Battle for Azeroth has been out for almost a month now, so it seems like a good time to check in and see how things are going. I’ve been quite happy that I’ve had so many friends around this expansion. There was a surge like this at the start of Legion too, but it seemed smaller and shorter-lived. With the Robosquid Armada community we are slowly building a team to do M+ and maybe some raiding.
Aspirations of raiding aside, how does the game feel on a day-to-day basis? For me, the answer is a bit mixed. While I had mostly praise for the start of Legion, BfA seems to have some higher highs and lower lows. It got off to a rocky start before it even launched because from the moment it was announced I really didn’t like the premise of faction conflict that has been at the heart of all the marketing and build-up for this expansion. The War of the Thorns was great for getting some solid gear to start the expansion with. Unfortunately the story itself was equal parts infuriating and depressing. When BfA actually launched it was a bit of a shock that, at least on the Horde side, we almost instantly ditched all concern of Red vs. Blue and dove right into the cool troll stories of Zandalar.
After playing through every single quest I could find in all three zones, I have trouble deciding which was my favorite. Unlike Legion, there’s no place that feels bad or boring to quest through. I like them all. Zuldazar is enormous, richly packed full of the main storyline and tons of flavorful side quests. I love the jungle setting, and all the dinosaurs everywhere. My biggest complaint about the zone is at some point it starts to feel like it will never end. It’s not that I was bored with the story there, I was just eager to see the other zones too and it started to feel like I would never be able to leave! Vol’dun is a desert zone, which I usually don’t care for. This one, however, had lots of charm. There were times when I completely lost the thread of the main story, but I didn’t care because I was too busy hanging out with various undead and spirit trolls to worry about it. Plus this zone brought us the alpaca song, one of the high points of my leveling experience. Finally, there’s Nazmir. It has a pretty grim story, almost shockingly so in some spots. It also has a creepy swamp atmosphere which isn’t as fun as the jungles of Zuldazar. It’s the characters in Nazmir that make it really fun. Bwonsamdi and Talanji are the big ones, but the bit players are often really great too. I especially enjoyed the band of undead dealing with the snake incursion near the border of Vol’dun.
So overall the leveling experience was pretty great. I was blown away with the storytelling and leveling in Legion, and BfA is at least as good, if not better. Now the real question is: What is there to do at the level cap, and is it fun? Lots of things are fairly unchanged from Legion, like world quests and M+. World quests are much better than the old system of daily quests, but especially at the start of an expansion it can be easy to overdo it and burn out. I’ve been relieved that there’s not much my main needs from them anymore, so I can focus on just the emissary quest and maybe some pet battles instead of trying to do every single thing that offers gear.
The mythic+ system hasn’t really changed and I still have the same feelings about it. I don’t love the timer. It’s stressful and I would prefer a difficulty that ramps up without the artificial stress of having to beat the clock. At least you still get loot and an item in your weekly chest for finishing, even if you don’t make it in time. M+ also suffers from forced manual grouping. It’s fine for now when I have friends around, but in another month or two if people wander away I’ll probably just have to stop running them completely. Suffering through trying to join or organize a pug is not worth it.
There’s new things to do at the level cap too. Islands got boring for me after the very first time. There’s some mounts and pets in there so I’m sure I’ll keep doing them for a bit, but it is not an enjoyable experience. The random, 3-person group, combined with the race against the clock/ the alliance team also causes problems. Unlike in the old Pandaria scenarios, where you could always muddle through and take your time no matter what your comp was, getting an island group with 3 healing priests is pretty much a guaranteed failure. And yes, this actually happened to me. Not fun.
On the flip side, the warfront is actually fairly fun. I was skeptical because I don’t really care that much for RTS games or PvP, which are the major design inspirations for warfronts. But the gameplay is smooth and the rewards are pretty great. I’m concerned that they will feel stale in the long run, because the core loop is going to be exactly the same every time. Hopefully the fact that we alternate between taking the zone, having the zone, and building up the war effort will help keep it fresh for longer.
One last concern for me is professions. I know I’ve already complained about them a bit before, but now that I have been working on them even more I keep finding issues. For example, the raid crafting mats do drop in LFR, which is great! Except that if you are a LFR-only player you might still never be able to make the crafted raid gear. That’s because you can’t actually discover the recipes until you craft the mythic dungeon gear first. No mythics, no hydrocores, no chance at learning all your recipes. The other crafting annoyance is expulsom. Lots of things are very expensive this expansion, and scrapping unwanted gear for a chance at expulsom takes away one steady stream of vendor gold we’ve had forever. I feel an extra layer of pity for people who have the old popular combo of enchanting + tailoring, since they have to decide which they need more, enchanting mats or expulsom.
One last note to end on something positive. BfA is surprisingly kind to alts. After how horrible alting felt in Legion, it feels much better now. World quests are a speedy way to gear. LFR only requires a 320 item level. And the warfront is a fantastic fountain of loot without having to drag alts into mythics. Other than crafting feeling terrible, I have really enjoyed leveling and playing alts in BfA. My druid hit 120 over the weekend, and I can already do pretty much anything I want to do on her. The leveling story doesn’t feel stale yet, and I’m already excited to start leveling my next alt.
Overall I’d give the state of WoW right now a B+ grade. Some things are just not working well for me or are not very fun, but in general I’m enjoying myself and heavily invested.