the game for the first time. I doubt they will experience the highs and the lows of the level 60 endgame like we did. They will not leap around the room like a silly prick when they first see Onyxia killed. They will not have that moment of sheer achievement when we downed Ossirian. They will not see what we have seen and do what we have done.

And that seems quite sad.

So hurrah for the Burning Crusade. Its brilliant in it's own way. But sorrow for World of Warcraft because I think it might have lost a little bit of it's soul...


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