This one is going to be fun, I can feel it!
Like with the first and previous post in this series, on New World, today I just want to vibe and discuss the various reasons that led to me, last week, uninstalling World of Warcraft from my PC, marking the first time in 16 years I haven’t had the game on my daily driver PC. No big, high-level analysis, no community thought-gathering or temperature checks, just me and my opinion without pretense.
Unlike with New World, I have a lot more pointed thoughts about why I find WoW utterly unappealing at this stage, so it will get more direct than that post was, and will probably be more than a little ranty – but I’ll make an effort to keep it readable, and even still, sometimes a good rant is fun!
So where to even begin?
Well, I think the best thing to start with is simply this – it wasn’t one particular thing or another that pushed me over the edge with WoW so much as it was an accumulation of damage to my interest in the game over a long window of time. The roots of it are in the last expansion where I fully, unreservedly loved World of Warcraft – Legion, and they’ve continued to accumulate points of disinterest ever since.
There are a few themes I can speak to that have left me feeling very disenfranchised with WoW – the gameplay design, the story, and the interaction with the community.
The Design of WoW
WoW as a game has some excellent core elements that keep it aloft at the worst of times and elevate it above the field at the best of times. Key among these is the combat gameplay design, which is responsive, fast-paced, and engaging. While other MMOs that use tab-targeting can get close to it, WoW is ahead of the pack in that everything in the game is tightly-woven around combat. Animations, sound effects, and the pacing of spells and abilities is great and all of it feels substantive and heavy. As a whole product, the game’s combat remains on another tier compared to many of its competitors.
Having said that, the game has a severe lack of focus and the end-product reflects this. The game has a lot of types of players with a broad range of interests and desires – and yet the game always centers primarily on competitive PvE content (raiding and Mythic Plus) and some level of PvP – and even then, in the modern era, audiences within those communities are often left underserved and wanting for more.
What gets me the most about the current state of WoW is the way in which everything is very much on-rails and dictated by Blizzard. The Renown system pushed me to do a lot of tedious world questing and gameplay on their terms, with a limited selection of activities to draw from because of the reduced number of world quests available in Shadowlands when compared to BfA or Legion. At first, I didn’t mind much, but over time, especially in 9.1, it was clear that all of this was designed to be timewasting.
Something I noted recently in my post A Treatise About WoW in 2021 is that in retrospect, I liked BfA more than Shadowlands for the simple fact that the game let me self-direct on Azerite. It clearly wanted me to get a lot of it, but it gave it out everywhere and was clear on how much I could expect from each source, so I was free to play the content I wanted. With Renown, that choice was removed unless you are far behind, and even then, the system is unpredictable and thus, frustrating. Zereth Mortis has the good sense to remove player power from timegates of this nature, but it instead makes the zone inconvenient until you meet your chore threshold, one that is on Blizzard’s terms fully. I’ve unlocked flying (and I think that while Pathfinder isn’t great, the way it was done in Shadowlands was at least a little bit better), but can’t fly in Zereth Mortis until I meet a threshold of time spent and chores done, which is just annoying. Yet again, Blizzard restricts on their own sensibilities and it interferes with my desires as a player – the logical thought of “I’ve already unlocked Shadowlands flying!” shushed by the dev team into nothing.
My favorite eras of WoW are the expansions where you can fully choose your own path on your own terms and the game just gives a loose framework for what to do. I really loved Cataclysm for this reason – daily random dungeon bonuses were instead a 7x a week bonus you could get whenever, whether you wanted to sit down and run 7 random heroics back-to-back or do 3 in one session and 4 in another, or even yes – 1 per day over 7 days. The game’s minimal restrictions at that time fostered this environment – once you’ve done your raid bosses for the week and are loot-locked, you could identify a Valor upgrade and buy that piece of gear. Since Legion, the team has been putting a tighter and tighter grip on what you can choose to do or not do, and it has been overly restrictive and felt pretty bad to play.
