We are less than two weeks away from the official launch of Battle for Azeroth. Yay. Legion in retrospect was a very decent expansion, but I will not be sorry to see it in the rear view mirror.
I have spent the past few days trying to get my alts prepared for leveling in BFA. I don’t expect I will be playing them for several weeks, but still I would like them to be ready to go when I decide to. Part of that involves just rearranging their action bars to account for the 8.0 changes for each, along with a cursory visit to the target dummies to get an introduction to how each will play.
The other part is gearing them up as much as possible. As usual at the end of expansions, Blizz has given us some fast tracks to doing so. We can now buy whatever “good” legendaries we think we will need for early leveling in BFA, a nice perk. It would have been nicer if the BOA token you can buy could be turned in for a specific legendary, but no of course Blizz is absolutely besotted with the whole idea of gear by lottery, so it was apparently impossible for them to allow such a thing without the roof coming off over Blizzard Headquarters. Still, something I suppose is better than nothing.
The gear catch-up piece I like best, though, are the world quests in Darkshore. They are not nearly as creative or fun as the world invasions Blizz gave us at the end of Warlords of Draenor, but they are still quite nice for increasing the ilevel of alts that have been neglected during Legion. My poor undergeared warlock, for example, got a weapon that was far better than her artifact because she had never really done anything to get decent level relics for it. It seemed a little strange to immediately switch out the one piece of gear that had been the centerpiece of an entire expansion, but change is upon us. I could have done the same with my rogue, but Blizz is not doing a very good job with Darkshore loot patterns, and it may be days or never that my rogue gets the required main hand and off hand pieces that will replace the artifact. I understand why they made two-piece combos into one for purposes of the whole artifact chase, but at this point it is kind of annoying for classes that really need two pieces again. Good planning, it seems to me, would dictate that on days when weapons are rewards for the world quests, there would be one main hand and one off hand drop for classes that use these.
A week ago, after the first installment of the lead-in scenario, I was encouraged by the fact that once you had completed it on one character, you could skip it on alts and immediately unlock the Darkshore world quests. At last, I thought, Blizz understands the tedium of doing the exact same quest lines over and over again in a short span of time. Maybe they actually learned from the whole Argus thing they foisted on us in Legion.
Alas, no. One of the perks you get from completing the second week’s scenario quests is that the Dalaran portal to Darnassus actually takes you directly to Darkshore. I assumed, based on last week, that doing it on one character would gain you this perk for all others on the account. Nope. In truth, the quests do not take long to complete — they are actually trivial — but it is annoying to have to do the same half dozen quests on every alt in order to slightly speed up the process of getting to Darkshore for the world quests and loot giveaways each day.
SPOILER ALERT: DO NOT READ FURTHER IF YOU WANT TO BE SURPRISED ABOUT THE OUTCOME OF THE SECOND WEEK SCENARIO.
There has been a good deal of criticism of what we saw in week 2. Starting with the artwork — I am not a fan of anime, and I thought that a major event like the burning of the tree deserved something beyond what I perceive to be a cheap comic book treatment. Still, even if I thought it was the wrong genre, I have to admit it was rendered quite well.
The other part that is getting so much criticism — some of it quite emotional — is that we finally see the whole tree burning occurs not because of a great injustice done to the horde, but rather because Sylvanus was annoyed when told she could not destroy hope, so she decided to set fire to the tree and all its remaining inhabitants including children. This is textbook terrorism.
I do not play Horde, but certainly this is a gut blow to players who do. I have always thought the Horde faction was more subtle and nuanced than the Alliance one, but this event gives the lie to that. Not only did Sylvanus reveal herself to be petty and evil, but apparently the entire Horde is so sheeplike that they refuse to condemn her and instead blindly follow her into a protracted faction war. (And honestly, though I may have missed it, I still do not understand why the Horde is pillaging and plundering Darkshore and Darnassus anyway… Just because they suddenly discovered Azerite?)
This is nowhere close to the “gray moral areas” Mr. Game Director Hazzikostas has been fond of hinting about recently regarding BFA, so I can only conclude there is much more to the story, and it will be revealed as the expansion unfolds. Still, it seems pretty unfair to start out the war with something so clearly and unambiguously evil. I do hope the “gray morality” alluded to does not devolve into the Alliance taking retribution on Lordaeron, and at the end of BFA everyone kisses and makes up and admits “both sides” were wrong. That would be a serious cop-out in my opinion. Besides, didn’t we just finish two years of faction cooperation to defeat a common enemy? And now we immediately go back to beating the crap out of each other?
Beyond these events, though, I have reservations about the whole BFA premise. Whatever the reasons — and they seem very artificial and contrived — I wonder if it is a good idea to foment factional hatred at this point in our real world history? There is a resurgence of tribal politics in many parts of the world, and it is driving a world view of hatred for “the other”. This hatred is being manifested not only in gross incivility in social discourse but also in acts of violence.
I know WoW is only a game, but I really do worry that the hatred many feel in real life will spill over into personal vitriol in the game. Look at the bile that has been spewed only recently over the formation of certain special-interest communities. There was real fear and hatred there. Imagine what might happen when it is now not only okay but expected — and encouraged — to hate the other faction in WoW. If we are supposed to hate the Horde or the Alliance, well then it must be fine to hate any other group we want…
I suppose I am giving in to hyperbole here, and I know the entire premise of WoW is conflict. But could we not have used just resource competition as an excuse for renewal of the Horde-Alliance war? That has been the cause of many a real world war. Why did Blizz feel it necessary to start the conflict with Sylvanus’s heinous act, committed merely for the sake of ego and arrogance?
Here’s hoping, as BFA begins, we can all remember we are fellow players in this game, and that in spite of real world politics and fictional game events we can still be excellent to each other.