My last few posts have been largely positive on the daily world content of WoW patch 8.3, Visions of N’Zoth, but there are some downsides to discuss.
As I’ve started pushing alts through the Visions of N’Zoth opening quests, something stands out fairly sharply to me. The quests, while full of content, are also not well-laid out for skipping and saving time, so while you’ll get faster at them due to knowing the layout from prior runs, they still remain fairly long and start to feel a bit tedious.
Running lower-geared, lesser-played alts through the content feels a bit iffy due to the difficulty tuning of the standard adds in the world, as well. I’m not necessarily hoping for nerfs, but if you aren’t up to at least 385 item level average, it is going to be rough. On the other hand, my 438 Havoc DH main slices through most of the combat with ease, which is to be expected in most cases – higher gear level, higher skill level, more and better essences, and a relatively powerful class and spec.
On my Priest, playing Shadow quickly went out the window – my damage output with the spec just isn’t that high and my survivability didn’t make up for the gap, so I went all-in on Discipline, and found it much better. My monk, who is still grinding through the cloak quests, is dying more than expected as Windwalker – if I have DPS cooldowns available, everything is fine, but I have found myself face-down more than a few times in completing assaults.
The choice I’ve discussed in my prior posts quickly came up for me – I was initially doing everything on my Demon Hunter every day, but between the grind of the rare quests, the spawn patterns for certain mobs, and a desire to move alts through for some quick upgrades, and I’m down to just visions, assaults, and Horrific Visions on my DH, whose cape made it to rank 6 just in time for reset. I still enjoy the core content, but the frustration of some of the daily quests became too much to deal with on a regular basis and so I decided quickly to reclaim that time for alts. It is the first time all expansion I’ve been working to keep alts up alongside my main, who often has taken all the focus and alts have been a curiosity – leveled to 120 and then locked into storage for later.
To that point, I’ve now done solo Horrific Visions on two characters – Havoc DH and Discipline Priest – and my impressions are a little less thrilled with it on the Priest. I was able to solo to Thrall somewhat easily, but the challenge does not account for role balancing, meaning going in as a healer or tank assumes that you’ll pull more aggressively due to increased survivability, which, depending on your gear and core skill with the class, you may or may not end up doing. On my priest, HVs are much more burdensome solo – not awful or insurmountable, but the tuning is so clearly leveled at a DPS player that it makes not being a DPS an obvious detriment. To be fair, as a tank, you can push more aggressively and increase raw DPS faster than a healer which is helpful. However, I do find that Discipline is probably the high-end for healer damage output, since it is a core part of the spec, and while my skills with it are rusty, it felt a bit anemic. (Of course, it doesn’t help that as Havoc, I can round up half of the first whole area and eye beam them to death, but don’t tell Blizzard that!)
Compounding this is the difficulty of the catchup mechanics. Look, I get it, Blizzard is on a huge kick of “if you want an alt so damn bad, play that character” and I see the viewpoint. However, it is a sharp bit of whiplash to go from the overabundance of catchup offered in Nazjatar via Benthic gear to the pittance of Black Empire tokens my alts have received. They drop from rares and assault boxes, but the drop rate is tiny it seems, and compounding this, they are locked to armor type. If you are on the same page as me, with alts of every class at 120 and multiple armor types running through the quests, this is fine enough, but again, coupled with the low droprate, it seems unnecessarily stingy compared to 8.2. The gear is also only 410, which means that simply playing an alt in random dungeons is more rewarding once season 4 hits this week, as Normal dungeons drop item level 400 gear, with Heroics at 415 and Mythics at 430! That is, in fact, going to push me into dungeons on alts for the first time since September 2018 – I could slow-trickle upgrades via the weekly assault chests, but at the same time, a few hours of Heroics is likely to net me more gear upgrades in a shorter period of time, and then the slightly-higher item level stuff dropping out of the assault chests can fill in the rest.
Lastly, while I am a big guide reader and feel like I have a solid understanding of the patch, I will give some space here to how needlessly murky the whole content structure is. The design has layers and is an elegant solution to allow players at all levels to have something to do – but habit in WoW teaches us to push every available daily quest, farm every available rare, and to grind as much as possible as quickly as possible. HVs are capped for cape rank, but you might think to use a vessel prior to reset to get another try, only to find no upgrades – unaware you must have the quest for the upgrade. Dailies feel necessary and unrewarding, until someone point out that the lack of reward is the point – they exist to provide something to do if you want it, with very little incentive (maybe one extra Vessel a month, at best!). The little vignette events dotting the minimap are fun extras but until you do a few or have it pointed out to you, there’s no clarity on how things work. In a weird way, it is taking a lesson from Classic – creating interesting content that is nearly completely opaque and requires research outside the game or experimentation inside of it. It also ends up being sort of weird from a lore perspective – I get it, N’Zoth eyes on a thing are bad, but why is it that them being on a random Jade Serpent statue is the worst thing and fixable but the huge ones on the hillsides aren’t also then removable?
So, a week into the new patch, and my revised pre-raid review is this – there is a lot of content available to get into, and the structure is actually pretty well thought out – the daily quests are modestly valuable, but also so insignificant in the scheme of things that dropping them from the rotation won’t really be felt. However, where there are rough edges, they are very sharp – auction house mail problems, the balancing of the rare daily quests in the assault zones, spawn rates in general, catch-up mechanics being poorly tuned and less bountiful than just a big patch prior, and the near complete lack of clarity around what, exactly, constitutes the “ideal path” through the content in-game.
My biggest problem remains this, however – I don’t think I’m going to be very engaged with this patch much past February, and for Blizzard, they need players to remain engaged through likely August, at least. The best case scenario is that we have 8-9 months before Shadowlands, for which the content needs to remain interesting for most of that minus maybe a month. The worst case is that we have almost a full year before Shadowlands. The content here is better for me than most of what BfA has delivered, but it has to last much longer than what I fear it will – and that has to worry Blizzard as well.
Well, we know it does, because Squeakers is here to lock people in until we (likely) have a launch date for Shadowlands. The next few weeks will be interesting – raid content will help keep interest up, as will new Mythic Plus mechanics and 5-player dungeon catchup gear, but mostly, for me, I’m already mentally ready for Shadowlands alpha news to start dropping.
Having said that, however – I am playing the content and still enjoying it more often than not, and for Battle for Azeroth, that is a win.