Compounding all of this is the subtractive nature of the game’s modern design. Since Legion, every expansion switchover entails losing power and abilities, which feels awful (and this is just on borrowed power terms, not the squishes). Logically, I get why they do that, but at the same time, it hurts the game and with the perspective of a few expansions like this now, I fully see the risk that is realized in such systems. You can never really learn a class or spec design in WoW, because the fundamentals change to meet design flaws and the trim all changes every two years, so there are lots of nuanced bits of kit that you never get much of a chance to learn before it’s pulled away and on to the next new thing. There’s no point getting invested in my character when things will constantly shift and morph – not evolving or adding, but things being removed and pulled because it was too hard to make work.
Game balance plays into this, as it has been literal years since Blizzard last had a relatively well-balanced feeling game. There is a strong pressure to min-max to a meta in WoW, and this is so prevalent because the game has massive, 40% deltas between top and bottom of the DPS charts with perfect play on each spec, which is worse if you’re learning a spec. God forbid you try to learn a spec near the bottom of the chart, because even if it is a complex spec with layers, going through that struggle rewards you with…subpar performance, by design! Amazing stuff guys, really great. I know perfect balance is never going to be a thing and no game with the ability depth or variety of WoW does it, but that is not a justification for a 40% performance delta at optimal levels of play. You cannot, in a game where people cannot switch classes, just leave whole classes or specs underperforming because “it’s their turn now” or what have you. There are tons of people that have a strong identity with a single spec, and it is bullshit to tell them that they have to spend a patch cycle or expansion cycle just not being good.
Lastly, the way most content is designed in WoW is clearly temporary and not to be consumed for the long haul. Very little gets added to the game that is intended to last past the expansion, which feels really bad. The game has such a strong base of legacy content that players can only touch a fraction of every 3 weeks in a meaningful, rewarding fashion. In Shadowlands right now, there is no reason to go anywhere but Shadowlands zones and your faction capitol, no reason to do any content other than what is current. The closest they get is with things like Mage Tower, and even then, that is a limited event and an anomaly, rather than being baked into the fabric of the game.
WoW has conditioned me, over the years, to just not do old content, to think it has nothing to offer and to ride the train on the limited rails provided, even if where it is taking me is a place I do not want to go. When I get where I do want to go – for me that is heroic raiding and Mythic Plus around that 14-17 key level – the game punishes me for not doing my chores, punishes me for wanting to play a spec or class that isn’t meta because we all know it isn’t getting fixed until the following expansion if ever, and makes even basic things punishing – you’ll stay on the ground until we tell you you can fly isn’t a recipe for making me want to explore the world as much as it is one that makes me resent it and you, and all of this combines to strip the sheen off an expansion very, very quickly.
The game is, to me, tedium at this point. I rarely hate my time in WoW, but I also rarely get unvarnished joy from it. It’s a pastime, the equivalent of watching junk TV – I’m not enriched for the experience even if I have a little bit of fun from it and very little of it makes a lasting positive impression on me. The game fights me on what I want, pushes me down a track I don’t want to be on, and the reward at the end is hard to get because of limiting systems that were fine when the rest of the game had no major limits on play but now just feel bad. In Shadowlands season 1, I got near my BiS loot right at the end of the season, and immediately set out replacing it, because it took months of farming to get there, weeks with no usable raid loot and little usable dungeon loot, sifting through trash for the gold. That made sense when the game had gearing currencies and ways for me to otherwise get the power I wanted, but in the current state – that old limit is now one of many things that limit my power progression to a confined, narrow corridor like Junji Ito’s The Enigma of Amigara Fault.
The Story of WoW
It doesn’t take an expert lorologist to look at the story of WoW and realize the thing is a hot mess right now. The story of Sylvanas in particular is a point of frustration, as I’ve been screaming against the Sylvanas redemption arc as the team says “don’t worry, we’ve got this” when they very clearly do not! The game is a mess of rule-of-cool bullshit that ends up being confusing and illogical, with characters that are largely unrelatable and impenetrable and villains who are presented less like characters with thoughts, feelings, and plans and more like forces of nature – they act and things happen but we have no real insight into why they act, who they are, or the like. The game’s continuity is a broken mess, with clear seams where the writing handoff took place, and a legacy of women characters written by a sexual harasser still lingers in the forefront.
