More expansions, less content: Blizzard wants in your pants, but only for your wallet
Businesses want your money, plain and simple. But that does not give them an excuse to put out a poor product. Blizzard has made clear its intention to put out more expansions more quickly, but as we have seen with Warlords of Draenor, it may come at the price of quality. At best, Warlords of Draenor is something that never reached its full potential. At worst, the expansion sets a precedent for future expansions: that Blizzard will be giving us less content, and poorer quality content at that, for more money.
Being the cynical person I am, I tend to believe the latter. After having preordered the expansion, I was highly disappointed with Blizzard's work. Let us review some of the lackluster aspects of the game that point to a shift towards quantity rather than quality:
A quick heads up, spoilers abound!
The expansion is lacking in story
We are less than a year into the expansion and Blizzard already seems to be wrapping up the story. But the question is, what story? There was not much of a story to begin with…or at least, one that players should be inspired to care about.
When Garrosh escapes his trial at the end of Mists of Pandaria with the help of Kairozdormu, a Bronze dragon, the two escape to an alternate timeline Draenor and Garrosh prevents Grommash Hellscream from drinking the blood of Mannoroth.
But why did Kairoz help Garrosh in the first place? He does reveal in the Legendary quest line his desire to conquer Azeroth with infinite orcish Hordes from alternate realities, but it is never revealed quite why as Garrosh swiftly ends Kairozdormu’s life. Even Garrosh is hardly given justice in this expansion, killed off in the “Justice for Thrall” quest at the end of a lengthy chain in Nagrand. Despite being a large cause of this expansion, he receives no dungeon or raid boss representation.
And the end of Patch 6.2 is horrendous. While Gul’dan does temporarily capture Hellscream, and bring Legion forces to Tanaan Jungle, what right does that give Hellscream to proclaim “Draenor is free” when Gul’dan “dies?” All this time, Grom was the villain, and suddenly he gets to be the hero? In a post on Tumblr, the user Yulon puts this aptly:
Even more bothersome is that Yrel does not confront Grom over the atrocities he has committed. Did she just conveniently forget that the Iron Horde sacrificed her sister? Or how many Draenei had been killed? Instead, she vows to work to build Draenor together with him and the survivors.
This apparent conclusion to the expansion (or at least a major part of it) hardly addresses a number of issues, including the fact that this is an alternate universe. Blizzard attempted to make it relevant by having the Iron Horde invade, but because everything that happens on this Draenor does not affect our Azeroth (except for the deaths of a few notable main universe characters), it adds very little to the current stories.
Call me unfeeling, but there’s really no connection between the players, who have lived and died as heroes in one timeline’s Azeroth and Outlands, and this alternate timeline Draenor. The alternate universe Draenor is not Azeroth. It would be one thing if the timelines were bound together in some manner and actions in one timeline had consequences in another. But they are separate, and by the next expansion this alternate Draenor may be almost entirely forgotten.
One or two of my friends have suggested that the expansion was designed with the upcoming Warcraft movie in mind. In order to introduce old characters to newer players they came up with an alternate reality where old characters still existed. If that is really the case, I think I might have died a little inside. Really, Blizzard? Just a ploy for more money? But this is hardly the limit to what’s wrong with Warlords of Draenor.
The Crafting system was overhauled...but terribly
For those of you who have only played previous expansions, have you ever spent a month gathering the materials for a new bag, or an epic item upgrade? Until Warlords of Draenor, neither had I. All the professions were overhauled in an inconvenient manner to make Garrisons more important. You can farm ore or skins or herbs all you want, even Primal Spirits for a trade-in for materials (at a horrible drop rate and an even worse price for what you want from the trader). You will still have to wait a significant amount of time while a little station, specific to your trade, in your Garrison extracts or creates important secondary materials from an incredible amount of previously gathered primary materials.
Due to the fact that some of these materials are soulbound, there is no way to trade them on the auction house to make crafting faster. And unless you want to spend a disproportionate amount of time raiding, sometimes crafting is the better option. The personal loot system in LFR drops loot some days and just gold on others, while with normal through mythic raids there’s no guarantee you will get anything at all.
Why Blizzard would do this, other than to force the concept of the Garrison down our throats, is beyond me. And that brings us to a very important point…
Garrison Mechanics are dull and tedious
For how much Blizzard seems to want people to explore the world of Draenor on mount or on foot, we end up spending a lot of time just holed up in our Garrisons. A large piece of that is that professions, even some secondary ones, are heavily tied to them. There is also an absurd amount of daily work that needs to be done (and if you slack off your progression may suffer). Even non-herbalists and non-miners can gather herbs and minerals in the Garrison mines and gardens, and it is necessary because a lot of recipes have incorporated materials from other profession lines.
But gathering materials every day, and paying attention to the limited amount of space your crafting stations have for secondary materials, all to keep up with progression feels like a chore. And that does not include the missions that help supply you gold, quest items, and other rewards, which while fun at first, get old after a bit because they are so repetitive.
Even the Legendary item quest seems jaded and poorly designed
Find this thing, gather 100 some odd of that thing. Oh, and when you think you’re done, you get to gather 900 of that other thing!
