Artifact weapons – still uneasy about them

Yesterday was another in Blizz’s series of dev interviews on Legion. You can see it all by going to this MMO-C site. The subject for this one was artifact and order halls in Legion, as presented by Craig Amai and facilitated by the irrepressibly positive and optimistic Josh Allen. I still give Blizz good marks on conducting these weekly sessions, I just hope that they will continue through at least the first few weeks of Legion. There were no startling revelations in yesterday’s session, nothing anyone who has been following Legion development did not already know, but I am sure it was informative for those who have (probably wisely) not been following it.

Even though Amai gave us nothing really new, I was struck by one constant theme: Artifact weapons will be THE all-consuming gear chase for the entire expansion. In spite of a few limited “catch-up” mechanisms, each artifact weapon, on each spec on each character, will require months to “complete” — even if the definition of “complete” is something like 75% of an artifact talent tree.

Think about that for a minute. If you have even just a couple of alts, or if you like playing hybrid classes, you will likely spend the entire expansion chasing artifact weapon power/knowledge/gizmos. Everything you do in the game will have a tie-in with that infinite chase — leveling, world quests, dungeons and raids, dailies, class hall missions, gaining faction rep, every game activity. This is not to say that these activities will not be fun or engaging, I do not mean to imply that. But it means that everywhere you turn in the game, on every character for every activity, you will bear the burden of your artifact weapon. It will be Legion’s albatross.

I said a few months ago that I question the wisdom of making a single piece of gear the central feature of an entire game, and the more information we get about the process the more I am sure this move by Blizz is a mistake. It would be less of a problem if Blizz had implemented it so that it was more spec- and alt-friendly, but they clearly do not wish us to pursue more than one spec on one character as an accepted way to play the game.

Yes, I know that their words tell us otherwise, assure us that of course they want us to be able to have fun with other specs and with alts, but their actions not their words speak their true intent. If indeed they wanted to promote multi-spec and multi-alt play in the game, they would not have crafted the artifact mechanisms the way they have. They would, for example, have made it so that having attained a certain number of talent unlocks on one spec, if you switched to a different spec it would automatically receive the same number of unlocks. They would have made the artifact power catch-up mechanisms account wide instead of character-specific. They would have allowed you to purchase an alternate spec weapon at an equivalent level on a character if that character already had one on another spec — similar to the way you could buy an alternate cape in Mists or legendary ring in WoD.

I am not complaining about the fact that “completing” the artifact weapon on your main will take months™, there is nothing wrong about making such an accomplishment a reward for intense game play, nor is there anything wrong about using it as an incentive for participating in content. What I do think is a mistake is requiring basically the exact same process over and over again, a virtually endless cycle of grinding content in order to grub out maybe one more talent unlock for your third or fourth alt.

As they always seem to do, Blizz has taken a perfectly reasonable mechanism — the idea of pursuing a powerful weapon that will last for an entire expansion — and stretched it out of all proportion, turning it into an uncontrollable behemoth that will consume most of the game. This is why I call artifact weapons the garrisons of Legion, because in that instance Blizz could not control themselves and made what started out to be a very nice side concept into one absolutely central to major aspects of the game. We saw garrisons start out as “completely optional”, then morph into “completely optional after you have established a baseline Level 1 garrison” and finally into “required to have a Level 3 garrison and expand it into a shipyard if you want to see the new patch content.” I can hardly wait to see how Blizz will expand the already-extensive role of artifact weapons in the course of Legion.

Now, of course, my criticisms of the length of time necessary to pursue reasonably-filled-out artifact weapons in Legion is based on Blizz’s stated intent to adhere to a 2-year expansion cycle. If we expect Legion to last 2 years — 24 months — then players with a lot of alts will just not have time to outfit all of them with artifacts at an appropriate level. (Even if they pursue several simultaneously, grinding content is still a linear activity.) But what if Blizz is hedging their bets on the expansion cycle? What if they think Legion may have to be stretched out for 3 years? In that case, having very long artifact chases may keep some players engaged for a few extra months. Just a wild theory….

And on that tinfoil hat note, I begin my weekend.

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.

7 Responses to Artifact weapons – still uneasy about them

  1. Udorus says:

    Hi, I really enjoy your posts. Wish I had found this site ages ago but as a 9 yr hunter mainly bm and a lover of alts I am getting quite depressed by the sound of legion.

    Have just started looking into legion whilst on a 6 month wow break I was planning to head back in at the start of the pre expansion. Although I am looking forward to my artifact weapon on my main I certainly don’t want to do it on all my alts.

