Rants tag

Rants, ruminations, and rambling reports from the front lines* of the Massively Multiplayer Multiverse.

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

MoPping Up: Impressions of the Latest Iteration of WoW

FOREWARNED is FOREARMED: This post contains some early spoilers for the Pandaren starting area: but chances are you either know already because you're playing, or you don't care because you're not.

Sctrz had expressed interest in checking out Mists of Pandaria, and I was curious to see some of the changes myself. So this past Saturday, she logged into her trial account (made in 2010) and I created one specifically for this opportunity. Naturally, we roled Pandaren; she, a Hunter, and I, a Shaman. The Monk class, of course, is only available to those who have purchased a license for MoP. But the Pandaren race and starting area are open to anyone playing the game, which is cool.
A Roguish Shaman
I considered a Rogue, but decided to go with the Shaman class, because I am slightly more familiar with it. However, I still had Rogue on the brain when picking the colors and fur pattern, leading to a Shaman with a bandit mask.

As you can see from the screenshots throughout this post, Blizzard's cartoony style for WoW is in full force, and the setting is gorgeous. I've never had an issue with the art of WoW, I find it creative and a clever way to allow for a wider range of machines to run it, without it looking like crap on older technology.
Cute cubs.
Now for the issues I have. And yes, I will make comparisons to other, newer games.

First, MoP has a relatively slow pace of gaining abilities. Spamming lightning bolts while getting the occasional auto-whack in was a really boring way to spend every battle until level 3. Then I was given some insta-bash that was on a long enough cooldown that it was only useful once or twice per fight. A couple levels after that, I got Earth Shock, which is also on a once-or-twice-per-fight cooldown. Eventually, I got a heal. While it's nice not to have to seek out a trainer every other level, the acquisition of new buttons to push seems glacial. Perhaps at higher levels, I would get more abilities at once. I can't recall how SWTOR was at early levels, but both TSW and GW2 seem to deliver new skills very quickly, also without having to see a trainer. That they limit the number of skills available for any given fight also makes an interesting dynamic, compared to an action bar full of empty buttons. Or buttons with such specific uses that when it does come time to use them, I can't remember where they are or what they do. SWTOR suffers a similar problem, honestly. I had several abilities in SWTOR that I was not aware of just sitting on my bar, waiting to be used. Also, imagine my disappointment that, upon picking the Enhancement (dual-wield) talent spec at level 10, I did not receive an off-hand weapon. SWTOR did raise the bar in that regard.
Silly Rabbit! Carrots are for Pandas!
Another aspect of WoW (and SWTOR) that I do not miss is the competition for resources with other players. After having trained in skinning, I forgot that I was capable of doing so and turned around to a recent kill, only to find another player skinning it. Now, admittedly this was my own fault. But the incident was no less irritating to me, and put GW2's system in stark relief. On several occasions during the few hours that I spent on the Wandering Isle, another player would come along and "steal" a gathering node or quest item as I was fighting my way to it; no jumping in to help, the way I have found players do both in TSW and in GW2. After all, there is absolutely no benefit to the other player for helping me. In TSW, mini-bosses are shared kills, at the very least, everyone involved getting quest credit regardless of grouping. In GW2, players get credit for all kills, as well as rezzing fallen players.
Is that a . . . flipper?
As has been discussed at length, by me and others, GW2 has "instanced" gathering nodes, shared kill credits, etc., that encourage cooperation rather than competition among strangers. Some people see this as a negative, that it discourages formal grouping. But I see it as a positive, because now I group up for social reasons, not because I am forced to in order to get quest credit. It's a more natural, fluid way of grouping, and there are plenty of stories of cooperation, even in sPvP. Although perhaps understandable because of the trial account, I couldn't even invite Sctrz to group with me, so we played alone—even stuck in separate instances of the island.
Finally, a dragon to slay.
There may be some informal grouping in MoP, I think. For instance, slaying the dragon spirit in the above screenshot seemed to be an open event that anyone participating got quest credit for. But that may have been NPCs helping me out.

In the shot below, my character and his two NPC helpers were arranged rather strangely, IMHO. Not sure if it was a limitation of the WOW engine, or something else. It's a great shot though.
It's a balloon, not an elevator. 9.9
The story of Shen-zin Su is excellent, among the best I have seen Blizzard tell. I did like the increased voice work throughout the island, evidence that in many ways Blizzard is keeping abreast of new developments in the MMORPG genre, and putting their own spin on things. However, having been spoiled by SWTOR, TSW, and GW2—each of which has a different approach to presenting quests—I found myself skipping the quest dialogue boxes, some of which only repeated what was being said aloud, though other times I missed either story or essential info and had to go back and reread the quest.
The great Shen-zin Su himself
After saving the day on Turtle Island, I came to the inevitable choice: Alliance or Horde? While efforts have been made in the past to depict the Horde with misunderstood nobility—honor above and so on—the description of the Horde in the choice dialogue is somewhat negative, while the Alliance, no group of saints, is painted in idealistic terms. I picked Alliance because Sctrz had—didn't really care myself.

