Tag Archives: Battle for Azeroth

Dateline Drustvar

I finally managed to get to level cap in Battle for Azeroth.

The moment hits at last

After an enthusiastic launch into the expansion when it hit, where I embraced the story and spoke lovingly about the look at feel of the zones in the expansion, I hit a wall.  Well, less a wall than some quicksand mechanics that seemed to be dragging me down the further I progressed into the expansion.

That ended up being the scaling system, which pegs off your item level.  However, difficulty climbed probably faster than your item level probably required.

The balance and speed of combat is a fine line.  Nobody wants to run around one-shotting every mob.  Well, okay, yes, we all like to do that once in a while, but it gets dull after a bit.

On the flip side, if every solo mob on the field turns into a protracted struggle that requires multiple passes through your rotation and some healing afterwards, the game can become a slog.  You kill one mob and look up and realize you need to go through that a dozen more times to get to your objective and the fun can start to wear off.

That was starting to get to me, which ended up with me spending some time playing EverQuest II, where I flip-flopped between one-shotting things with a hard glace and getting my posterior handed to me, often without any discernible logic.

Yes, I solo’d that no problem, why do you ask?

The coming of BlizzCon though, that started to turn my mind back to Azeroth.  The WoW Classic demo was really my intention.  But after playing that for a bit, I swapped over and started back in on my main in Battle for Azeroth.  As a bit of a pack rat, I found I hadn’t discarded some of my lower item level gear.

I also found some leftover Winter Vale candy in my bag

I managed to balance myself out to be able to carry on through Stormsong Valley, which I finished up on Sunday, getting both the exploration and story complete achievements.  Having already done Trigarde Sound, that left me with Drustvar.  By that point I was already level 119 and pretty close to hitting the final level.  So it took just a few quests there in order to hit the magic mark.

Once I hit the level cap, a few new options opened up for me.  I ran off to get the next foothold on Zandalar.  I also did the obligatory island expedition learning thing, so I am starting to see what people were complaining about.  And then I got the quest that I need to wrap up in order to unlock world quests, which will open up the faction grind that seems likely to eventually make flying a thing.

That quest

Having completed two zones, I am already honored with two of the three factions I need.  I suspect that running the quest lines in Drustvar will get me the third.  At this point I am also going to run some of the dungeons to boost my gear.  Since the rewards you get are always pegged to your level, I always feel like it is a bit of a waste to get dungeon rewards that don’t really help all that much.

We shall see.

Darkmoon Dirigible and Kul Tiras

Going back to look, I think I officially started collecting Darkmoon Faire tokens with the intention of getting the Darkmoon Dirigible back in November of 2017.  I already had a bit of a jump on it, having found a character with a couple hundred prize tickets already in hand.  This was because I have been in the habit of running alts through Darkmoon Faire to boost their trade skills when it is up and I am subscribed.  This is why all my alts can fish, as I explained.

Anyway, with the coming of the Darkmoon Faire earlier this month I finally had 1,000 prize tickets on hand so was able to add the Darkmoon Dirigible mount to my collection.

Flying over Stormwind in the Darkmoon Dirigible

I would have, could have, should have gotten it earlier, except that I took a break from World of Warcraft about when the alpha for Battle for Azeroth was hitting.  I figured it was a good point for a break before the pre-expansion events came along.  I already had the allied races unlocked and what not.

Of course in hindsight I wonder if I should have stayed subscribed and just run the DMF event a few more times, as on my return to Azeroth I found that Blizzard had been messing with trade skills again.  The first thing I found was that you no longer got your trade skills raised when you boosted a level 60+ character, a bit of a blow since I went to boost a character just a week after they made this change.  An opportunity lost.

And then Darkmoon Faire came around in August and I saw that the trade skill quests were no longer giving you the promised +5 boost to your skill when you turned them in.  I figured they would have to fix this sooner rather than later.  This seems like one of those changes in one location that broke something elsewhere.  However, Blizz came back and said that they meant to do this, that those quests would only give you a boost to your level 1-60 trade skills, which seemed rather useless in the new “segmented by expansion” trade skill reality of Battle for Azeroth.

With the trade skill masterplan seeming to be arranged to allow to people by bypass the mostly useless vanilla recipes, why would Blizz then make those the only thing you can boost with the DMF quests?  That seems backwards.  It certainly killed an incentive I had to visit DMF with alt, since they are almost all past 300 at this point.  I already have all the heirloom gear and pets and mounts from the event.

But it feel like Blizz has been struggling with trade skills for a few expansions now.  Warlords of Draenor trivialized them in the extreme, the Legion attempted to revive them by forcing you to do group content to obtain recipes to advance them, and now this with BfA.