At this point, the only people I know invested in the WoW lore in a positive way are those writing their own fan theories, and like sure, I think they’re interesting and fun, but I also don’t think that your fan theory saves the game’s abysmal storytelling. The thing about a long-term story build is that there needs to be meaningful bits along the way, like investment in characters that pays off, and it just isn’t there in WoW, as characters are who they need to be for a given patch, and if the next patch changes them completely, well, so be it. Right now, for example, the Sylvanas payoff seems to be “she was made to do all the bad stuff by the Jailer” which is, firstly, not evidenced in game at any prior point until Shadowlands and even then she seems to be acting of her own will for most of it, and secondly, is being done in the most ham-fisted way possible. If I shared every possible thought I’ve had following the 9.2 datamining, I’d probably be here all day and my heart would explode, so I’ll just say that the current era of the game’s story is absolute dogshit.
And to be fair, WoW has never been a bastion of great storytelling, but what I can say about the past is that Chris Metzen, iffy-writer he was, at least wrote characters with emotions and reasons for acting, and that goes a long way with me. I vastly prefer Thrall being mopey about being a dad in Cataclysm to Sylvanas being a genocidal maniac “but don’t worry because she totally was a puppet the whole time.” One of these is a character arc that reflects some measure of human emotion and experience, and the other is an unrelatable mess of a story with a character robbed of agency by a force of nature character that has no real relatable character arc or traits. The fact that there are defenders for the latter blows my fucking mind, but there is no accounting for taste, I suppose.
The Developer Interactions With The Community
When I was really deeply into WoW, it never really bothered me that the developers were sassy with players, even in modern times. Every time Josh Allen would derisively read a fan question at a Q&A and Ion would roll his eyes and respond with some off-hand comment about how you can’t always have a good spec, I’d think to myself “the attitude is weird, but sure, okay.”
Watching these now, though, is just another level of badness piled on.
I can respect that even on our best days, players are hard to deal with. Everyone has stories of bad customers at work and game developers are no different, particularly in the age of social media, where you can namesearch yourself and find a bevy of awful things. On the other hand, ultimately, if enough of your audience is noting a problem with something, and your response is to dismiss it out of hand, then you are provoking that response yourself, at least to the normal degree (threats of violence and death are never okay, folks). It’s understandable why the team would be a little testy but also, I feel like this is used as a blanket to dismiss interacting with the community.
And just look at the state of Shadowlands right now. We haven’t had a single real developer Q&A since beta, the team interacts exclusively via prerecorded videos, screened Q&A questions at Blizzconline, and interviews with friendly media, a path which is dwindling as the number of available outlets to run press for you decreases as influencers abandon ship.
The old Josh and Ion streams were rarely good, mind you, but they were something. Now all we get is a Community Council, which, as Wilhelm pointed out, is largely full of players that serve a very narrow set of the game’s massive amount of content. The community council forums (thank god at this point I was not selected) are just a microcosm of the same boring, stale, disinterested interactions we’ve had with the developers for years now. A player makes a point about something that feels bad, and a developer comes in to stomp on it, saying we don’t understand fully or that the team is confident in their design, players point out the holes in that logic, no further developer response emerges. If players say something cool they’d like to see added, it sits in silence. There are 53 threads not counting the pins there, and there are 4 Blizzard replies. Less than 10%, of the filtered feedback you asked for is getting any response from you. Fucking wow. I cannot imagine how irritated I would have been to be on this team, put forward with my character name and details out to be poked at and harassed for feedback, only to get a response from Blizzard a single-digit percentage of the time, even just an acknowledgement they’ve read it!
In Legion, there was a turning point where players were starting to rightly note that the game was demanding more time and was being more locked in on player metrics like time spent, and Ion and Josh would go out of their way to try and dunk on those people in Q&As and be mean-spirited and pretend as though it wasn’t a problem, and that should have been a sign, because they meant all of that. The game has continued down the same path, even as that feedback has grown in volume and intensity, such that even now as the game hemorrhages players, they put their fucking fingers in their ears and pretend not to hear the drowning cacophony of a dwindling playerbase screaming out for scraps from these guys. But no, they don’t care – and I know that’s heavy to say, but I fucking mean it. My time in WoW is measurably worse because they don’t care about player feedback, and they do everything they can to put themselves above it and remove it from their sight, and the game suffers while they do.
