Feeling disconnected

Lately I have been feeling, I don’t know how best to describe it, kind of “adrift” in WoW. I can’t put my finger on any one thing, but somehow this entire expansion seems jumbled and disorganized, as if a committee got together and everyone got to have one of their pet projects become part of the game. No unifying theme, just a vague nod to pre-existing lore, toss in a few familiar NPCs for good measure. When some of the inevitable collisions of pet projects occur, Blizz applies a quick fix band-aid and hopes it doesn’t break something else in the process.

I can’t shake the feeling that Blizz has lost its creative genius and is now just mailing it in.

What got me thinking about this was a post yesterday by The Grumpy Elf. Basically, he laid out a pretty good case that healing is broken in this expansion, implying it’s a wonder that anyone is willing to heal at all any more. By removing cheap instant heals from every healing class at the same time they drastically lowered mana regen and added in constant movement fights, Blizz pretty much made it impossible for anyone but exceptional healers to succeed. Certainly my own experience verifies this. I was a decent healer in Mists with my monk, nothing to write home about, but the first go-to if our raid team was missing one of our regular healers. And I enjoyed healing, it was a nice change from DPS. So when I hit 100 recently on my monk, with respectable (for a new 100) 610 gear, I jumped into normal Skyreach.

And promptly fell on my big panda face. I just could not keep the mage and hunter alive unless I let the tank die, and vice-versa. It was not a terrific group, as the DPS insisted on standing in bad stuff, and the tank was trying to set some sort of record for pulling as many trash as possible at one time. Still, in Mists I would have been able to keep such a group alive. And I did in this instance until we got to the first boss, which you will recall is pretty much constant movement. The mage died immediately, but we did down the boss, then proceeded to wipe twice on the next set of trash. At which point I dropped group, felt disgraced, and have not tried to heal since.

But this is a perfect example of the disconnectedness of this whole expansion. For most players, normal Skyreach is their first group instance in WoD. Why in the world would you put a boss like Ranjit as the first for players to encounter? Even if you understand the movement and tanking mechanics — a big if — the fact remains that the near-constant movement is both a DPS-killer and a heals-killer, in light of Blizzard’s decision to remove most instant casts from both healers and casters.

1.  Remove most abilities to cast/heal on the move.

2.  Make the few remaining instants extremely mana-intensive.

3.  Make the first boss in the introductory instance a constant-movement fight.

4.  Allow players below level 100 to do the instance.

5.  Lower the mana regen rate for most healers, especially at low gear levels.

6.  During the xpac beta, reassure players that the new raids and instances will adjust movement and damage to take into account the loss of instants. BWAAAAAHAHAHA!

No two of these decisions play well together, and when you look at them collectively you have to wonder what the hell is going on that would cause any experienced game developer to think this would end well.

Unfortunately, this kind of policy mismatch is the norm in this expansion, not the exception. Look at the whole “immersion” policy. Blizz says they want players to be more immersed in the world. But then they add garrisons, a huge time sink that severely limit a player’s time to do anything other than stay inside and tend to them. They remove flying, forcing players to devote more time, which they no longer have, getting to any point outside their garrison, and making gathering professions and archaeology so ludicrously tedious that most people stop doing those activities. And options for play outside garrisons are very limited. Most rares can only be killed once for loot, treasure-hunting provides no meaningful rewards, and once you have completed the quest lines in an area there is no longer any reason to go there.

So, yeah, be immersed in the world, once you figure out why you would want to be.

The sad fact is, this is a horrible expansion. Once you get past the initial fun of leveling your first character — and that part really was fun — there just is nothing there. All the various pieces of the expansion are just that — individual unrelated pieces that not only don’t complement each other, but often are opposed to each other, and result in game play completely opposite to Blizz’s stated objectives.