Fractious Factions

Since the announcement of BfA, a lot of people have been wishing factions would go away, to let everyone play as one happy horde. Or should that be alliance?

There are arguments for merging that are strong – playing with friends no matter what race they’ve chosen, less conflict with other players to allow more with fictional enemies, and a sense of cooperation instead of conflict.

It would mean the end of mass PVP, as it’s hard to see how you’d create two predictably opposing forces without the prop of factions. PVP may be a minority activity, but it adds flavour and drama for those that seek it out.

Despite the arguments, I think Factions should stay. Removing them would remove some of the soul of the game.

I like that there is a different feel and personality to each side. That you can have cities that are distinctly one side or the other, with the colours and personalities that go with that.

There is a sense of tension and curiosity created by having zones that you can’t safely venture into, forcing you to skirt around or tentatively work your way through. Having to sneak into Ironforge in order to fish up Old Ironjaw was excellent fun that wouldn’t be possible without Factions.

It doesn’t always have to be red vs blue, as shown by Legion. Blizzard could do some cool things like having a raid with both factions inside, meeting at a final boss that they combine to defeat. To allow friends to play together, similar mechanics could be introduced for dungeons or even raids, easily explained in lore as temporary truces in order to defeat a greater foe.

A grudging respect and sense of accomplishment created by working with the other side is sometimes more rewarding than having everything as one happy family.

If nothing else, Factions should stay for the stories they generate, the current uproar being a great example. And also for the sense of belonging they create. As Saurfang’s Troll recruit Zekhan expressed so well, “The Horde… it’s all we have”.

Without armour

Well that was unexpected. After all the hand wringing, Blizzard drops one of their brilliant cinematics, perfectly targetted to assuage the wavering Horde players.

As suspected, Saurfang is being given the role of the moral core of the Horde, and it’s immensely relieving to watch. Sure it’s doesn’t let we Horde players off the hook – the World Tree is still burnt to cinders – but it does allow us to believe there is a better path to follow.

The player engagement must be off the hook at the moment. I bampfed to Dalaran last night to find a spontaneous group of players slow marching around the mid city, yelling that this was a protest to demand Saurfang be installed as Warchief. And this is not on a RP realm, which demonstrates how hard all this has hit.

Best use of idling in Dalaran yet

Another great spontaneous player protest that has emerged is players hiding their shoulder armour, in deference to Saurfang and his Troll disciple. Or DeadlyBossMods adding Saurfang’s sage “Don’t die” advice as a Raid Warning.

I do wonder if this was dropped early, but once again it’s much more likely that Blizzard are just better at this than we give them credit.

Sylvanas the Lich Queen

What Sylvanas has done is inexcusable, and effectively makes her the inheritor of Arthas’s mantle – celebrating death over all else, destruction for destruction’s sake, all out of spite and malice. The Warbringer animation does a good job of showing her come full circle, from heroically trying to save Silvermoon to cravenly destroying Darnassus and Teldrassil.

As Grimmtooth notes, it’s left the majority of the playerbase feeling some combination of angry, guilty, and bereft – or as Perculia puts it, everyone feels bad. Except maybe well known elf-hater Syp, though I’m sure even he wouldn’t support what Sylvanas has done here.

As with part one, it’s kind of refreshing to see no get-out-of-jail cards being played. No appearance of the rumoured Old Gods to get Sylvanas off the hook, no surprise sabotage to frame her, just a pure and simple act of evil.

Pleasingly, the Tauren are still conspicuously absent

If nothing else this new narrative has certainly engaged the playerbase. We’ll never be told, but it would be interesting to know how much Blizzard anticipated the level of outrage and sorrow (and the predictable but abhorrent social media attacks on Blizzard storycrafters). I suspect they may have underestimated, but then again they’re not new to this game.

That ellipsis says a lot

As many have pointed out, it’s important to remember that this is just the prologue to the full story. It was interesting to watch Saurfang hesitate during the cinematic, even as he obeyed his Warchief. There’s more to come there, no doubt, hopefully including the rebellion of the Horde faction leaders1 against Sylvanas’s madness.

It’s not enough to make me re-roll Alliance, because I want to be there when we fight back – and make amends, if that’s possible.


  1. If you’re interested in the lore beyond what happens in-game, this deep analysis by Wowhead details how Baine is deeply suspicious about what is going on, and that Saurfang is horrified by what happens at Darkshore. All good signs. 