A lot of people will say that it seems like they don’t play their own game, and you know, maybe, but here’s an interesting thought that former WoW team member Kevin Jordan put forward in a YouTube video I watched months ago – a good game designer should not have to play in order to be able to identify and triage problems with design. If you’re good at the role and care about the product that emerges, you can identify where in a design things might go off into bad territory and fix it, even without playing, even before the game is a finished and playable product.
Am I saying that the WoW team of today is bad at their jobs? Perhaps, but I think something I’ve been saying in a lot of WoW posts has come home to roost and that is my final point for today.
A lot of my WoW posts have driven home a point that I think is true – that I don’t believe that the WoW team is just churning out a product to make their cash and going home. I think they’re trying within the parameters they are provided to make something good that is enjoyable and interesting to the broadest possible audience. I think they know damn well that they are held to player engagement metrics by the corporate entity and have to be able to speak to how things work or do not work towards those goals, but they cannot say that to us, obviously.
However, I think this is where I had my realization that broke my fandom of the game – if I believe that they are making a game they think is fun, and I disagree with them on that, then the logical endpoint of my line of thought is that this team cannot or will not make a game I will enjoy anymore. If the interlocking, subtractive systems and gameplay, on-rails forced nature of the game’s core design, and the snide tone against those who disagree is what the team thinks is best for the game as a fun media product, then I cannot make the room for them in my entertainment consumption or budget anymore.
I don’t hate WoW even today, and I don’t think it is a bad game. I think that Shadowlands continues and exacerbates a trend of the game being fundamentally flawed, of the rot seeping in to the foundation of the gameplay. Classes without borrowed power feel bad, the world is huge and limitless but also constrained to a single area for whatever the current content is, and the development team continues to insist on chores outside of my core gameplay to make the game bearable to explore and enjoy. All of that to enjoy those few moments of combat is just not worth it anymore, and will not cut it for me going forward.
Last Tuesday, December 7th, I realized this and uninstalled the game for the first time ever since I started playing it, and I cancelled my subscription. WoW has been, for years now, not a source of joy but a waste of time, a game where I am constantly hoping for more and constantly disappointed by what we get. What makes this so aggravating is that the team still has moments where the game design or elements of it click into place and feel really good – but those are so few and far between now in Shadowlands that I cannot, for myself, keep putting my hopes into the game getting better as an active player. It has not been good for my mental health to have such an off-putting and negative relationship with what has been my most invested-in hobby.
The game used to make me feel joy, this limitless possibility space every time I logged in, with goals that I could chase and obtain, and every session felt rewarding in its own way. The game has not felt like that for a long time, and a lot of the core design decisions and philosophy of Shadowlands has made that feeling exponentially worse. My best moments in WoW were dictated by a simple question “what do you want to do?” and now the question in each session is “what do you have to do?” and that sucks, frankly. I used to farm raids after clearing them on the highest attainable difficulty for my group, and now we can’t wait to bounce after the final boss falls the first time. I used to spend hours just being in Azeroth but Shadowlands has no real place I can just hang out and chill. I used to look forward to datamined cinematics but now I just dread what dumb bullshit the lore team that is there today is going to put forward (oh, and what a funny coincidence I’m sure that the first-ever PTR available non-datamined cinematic was pushed out on Endwalker launch day, I’m sure that wasn’t intentional). That’s without even getting into how the lore team wrote a book with racist tropes for fantasy races that couldn’t tell the Dark Portal apart from the Well of Eternity!
I won’t say this is it forever, because my philosophy on online games is always that a single good patch or expansion can turn it all around, and I’ve been far too invested into WoW for my entire adult life to just walk away.
At the same time, though, I cannot be an active player waiting desperately for the game to be good while paying $15 a month for content that actively disappoints me and feels empty and worthless.
And so, with all of that in mind, I uninstalled WoW and have cancelled my sub, with no determined return point on the horizon. I have no interest in 9.2, the team has already murdered that interest with weird limitations, bad lore, and incredibly petty attempts to use PTR content drops as competition. Will I come around for 10.0? I don’t know, to be frank. They’ve always sold me on expansions and the last two times in particular have completely failed to live up to the hype, and so I think I’ll consider that when there’s more to see, but for right now, I’m not even sure I’d be that interested to be honest. All of this is without touching on the myriad scandals outside the game at Blizzard and Activision-Blizzard as a whole – the attempts at union-busting, the harassment and discrimination, and the insistence on keeping the CEO who allowed all of it to happen or even did it himself, allegedly – and all of that just strengthens my decision.