I don't like the fractious bickering of the Horde and Alliance, but Blizzard has repeatedly insisted that will not change, despite what the new cinematic may imply. It is after all World of Warcraft. However, there are no real wars between guilds in Guild Wars 2—I'm not sure how much there really was in the original—and no one seems to mind. But if the threat of mass zombiefication or the destruction of the world itself are not enough to overcome old prejudices and personal grudges, then the discovery of a whole new race of sentients, as well their continental empire, certainly would not be. Both factions are led by characters who are at best buttheads, and at worst under the influence of sinister forces. Within minutes of meeting him, KING (not emperor) Varian Wrynn said to my little party in no uncertain terms that any Pandaren who had joined the Horde were to be considered the enemy, and "fraternization of any kind will not tolerated." He also felt it necessary to share that he had been forced to compete in Horde arenas as a gladiator, and still hasn't gotten over it.
He's still a dickhead.
I find it tiresome, and have since early in my WoW experience. The warring-factions approach artificially fragments the community for no real reason other than PvP. The lore-based reasons for sub-factions (like the Tauren or Trolls, or the former inhabitants of Theramore) staying with a major faction become tortuous, straining credibility. Why would a Magocrat of Dalaran, born a citizen of Kul Tiras, ever refer to the monarch of Stormwind as "my King"? Trion figured it out, and got rid of factions in Rift. TSW only has factions for flavor and PvP. GW2 got rid of warring factions entirely, basing PvP on totally different systems—systems that don't interfere with PvE, by the way. These systems enable me to pick the race/class I want to be and still play with my friends.

So at the end of the day, Sctrz and I hung up our Pandaren costumes, our curiosity satisfied. I feel no need to return to Azeroth anytime soon. Apologies to Leori, my KoM guildmate to whom I fibbed about playing on Saturday morning. It doesn't matter what my BNet ID is, since I don't intend to log in again anytime in the foreseeable future. This is should not be construed as any kind of dig on those still playing in the Mists of Pandaria; I hope you have lots of fun. It's just no longer a game that interests me.

P.S. I have uninstalled the Blogger app from my phone. You'll have to live with any typos in posts until I can get to a real computer.

4 comments:

  1. I didn't know trial accounts couldn't group. I mean, I wouldn't hold it against them that you couldn't because you weren't on an active account, but that's sort of a silly decision and missed opportunity on Blizzard's part.

    I'm enjoying MoP a lot so far, most of all because it seems there will be a ton of stuff to do even if I hit 90 and don't want to raid or grind heroics (that was what made me lose interest in WoW after I hit 85 in Cata, plus life got busy). Even now I'm being overwhelmed with all this stuff to do, and I'm told once I hit 90 even more will open up.

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    1. It's not that we couldn't join a group, neither of us could invite the other to a group. This is to prevent some sort of spamming, I guess.

      The pet battles are mildly intriguing, but something I was unable to sample. I am really enjoying my time in GW2 and TSW and just don't get the same excitement for WoW anymore.

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  2. I can definitely get why the RAWR FACTION WAR felt grating, it does get tiresome sometimes. That being said, I can sort of understand it with regards to the Pandaren specifically, given their unique neutral-then-not-neutral status. To a new player, it might be quite surprising/unexpected to realize that some of their Pandaren buddies they just leveled to 10 with are now technically the enemy? It's interesting (but admittedly, no less annoying.)

    However! At least you got to punch Varian out, right? I need to make a new Alliance Pandaren just for that. ;)

    Also, you should look up the intro cinematics for Mists for either faction. The Horde one is Garrosh hatin' on the Alliance like normal, but the Alliance one is actually a pretty refreshing change of pace, and feels a lot more like what you were expecting/hoping for. If nothing else, it'll be an entertaining few minutes and you'll get to see their slick new cutscene style!

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    1. I think I those on YouTube, but didn't click. I'll have to go do that. And yes, you get to punch Varian, after he channels Morpheus from "The Matrix" for a bit.

      I don't know how new players would react to the scenario, I've have a few years to develop a resentment of the two faction system.

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