Thorny War

For the first time as a dedicated Horde player I am questioning my role in events. The pre-expansion quests have Sylvanas leading the Horde in a wholescale invasion of Alliance territory, quite clearly an act of war, and only very marginally justified – if at all.

I’ve always liked Sylvanas, and loved her role in the Legion and BfA cinematics. She’s a true Queen, getting down and dirty with the rabble, and unleashing that banshee wail. I was proud to serve under her, and one of my oldest characters is an Undead Rogue who has always followed her Queen.

Lead on?

But this war she has started is unsettling. Her justification – that we need to stop the flow of Alliance Azerite into Darnassus – is very flimsy, so flimsy that there must be more to it. Taking my Tauren Hunter into the campaign alongside her felt almost like a betrayal – I don’t want to be doing this, and it feels wrong, but I’m following along because we must.

I’d love to see the Alliance side of what is going on, it’s almost enough (but not quite) to use the 110 boost to jump in on the Alliance side and witness what they are experiencing. Is there another side to this story?

It certainly feels bad dragging the recently recuited Highmountain Tauren into this conflict too. They joined the Horde in good faith having seen what we could do against the Legion and to defend their lands. Before they have time to breathe, they are being asked to join what appears a phony war with a dark and irreversible ending.

Would they have joined if they knew what happened next?

As Rohan at Blessing of Kings noted, this is different to what Garrosh did at Theramore, as we are personally involved. Garrosh was a monster, but one we didn’t have to follow directly into catastrophe, which is where this feels like it’s headed. Rohan is right that we should applaud Blizzard for committing to the conflict and forcing the players to acknowledge it, but it’s also hard when you basically have no choice. We can’t conscientiously object.

Having said that, it was interesting to see that it seemed like the bulk of attacking forces were Orcs and Goblins. I hold some slim hope that perhaps this is the time for Baine Bloodhoof, son of the mighty and betrayed Cairne, to step up and hold the moral line.

A Tauren Warchief? Never say never.

Warcraft: Legion Highmountaineering

With a new expansion being announced, I decided it was finally time to play Legion. This appears to be my traditional approach now – not playing until it’s almost too late. I’ve realised that some of this is down to wanting to avoid the expansion level rush, and the pressure to ‘keep up’, but waiting 14 months was probably overdoing it. On the plus side, it has meant a very relaxed and meandering approach to getting to 110.

As a Tauren I headed straight to Highmountain, which turned out to be one of my favourite zones in the game. An entire region dedicated to moose horned Tauren was as good as it sounds (if you’re that way inclined). The Taunka zones in WotLK came close, but Highmountain was something special.


You’re tasked with reuniting the scattered tribes of Highmountain, with each having their own story and theme. The quests are wide and varied and there’s plenty of exploring to be done. The mountainous design of the zone led to some terrific viewpoints once you’d circuitously scaled your way to the top of a distant peak. Perfect for the snow loving brigade out there.


There are also many named mobs – aka Silver Dragons – scattered throughout the zones, and they’re all worth seeking out for both the loot and (minor) fight challenges. There are plenty of nooks and crannies that you stumble upon, with either small stories to tell or sometimes just flavour. And of course the Murlocs are plentiful.

I, murloc.

Draenor introduced the concept of treasures into Warcraft, and they are used in Legion to great effect as a tool to lead you to far and varied locales. Some are easy, some are tricky and may require add-on help to find, and it’s a fun addition and nice levelling boost to boot.


I would quite happily have spent the entire levelling process in Highmountain if it were possible, but as it was I had run out of content by level 105. So I grumblingly bid farewell to my home away from home and headed off to Stormheim, picked mainly due to the name sounding good.

And it was quite good, with the grappling mechanic in particular being fun. Early on you’re equipped with a grapple, and throughout the zone there are vertiginous points to attach to. These allow you to scale crazy cliffs and scoot overhead through enemy Vrykul villages, which is all good fun. The story was less compelling, but I am biased, and the zone overall had a bit of a dreary tone to it – it seemed to be raining 75% of the time I was there. I’d love to see it in sunlight as some of the vistas and golden leaves look nice. It’s a pity the Vrykul aren’t one of the new BfA playable races, but I suspect their size would be a problem (they tower over Tauren), but the models for the Highmountain are all excellent which more than makes up for it.


Just as I was done with the main Stormheim storyline I dinged 110. So it only took two zones out of four, covering most treasure finding and mini bosses, which seems much quicker than other expansions. It was nice how each zone story culminated in a dungeon, though being so far behind the curve meant the dungeons were being cleared faster than I could loot, let alone fire off a few shots on a boss.


