Patch 4.1 granted all sorts of old content to be visited again. We get to once again experience ZA and ZG, extra loot, some portals in Dalaran (once again), no miss chance for taunts, and a raft of class specific changes. This post is a bit of a quick first impression and rant (how unsurprising), so you can cut to the chase if you wish.
TLDR Version: This patch was disappointing. It delivered all that it said it would, but it missed delivering something that will sustain the playerbase until 4.2 is released.
All the micro changes & updates are kind of moot, as I expect tuning to always be occurring. The feature of this patch was the Troll content. The bugbear I have is the patch feels like it under-delivers: old content done badly, a set of bug fixes, and some new loot. Hardly what you would call innovative and interesting; more like maintenance. If you like spending 2-3 hours to do a 5 man run, and wiping on trash then you will be happy with this patch. I’m not happy about it and think it’s getting to the point where we are close to be being taken for a ride by the game’s developers. Opinions and the reasons why after the break.
A quick update – seems that The Instance podcast also have observed players thinking that the 4.1 patch was a little rushed. I’m glad it was not only me (said on the Ep #227, show 26 mins in).
The old content, is … well old. This is like going out for dinner and eating the same meal you cook 3 times a week at home. A quick (cough! many many hours) run through of both instances had me feeling very bashed about, reminded that I’ve seen most of this before and uninspired to do them again for any reason except some better loot. Loot is not the game, or maybe I have this wrong in the Cata version of the game. I got a nice upgrade from the runs last night, but didn’t feel a sense of immersion or completion. I felt like asking when patch 4.2 will be released.
I’m not impressed by ZA and ZG being introduced again, either as 5 mans, a full 40 man raid, or any other manner. This is old content re-jigged and that is just uninspired (SFK, DM, Naxx, ZA, ZG, etc). If the material had changed significantly (meaning actually had been redeveloped in a more complete manner) it would be a totally different story. I have read and understood the previous troll lore, and understand that these new elements are to move some of that lore forward, but I can’t accept that this was their best effort to do so.
It looks and feels like we’ve been short changed on the content. It’ almost at the point of asking why in hell they bothered creating a video to introduce the content given how similar it is to the old versions. The difference in the old and new Deadmines is more pronounced that the ZA & ZG updates, and that is mean to be a heroic mode of a normal instance. The Zuls are meant to be changed, affected, and moved in the story, and they appear and feel too similar to the old versions. A cynic would be asking why they didn’t just re-adjust Naxx again and have us run that as a 5 man.
If these places were being repopulated by new enemies then where are the new powers, or different fight mechanics, or changes in graphical presentation? The trolls still use Scouts to beat drums of alarm, despite how well that worked in ZA last time. Duh.
Why has the instance map not changed due to the Cataclysm? The surrounding areas outside the instances are totally changed, but these two places are unaffected.
It took a very short time for me to remember all the details of the lore and my experiences with ZA and ZG and frankly I think it is lazy to constantly resurrect old content like this. I was looking forward to something new, in fact I needed something actually new to see so that the wait for 4.2 would not feel as long. The end encounter in ZG is a little different, and I’ll credit the game with an interesting fight there, but why in hell do the trolls think that re-summoning a boss we killed at 60 will be any harder? Hakkar was a tough boss at 60, and good content. Seeing him again is an interesting tid-bit but not powerfully compelling lore for re-release. I was hoping to feel inspired to return to the Zuls; but do not feel that way at all.
There is no normal mode for these runs either, just the heroic and that seems like a lost opportunity. Why not at least give both options so that beginner 85s can see the content too? When Magister’s Terrace was added it contained two modes; was that so demanding a task? Dropping some 346 blue items in an easier mode would not break the gear balance. Is wiping on trash in ZA and ZG supposed to be such an honour that it is reserved for well geared characters? Funny, it does not feel like an honour. What happened to making the content accessible to more characters and encouraging alts? Now I need to gear up through instances that are already pretty tired, then I get to see two more. No thanks.