And the response to all of this sort of thing, the change to boosts, the change to DMF quests, the ilevel scaling issues, the warfront complaints, has been pretty much summed up as, “we know and we don’t care.”

Not that I think a company has to jump and change things the moment anybody complains.  But when they address something like the fact that leveling up gets harder as your ilevel increases… basically, you are incentivized to not upgrade your gear… by saying they are aware of the issue but they don’t think it is important enough to fix, it does give one pause.

I’m not up in arms ready to rebel against Blizzard, but neither am I feeling the warm fuzzies from them either.  They have an agenda and my own play style just doesn’t fit into that.

Meanwhile, my enthusiasm for adventuring in Kul Tiras seems to have waned.  At one point I was happily logging in every night to take on the next set of quests and see the beautiful world that Blizz had built, and then I stopped logging in.  Syp was attempting to make a virtue out of slowness by announcing that he was going to be the last person to hit level 120 in BfA.  But when he made it there with his first character my main was still 117, only a zone and a half into Kul Tiras.

I am not sure what happened there.  It wasn’t the ilevel thing.  That was easily solved by downgrading my gear.

I know I tend to hit a post-launch point during an expansion cycle where I take a break while Blizz fills out the content of an expansion.  Then, when they finally get around to announcing that flying is possible to unlock, I show back up and carry on with that as my over-arching goal.  But I don’t think I am there yet.

Always another problem to solve… with violence

I also haven’t done any of the dungeons yet.  This is because I have gotten to the point where I don’t want to do them with dungeon finder groups.  Or, rather, that I want to be able to do them with a group at least once that goes through an instance slowly enough for me to absorb what is going on and catch the details.  That is simply impossible with dungeon finder, where every group ends up an exercise in trying to keep up with the tank who is determined to get things done at max speed.  Of course, if the tank dares to slow down somebody in the group will start nagging about the slackening pace, so you can’t really blame the tank.  Players will always optimize over time, and in this case it means going as fast as possible.

I miss the old days of the instance group when we could run an instance at our leisure.

Without dungeons as a draw, it is pretty much just the overland content for me, so if my interest flags there that is pretty much it.

But I have also been distracted by other titles, about which I will write in further posts.  So maybe it is a minor break from the game.  But enthusiasm around the house for WoW has been at low ebb since my daughter returned to school.  We were both big on the expansion when it first hit, but then school started and she has been busy with that.  She is a much better student than I was at that age.

That is where I stand at the moment.  My main is 117 and about halfway through the Kul Tiras campaign.  I have a Horde alt that is hanging out in Zandalar and an Alliance alt that is in Kul Tiras, but both are still 110.  I also managed to push another alt up to level 110 by leveling up battle pets in Draenor.  And then there was the Dakrmoon Dirigible.  Not much progress after a month, but in the scope of a two year expansion cycle, not horrible either.

Honest Game Trailers Battle for Azeroth

Honest Game Trailers is back with a stab straight at the heart of World of Warcraft and the Battle for Azeroth expansion.

Honest Game Trailers tends to hit a little harder than the movie side of the house, but this one hits hard enough to leave a mark.  Still pretty funny, but oh so very honest.

Why are there Levels in Battle for Azeroth?

This is one of those question that I am pretty sure I know the answer to, but I want to ask it out loud just to see what else might shake loose.  What am I not considering in this mix?

It is here…

I am playing through the Alliance side of the expansion right now.  My paladin is already through the Tiragarde Sound zone on Kul Tiras and I am enjoying the new content.  The environments are beautiful, the quests are good, varied, and plentiful, and the various side tasks and ventures change things up.

But, as I write this (ten days before the post went live because I kept pushing it off to post something else), my pally is already past level 116 and I expect will hit level 120, the level cap, long before I am finished running him through the base content.

Not that I will suddenly stop when I get there.  But I will spend most of my time in this expansion… call it two years less the three weeks at most it will take me to meander to level 120…at the level cap.

So why bother having levels at all at this point?

The zones scale with you so gaining a level confers no special benefit.  In fact, there is a downside to it.  All the gear you get along the way is set for the level you at which you acquired it, so you have to keep replacing gear for ten levels to keep it abreast of your progress… after which you can then work on replacing gear to boost your item level.  And, as we found out, collecting gear upgrades actually makes getting through the new zones more difficult.  You are better off keeping your item level low, a seriously messed up situation that Blizzard seems just fine with.  I mean, I was afraid of what ilevel scaling was going to do when they introduced it in Legion, but this goes well beyond what I would have imagined.

Whatever.  If people complain enough Blizz will grudgingly fix it eventually.  Back to levels.

