We are in the waning days of the Battle for Azeroth expansion in World of Warcraft. This expansion seems destined to rank down the list in the annals of the game. It is a bit hard for me to even judge it as an expansion, as I did about as little as you could do and still be able to claim to have played.
But even with my low commitment to the expansion… I made it to level cap with two characters and unlocked flying, but did little else besides the main overland quest lines… I felt the pain of the expansion. The whole idea that mobs ramped up in difficulty so that equipping better gear made the game harder… a problem that Blizzard acknowledged but said they didn’t care about… was just the main issue I had to deal with. But it seemed like everything from the story to the raids was making somebody angry over the course of the expansion.
However, some of my lack of enthusiasm is no doubt related to the fact that the previous expansion, Legion, was one I did enjoy. I played that through pretty thoroughly… for me at least, no raiding, but I ran the instances via LFG… and came away feeling pretty satisfied. I liked the story, the zones, the mechanics of the classes I played, and I honestly felt a bit robbed when my legendary weapon abilities went away.
So I wonder how much of my disappointment… or at least my lack of enthusiasm… lays in the fact that I enjoyed Legion more.
I have, in the past, tried to articulate the problems with expansions. They must, by necessity, reset the game in some way, undo what has gone before, in order to give you new things to accomplish. They also stand as waypoints where a company can assess features, add new ones, and adjust things that players were complaining about. For WoW, the latter always involves an update to classes because there has literally never been a time in WoW when somebody wasn’t loudly and repeatedly complaining about their favorite class being bad on some other class being too good.
That means there is almost always a shake up to the status quo, something that will make some slice of the player base pack up and walk away.
And yet some expansions are recalled fondly. Maybe not by everybody, but there is often something of a consensus about what was a good expansion and what was not. The good ones mentioned are often:
- Wrath of the Lich King
- Mists of Pandaria
While the bad list tends to be:
- Warlords of Draenor
- Battle for Azeroth
But there is clearly a pattern to that, and a regular “every other expansion sucks” seems a bit too convenient. So I wonder how much the quality or popularity of a specific expansion influences that of the expansion after it and how much the expansion before it does the same.
As I noted above, my enjoyment of Legion might very well have shaded my reception of BFA. Maybe.
More certainly, my time spent with Wrath of the Lich King, where I played from the last few months of The Burning Crusade and straight through the whole time it was live, made me less receptive to Cataclysm.
I have softened a bit on Cataclysm over time. Destroying the old world still seems like a mistake… unless you think somebody was playing the long game and that Blizz meant to do WoW Classic the whole time. And giving people flying out of the box was problematic. But there was still some quality content there, including possible the prettiest zone in Azeroth, Vashj’ir. And when we went back and did the instances, especially the 5 person heroic versions of Zul’Gurub and Zul’Aman, those were a good time.
And it is quite arguable that my enjoyment of Mists of Pandaria… I skipped the first year of it, but then played it through until Warlords of Draenor hit… was colored by my dislike at the time of Cataclysm and the fact that I stayed away from WoW for at least 18 months before getting into it.
Which, of course, brings me into another cycle with WoD, and the story continues.
Are the ups and downs of my relationship with World of Warcraft because of the expansions and their merit (or lack thereof) or due to my own expectations being set or mis-set by over exposure or hype? Should we be thus optimistic about the coming Shadowlands expansion, it having followed one of the down expansions?
Every expansion is its own time in the WoW continuum, and yet none of them exists in a vacuum either. Each one builds on the past and sets expectations for the future.