Overwhelmed

The more I read about Legion, the more confused and overwhelmed I feel. This is probably because I am only able to read about it, not experience it yet, but my impression is that nearly every aspect of it is designed to be tedious, drawn-out, and in some cases deliberately and unnecessarily complex. It seems to me that Blizz has started to use selective complexity as a way to stretch out content while at the same time forcing certain play styles.

Take artifact weapons. I read a very informative — but very intricate — post yesterday about artifact weapons in the context of how best to level as a healer in Legion. You can read it for yourself here at heliocentric. As I say, it is a good run-down of many of the mechanics of artifact weapons, but honestly I came away from it thinking it was something I was going to have to eventually actually study, you know, with yellow highlighter and note taking and everything. I feel the same way about the Wowhead, Ten Ton Hammer, and other artifact guides.

The sheer number of mechanics for artifact weapons just makes my head hurt. Here’s all I know about them:

  • You somehow get Artifact Power that is used to unlock weapon traits that are integral to playing your spec.
  • You get relics that go in relic slots that have something to do with leveling your weapon — yes the weapons levels with you apparently, I guess like your hunter pets used to. (?)
  • There is something you get at some point called Artifact Knowledge that has something to do with how fast you accrue Artifact Power.
  • Relics and some other pieces of the weapon and I guess even Artifact Power are awarded as quest rewards and random drops (oh good), and maybe even just from leveling up to a point.
  • Blizz has said it will take “months” to fill out your artifact tree, and it will have various appearances to differentiate the godlike players from the hoi polloi.
  • You get to go through this morass of mechanics for every spec on every alt.

Really? After Blizz has made such a damn fuss now for two expansions about how horrible and complex the various class and spec rotations are, after they have cut iconic and useful spells from nearly every class, after they have “pruned” the low level talents and spells to the point where you literally have only two buttons to push for 20 or more levels because, you know, don’t want to confuse the poor players — after this, they decide to introduce an intricate, arcane series of traits for a freaking piece of gear?? Yeah, pushing more than a couple buttons in a rotation is too hard, but requiring a spreadsheet to figure out a weapon is fun!

Lets take another example — professions. Prior to WoD, professions were a nice, simple, straightforward part of the game. You figured out which ones you wanted, based on things like what kind of gear you could craft or how profitable they might be or sometimes what small boost they might provide your character. You leveled them up, and prior to the start of their decline in Mists you could pretty much level them up as you leveled your character.

But in WoD, garrisons rendered professions almost irrelevant. There were no longer any profession perks. Elite players whined that they were “required” to have certain professions so as to eke out that extra .05% edge in raids, so gone they were. Gathering professions were superfluous, as were crafting professions for baseline functions and gear. And then in 6.2, Blizz introduced real gating into professions with the random garrison vendor and with the series of quests required for Jewelcrafters. Now, of course there had been gating of a sort in professions all along — have to be a certain level to advance, some desirable “cool” recipes were a dungeon or raid drop, and so forth. But the 6.2 gating was of a different order, because it gated the baseline patch profession items for max level professions. In the case of the random garrison vendor, it was more annoying than truly effective, but in the case of JCs, it was a pretty steep hill just to learn the basic patch gems. (Seriously, my main in the first part of WoD was a Survival hunter with JC as a profession — Blizz dealt her a very rough hand, it was as if they looked at my character and decided to make her the biblical Job of  WoW.)

In Legion, all professions are going the way of WoD JCs, and more complex wrinkles are being introduced. This is what I know about professions:

  • Professions will have to be separately leveled with specific progressive quests.
  • Quests are also the only way to learn recipes.
  • Even once you level your profession, there is a second and third tier of leveling for every recipe.
  • You will have to craft items in order to destroy them to get something called Obliterum, which you will need to craft more items (I think). The ultimate self-licking ice cream cone.
  • Even secondary professions will be gated behind quests, apparently, with a long draw out Archaeology quest line, a return to bandages for First Aid, and a promise to make fishing “more exciting” (not exactly a big challenge).

One effect of the type of complexity described in my two examples is to increase the perception of “content” — certainly if you have to spend months leveling a piece of gear or a profession, you have more to do in the game before you get to the point of “OK, done. Bored now.” I don’t really disagree with this approach, I am just pointing it out for what it is.

A second effect of this type of complexity is that it continues to limit player choices in the game. The fact that achieving a reasonably effective artifact weapon will take “months” and involve many many hours of game play means that most players will be quite limited in the number of such weapons they can pursue. This in turn effectively limits the number of alts, and indeed specs, that a player can play at a decent level. Similarly, making professions so complex and gated tends to discourage having alts to provide all professions to a player. Blizz has stated that they dislike this practice, and that players should not have alts for the purpose of filling out a “support system” for a main. In Legion, they are doing all they can to enforce this view.

A third effect of this complexity is that it tends to drive some players away. If I am confused, think how lost new players will be — those that join the game after seeing the movie, whether as brand new or returning after a long absence. They will initially join a system that is already fairly complex to learn, only to have it suddenly changed for Legion and made even more complex than it is now. Yeah, okay, they may have a couple fewer buttons to press because the dread button bloat monster will have been once again stuffed into a cage, but in every other way the game will change significantly in the direction of complexity. Once again, the cumulative effect of the game seems at odds with Blizz’s goals and objectives.

As I said at the top, I am feeling confused and overwhelmed. I did not feel this way before Mists or even before WoD. I felt like I had an idea of what to expect, and I was excited to dive in both during the pre-patches and on launch day. But for Legion, at least so far, I am filled less with excitement than with dread, as if it will arrive and I will have zero idea what I am doing. I feel there is a chance that small mistakes in choices in the beginning — or even now in failure to prepare adequately — will have huge ramifications later on, and that recovering from them will be both painful and long. This may not be the case, but at this point I have no way to tell.