I have spent the better part of Battle for Azeroth thus far being confounded by the intricacies of the whole Azerite gear system. Parts of it are obvious, yet many other parts are a dark labyrinth I seem to be navigating blindfolded. I decided to try and break it out into a system I can understand, so I made myself some notes. If you think they might be useful to you, you can check them out by navigating to the menu item at the top of this page.
Meanwhile, here are some scattered observations (not well organized, I warn you) on the system.
The artifact weapons of Legion have morphed into Azerite gear in Battle for Azeroth. Blizz clearly realized artifacts had some problems, so they tried to fix them in BFA. In the process, unfortunately, they have created a system that is vastly complex — arguably even more so than artifact weapons were. Whereas artifacts had a relatively small number of traits, Azerite gear has so many that the possible permutations challenge even high powered cloud computers. Moreover, Blizz has given players almost no guidance on the mechanics, lazily defaulting to third party sites.
There is also a hidden gear quest that under certain circumstances activates Uldir-only Azerite traits on special gear. This is Reorigination Array, and Blizz actually kept it a secret until a third party site described it and apparently outed it. Mind you, this was not a mechanic Blizz was planning on doing, it was one they had already implemented. (If you read the Blue Post, you might suspect it is one of those April Fool’s “hotfixes”. But no, sadly it is real.)
The actual RA buffs are significant (and thus an exception to the otherwise-uninspiring Azerite gear traits), so it’s a bit puzzling as to why Blizz kept it under wraps, even after they implemented it in the live game….
I just think Azerite gear is far too complex and time-consuming for the benefits it gives. I cannot help but recall that the same Ion Hazzikostas who has given us this design is the one who wailed that we should not be able to reforge gear as we did in Mists of Pandaria because doing so “requires too much math”. So solicitous of our tiny overworked brains! But he then proceeded to set up Legion gear that required a bank of high-powered cloud computers to even determine when/if gear might be an actual upgrade, and followed that debacle with this Byzantine BFA Azerite system that is almost too complex to model even on high-capacity computers and which is obviously far too difficult for Blizz to give us useful guidance on.
In addition to being complicated, Azerite gear doubles down on the “eternal AP grind” players so hated in Legion. Blizz will continue to add traits and to make them cost ever-increasing amounts of AP to unlock. There will be no end state. This is exactly the burnout mechanic so many players objected to in Legion — a slow, Sisyphean, plodding linear progression to nowhere.
The one saving grace, I suppose, is that Azerite gear traits are — at least so far — pretty puny. Which means there is probably not a significant down side to just ignoring AP completely and accrue it without actually grinding for it.
The system does not remove the requirement to keep multiple pieces of gear in one’s inventory, “just in case” a situation may require a different set of Azerite traits. This is true for every semi-casual player, not just hybrid classes.
Azerite gear has “features” that are nothing short of annoying. Players feel like they are regressing when they replace lower level Azerite gear with higher level stuff, because they are able to unlock fewer traits on the new gear. So you go from a piece with three traits to a piece with maybe one trait, and you get to start grinding AP all over again to unlock more traits — knowing that the process will repeat if you get a higher level piece again. For the whole expansion.
Also, the way Blizz is treating the AP catchup mechanism has a psychological catch to it. There is an example of this on my Azerite Gear page, but basically it is possible for Blizz to actually take AP away from you. It makes no difference in your progress towards AP levels, but even so, it is not fun to work for days to get a certain amount of AP only to have it taken away when because the Azerite research now requires less AP to get to the level you are working on.
For the life of me, I do not understand what is wrong with simple gear: If it is a higher ilevel, then it should be an upgrade. Period. Getting new gear is fun, as is equipping it right away and knowing — without running stats through a supercomputer — it is going to make you more powerful in the game.
Attention Mr. Game Director Hazzikostas: gear in Legion and BFA “requires too much math” — since I know how much you hate that from your comment about Mists reforging, I am sure this situation will shock you. Now that you know about it, fix it, please and thank you. *dusts hands off, glad that’s all taken care of*
On that note, time to start the weekend. See you on the other side.