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”.
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.
Last night I continued my flip-flopping between Sylvanas and fishing, with fishing coming out way on top. I caught my last rare fish and consequently completed the requirements for the best Legendary of Legion, the Underlight Angler. Thankfully the arrival of Azerite hasn’t relegated this Legendary to the annals of history.
Before wielding it, there was a great surprise (though I should have guessed) when the inimitable Nat Pagle turned up for the quest that would unlock the rod. I was very happy to see the old sod again, and we went off fishing together for a while, just like old times.
We – well, I – had to defeat a giant murloc in order to finish the job, which somehow then became part of the fishing rod itself.
Once it is complete, a number of reputation and upgrade quests become available. The Fisherfriends seemed a good place to start, and fortuitously it was in Highmountain.
At first I started fishing alone, before recalling that there were such things as ‘fishing raids’. I signed up for one, and it was hilarious and brilliant.
Fisherfriends require you to fish up specific items to earn rep, and you have to be standing in certain spots to achieve that. For the Highmountain, that spot is a tiny boat in the moat around the building. Which means there were 20+ people suddenly crammed on the boat, all fishing peacefully.
Best of all was when a conversation started that somehow ended up talking about D&D, Warhammer, miniature painting, and Pathfinder 2 beta testing. In other words, not Barren’s chat.
I loved it. Everyone was just casting, idly killing the occasional boss spawn (that gave a buff meaning every cast caught the required items), and having a relaxing time and thoroughly ignoring what was going on out in the ‘real’ world. As fellow Blauguster Barely Readable Diary puts it:
So here we are. On the cusp of Blaugust Reborn, and of the continuation of the so-called War of Thorns and the Battle for Azeroth, and I’ve gone fishing. I’m pretty sure as soon as I have a foothold on Kul’Tiras sorted, I’ll go fishing again, too.
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 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.
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.
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.
I’ve signed up for Blaugust 2018, which is a wonderful initiative from Belghast at Tales of the Aggronaut to initiate or (re)kickstart gaming blogs. It’s amazing what one enthusiastic blogger can do – so far there’s 80+ blogs signed up, and a great list of mentors from the more established blogs out there. So many thanks to Belghast and crew for all the work on this – and for helping waking this blog up again!
With the Thonry War underway, I needed to get away from Sylvanas’s crazy crusade for a while, and there is no better way to find some peaceful equilibrium than fishing1.
I’ve been tootling around the Legion zones seeking all the rare fish for the Bigger Fish to Fry Achievement. There’s a fun mechanic where you occasionally fish up a special bait that in turn gives you a two minute buff in which you can catch the associated rare fish.
The bait names are all pretty amusing – from Message in a Beer Bottle to Stunned, Angry Shark – and some even create things like a Sleeping Murloc who runs around throwing fish with gay abandon. Each zone has it’s own fish, and it’s a nice way to tour some of the more out of the way places on the (still beautiful) maps.
But I mostly love just quietly throwing in a line and waiting. Those moments when nothing is happening, and you can simply enjoy the serenity and scenery. It’s like real fishing, but with less rigmarole, and far less smelly.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
It will be interesting to follow how this pans out. There is very little detail, and obviously a lot of questions to be answered, but it is exciting to consider officially starting afresh. I hope they follow Everquest’s lead and take the approach of polling the community for decisions for some things (like expansions timetables or unlocks of features). It sounds like this won’t exist for some time yet – I’d guess late 2018 at best – but the fact Blizzard announced it on their biggest stage makes it seem pretty likely to actually happen:
“One of the things we do know is that by announcing this, we’re in the WoW Classic business forever. Once that starts, there’s a commitment on our end that we’re going to continue maintaining those servers for as long as there is a World of Warcraft.”
Meanwhile in the current Warcraft timeline the new Battle for Azeroth expansion was announced. This was more predictable, though the pitting of Alliance vs Horde perhaps took some by surprise. Legion has seen the factions work together, and the opening ceremony boasted of the togetherness of the Blizzard community, so renting them asunder in Warcraft was perhaps unexpected. Someclearlyhate the idea, while others seem tentativelysupportive of a reset to the basic ‘red v blue’ idea of Warcraft.
I have a strong Horde bias, and don’t mind the idea of there being an ongoing struggle for superiority. Hints of a raid vs the other faction (“shouldn’t we be raiding a member of the opposite faction? he said this slyly!”) sounds very interesting – if they can pull off something like the Broken Shoreclimax where the two factions are fighting in a single raid toward an ultimate boss, that could be very nice. Overall though the excitement of a new expansion announce seemed quite subdued, so there is work to be done by Blizzard to convince the fans this is the right direction for Warcraft to take.
The main thing I liked about the announcement was the ability to play Highmountain Tauren as a new race.
Also, and maybe it was just me, but was it super weird seeing Anduin dressed as Mordred from John Boorman’s brilliant Excalibur?
Meanwhile over in Overwatch land, the announcement of a new hero, new map, and new cinematic came as no surprise. Moira looks like a great addition, and it sounds like she plays well too. A channeled heal powered by channeled damage draining is a great mechanic, and her ultimate sounds lethal – or opaf as Jeff Kaplan (who was the best by far of the Blizzard presenters) put it.
I’m not sure where it leaves Mercy though – the constant nerfing of her signature rez may mean she’s relegated to a very secondary role with Moira on the scene. Mind you, watching the Overwatch World Cup finals, it does seem like Mercy changes the small one on one victories and pace of the matches a little too much even with the nerfs, so perhaps the rez rethink really is required. The finals were good to watch, Blizzard has improved the spectator experience a lot with team colours and permanent x-ray, though there is still work to be done to direct the camera work to the right place at the right time.
The new map, Blizzard World, looks like fun in a super meta way, and I guess they’ll sneak it into the lore as it actually appears: a theme park in a fantasy world where Blizzard and their games is a thing. Kind of like the X-Men comics that appeared in Logan. The Reinhardt cinematic was gorgeous and interesting, as it painted him as a bit of a jerk, which took some of the oomph out of the live crowd’s reaction to the unveil. Having the voice actor on the spot was a win though – very discombobulating hearing Reinhardt’s voice coming out of a dapper fellow in a suit.
Overall it was a fun series of reveals and teasers, with the Classic server being the most intriguing, and unfortunately the one we’ll have to wait longest for. Major props to the Wowhead, Blizzard Watch, and Massively OP teams for the coverage – no need for a virtual ticket with those teams on the case.