WoW: All Good Things…?

For the last several years, the thought of my not playing Warcraft — not simply taking breaks, but permanently leaving the game — had never really occurred to me. The Warcraft universe has been an important part of my life since before I learned to read. The thought of that ever changing was simply absurd.

My rogue shows off her fancy new hat in World of WarcraftBut now I’m starting to wonder. Maybe a time might be coming soon where I should move on. I look at the upcoming expansion, and I can’t say I feel the urge to play it. Instead, I’m wondering if it might be better to quit while I’m ahead.

That’s not to say that I’m rage quitting because I hate the direction of Battle for Azeroth. Oh, don’t get me wrong. I do hate the direction of Battle for Azeroth. It’s asinine on every possible level.

But I’ve hated the direction of WoW before. Remember Warlords of Draenor? Yeah. Hating Blizzard’s decisions is old hat to me by now. It’s just part of the experience. If it was simply a matter of hating BfA, there would be no story here.

No, this thought has actually been in my mind since before BfA was announced. Battle for Azeroth has simply accelerated my timetable.

See, I got to thinking — really thinking — about where WoW was going to go in the very long term. As much as it sounds nice in theory to be able to continue enjoying a story you love indefinitely, it doesn’t necessarily work that way. No king rules forever (my son), and no story can maintain quality forever. Eventually, things will get stale.

The Petrified Forest on Argus in World of WarcraftSo I started wondering if it might not be a good idea to let go of WoW at some future date when the story had reached what I felt to be a satisfying end point.

At the time, I was picturing this as something a few years off. But then came Battle for Azeroth, and if rehashing the faction conflict yet again isn’t a red flag that Blizzard is running out of ideas, I don’t know what is.

Fueling the fire is the fact that I have had a pretty good time with Legion. It’s not perfect, and it’s definitely not everything I ever wanted in an expansion, but taken all in all, it’s been a pretty good ride, and as endings go, you could do far worse. For all the mishandling of their story in recent years, the Burning Legion has always been the ultimate threat at the heart of the Warcraft universe. Their defeat seems like a natural end point.

When I embarked on my mad “Mustering of Azeroth” scheme to play every class story, I never intended it as a farewell tour, but it does work brilliantly as such. By the time I finish, I’ll have played every class, every spec, and most of the races. I’ll have seen just about everything the game has to offer and had a grand time doing it.

And really, there isn’t that much left in the story I care about. Most threads have been resolved. Nearly all the big questions have been answered. I’m pretty satisfied with everything at this point.

My warlock shrouded in darkness by the Inky Black Potion in World of WarcraftI mean, N’Zoth is still interesting, but it’s not an arc I have a lot of emotional investment in. He’s too much a behind the scenes player. Similarly, I’ve wanted to see Nyalotha for years, but at this point I doubt it could live up to expectations, especially with the standard TSW set for Lovecraftian weirdness. I don’t think WoW even has the technological ability to make Nyalotha as bizarre and frightening as I’m imagining it.

I like the new Void lore, but again, I don’t feel the strong urge to explore it further. Seems like all our big questions have been answered.

Ultimately, it may come down to Azshara. She’s the one unresolved plot thread I’m still heavily invested in. When the idea of leaving WoW behind first occurred to me, my general thought was to wait for an Azshara expansion and then move on once it was done.

But now we know Azshara will be in Battle for Azeroth, and my future as a WoW player may hinge on how she is handled. If it’s true that she’s been relegated to being merely a first tier filler boss, that may just be the final nail in the coffin. If this is some fakeout where Azshara turns out to be the final boss and BfA is an Azshara expansion in disguise, maybe I’ll play it after all, but then it becomes likely I’ll move on after that.

It’s not as if the gameplay is keeping me around. It’s gotten better over the years, but I still find WoW to be at best adequate as a game. Some of the classes are pretty fun, but they’re held back by overly easy enemies and a fundamentally simplistic and restrictive model of combat.

A statue of Azshara in the Tomb of Sargeras raid in World of WarcraftI am excited by the new allied races, but at the same time, what do I need more alts for? I’ve leveled through the old world so many times, and BfA seems to be returning to an endgame model where alts are largely pointless.

The thing that would most hold me back right now is my attachment to my characters. As I’ve said before, I’ve played my rogue for a really long time now. She’s become a kind of mascot, my go-to online identity. Letting go of her will not be easy.

It’s a shame that WoW is so laser-focused on endgame to the expense of all else. It would be nice if I could just go around repeating stories with my characters indefinitely as I can in TSW, but it just doesn’t work that way. Story quests aren’t repeatable, and I’ll never get groups for endgame dungeons or raids once Legion is done.

If you’ve already done the current content and don’t buy the new expansion, there’s no point to playing at all. At best I could role-play, but that’s never quite been my thing, and I would still have to cope with the new story direction, unless I somehow find a group of RPers who ignore everything after Legion.

The subscription-based business model also contributes to making WoW an all-or-nothing affair. You can just pick it up for half an hour if the mood strikes you. You commit fully, or not at all.

I don’t know what I’m ultimately going to do. I do know myself; I have far too much franchise loyalty for my own good, and Warcraft has always been a part of my life. It’s hard to imagine ever leaving it behind for good.

My rogue on her class mount in World of WarcraftBut I have to say right now I feel as though I’ve gotten all I want out of WoW. I’m content. I don’t need anymore.