The MMO market has too many good competitors right now to stick with a subpar game that refuses to improve just because my friends play it or some other argument rooted in sunk-cost fallacy.
So again, I won’t say this is it forever, and I’ll still read about the game and write what I see here, but I cannot be an active player and let the game so consistently let me down and disappoint me. So then, I just won’t be.
14 thoughts on “The MMO Uninstallation Chronicles Part 2 of 2: World of Warcraft”
If I could name my one biggest pet peeve about WoW’s current design it would be the whole “borrowed power” shtick. Previously, a new expansion offered opportunities to improve your character, permanently, there was none of this borrowed power bullshit. But it’s become solidified into the game design, starting with Legion with the “artifact weapon” which actually is just another excuse to not address real issues with each class. And it’s continued to get worse. As you say, nothing is permanent. Everything is in flux. I don’t engage because I know everything in this expansion is going to go away in the next. So why do I care to improve a certain thing that is indigenous only to the current expansion? /end of rant
I don’t really pursue the whole “this spec is better than that” mostly because I have four “mains” so, if, for example, Hunter is good this expansion I’m super good, but if it’s mage I’m also super good, and if it’s Warlock I’m also super good. (my disco priest is always super good, don’t @ me). But I suppose that there are certain sensitive folks that have an identity in one, and only one, toon. Okay, I get it, I understand, that is not the path I chose but you have every right to expect that your chosen toon / spec is viable. I’m not a big believer in the idea of ‘all specs are equal’ because I feel that it ignores the strengths of each class / spec but sure, let’s all get an attendance award. As a lifelong BM hunter (with one brief foray into Surv during Cata) I can understand that sometimes my spec ain’t the best on the numbers, but I see value in other things I bring to the table (less so in modern WoW but in, for example, Cata, we had unique buffs etc)
You hit on one of my major beefs with current WoW, which has been made worse with the whole squish thing. To wit: there is an entire world – worlds – out there – but for whatever reason, WoW has decided to make me focus on ONE of them and ignore the rest after level 30. You have to go out of your way to enjoy any of the past worlds, and even then it doesn’t count towards your advancement. If you choose Cata as your Chromie Thing ™ then you only get to play Wrath as a side quest, one that does not offer anything but the experience of doing it. There is zero motivation, outside a very narrowly defined set of users, to ever visit anything outside of the Chromie Path ™ that they chose. And that is a complete and utter chrime.
The thing that most poisons the game for me right now is the whole HR / lack or HR thing that’s going on with ABK’s various subsidies. If anything drives me away, it will be that. While I have your ear, let me make a plea for the ABK worker’s strike fund – https://www.gofundme.com/f/abk-strike-fund – the changes to the game that we want to see will come from the people that are being stomped on now.
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Lot of good responses I appreciate!
Borrowed power feels like such an interesting idea that just hasn’t had a good implementation, and losing those powers in an expansion fights against the idea of investment in a character – that’s a big strike in an MMO where the main thing is caring about my characters.
I don’t necessarily disagree on the meta-chasing thing, I play what I want regardless of the metagame, but it can feel bad at a certain range of content or PUGging, knowing that your spec has the red letter of failure on it and is drastically below what a player at an equal skill level with a better spec can play. I have all 12 classes at max and have had every class maxed since Cataclysm – I can migrate as I please and I have been playing multiple classes through the content even in Shadowlands, but I have friends that get attached to a character and it feels pretty bad to know that you’re stuck for an expansion on reject island, even if the standard content of the game doesn’t really cast a light on it.
