I haven’t written many blog posts during the course of Warlords of Draenor – not because I haven’t wanted to or have had no interest – but I’ve been much busier the past couple of years, which has left less time for writing posts. And what free time I did have I wanted to spend playing WoW rather than writing about it.

However, as WoD is now drawing to a close and the new expansion Legion is upon us tomorrow evening, I thought I should say at least something about my experiences of WoD. A lot of people talked long and loud on forums and blogs about their disappointment in this expansion, how it was cut short, seemed rushed, lacked content, and confined people to their garrisons to slog away in the mines and fields, or send followers out on endless missions, while not doing much out in the field themselves. Some thought that players had been short-changed. While I see what they were getting at, I still think WoD had a lot going for it, and I had plenty to do in game right up until the end – mostly thanks the prepatch content. Some months ago, I had one break for a few weeks to work on my dimensions in Rift, but that was it. And after all the disappointment and shenanigans that were going on in Rift, I was grateful to return to WoW. I think if more of the complainers spent time playing other MMOs they’d see which side their bread was buttered. WoW is still the best as far as I’m concerned and whatever complaints can be made against Blizzard they seem like saints in comparison to some other developers out there.

It was clear that WoD was a victim of Blizzard’s aim to try and push expansions out quicker. Some content was cut to facilitate a speedier release, which was a shame. I’d have loved to explore the Farahlon zone (the Draenor version of Netherstorm in Outland), which didn’t make it into the final version of the expac. But it seems the developers realise now that their aim wasn’t very realistic and it’s better to keep an expansion going longer, but with regular additional content, rather than cut corners to bring out new expansions at a faster rate. That said though, the zones of WoD were all pretty amazing and the questing was perhaps the best ever in WoW. The story-line was engaging, and players interacted more fully with ‘famous’ NPCs in the game. You felt part of the story, and I found myself reading more quest text than I’ve ever done. But once all the alts were levelled and done with questing, and had been geared up either through garrison missions or doing LFR, the game began to wind down for me. I have one main raiding character in the guild team, and it wasn’t fun being stuck with him in the same raid for so long. I reached the point where the prospect of Hellfire Citadel every week filled me with weary dread. I was absolutely sick of the sight of the place, was on first name terms with all the mobs, and had a loyalty card. I thought I actually wanted to give up raiding altogether, I was so bored with it. But now I’m looking forward to new challenges and my interest has revived.

One thing that was good about the extended raiding of HFC was that our guild raid team progressed further than they ever have. We finished the raid on Heroic while it was current. That was a first for us. We’re not really a Heroic raiding guild, but were willing to give it a go, since we’d done everything else and wanted to keep our two weekly raiding nights going. Everyone got their flying moose mounts, from killing Archimonde on heroic, which we really hadn’t expected to get for the team. In fact, some of us (mount collectors) got our heroic kill with another guild who were offering free places in their team for people wanting the mount. This was quite some time ago, as we were so sure our team wouldn’t be able to kill an end boss on heroic difficulty. But happily, we were wrong.

As for the garrisons, I really enjoyed them, but by the end of the expansion I was getting tired of the compulsion to log all of my alts on every day to fulfil the irresistible gold missions. No one was forcing me to do that, but – like many other players – I felt I should make the best of all that gold while it was there, in case income in Legion isn’t anywhere near as lucrative as it’s been in WoD. However, while part of me was sad when Blizzard removed all the garrison gold missions with the prepatch for Legion, another part of me was greatly relieved. My alts were freed from the slavery of earning wages and could go out and camp rares, and generally have more fun than being cooped up in their garrisons. The idea of garrisons was great, but when you have an army of alts, as many players do now after over a decade of playing WoW, the maintenance became a huge chore. I loved the bodyguards, which protected my squishy cloth-wearing characters, and I loved all the powerful gear I could get from missions, which saw my alt army better dressed than they’ve ever been. I also liked having my own little town, watching the NPCs going about their business, interacting with each other, even sometimes falling out. I simply think the implementation needed to be slightly different, more streamlined for players who have multiple characters.

