Thursday, December 4, 2014

The Returnenning, Part 2 - Electric Boogaloo

When last we spoke, I told of those things that went before. Of my time in World of Warcraft up until the great Cataclysm. Now we return to Draenor and the Warlords most foul...

I mentioned earlier that I took the plunge into Hearthstone, I was a pretty serious Magic the Gathering player in High School, by the time I graduated though my friends Buck and Tim had introduced me to tabletop wargames via Necromunda. Meanwhile, EverQuest happened. So, MTG sort of fell off the map for me. Recently however, my interest in Magic was rekindled by an old friend who took a teaching position nearby. He and his wife moved up here, and suddenly I had my old Magic buddy to play with. Not tournaments for me; no, I'm way past that at this point. But some fun sit around, play a few decks with a glass of Scotch and some pizza type games.

I wasn't living in a bubble at this point, I'd heard of Hearthstone. I'd had Beta invites I ignored because "those fuckers got the last of my time with Diablo III, fuck them". I had pretty strong feelings toward the company and their games I guess is what I'm trying to say. Several friends tried to coax me, but I would not have it. Then when school started it was obvious me and my Magic buddy weren't going to get a lot of bro time (it's his first year teaching, and he's at a Charter school), so I decided what the fuck, let's give Hearthstone a chance - it's free after all.

That was fun, now what?
I enjoyed the game, it was deceptively simple, but full of deep strategy. I was thoroughly shocked by how good it was on all fronts, even when there were changes made (and since I've started playing several cards have indeed been changed) it was a pretty painless affair. Players were given a refund option for the full price of the card if it was nerfed, and it's stats were automatically changed in the game. I got my old Warcraft account active again as a result of this, and decided to give D3 a second chance.

I'd heard tales that the expansion and changes they'd made left a game that finally felt like it should from the very beginning. So, I fired it up and lo and behold - it suddenly felt right. I'd never bought the original game, but had been given a free copy during a customer loyalty promotion some time ago. I was happy enough that I picked up the expansion and was pleased still, I didn't feel the least bit ripped off. Whereas before I felt cheated when I hadn't paid a dime for it. That was two out of three, so far Blizzard seemed to be doing pretty good. And though I have Starcraft II on my bnet account I've never really been that interested in it (I was always more into Warcraft than Starcraft).

I toyed with the idea of restarting World of Warcraft again, there was a new expansion on the way. But that led to a lot of questions, I'd invested heavily in the game in the past and I needed to answer my own questions before I took the plunge.

The first question is what would I want out of the game if were going to play again, did I want to raid, pvp, what exactly? I quickly realized that I just wanted to play the game, I had some unfinished business with content that I'd not gotten the full measure of once upon a time. There were new toys and mechanics in the game, but ultimately I just wanted to play, to have fun. Isn't that what it's supposed to be about in the first place? But to be more specific: no, I don't give a lukewarm shit about raiding. And I was over PVP/Arena back in Burning Crusade.

So mostly, it's about a personal experience with the game. Akin to playing a single player RPG, think Baldur's Gate. But one that's updated periodically. So, I decided that yes I would play again, but it would be on my own terms. So, I logged on and I left Bloodscalp for a new home...

The most metal of Orc tribes.
I was quickly overawed by the pacing of the quest experience in Warlords of Draenor, I found so many quality of life changes as well, much like with Diablo III many changes have made functioning in the game itself easier. Having been gone since Cataclysm, it's difficult to gauge when these changes came into play, but it's also impossible to undersell how overwhelming they can be to a returning player. Looting items from fallen enemies as an example is a completely different animal than it once was. Kill 20 mobs, then loot one and get the drops from all 20 of those mobs - this is a revelation! It certainly takes the edge off of the grind significantly, I can remember when I was levelling tailoring on an alt some years ago and running through Scarlet Monastery, laying waste to the entire instance and having to loot the corpses individually. It took longer to grab all of the errant drops than it did to kill them.

This one change has completely expedited that situation, or even while levelling. There have been plenty of times where I've simply ignored loot on fallen enemies because as a tank I generally pull all of the mobs and just kill them all at once, it's faster that way. But again, looting that many enemies was daunting when time was limited and I was just trying to squeeze out another level before I had to go, but no longer. I'll actually say it: thank you Blizzard.

Additionally, they've made Pets, Mounts, and Achievements/Titles account bound. So, the Recruit a Friend Zevra that I never got on Khaas, he can ride it now. The Bat pet that I had on my Paladin, but not on Khaas because Death Knights wouldn't be in the game for another couple of weeks? Yeah he's got that too. For people playing specialized or newer classes like Tanks, Death Knights, Monks, etc this is huge. If you raided Ulduar back in the day for example there was no way as a tank you were going to get a chance to complete all of the achievements, because the tank needs to tank. So, the alt you went in with later that week got the achievements you were missing and you died a little inside.

Well, guess what... you've got em now. Again, thank you Blizzard. Transmogrification was new when I left, so it's still pretty new to me. The changes to pets and other collectibles and the regeant bank tab, that was huge as well. The pet battle system has definitely been an interesting diversion, one which I'm sure I'll be delving into with more detail soon.

But first of course, there's the Garrisons. I think this is a great way to personalize the experience of the new area, and I hope a similar method is employed in future expansions, rather than this being an oddity from WoD. The followers are interesting and characterful.

They call me, Joe!

I started playing again over Thanksgiving break, I'm already level 100. Several old friends have picked the game up in that time as well, and it's a little sad to be on a different server but we can still run an instance together or something thanks to the systems Blizzard has implemented. The economy on Blackhand is also significantly better, which is definitely a plus for me since I gave all of my gold to the guild when I quit years ago.

Ding! Shit now what?
Don't get me wrong though, it's not double rainbows and cinnamon smelling farts. They really did a number on professions, Ultimately, the changes they made aren't of the caliber that I'd make fun of them in a different game, it's just that they're so different, and I don't think they were needed. Already there's been hotfixes changing some of the more egregious profession problems (needing 500 Ore to craft a single piece of armor is a little over the top even for me). 

I believe they made the change because they felt it was necessary for Garrisons, not necessary for Professions. If that's the case, I'm going to have to disagree with their reasoning. As I feel it's pushing one new feature at the detriment of a long standing, core mechanic of the game. At best, a risky gamble - so far it hasn't paid off. I think they'll be good to break even on that endeavor.

There's also been server instability issues, with the release of Highmaul on Tuesday for example the servers simply weren't there until late in the evening (if at all). I'm sure there are whole servers full of raiders gnashing their teeth and tearing at their hair, since they had to miss out. I won't lie, I smiled thinking about it. Knowing some of the individuals who were almost certainly among the pissed. But my smiles weren't really for them, it was for me because I knew I'd never do that again.

Still, I'm left with more questions. What will I do next? Continue upgrading my garrison, farm some old raid content solo (I still want some of those sweet old mounts and my Warglaives). I'll continue making gold on Blackhand for the sheer fun of it. I'll level my alts, and when it ceases to be fun I'll stop, until it's fun again...

Khaas the Insane

You can add me on as Khaas#1502

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