I purposely made sure to not mention FFXIV in most of the post, but the old content thing really shines there. New players have a supply of veterans running the content for roulette rewards and the game’s story has a real sense of world built on using a mix of expansion locations and established, older ones regularly so the whole thing feels like a cohesive world, even when the new expansion has multiple zones that stretch the boundaries of that idea (not spoiling here just in case). The world of FFXIV feels cohesive and whole because the old areas are still a part of the broader world and story and the stakes are clear throughout. Old WoW zones are ghost towns and newbies only end up with other new players or someone on an alt rarely, so dungeon matchmaking and questing can feel awful, which feels very fixable but the team puts such a minimum of effort into maintenance of existing content in WoW, much less the new player experience.
And lastly, appreciate the strike fund and I’ll include a link to that in an upcoming post now that the legal case is moving a smidge, because it seems like the workers might need it more as time moves on!
You know, the whole borrowed power thing wouldn’t bother me as much if it didn’t supplant normal character progression. That’s the core of my angst about it right there.
That’s a great thing to do wrt the strike fund. I appreciate you doing it.
From my casual perch, the whole borrowed power, min-max, meta and other competitive issues are something weird and optional, so I don’t feel that harassed with these issues. Ever since Legion, I tried and said “no” to mythic and mythic+ dungeons, I ignored island expeditions (but played warfronts because fun), I ignored deliberate AP grind in all three expansions, my last Torghast run was in March. In other words, I feel free to choose my own gameplay style and pursue goals, and the game lets me to do that. Covenant nuke is just one button, and it comes and goes like multiple class changes, so I’m not that bothered here either if I feel confident in the open world.
Renown sucks as an artificial threshold, true, but at the same time the time consumption rate is not that demanding. You can complete all goals for the week on reset day, or stretch it for 3 evenings, or for the whole week – depending on your IRL and gaming schedule, so Shadowlands feels more forgiving to time consumption in general. I was able to keep up with 22 alts for the first 5 months of Shadowlands (now cut to 15) – that would be impossible in previous expansions outside of lulls!
Recently I’ve been meeting a bear druid grinding Korthia daily, for at least 6 hours straight, and complaining about it in /1. I’m leading my 10-12th alt through a rare/daily quest streak, and he’s still there, actively farming chests, rares and what not… To each their own, I guess.
My four beefs with current WoW are these: content delay, currency/effort rate for rewards, ABK scandal and major lore.
ABK scandal – I’d just like a positive resolution, but we’re living with a grim background for 6 months, with no visible beacon on the horizon, and that simply affects the overall mood.
As a side thing, I support human rights and consider all people equal, but I’m worried that this pendulum of harassment – atonement may swing too far in the opposite direction, as I’m observing it IRL, and developers would forget that the fantasy world does not equal the real world, and you don’t have to bring the current IRL issues in game. Of course there should be racism in WoW, for example – the whole game lore since W1 was based on racial genocides and war crimes, so prejudice among NPCs and lore characters is inevitable. You cannot throw out the woes of a Redridge farmer who lost his family to the orcish Horde and expect him to behave like a modern American towards them! Address it and fix it, if you must, but in a convincing way, through convincing stories. BfA set the best ground to end the enmity between factions on a political level, but common people will be reluctant to forget the war crimes and simply warfare on both sides, and thus greenskins/pinkskins is the least they could call their recently fresh enemies.
The lulls are stretchy and unbearable, and you cannot – after 1,5 years – blame covid anymore, cause you had all the time in the world to adapt. 9 months between patches is too long, and this is the major reason I’m planning to cancel my sub in January, but I will return for 9.2. launch. I was on standby for 2 months May-June, it seems I’ll be sitting out January-February as well.
Currency/effort rate was the major Shadowlands problem to me, anima grind and stuff. In 9.0., I just refused to play this grind model of many hours for feeble anima. Even if it became a LOT better in 9.1., I still cannot make myself to grind the rest of the 9.0. rewards when it’s just a grind left, without character power/reputation and other goals. Still, I collected the bulk of them, so it was not too bad. I guess the remains will be obtained during 9.2.
9.1.5 in general implemented a lot of improvements, but I’m irritated they had to do it so pompous, instead of implementing most QoL things as hotfixes.
Lore of Shadowlands is disgusting as a big picture, the major arc. The only character I’m really enjoying is Anduin, who remains true to himself, and develops new levels of badassery with every expansion. But I couldn’t have said it better than you did about Sylvanas and the Jailer, and as expansion revolves around them, the today’s lore is a joke and has nothing to do with WoW.
