Artifact suggestions

The closer we get to Legion, the more I become convinced that artifact weapons may be the change that could sink the entire expansion, but I also believe that a couple of adjustments could avert this.

DISCLAIMER: I have not played Legion Alpha (and I do not expect to be invited to the Beta), so everything I write is based only on official info from Blizzard, third party sites like WoWHead, and forum and blog comments from Alpha testers.

Why am I so concerned? As I have pointed out previously in this blog, the fundamental problem arises from three intertwining  aspects of the design: The weapon is mandatory, it is spec-specific, and making it maximally functional involves a long (months) process similar to previous legendary items like the cape and the ring. (In addition, its functionality can be enhanced by RNG drops, always a frustrating experience when applied to a mandatory item.)

It would be fine if this were a mandatory item obtained through a relatively short quest chain, OR if it were an optional item, such as a legendary, that required a significant effort to obtain. But when it is both, it has serious — and I think negative — implications for nearly every major aspect of the game. The two areas of most concern to me are its impact on spec-switching and on alt progress.

To date, Blizz has only vaguely promised they will “do something” to make acquiring an artifact weapon for an off spec somewhat easier. They have given no specifics, as far as I can tell they have not implemented anything in the Alpha, they have not said whether the easier path will involve anything more than the initial quest line, and they have pretty much indicated that any easier process will NOT apply to alts. For a change that will involve nearly every aspect of a new expansion, this fuzziness strikes me as either incompetent or deliberately misleading.

With what we know so far, chasing the artifact weapon and filling in its talent tree will consume the majority of our play time for every spec of every character we play in the game. We may well look back on the daily garrison grind as the Good Old Days. Blizz has said that filling in the artifact tree will take “months”. This may be engaging once or even twice, but to have to do it 10-12 or more times is just stupid. It effectively means that — despite Legion permitting you to play every spec of your class instead of being limited to two as you are now — you will still be bound in practice to playing only one or two specs. And almost certainly you will be limited to a single spec on an alt, if indeed you can find the time to play alts at all.

Now you may say that no one usually expects to gear alts like they do their main, and that is true. However, the artifact talent tree is exactly that — an additional source of spells, skills, shots, and effects that has as much impact on your ability to play your spec as filling your spell book or reaching the top level of your regular talent tree. In other words, you cannot hope to develop proficiency on any spec unless you have completed the artifact talent tree. This is a complete change from what we have now: you can improve your gear on an alt, but once you reach top level you have all the skills and abilities you need to be one proficient in playing it, dependent only on your willingness to practice.

I could go on about my vision of game life that forever chases artifact levels, but I would rather make two proposals for how Blizz should “make it easier” — as they have airily suggested — to obtain artifact sufficiency.

First, every spec of the class should automatically be equipped with the appropriate artifact weapon with a level matching the highest obtained on that character. That is, if my MM hunter has completely filled my artifact tree and I decide to switch to BM or even SV, I would have those specs’ artifact trees also filled, without spending months (again) grinding them out. Yes, I understand each spec has a completely different weapon, and I would even be willing to do a short, mostly trivial quest line to obtain the basic weapon, but once I got it, it should be at the same level as the one I obtained on my MM.

(A simpler idea, of course, would be to have artifacts class-specific instead of spec-specific, but I feel that train has long ago left the station. At this point Blizz would certainly not want to — nor should anyone expect them to — trash months of work on the dozens of spec-specific artifacts they have labored over, and which are intertwined with nearly every aspect of spec balance and play style.)

Second, once you have filled a spec’s artifact tree on one character, all other characters on that account should get a significant boost to the rate at which they accrue artifact power (basically the XP of artifact weapons). This would at least send a message to players with alts that Blizz respects that play style and is not punishing them for liking it.

Giving account-wide perks for achieving something on one character is certainly not unheard of in WoW. Look at garrisons and shipyards, naval vessel armaments, mounts, pets, titles, etc. Certainly in the past Blizz has recognized that players should not be faced with an endless cycle of Sisyfus-like tasks, that at some point the prospect of repeating the same endless grinds translates into players leaving the game.

At any rate, I do not delude myself into thinking artifact weapons will be abandoned at this late date. It really is too late for that, in spite of what appears to be a terrible implementation of a potentially good idea. But I do not think it is too late to improve the bad implementation, and I think my suggestions would go a long way towards doing so.

Here’s hoping someone at Blizz is re-evaluating the artifact plan.

 

About Fiannor
I have a day job but escape by playing WoW. I love playing a hunter, and my Lake Wobegonian goal is to become "above average" at it.

One Response to Artifact suggestions

  1. gnomecore says:

    I am to say, I’m not a multi-spec player. That is: if I want a new spec, I’m rather starting a new toon than trying to play a new spec at my top level. Maybe it’s because of my devastating experience of being a frost mage and then losing an epic battle with fire spec vs a common turtle mob in Krasarang 🙂 Oh well.

    Anyways, what you are talking makes sense. Multi-specced players should never walk the same path as they already did once. The point that Blizzard could have in their minds is: hey, you must learn to play your other spec and acquire your abilities and perks time by time to get accustomed to them. Otherwise you just get yourself a completely challenging number of abilities to be learned. Your whole gameplay would change if you just clicked all the perks, and you never know how to deal with it – now. But it doesn’t excuse all the grinding they have in mind. That’s the real choice. What do you prefer: having you gameplay changed to something it was not, or getting you slowly through all the perks and new things?