As usual once hitting cap, the game suddenly changes tack. Instead of venturing around helping shore up our forces, you’re suddenly invited to help save some ghostly Night Elves in Suramar (and spend the rest of your days there I assume). Can’t say that was very tempting, especially after the, er, highs of Highmountain, so I think it’s back to the other two zones for me. Or maybe some alts.

Having finally played the 10 levels, I tend to agree with those that find the Beastmaster Hunter class less satisfying to play now. You are now mainly about controlling your menagerie of pets more than anything else, which leads to the animation spending a fair amount of time showing you doing anything but firing your bow. That’s kind of disappointing, as is losing Kill Shot which allowed you to land those satisfying final blows on low health mobs. Time to try Marksmanship on another character, though running without a pet may be a step too far.


The other major Legion mechanic is of course the Artifact weapon. I enjoyed slowly powering up Titanstrike, though around level 109 it suddenly ground to a halt with thousands of points being required. Which made it even stranger hitting 110, when suddenly the meager 25 point boost items in by bags morphed into 25 million point boosts. Obviously a catch up mechanic, it did make the slow progress I had made to that point kind of redundant. May have well have waited to 110 and powered up the lot on one go.

110 levels to go, little one

Overall Legion feels like an excellent expansion, I feel kind of silly having missed most of it. Though with BfA probably a year off, there’s plenty of time to see more.

Stalled

After all the anticipation for Legion, and two weeks after release, I’ve managed to get to level… 100.

Yup, not a single level in two weeks. I’ve hardly logged on, and when I do it’s more to potter around Dalaran fishing and avoid making decisions. Thinking back, this seems to have happened to me for every expansion since WotLK: the xpac drops and I get totally paralysed and barely play. And each time I wish I knew why.

This time around the BM weapon being a gun really threw me. Which is patently ridiculous given transmog. Nevertheless, wanting a bow, I spent time testing a MM spec, but don’t find it that compelling and don’t like the proc-based rotation.

Next I thought maybe I should change class altogether, so I tried my Warrior in Fury spec. That was pretty fun, and the animations are top notch. Nothing like a plate-wearing huge-weapon-wielding Tauren to get the blood boiling. But melee? Healers have enough to worry about without more melee. And he’s always been a tank.

Meanwhile I lost interest in my Paladin and Druid once they boosted to 100. That’s a strange phenomenon too, though I guess it’s explained by the fact max level means you have to start grinding, unlike the constant gratification of levelling. Plus dungeon tanking at max level means a sudden escalation in expectations and low-patience from LFD queuers. I feel like the only way to play a tank is to take it from 1-100 so you know the class backwards. Bampfing to 100 has made me lose touch with the rotation and playstyle. Whoops.

A couple of friends who left back in the WotLK days have also (almost) returned, throwing more confusion into the mix. I’d like to be able to level and group with them, but they play far less frequently so there’s a waiting game there.

One other issue, which I’ve seen others express too, is not wanting to rush through the new content. I’d like to see it all, rather than sprint to 110 and start gearing. But if I want to raid then that’s pretty much the expectation, and fair enough. I guess the solution is to have a raiding main that focuses on just that (rather than on exploring the content), and a stable of alts who can meander their way to the top.

So. We finally get new stuff, and reportedly great new stuff, and instead of playing I’ve been actively avoiding it: experimenting with Project Gorgon, installing and trying The Witcher for the 4th time, playing Overwatch, speculating about Crowfall. Guild chat is alive with links to epic gear and flavour items galore, and I’m standing paralysed in Dalaran clutching my Mastercraft Kalu’ak Fishing Pole.

Totally stalled.

There’s no way I’ll be ready for raiding when it opens in a week. Which is ridiculous given my stated goal of being there at the start for once. I guess I’ll just have to wait for this malaise to pass, and join in if and when I can.

Moosed

Thanks to the generosity of my guild, Frostwolves, tonight I mounted Ghostcrawler’s long promised Moose.

A moose
A moose

In a pleasant surprise, it’s also a flying moose.

As Navi said, that’s that for HFC and Draenor: Legion awaits. Really looking forward to being able to start raiding at the start, rather than at the finish.

It’s already incredibly refreshing to be camped in Orgrimmar instead of isolated in a garrison. New Dalaran should be even better!

Hunting demons

I finally played through the Demon Hunter intro zone this weekend – and it’s a winner.