These two instances are also further support the “more hardcore” attitude of the 5 man philosophy within the Cataclysm instances: that they should be complex, need crowd control, be punitive, and be totally unforgiving. ZA and ZG are tough, and they’ll stay tough for a long while. If you like spending 2-3 hours doing a daily dungeon then you’ll be pleased by this content. There is no way I’ll be pugging these instances any time soon, and not because I don’t think the rewards are worth it (they are borderline and that was to be expected and reasonable), but because the more difficult the content the better players I need to be teamed with, and the more tolerant those players need to be. The population of the LFG randoms is not tolerant or skilled.
Why must every boss in a 5 man run be bloody complex? The 5 mans serve two purposes: to provide a way to gear up to enter raiding, and provide an alternative to questing for gear and experience. What is odd is that these instances feel like raids. While that might sound initially like a good idea (hey guys lets all go do a mini-raid), it is actually a pain in the arse. Group composition checks, CC checks, gear checks, all added to a set of fights which remind us that we’ve been here before, and smash small mistakes. We’re supposed to pug these instances using the randoms, and spend countless hours running back to corpses. That’s the raid experience after all. Do these runs with guildmates, with vent, and with a large barrel of sanity to draw from; because you’ll need it.
I might be a heathen lazy bastard, but I liked a 5 man run that took 45 minutes. Minimal trash, a few gimmick fights with a few tank ’n’ spank fights, and the thin chance for some ok loot. It was fun. Give me one type of crowd control required per trash pack, not two or three. It was worth trying to get some free time for in Wrath’s days. It wasn’t overly difficult, didn’t require 3 strategy pages, a set of DBM mods, and certainly didn’t need ventrilo. What in hell is wrong with entertainment in a computer game…why design these to be frustratingly hard? Are Blizzard trying to push people away from the game into other mmos and other activities?
I say bring back the Wrath-ish 5 mans style. You’ll see a backlash from people saying it was too easy, but I think you’ll also see the wow population swell a little; and he’s why: the casuals will like it as they can actually gear up in a reasonable time frame, everyone will be a little less frustrated, and the dedicated players will be gearing all their alts. It does not need to be nurfed all the way to the floor, rather adjust so that we’re not totally screwed when a small mistake is made. The players who leave due to it being “too easy” were going to leave anyway. The players who like it difficult will not begrudge them being faster and easier – we know that because of what Wrath showed us, those players kept playing. They’ll stay and gear up, or at the very least they will not stay any longer just because its harder to get through a 5 man for your daily reward.
The time needed to do anything in game is getting longer, rather than shorter. We’re are seeing flexibility in the implementations though, where we can do a weeks worth of 5 man runs in one setting if we choose. That is a good change, and is in support of casuals, but only if that casually has a huge block of time rather than 3+ hours a day to play. If it takes 30-45 minutes to get a group as dps, and then 3 hours to complete a 5 man – how much time is needed to complete all your weeks worth of 5 mans? 28 hours or so. So better, but not exactly ezy-mode in terms of a time commitment.
Lets quickly look at the time sinks in the game: Archaeology (largest time sink ever introduced), 4.1’s re-hashed 5 mans (huge frustration and time sink), cata 5 mans (intolerant of mistakes and long), levelling process (only one basic path and highly repetitive), rep grinds (laborious and dull), gearing up (dependant on long processes), achievements (long, challenging, and well implemented). The shame is that I like this game, a lot, but cannot remember why at the moment.
With the allowance to switch currency between pvp to pve there is support for more flexibility in time, and just like the weeks worth of 5 mans – its a change that I think is in the right direction. Kudos to the devs and designers for that one. So good that some aspects are being changed to support more of the players; and it needs to go further.
So overall we’re experiencing an interim delivery which could have been higher quality. Not a new tier of raid content, but something to get involved in while the story evolves and the coding is completed. Perhaps I’m being too harsh and underestimating the impact all the small changes to groups, currency, and events that the patch will better facilitate. Perhaps the lore is growing in exciting ways, and this is the first thread whic will prove to be pivotal in the developing lore. I’m happy to be wrong; and to be honest I’ll be playing on regardless, looking for the magic.
Don’t let the trolls keep you down, and happy gaming.