I haven’t been doing many posts on World of Warcraft lately. Truth is I haven’t played in several weeks, and between burnout and my dislike for many of Blizzard’s recent decisions in regards to the game, I’m having a lot of trouble mustering my old enthusiasm.
But I’m still following the news, and I’ve been watching closely as the new features and content for patch 5.4 are announced. Mostly, the news has failed to rekindle my passion for WoW, but at least nothing has really upset me yet.
The first piece of news was the announcement of a fourth raiding difficulty. Easier than normal and harder than LFR, flex raids can accommodate any group between ten and twenty-five people and are designed for very casual guilds and PUGs.
This is a good idea for those it’s targeted towards, and I certainly don’t see any downside, but I somewhat question Blizzard’s priorities here. I can’t imagine flex raids appealing to anything but a minority of raiders, and raiders are, in turn, a small minority of the greater playerbase.
Couldn’t that development time have been spent on something that will appeal to more than 2% (totally made-up number) of the players?
Still, it’s not actually hurting me as a player, even if it’s a feature I’ll never use, so I can’t complain too much.
Of all the new stuff coming in 5.4, I’d say proving grounds interests me the most. This idea has been floating around for a long time, but if you’re just hearing about it now, proving grounds are solo challenges designed to help you master the skills necessary to function as a tank, healer, or DPS.
I like proving grounds for two reasons.
The first is that it’s a way for new players to learn the game. Even Blizzard has admitted that they are absolutely terrible at teaching people how to play properly. For the first time ever, new tanks and healers will be able to practice without risking the lives of four other players.
The other is that it’s more solo content, which I always like. Hopefully this will provide something for solo players to do without the tedium of dailies or the forced exclusivity of Brawler’s Guild.
Virtual realms are Blizzard’s long-awaited solution to low population servers. It will hook up groups of servers, allowing for cross-realm guilds, auction houses, groups. etc.. It’s not dissimilar to the “single server” technology employed by The Secret World and other games, though a bit less advanced.
Again, this is a good idea, and I don’t see any downside. However — and perhaps I’ve just become a cynic — I can’t help but see this as a move that is geared more towards saving face than enriching player experience.
Imagine the fecal meteorological event that would occur if Blizzard announced realm merges. You think there was a lot of “WoW is dying1!!@” talk when they announced they lost a million subscribers? That was nothing compared to what would happen if they started merging servers.
But they need to do it, so they came up with a way to merge servers without really merging servers. And to be fair, it does have some benefits for the player over traditional server merges — no naming conflicts, for one.
The Siege of Orgrimmar:
Datamining being what it is, we’ve already learned just about everything there is to know about the final raid for Mists of Pandaria. I won’t spoil what happens with Garrosh, but no one with any familiarity with Warcraft lore should be surprised by how things play out.
Overall, it looks like a pretty interesting raid. A lot of diverse bosses, including several pre-established characters.
Personally, I’m intrigued by the fact that it seems to be taking a page from Dragon Soul’s playbook and not focusing on a single setting. Instead, it takes place in multiple locales around the world, from Pandaria to Kalimdor.
Again, I don’t want to spoil too much, but the raid also accompanies some fairly dramatic — and permanent — changes to the world. That’s not something WoW has done much of before — excepting the world revamp in Cataclysm — and it seems to herald some pretty powerful story.
Still, I have the same concern I’ve had all expansion long. Mists of Pandaria has had a very good story so far, but unless the Siege of Orgrimmar ends with some really major changes to the geopolitical state of Azeroth — and game mechanics being what they are, I can’t see how it possibly could — it’s all just going to be a waste of time, and MoP will probably be consigned to the same “let’s pretend that didn’t happen” lore trash bin as Burning Crusade.
New player model reveal?
A more unexpected bit of news to come out of the 5.4 PTR is that we have now (seemingly) seen our first preview of the new player models in the form of a new model for Garrosh.
Now, NPCs get new and unique models all the time, but this one is different. Not only is it incredibly high quality, featuring a level of facial expression and articulation currently only seen on the Pandaren, but it also features numerous animations a raid boss couldn’t possibly need, including /flirt, /dance, and all the monk animations.
These are not the old Orc animations. These are totally new animations based on the old ones — exactly what Blizzard said the new player models would have.
Ghostcrawler is being coy, but I’m convinced this is the new Orc model, or at least a prototype version of it.
Obviously, the new player Orc models won’t look exactly like Garrosh, but it seems clear that his new model is based on the new Orc model. So this gives us a pretty good idea of how the new models will turn out.
As someone wary of the new models, I find this early preview reassuring. The new Garrosh and his animations look great, and capture all the same feel of the original. I wish Orcs had learned to stand up straight, but otherwise, I can’t complain. The facial expressions are especially excellent, particularly when he dances.
Now let’s just hope all the females don’t wind up same-faced.
Okay, I lied:
There is one thing on the PTR that has me upset. They’re nerfing Kil’jaedan’s cunning so that warlocks will no longer be able to cast while moving.