One of Blizzard’s main problems, I think, is that they feel they have to conceal truth from players. I don’t believe this is because they want to be underhand – it’s because player reactions to changes can be extreme and often hostile. Players can also fly into tantrums when things appear ‘promised’ to them, but then Blizzard – for whatever reasons – are unable to deliver. This has no doubt led to the company thinking it’s better to keep players in the dark about developments rather than risk the hue and cry that arises on forums when controversial decisions and changes are made. But the silence, and what is perceived as misinformation, can appear secretive and deceptive, as if the developers are conniving to deceive and annoy the players. For example, when adjustments to characters classes are made, in an effort to keep the game fresh and new, some players feel that Blizzard deliberately want to destroy their class, just to upset them and because they can. Change for the sake of change. This is obviously not at all the case, but the developers’ lack of transparency gives rise to these disgruntlements. I’m sure that WoD’s deficiencies weren’t just down to a rushed expansion, but also other factors – perhaps a radical change of personnel, as many people left the company round about the same time, and perhaps other factors we can’t even guess at. But it’s not sensible business policy to share sensitive inside information with customers. So players speculate, add 2 and 2 and get 5, usually a dark foreboding 5 from the dark side of reality. There’s not really any way round this. I think there’ll always be a volatile relationship between the developers and a certain segment of the player base.

One thing I do think was a huge mistake was the ‘no flying’ affair, or perhaps we should call it Flightgate. Mid-way through WoD, when we were all expecting to gain flight again near the end of the expansion, Blizzard announced they wanted to disable flying completely from WoD forward. It would still be allowed in older areas of the game, but not in new expansions. This announcement was met with a huge display of outrage from the players. I was one of the outraged players. I didn’t buy the excuse of ‘immersion’ and how it’s better to keep to the ground, even when you’ve played the whole expansion through the hard way, and fight every annoying little mob while questing, gathering materials for crafting or digging for the Archaeology profession. Neither is it fun, on your 3rd alt onwards, to have to go the slow and long way to everywhere and everything. I have no objections whatsoever to playing through the game once from a worm’s eye view, but after that it’s just annoying. Neither do I mind having to work to regain flying later in an expansion – that’s just another part of the game. But no, the decree was that flying henceforth would not be allowed. If everyone just had one character, maybe removing flying wouldn’t be as bad, but to take away such a huge quality of life facility was just insane. As I said earlier, most players have multiple alts now. I have around two dozen. Can you imagine levelling while ground-travelling everywhere on all of those? Shudder. Sometimes you have to trek a long distance to various activities in the game, and the ‘taxis’, especially in the old world, are really slow and take far too long. The world of WoW is enormous now. Players would suffer equally enormously if flying had been taken away. There’s also the fact that people had collected a lot of flying mounts, and in some cases paid real money for them. They are on the whole very beautiful mounts and it’s enjoyable to fly around on them. Fortunately, Blizzard relented over that decision. I was really relieved they did. But dear gods there were a few weeks of high drama over that issue!

Now onto the pre-patch for Legion. I think this event and what it offered players was done really well. It was great to give everyone the opportunity to level their characters’ gear up to 700 so that most would go into Legion fully equipped for their initial questing in the Broken Isles. Also, the experience gained from the demonic invasions was fantastic for levelling up any lowly alts you might have had languishing on the backwaters of your realm for years. I levelled up two new characters in a few days, one from scratch and one from level 12, and both are fully geared ready for Legion. For those who’d preordered Legion, we were given access to Demon Hunters, the new class. I made one for Horde and one for Alliance and really enjoyed their starting area and the way they play. The scenarios introducing the plot for the new expansion were dramatic and exciting. Once again you feel fully engaged with the story. THIS is immersion – not just riding around immense mountain ranges on a ground mount!

There’s no doubt that Legion will be a ‘player’s expansion’. Blizzard is giving us things we’ve wanted for years – Demon Hunters probably being the prime example. The most loved raid in the game – Karazhan – is being given a new lease of life without destroying its beloved original form. It’s to become a 5 man dungeon without being cropped or redeveloped. I was sad when, in previous expacs, old dungeons like Sunken Temple and Scholomance were gutted to become quick 5 mans, losing half of their antiquated charm. I disliked the chopping up of Zul’Gurub and Zul’Aman too, and think – like with Kara – Blizzard should have kept the original old raids as well as adding the new 5 mans. If only all those mangled old dungeons and raids could be brought back. A lot of players are really into WoW nostalgia, and I think few would complain if they returned.

Anyway, that’s all for now. There’s a lot more I could say but… I have a Death Knight and a Rogue who are still lacking a couple of weapons from the invasions, and I want to get those before tomorrow. Can’t wait for Legion!