That said, Covenant campaign arcs were done pretty well, so imo they’re lacking a competent guy to write the bigger picture and set a plan.
The best thing they could do in 10.0. is to avert from cosmic scales, rework Azeroth, and put us to the ground with smaller problems on the planet we all love. It maybe a simple expansion of settling Horde/Alliance peace and dealing with the groups and factions who still hold the grudge.
Two continents would be enough for a start – Kalimdor and Eastern Kingdoms, with access denied in the newer version to Northrend, Pandaria and all. Like a completely phased out version of current Azeroth (maybe even like a new planet on a planet map) as they effectively archived the previous expansions with Chromie anyways, and laid a lore foundation for a “time leap” in Shadowlands lore for current characters and players. Housing would fit best for this new Azeroth too – there’s no place like home 🙂 In other words, reboot the planet and really start the new chapter.
Anyways, my aversion to WoW today is a lull time – with nothing to do as I don’t have alts to level and all raid sets vanilla -> wod are mine, the lore which I don’t really care how it ends in this expansion, but I’ll be there to see it from my own PoV, and rolling harassment issue in the background which does not add up to the mood. It’s amazing that I have a ton of FFXIV content to explore now, so I do not feel lost without gaming like it was an issue in May-June, so I’m able to sit this grim step out, without sub for the first time in 10 years, and hope for the best.
As someone who left the game in 7.3, I always struggle to understand how people kept playing for two more expansions and only then started questioning the same design choices that drove me away much earlier. Borrowed power, highly unbalanced classes, chores, system overload, lore being a mess and so on are all mistakes back from 7.0.
The overall sentiment sounds similar to how I felt when I first quit WoW back in Cata, though I definitely wasn’t planning to come back to it any time soon. It wasn’t awful, just the less fun alternative and why focus on that when there are things you’d rather be doing?
Curious about your drive-by comments about the 9.2 Sylvanas stuff though, because have we seen the same cinematic? I thought it was quite clear that it was all her, she’s not absolved of anything and will have to face consequences. It doesn’t excuse the previous mess and doesn’t mean that things will ultimately be resolved in a satisfying manner, but as an intermediate step it seemed quite good…
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Thanks for the comment!
On the Sylvanas cinematic, I just dislike the general direction. It’s clear there’s some atonement coming from her but I just think that after everything she did in the leadup to this moment, the approach is too soft and difficult to reconcile. The lines about the Jailer’s control and how the soul splitting works from Uther also felt offputting, because the setup seems to imply if not outright say that Sylvanas is not really responsible for much of what she’s done, and that is an awful way to take the story given the prior scenes before Shadowlands don’t even so much as hint at her being externally influenced.
Couple that with the larger story implications about how Zovaal has been a master puppeteer behind the scenes with Argus causing the Arbiter to break (somehow) and the lack of Tyrande in this story at all (so far) and I just find it fairly lacking as an overall story. If there was clear storytelling about what made Zovaal this way, what brought him to this plan, I’d be more interested even if the overall quality didn’t improve, but as it stands, he’s barely a character motivated by some vague past event we’ve never fully been shown or explained and so it makes his exertions on the story (and the actions Sylvanas committed under his command/control) just feel like natural disasters more than story beats.
Also, not to put it aside, I have mainly been a Night Elf player for my tenure in WoW, and having the race suffer so much for the character development of a very-polarizing figure just feels pretty awful, all told!
Not trying to defend the story direction overall here, but this:
The lines about the Jailer’s control and how the soul splitting works from Uther also felt offputting, because the setup seems to imply if not outright say that Sylvanas is not really responsible for much of what she’s done
I really don’t get because it seems to be literally the opposite of what I saw? There’s nothing about the Jailer controlling her in that cinematic, the point of the whole scene is that Sylvanas has to accept that all the bad stuff she did really is her fault before she can wake up. And Uther’s line about the Jailer being “deceptive and cunning” is just a sort of comforting “I get you, I fell for his lies and ended up making bad decisions as a result too”, but doesn’t absolve her of anything.