    So I guess my question is have you discovered if there is any content that is gated until you get your artifact to a particular point?

    Also as most of my alts will sit in their wod base do the gold missions still exist in any meaningful way?

    Keep up with the excellent posts and looking forward to reading more beta impressions.

    Cheers
    Udorus

    • Fiannor says:

      There is no doubt that Legion will be very, very disappointing for many hunters, me among them. And, given the complex interactions with artifact weapons, I think Blizz will not want to risk making substantial changes to hunter specs — especially BM — because it could cause quite an outcry if people had invested a lot in their artifact for a spec that suddenly is not what it started out to be in Legion. (For example if you spent several weeks as MM and had invested a lot in that weapon, then suddenly Blizz makes BM very fun and enjoyable again, and you would have gone BM if it had not started out so lousy…) So I think what we see is what we will get for hunter specs.

      It is my understanding that no content is gated behind progress with your artifact weapon, except as the gear level of the weapon affects your overall ilevel. (Content is only gated behind character levels and overall gear levels.) You can socket your weapon with gizmos called relics that you loot in various places, and those things increase your weapon gear level, but since the weapon is only one of — what, 16 gear slots? — that means weapon gear level only marginally affects your ilevel.

      As to the WoD gold making, unfortunately, when the pre-patch goes live, the gold windfall stops. Garrison missions will only award garrison resources, and possibly xp for your garrison followers, but all the other goodies will be gone. I believe (don’t quote me on this) that you will still be able to mine WoD ore and get WoD herbs, but they probably will not have much use in Legion.

      There is one thing you might keep in mind, though, if you have a few alts sitting in their WoD garrisons. There are several Legion enchants that use legacy mats. One in particular uses:

      Temporal Crystal x 20, Sorcerous Air x 10, Sorcerous Water x 10, Savage Blood x 15, Light Parchment x 3

      I have no idea if this will be a popular enchant or not in Legion, but if it turns out to be, you might be able to make some decent gold selling the mats for it on the AH, as not everyone will be keen to produce their own. There is an excellent post on these Legacy enchants and the mats required for them at:

      http://goldgoblingamingguy.com/preparing-legion-tomes-illusions/

      So if you do not want to take your alts to the Broken Isles, they could be useful gathering and selling legacy mats — all of them, not just the WoD ones. Just an idea.

  2. Athie says:

    A three-year cycle for Legion feels really plausible to me. No matter what Blizzard says about release cycles they always fall behind the guidance they issue. So if the guidance is two years of Legion it seems prudent to expect three.

    I’m feeling pretty worn down in the game as we roll into the artifact grind. None of my characters is geared above 700, which makes me feel artificially unskilled compared with other players right now. And we’re rolling into another expansion that just sort of feels like it’s not for me. Which will make 4-5 years of WoW moving in directions that alienate me. That’s a lot!!!

    • Fiannor says:

      I hear you. I cannot make myself get excited about Legion. I am not to the point of quitting the game or anything, but honestly I am only looking forward to it because the sooner it launches the sooner it will be over. Don’t get me wrong, i think there will be a lot of fun things in it, but I think the combo of boring hunter play along with the artifact grind will make the expansion get pretty old pretty fast for me.

      I said my theory was tinfoil hat inspired, but I agree with you that it is certainly plausible. Thinking about it, it seems unlikely that Blizz will continue to devote the same resources to developing this game as they have, what with the rising popularity of other Blizzard games and with esports. I think their 2-year estimate was probably based on the dev resources they have now, not what they may have a year or more from now. Months ago, the Grumpy Elf speculated with a wild theory that Legion will be the last expansion ever for WoW …. I told him I would buy him a beer if that happened. I sure hope I don’t have to pay up on that bet.

    • Fiannor says:

      Oh, and I really think a level 700 character and below will do great to start Legion with, I don’t think you should worry about it. I played the beta at first with a level 680 templated character, and even though I died once or twice, I was easily able to get my baseline artifact weapon and start my class hall missions. Plus, almost every class and spec will have new rotations and spells to learn, so you will not be disadvantaged by not having played for a few months — everyone will be figuring out their specs again.

      • Udorus says:

        Thanks for the info, may head back into the game when I get home next week. Enjoy my last few weeks of bm play as I want to remember it and get the alts making a bit of gold before most are retired till legion flying.

  3. Hi. I’m gear level 877. Yes, my artifact is brand new; sorry I’m so weak.
    Those artifacts are like living under a polluted sky; it is everywhere, won’t go away and hard to ignore!

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