Exactly one week ago, I wrote about the plight of a few MMOs in their attempts to expand content. Blizzard and World of Warcraft were included in that, but only for their problems with flight. Consider this an addendum to that post.
Warlords of Draenor was one of the most positive leveling experiences I ever had in World of Warcraft. The dungeons were fun, and I enjoyed tanking them for a couple of friends. The solo experience was better than ever before, as there were fewer quests and more things out in the world to see. While leveling, Garrisons were fun and inviting; they finally gave an alternate ‘thing to do’ and helped push me to unlock more.
And then max level happened.
On Heroic, the dungeons were the exact same as they had been while leveling. They were not especially challenging, nor were they particularly rewarding. I played long enough to extract the highest item levels I could from these dungeons, and by the time the first raid was launched, I was already bored out of my mind.
Garrisons failed to entrap me. While unlocking different buildings and outposts was fun, it all quickly settled into routine by the time I reached max. I think they could have been a compelling experience, but their implementation was so dull and uninspired, that I would have preferred Blizzard just add the housing that they always said they would not do.
I have followed the game from the sidelines ever since. I quit only a month into the expansion, long before my opinions on it could be justified. I did not thinking Warlords of Draenor was very good, and I am both sad and happy that those sentiments seem completely right.
It wasn’t an expansion without value. The raids they added looked fun, and I have read many good things about them. I also know a lot of people are enjoying the Tanaan Jungle. But there are so many problems, which I can see plainly and which friends I know have told me with great conviction:
The story is bad. Judging a story always implies the subjective, but I did have some hope for WoD coming into it. I skipped the prior expansions, but there was a real sense of wonder in getting to go back to The Burning Crusade before anything had been burned down or any crusades had ruined the place. Time travel is almost always a hokey way of telling a story, especially when it means an alternate universe, but even that seemed like it had potential.
We all knew about the orc-centricity coming into the expansion. In my pregaming, I hyped myself up despite concerns about Grom being the announced final boss. Blizzard changed their mind and defied themselves in only the way Blizzard does it. They threw in an unconvincing and underwritten Grom redemption story and forced Archimonde to be the final boss. Many had guessed that would happen, but I had hoped Blizzard might have a trick up their sleeve.
“Two” patches is too few. For the most ardent of Blizzard supporters, this whole kerfuffle over 6.2 being the final patch will appear to be a ‘damned if you do, damned if you don’t for Blizzard. “We wanted quicker expansions and less downtime,” they will argue.
I could care less how frequently expansions are released, but content patches do matter to me. They matter even when I am not playing the game. World of Warcraft, to this day, still rakes in cash. For Blizzard to be unable to add new content to the game for more than a year seems outrageous to me. Their expansions have shrinked in size and scope, and they don’t even come with the old Blizzard polish anymore either. Rarely do World of Warcraft expansions launch with everything promised, ready to go, and too frequently things get cut mid-expansion as if Blizzard is making this all up as they go.
Final Fantasy XIV is to blame. Not because the sudden competition has inspired Blizzard to be better, but because Square Enix’s success has only made Blizzard look worse. FFXIV also has a box cost, charges a subscription, charges for expansions, and has a small cash shop on the side. The game lacks the long history of success or the subscriber numbers that World of Warcraft has accrued, though the game is chasing down that legacy each year.
Despite their similarities and Blizzard’s advantages, we get a half-thunk expansion with minimal content patches from one, and- from what I have read – a great expansion not that long after a series of very significant content patches from the other.
They operate differently. It’s apples and oranges. Blah, blah, blah. The idea that Blizzard is a money-hungry, whore of a game developer, whose marriage to Activision has greatly tarnished a once great company’s legacy, is rampantly expressed these days. It is often dismissed as the spam of the hardcore who decry Blizzard’s love of accessibility, or brushed aside as failure to understand that companies make games to make profit.
Perhaps these words go too far, but there seems to be a kernel of truth there. Blizzard gives less, for more, and wants to only speed up the rate in which they do it. That makes great business sense, but after an entire expansion that did so little to add to their flagship, I am ready to watch it all sink down to the bottom of the MMO sea.
Part of me has always felt that way, but an even bigger part of me is sad to agree.