Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Wrath of the Lich King: Final Review

Whatever hell Arthas has gone to... I hope it is a warm one.

The new expansion is off and running now, all praise be unto the makers. But I wanted to look at the Lich King, one last time to recap what I hope we all learned during the last two years. Point by point, but in no particular order:

Wrath of the Lich King- WIN!
All in all, I was quite entertained throughout this expansion. Arthas and his gaggle of supporters and adversaries were certainly entertaining, and the Lich King was surely the biggest reason I was ever attracted to Warcraft in the first place. Great story!

Dual-Speccing- BIG WIN!
As far as I'm concerned, the all time best mechanic they ever added to the game was this ability to have two ways to play your character. The benefits this will provide for leveling or grinding tanks and healers; the flexibility it provided to raid teams; the new dimensions it adds to the images of our characters; the dimensions it added for PvE and PvP specialization was just outrageously enormous.

Random Dungeon LFG- FAIL!
I have no aspersions to cast on the design or implementation of this feature. Nor can I argue that it didn't succeed in its primary function: to make it much easier to get into dungeons. Unfortunately, it exposed me to about 15 times more douchebags in the game than I had previously thought existed. It helped to create this attitude that the best dungeon run is the fastest dungeon run, in which the least amount of effort to complete it is made. It introduced us to the "gogogo" guys. It made /ragequitting from a fairly rare occasion of guild drama into a daily occurrence. I know all these are things that one gets used to and shouldn't be so bothersome in the long run. They are aspects of the game that are out of Blizzard's control, but they do, in fact, lower the quality of the game. Or, at least, they lower the quality of my experience in the game. Fortunately, there are other ways to play this game than by LFG, and I look forward to exploring those once again.

King Varian Wrynn and Garrosh Hellscream- WIN!
I like the instant dislike of Horde players for Varian. Finally, there's a leader who actually reacts acidly to the Horde and they can't deal with being pushed back. You suckas had that coming. Varian has inspired me from avoiding PvP to being someone who rushes to the scene of a PvP incident when the World Defense alarm goes off to deliver a little payback. God help you if you gank my alts. An angry shaman main is headed your way if you do. But for Varian, nothing better has been written about the man and his attitudes than Varian Wrynn is Right, from WoW Insider. Rally to the King!!

I have no love for Garrosh, of course. My fondest hope is that his hold on power as Warchief brings him into conflict with Thrall and his people, thus making Orgrimmar the site of a raid to retake the city. Varian and Thrall bonding over Garrosh's cooling corpse makes for a happy image in my mind.  But, he does serve a purpose as the anti-Thrall, and probably reflects the attitudes of most canon orcs in general. It's hard for even Alliance players to dislike Thrall, so its good to have someone on whom to focus our enmity. One who us destined for gruesome death, I hope.

Wintergrasp and The Zone of PvP- Meh
Developers tried a very long time to even the playing field for the Battle of Wintergrasp. But the problem was always about the number of players. On my server in the last year, the Horde held Wintergrasp 90% of the time. Horde outnumbers Alliance and obviously, only the Horde is any good at PvP, so Alliance players stopped showing up. I would come to Wintergrasp and land in a raid group that wasn't even full, with my health augmented to 64,000 and then run into packs of Horde where I got CC'd four different ways, and pounded on by five others. Death for me and a complete rout of the Alliance would soon follow.

And finally, only a few weeks ago in patch 4.0.3, they changed it so that one faction can only bring as many players as the other. And...oh my... The Horde can't hold Wintergrasp anymore. At least not in the iron vice-like way they did before. Now, even if the Alliance loses, it's a close (and fun) battle.

I think the real problem is that this perception of the Horde being PvP champs has gone way to far. They blow it off, but Blizzard is going to have to correct for that somehow or another. Taking away non-passive racial abilities, stop writing to the Alliance like they are a bunch of tree-hugging wusses, and stop Metzen from bellowing "For the Horde!" in Thrall's voice every time he sees a microphone would be a good start.

Naxxramas 2- WIN!
It could have stood to be a little harder, I think. But still, Naxx was a good time. Good fights, a chance to do the legendary Heigan Dance. Just a well-executed Raid Dungeon

Ulduar- WIN!
The best raid in Wrath of the Lich King. It had a special sort of coherency to it's story. Driving the tanks at the beginning never really got old. Activating hard modes made sense and was natural and fun. Yogg-Saron was probably the most challenging fight of the whole game. The art was great... I could keep going on and on, but what it comes down to was that this was an amazingly well developed raid dungeon.

Trial of the Crusader- FAIL!
On the other hand, this one-room dungeon was run four times a week by most raiders. With little scenery, and boss tactics that turned instantly deadly if you let a GCD or two slip, this raid was a study in hardcore raiding tedium. Plus you had to stand there and put up with Garrosh Hellscream the whole time. And don't even bring up the Faction Champions fight.   Seriously.   Don't.

Icecrown Citadel- Win!
But, you notice that it's "Win!", but not "WIN!" ICC had some really good points like Valtheria Dreamwalker, Lady Deathwhisper, and of course, that epic fight with the Lich King itself. But it had some low ones as well: the whole plague wing, screechy Sindragosa, and the meaninglessness of getting on The Loot Ship. I'm still out on the ever-growing buff. Basically, I appreciate it, but at the same time, I have this gnawing dislike that I didn't really get an unadulterated categorical win over the place without that booster. In the end, it was the last raid of the expansion and we all probably spent just a little too much time in the place.

Obsidian Sanctum- WIN!
It was a fun fight that scaled from a good challenge to nightmare scenario depending on how many of Sartharion's little buddies you left standing. And then we over geared it and it was all a matter of how quickly you good Zerg it. And, haha, Sarth gave me Twilight Drake, which I think is just about the coolest looking dragon in the game.

Ruby Sanctum- FAIL!
It felt a little too tossed off, didn't have any of the well-considered fun aspects of the Obsidian Sanctum, and had crap all for particularly useful gear. My guild went in there and learned the fight in one night, came back once or twice more, and then... just couldn't muster enthusiasm for it anymore after that.

Malygos- FAIL!
This was an odd encounter all the way around. Using the vehicle interfaces on the red drakes was clever way to go at the story, but slightly clunky at best. Falling onto the drakes caused camera angle problems. And once you learned how to do this fight, it was really really easy. The limitation came from once you'd get one or two people in who didn't know what to do, you'd just have to go through that whole initial learning curve again, waiting for them to catch on. No fun. AND, Malygos was one of the major dragon aspects, not just a pud follower like Sartharion. He deserved a better send off than what he got.

And a Few Last Points in Brief:

Jousting- FAIL! Boy, was this a meaningless mechanic.

Dalaran- WIN! Blizzard will be hard pressed to create as interesting a city as what they made there.

AoE Tanking- FAIL! There is nothing less fun I can think of in WoW than doing a ten-minute sprint through a dungeon spamming AoE.  

Hall of Reflections- WIN! A fun experience almost every time I went, and a lone 5-man challenge in the wilderness of Northrend.

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