That is literally what the Legendary quest line is like: repetitive sets of gathering that require you to complete raids. One of the quests, pictured above, called “Might of the Elemental Lords,” literally has 900 components to complete 3 Elemental Tablets, at 300 Elemental Runes per Tablet. Even if you are a dedicated raider this can take some time, maybe even a month or two. If you do not have the time for raiding, give up all hope of getting that legendary ring.
As someone who both does not have time to raid on a regular basis, and sometimes is stressed out by the LFR atmosphere, I find this process tedious and irritating. Perhaps it would not be so bad if the quests required us to visit Blackrock Foundry, or Highmaul, only once or twice. But if you want to be strictly efficient it requires you to visit once every week, for more than a month most likely. Even if you got 130 Runes every run (though reportedly the drop rate has recently been increased…again), it would still take you almost 2 months to get all the Runes.
The time investment is staggering (especially if you wipe more than once) and it honestly feels like Blizzard was lazy designing this quest line. Though it gives you more insight into the terrible plotline, gather quests are nothing new and it just feels like a quest they might have already had that they rehashed for lack of time or motivation.
Regarding the previous few points, a few players have suggested that parts of Blizzard's World of Warcraft team were cut and redistributed mid-production of Warlords of Draenor, possibly to save money on what they view as a dying product, or to make more money on what seems more profitable (their newer games). Well, that is a real punch to the gut.
Developers have not been reacting well to player input
This might be arguable, but with Blizzard’s decision to place flying in Draenor behind a wall of achievements, rep grinds, and treasure gathering in a future patch seems like the actions of a petulant child. For those of you who are not aware, whenever flying arrives in Draenor, the achievement for it, “Draenor Pathfinder” will require:
- Completing the “Explore Draenor” Meta-Achievement, which requires full exploration of every zone except Tanaan Jungle
- Collecting 100 treasures
- Completing the “Loremaster of Draenor” Meta-Achievement, which requires you to complete the storyline of every zone through quests except Tanaan Jungle
- Completing the “Securing Draenor” achievement, which involves the assaults on 12 different in-game locations
- Reaching revered reputation status with three different Tanaan Jungle reputations (the Saberstalkers, Order of the Awakened, and Hand of the Prophet or Vol’jin’s Headhunters, depending on faction)
It is not like the player base is demanding something new; flying has existed in new zones since Burning Crusade, although not until max level, which makes sense. And it is not like adequate flying speed is not (especially in Burning Crusade, when the base price for max flying speed was 5,000 gold) already behind a large wall of gold, either.
Why add some trivial, time-consuming achievements for level 100 characters who have probably already done a fair amount of exploring on foot themselves? Some players do not seem to mind these requirements, but others are not exactly fond of Blizzard’s decision.
In addition to the fact that rep grinds are already pretty absurd on their own (having done neutral-revered for Emperor Shaohao, and then realizing that revered-exalted is literally neutral-revered all over again), treasures are mostly useless after you are done leveling your character. They are mostly green items, gold and flavor items, and maybe if you are lucky a toy, pet or bag.
These achievement gates add nothing to the game but still force us to invest time. It is almost like content, except any sense of awe and wonder is replaced by frustration.
Why on Azeroth are you doing this to us, Blizzard? Are you so enamored with your own creations that you are willing to throw the player base under the bus just to show off your pitiful expansion? Is money really the bottom line? And as if that were not enough of a paper cut, Blizzard poured some lemon juice on our stinging wounds:
The Expansion was an expensive Preorder
Blizzard offered the preorder of Warlords of Draenor with a level 90 character boost…for $60. The price has gone down since then, but considering all the previous points and the fact that the expansion may only have two major content patches, this was one heck of an expensive investment, for little gain. Blizzard seems to want to put out more expansions more quickly, perhaps to avoid that Siege of Orgrimmar type slump where there is no new content for months on end. But I am pretty sure some players feel cheated out of their money for something that felt like, as a friend and WoW player put it, “an excuse for Metzen to have an orc boner for an entire expansion.”
Some have suggested that this is merely a transition expansion, before WoW moves on to something bigger and better. My question is, if it is really a transition then why make us pay $60 for it, and that, on top of the $15 per month subscription fee? While it is possible to buy a month of playtime for in game gold now, someone is ultimately paying real money somewhere. And buying with gold only really works if you have the time to invest.
So what are we to Blizzard? Are we just poorly educated pissants who flock to their games no matter what they do? Are we actual people who make their game live or die, or are we just cash cows to be milked until we can be milked no more (or until we start kicking)?
There are better uses of $60 than Warlords of Draenor
All in all, WoD has been a disappointing experience for many who preordered the expansion in the hype surrounding it, including me. At this point, I would rather have wasted my $60 on something worthwhile, or at least, something less shoddy and money-grubbing.
So if you are considering jumping into the expansion even this late in the game, I beg of you, vote with your dollars and buy something else. Buy something you have been wanting on Steam, or even something practical like much needed new clothes. Or you could wait and see if WoW’s next expansion pack is the result of the build-up that some users have been predicting, and much more well designed.
But for now, please, not Warlords of Draenor. Anything but Warlords of Draenor.