And Blizzard should be far more worried by that than by all my burning hatred towards the decisions of Battle for Azeroth.

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6 thoughts on “WoW: All Good Things…?

  1. I have become the ultimate tourist in WoW, and have several posts and thoughts about my Druid, who was my main back in Vanilla and has experienced the best and worst of WoW through me. From hardcore raiding, to guild leading, to super casual play. Legion has been the best expansion for me – in the past, I would buy it, play to max level, play to what I can accomplish as a mostly solo, casual player, unsubscribe and wait for next expansion. Mists of Pandaria was so bad for me (I hate dailies, and progression was fully gated behind those) that I fully skipped Warlords of Draenor. I thought I was done.

    But then Legion happened, and WoW tokens did (so I could play “for free”), and I always had a nagging feeling that my Druid’s story wasn’t over. I remembered entering places like UBRS for the first time, and other nostalgic memories and feel like the character deserves to retire at the right time. I can’t find that time. In Legion I played really hard up until 7.2 and I realized my “hard work” for gear was getting reset – mid-expansion this time – and I should just wait until the expansion is “over” and then experience what is there. I think we are close to that time for me coming back.

    I keep thinking about where I will retire my druid when I finally do.. and you know what they say, old druids never die, they just go to sleep. When and where his resting place will be I am not quite sure, but I thought that had happened once already. I put him to “sleep” in a house that we used to host our guild meetings in, but he awoke for Legion. Not sure when he will go back to the Emerald Dream or if it will truly ever be permanent.

    I still dust off my EQ characters now and again, and that game is not even close to what it was for me. The connection to who I was online is just as strong as to who I am in life, because the deep connections to that character and the people back when MMOs were more about connecting than achieving, well, I just can’t shake that.

    • It is surprisingly difficult to ever say goodbye to an MMO for good. I still seem to end up logging into GW2 around once a year, even if only to remind myself why I quit.

      Not to mention my regular if ignored impulses to pick up Neverwinter or STO again.

  2. It always puzzles me why people feel they have to make hard, binding decisions about things like this. It’s not as though you need to *do* anything at all, really, is it? As long as WoW is there, which is likely to be a very, very long time, you can play it or not play it as often or as little as you like. If you’re feeling it, go for it. If not, let it lie.

    I come back to MMOs I’ve let drop over and over, with gaps of months or years. Some returns last a while, some barely get started. I never feel the need to lay down an “I quit this forever” marker. Why would I want or need to do that?

    Would it be difficult in some way for you to just give the next WoW expansion a pass when it arrives but leave things open that you’d come back if things changed so they interested you again? How can you predict how you’ll feel about WoW in a year from n ow, or five years, or ten? Or what WoW will have become by then? Is there any need to make a clean break? Can’t you just not play until you do play?

    As for whether MMOs can or should be able to hold a player’s attention indefinitely, I have no particular brief for WoW, but EQ2 is exactly the same age and I’ve played it since it was in beta. RIght now my driving interest and enthusiasm to log into an MMO is all going to the new EQ2 expansion, which I am thoroughly enjoying. Best one for several years. I can’t see any reason why I shouldn’t keep buying EQ2 expansions and enjoying them for as long as they keep making them – if there are a few not-so-good ones along the way, well, no-one’s perfect!

    • I probably should have been clearer in the post, but I think you misunderstood my intention here. I’m not looking to make a “hard, binding decision.” I’ve long since learned never to say never where games are concerned.

      However, there is a difference between “I’m not playing this right now” (which I’ve done before and am currently doing), “I’m 100% certain I will never play this again” (which I would never do), and “I have no plans to play this again” (which is what this post is about).

      As for your EQ2 example, I don’t think it quite holds up in this case due to our different perspectives on gaming. I pretty much only care about story, especially where WoW is concerned, and stories just aren’t meant to continue forever.

      Again, it’s not about disliking Battle for Azeroth. It’s about feeling like I’ve gotten all I wanted from the story. I don’t want to quit because I’m angry. I want to quit because I’m happy.

      • That’s a good clarification. I know your strong focus on story and I deliberately didn’t comment on that aspect, mostly because, despite having played WoW a fair bit over the years, I find its lore obtuse and its story obscure. I was more referring to the part where you talked about the gameplay, the endgame and the need or otherwise to engage with expansions when playing an MMO.

        As for stories not being meant to continue forever, I think the evidence of the last century and a half points to the contrary. From Sherlock Holmes to Superman, there are some characters whose stories never end and their ranks increase year on year. It’s not just characters, either – from the Cthulhu mythos to Star Wars there are settings that seem able to host an in finite number of stories. I may not rate Azeroth all that highly but I can see that it has more stories in it than I will live long enough to see played out.

        WoW will outlive us all, most likely. To leave now would be like walking out while the orchestra is still tuning up.

      • Oh, I don’t blame you for not being able to wrap your head around WoW lore. Most of the important stuff is in the raids and other endgame content, so if you’re a more casual player, you’re missing about 75% of the story to begin with.

        Plus it’s very heavily dependent on knowledge of the preceding strategy games and tie-in fiction. Oh, and just to add an extra degree of difficulty, Blizzard retcons things like it’s a bodily function.

        Honestly I don’t know how anyone without my pedigree can wrap their heads around the lore.

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