In my last post, I offered difficulty as a potential explanation for the steep drop in subscriptions World of Warcraft has recently experienced. I obviously can’t be certain whether or not that is the case, but it did get me thinking about difficulty in Cataclysm.
I have generally been of the opinion Cataclysm is not significantly harder than previous expansions. I do agree that it’s been a harsh expansion for the casual player, but that has more to do with general game mechanics than actual encounter difficulty.
The trouble is, a lot of things skew my thoughts on this. I’m a Wrath baby, so my only knowledge of the difficulty of classic WoW and Burning Crusade comes from second hand accounts and extrapolations based on doing the raids with 80+ characters.
To make matters worse, it’s been a while since Wrath gave way to Cataclysm, and I took a few months off WoW just before Cata launched, so my memory of Wrath is fuzzy.
We can all agree that heroic dungeons were positively brutal when Cataclysm launched. I will always take a small amount of smug pride in surviving playing a healer during the time when you would go OOM before the boss hit 50%. I kind of assumed all expansions had heroics this hard at their launch — I’ve heard mixed reports from those who remember those times.
I definitely thought that Cataclysm heroics have now been brought down to Wrath level through a combination of gear and nerfs (primarily the “your DPS sucks” buff, as a fellow blogger calls it).
But then I got thinking. I don’t remember ever encountering a boss in Wrath heroics (excepting perhaps the final encounter of Halls of Reflection) that would be unbeatable if your DPS wasn’t up to snuff, but I still encounter this in Cataclysm heroics. Good luck defeating Erudax or Ozruk if your DPS aren’t doing at least 10Kish.
There are still trash pulls in some dungeons that require crowd control, or at least will get pretty ugly if you skip it. Back in Wrath, I remember wondering why CC abilities even existed.
And then there’s the infamous changes to healing. I don’t have any problems with them anymore — I spam flash of light like a boss and never go OOM, but I firmly believe paladins are overpowered, so that hardly counts.
So maybe Cataclysm heroics are a step up after all.
That brings us to raid content, and this is an area I’m really not knowledgeable of, sadly, since I’ve never gotten to raid much (raid inaccessibility remains my biggest complaint with WoW, but that’s another topic), and I’ve never done a raid when it was current without any kind of nerf, discounting a solitary Halfus Wyrmbreaker kill many months back.
But I’ll offer what thoughts I can based on my limited experience. The tier 11 raids felt more or less like what I was used to in Wrath. There are some really easy bosses (Omnitron/Flame Leviathan), some “OMGWTFBBQ WHAT IDIOT DESIGNED THIS?” hard fights (Nefarian/Malygos, although in the case of Maly, that was more due to player stupidity than anything), and a lot that are kind of in the middle (Ascendant Council/XT-002 Deconstructor). But that’s post-nerf, and I imagine they must have been damn hard pre-nerf. The lack of an easy intro raid has often been criticized, and I think it really got the raiding this expansion off on the wrong foot.
And that brings us to Firelands. Having been in a few runs of that place now, I am inclined to judge it as unusually difficult. Barring one extremely lucky 6/7 run, most of my groups have killed Shannox and then crashed and burned, and even Shannox is a tad harder than what I’m used to for an intro boss. I wouldn’t claim he’s a hard fight in the greater scheme of things, but he certainly makes Halfus look like a pansy by comparison. And then there’s the fact that it takes longer to explain the strategy to Beth’tilac on Vent than it does to fight her, wipe at 50%, run back in, and rebuff. And Alysrazor. Oh, god, Alysrazor…So taken all in all, I’m starting to wonder if people might not have a point when they say Cataclysm is harder than Wrath.
Now, Firelands complaints aside, I don’t really have a problem with Cata’s difficulty at this point. I can complete pretty much all my heroic runs just fine. Raids are a bit iffy, but that’s always been the case. Not that I claim to be an especially skilled played; I just run nerfed content on an OP class. But I firmly believe WoW’s difficulty should be tuned to — for lack of a better term — the lowest common denominator. MMOs are about playing with your friends, no matter how good or bad they are. If you want a challenge, go complete Starcraft II on brutal (that’s what I did).
So if Cataclysm really is harder, then Blizzard did screw up, in my view. They have said they plan to return to the Wrath model of difficulty in Mists of Pandaria, so it seems they may agree.
What do you think? Do you find Cataclysm much harder? And if so, is it a welcome change, or does it just suck the fun out of things? How do you think the game’s difficulty should be tuned?