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That’s a fair point – I’m reading into the line during Uther in Andorhal explaining how it felt to be a “pawn” at the hands of the Jailer and filtering that through how Blizzard has handled similar things in the past. There could well be something better there – but given the context added from some of the quests and later cutscenes in the zone, I have some serious doubts.
At the core of it, my concern is that the story isn’t meaningfully wrapping things up in a way that serves any character other than Sylvanas. Tyrande feels very underserved in this plotline, as does Genn, and while the first part of this is utilitarian (we need Sylvanas to understand the Jailer’s plot and how to best tackle it), it feels like it ignores the larger context of just how much damage Sylvanas’ actions have done. Without knowing what her atonement looks like and how that story wraps, I can’t say that for sure, obviously – but a lot of my fear is that the first part is being handled somewhat clumsily by empathizing with someone who carried out a genocide while people who were victims in some form or another at her hands are made to watch and powerless to do much about it.
I think a big part of it is that the weight of what Sylvanas did that led here in the first place is incredibly heavy and her reasoning and process is so poorly explained that I can’t accept her being given any form of forgiveness or understanding. The vague hints about her goals and ambitions have been there, but there’s no context to what she wanted to accomplish or thought she was accomplishing. Either she burned Teldrassil and started the Fourth War in service of a grand goal (and that hasn’t been explained beyond vague allusions), or she acted in rage, and neither makes her current penance feel like a suitable process.
After the cinematic, the questing in Zereth Mortis includes a cutscene where Sylvanas discusses how Arthas exposed her to domination magic and how that felt, and while the context makes it clear that she’s specifically discussing Arthas, in the scheme of the overall plot, it seems very much like the intent is to tie that in to the Jailer and to parallel the two as having controlled Sylvanas at different points in time through similar means. That, again, is me reading into what is there and looking at the subtext as much as the text, but I’ve been given little reason to suspect that the team is not trying to tell that story – of how the Jailer controls and how Sylvanas was controlled.
In short – the subtext seemingly points at Sylvanas being controlled in some form or fashion, seems to set up atonement for perhaps the single largest warcrime in all of WoW, and denies (so far) the catharsis and payoff of the (rightfully) angry Alliance characters whose people were directly killed by Sylvanas’ orders. All of it is narrative whiplash to me as a long-term player who has seen Sylvanas go from soft-spoken leader of a fledging race to warmonger to apologetic in just around 3 expansions of story and that also makes it hard to enjoy, because the swings are so drastic in each direction that I have a tough time pinning down who Sylvanas actually “is” as a character.
The cinematic on it’s own, if we narrow our focus to just that – it’s fine. Not my favorite, but there’s something interesting to it. In the context of the larger story they’ve been telling, it just feels bad – and that isn’t to say they can’t possibly save it, but I don’t have that confidence in the writing team to do it given how they’ve handled related arcs. I’d like to believe it will all resolve gracefully, but I’ve been burned enough for following the lore of the game already and so I’d rather be wrong and have them pull it together than be wrong and have it flop on the ground in disappointment.
And I get that a lot of what I just expressed is grounded in perception and expectation, and that’s definitely a fair point to critique. If I’m wrong in the end, I’ll be happy to have revisited all of it to re-contextualize my thoughts to type all of this out!
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I was a 12 year veteran who finally had enough in the supposed “good” expansion, Legion. As an RPer, story was very important to me, and legions was dog awful. The endless grind and RNG was a huge discouragement, and made me feel like the game didn’t respect my time. I hate, hate, hate M+ and it became such a huge focus and basically required for raiding. I hated what was done to hunters and rogues. I hated the removal of race specific animations, losing unique flavor. Even more, I hated the lazy allied races that inexplicably hated me after I was exalted. Was I supposed to pay for a race change for my 12 year old character with all my achievements? Or grind out rep on another character? No thanks. Not to mention the lore asspull of void elves.
As a nelf main and Alliance fan for my whole wow career, I felt like the butt of jokes and hostility from the devs. In the almost four years I’ve been unsubscribed, I’ve not got one email begging for me to return. Guess they don’t need my business after all?
In the meantime, I’ve found other games that scratch my questing and exploring itch, with devs that actually seem to care and players that aren’t hostile and offensive. I don’t see myself ever returning to wow no matter what they do, and it’s a little sad. But it’s no longer meant for me.
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