Like the Death Knight class before it, Illidan’s converts are given a self contained zone to explore, learning the class one or two skills at a time as it progresses. I found the DH to be instantly fun – I accidentally discovered the Double Jump and Glide combo, which was a nice surprise, and then spent the rest of the time triple tapping my space bar to zoom around the zone. It changes your perspective on the game world, as I found myself seeking out higher ground so I could glide around on my demonic wings. Combine that with Fel Rush and it’s a super mobile class – like having a flying Warrior Charge.

As others have observed, the class plays like a Rogue/Warrior cross with wings and glowing tattoos. Despite a propensity for tanks, I chose the Havoc spec, which the intro tends to lean toward. It would be interesting to know the breakdown of choice here – I’d guess 95% would be going DPS, but I suppose that’s typical of any hybrid choice.

The intro zone is well paced and atmospheric, as is the storyline that unfolds. There’s even a first person cut scene which seems like a new thing (?), and some interesting story telling options between followers loyal to Illidan and those that think he’s gone too far. It was also great to watch the Harbingers: Illidan animation again, neatly inserted into the DH experience.

I don’t think she’ll unseat my Hunter main, but I found the class more fun than a Rogue due to that amazing mobility – incorporating that into ‘real’ gameplay should be a lot of fun.

Demonic training wheels

One of unexpectedly nice things about the Legion invasions is they give your characters – particularly alts – a great way of trying different builds and rotations in a low stress environment.

Legion invasion of Tanaris
Low stress

My boosted Paladin and Druid tanks, and neglected Rogue, can all venture out into the thick of battle and start getting a feel for the New Ways without the self inflicted fear of letting down a dungeon group or raid. And as a bonus the less geared alts pick up a full set of iLvl 700 gear, ready for the Legion levelling.

If this was part of Blizzard’s plan they deserve a round of applause.

In related news, 7.0 also introduced a new level 100 boost tutorial, making my recent post about the now antiquated level 90 boost, well, antiquated. The new method of a scenario that introduces your key abilities sounds much better, as does the new Class Trial feature that lets you play around with a class before committing.

I’m guessing Blizzard would have liked to have all this stuff in place to be ready when the movie launched, but given it wasn’t the mega success hoped for it probably didn’t matter too much that it’s being delivered late. At least the existing players get the benefits.

Legion-aires

The Legion has (finally) arrived1, and it’s great. Logging in and feeling overwhelmed with options – Invasions? Broken Isles? Demon Hunter? – is a nice change from the late Warlords routine.

I hopped straight in to an invasion. Well not quite straight, as first I mistook the new Dark Moon Faire icon for an invasion icon. Embarrassing arriving in Mulgore to find…nothing except a purple tent.

Luckily there was an actual invasion not too far away in Azshara. It’s fantastically epic joining a fight with 80+ other players to take down giant demons as they wreak havoc, and Blizzard have done a great job making that somehow work with little lag and excellent phasing. It seems that whenever you arrive in the ~3 hour window, the invasion is just starting for you (and everyone else).

After turning back the tide there, I – and 1000 others – hopped a zeppelin to travel to the next event in Westfall, Alliance territory.

wow-legion-invasion-force
I’m on a boat

Unfortunately 7.x seems to have introduced a bug with v-e-r-y slow or even disconnect zone transitions, which meant by the time the zone loaded I was somehow back in Orgrimmar, having taken a round trip.

Instead I joined a raid searching for the elusive Pocket Fel Spreader in Org. Kind of painful, spamming the Doomsayers for the Demon spawn, hopefully they increase the rate as the invasion continues – guild leader Navi got lucky though, yay!

Next I tried the Broken Shores scenario, and once I’d fought the loading screen boss found that again Blizzard had outdone themselves. Terrific storytelling via gameplay and cutscenes, and a real sense of the scale of the invasion. The moment you realise you’re face to face with an actual Alliance raid with other players on the opposite shore is excellent2. And the denouement for both Horde and Alliance is shocking.

Gee I hope we get to finish Gul’dan off this expansion.

All this and still a Demon Hunter to create. Plus the promise of a return to Karazan next week. Legion is shaping up very nicely indeed.


  1. And I’m finally back from an unexpectedly long game break 
  2. Imagine if Blizz designed (some) raids like this – a Horde/Alliance joint raid, where you fight through different paths to meet at the end boss and fight together for the glory of the kill. Or the better spoils went to the side that contributed the most to the fight. Kind of PvPvE Raiding.