Traditionally levels have been used to gate content, and Blizzard does do some of that.  As you hit certain levels things are unlocked for you.  But with ten fast moving levels players will still be unlocking content after they hit 120 via various other means.  I don’t have to look much farther than the achievements to know that there will be plenty to do past hitting the level cap.  There will be world quests to unlock, new content to enjoy, faction to grind, and the groundwork to unlocking flying to start in on.

EverQuest, the king of MMO expansions, is almost six years older than World of Warcraft, has released 24 expansions so far, and has a level cap of 110 last I checked.  If you look down the list of expansions you will see that not every one raised the level cap.  You can see streaks of two or three expansions in a row with the same cap.

Then again, they do keep raising the level cap in Norrath every so often, so levels have their draw.  But it clearly isn’t a necessity.  SOE found alternate methods.

The downside is that levels are intimidating and/or silly after a certain point.  That the level cap is 120 with Battle for Azeroth has to work against it somewhat.  Purists like to say that you need to play through the whole thing, but when you are trying to collect new players, the starting proposition that you must play through 110 levels in order to get to the new/good stuff is a losing one.  Just having 120 levels can be seen as a pretty big barrier to entry.

So why have more levels when it is pretty clear you can do without them?

The answer, to my mind, is because people expect them.

Blizzard is a very conservative company when it comes to their successful properties, and none of them is more successful nor a bigger money maker than WoW.  When you have the goose that keeps on laying golden checks every month… and when you have made changes in the past they haven’t necessarily turned out well… you do all you can to maintain it with screwing things up.  Launching an expansion with a boost in the level cap… and a 10 level boost because 5 level expansions were not as popular…  is just part of the recipe for success to which Blizz feels they need to adhere.

Basically this is the way they’ve always done it and it works, so why change?

Addendum: There is a closely related post over at GamingSF this morning as well.  Armagon Live also has a post about that as well.

WoW Battle for Azeroth Sales Stacked Up Against Past Releases

Fortunately I did some of the groundwork for this post back with the WoW Legion release.

It is here and it is selling

Blizzard announced today that the Battle for Azeroth expansion for World of Warcraft, which went live around the world on August 13th and 14th, sold more than 3.4 million copies.  From the press release itself:

Heroes everywhere turned out in force, and Blizzard Entertainment today announced that as of Battle for Azeroth’s first full day of launch on August 14, more than 3.4 million units of the latest World of Warcraft®expansion had sold through worldwide—setting a new day-one sales record for the franchise and making it one of the fastest-selling PC games of all-time.*

I was a little worried about that asterisk at the end, but that just points to this:

Sales and/or downloads, based on internal company records and reports from key distribution partners.

So nothing dramatic there, just a clarification without much information.

To put that number in perspective here is how it shakes out relative to past launches:

  • Battle for Azeroth – 3.4 million
  • WoW Legion – 3.3 million
  • Warlords of Draenor – 3.3 million
  • Mists of Pandaria – 2.7 million (first week)
  • Cataclysm – 3.3 million
  • Wrath of the Lich King – 2.8 million
  • The Burning Crusade – 2.4 million
  • World of Warcraft – 240,000

That bodes well for the expansion.

Of course, you have to have some perspective when looking at that list.  Back in 2004 people had to go buy a physical box to play World of Warcraft and it has only been over the years that the process has become mostly a digital download experience.  But back then even that 240K number set a record for single day sales.  That number could have been bigger, but they effectively ran out of copies.  At BlizzCon they told the tale of the truck load of collector’s editions meant for employees being diverted to the retail channel because the game had sold out.  And that was US sales only, as it didn’t expand to the rest of the world until later.

The Burning Crusade number is probably the most impressive on the list, since it is made up of people who went out to a store and bought a physical copy on day one.  I went down to Fry’s on launch day… not at midnight for the launch party event… that used to be a thing back in the day… but closer to noon, to find pallets of the expansion out in the front of the store.  Blizzard was not going to run short like they did with the initial launch.  The cashier told me that people had been lined up outside the store for a copy earlier, so it was a pretty big deal.

I think the last time I went to the store to buy an expansion was for Wrath of the Lich King.  It has either been digital or Amazon discounted pre-orders since then.  WotLK was also a big seller considering how much of it was physical boxes.

And then there is Mists of Pandaria in the middle there, which they extended out to the first week of sales because it had to fight against both the sense of betrayal that some felt after Cataclysm and the lightweight perception that people had about it because it featured Pokemon-like pet battles and pandas as a race.  It turned out to be a fine expansion, but it had some work to do to overcome that.  I didn’t buy a copy until almost a year after it launched.

Anyway, the 3.4 million number is impressive, though the there ought to be an asterisk after it as well to remind people that the number includes all pre-launch digital sales.  You’ve been able to buy a copy of Battle for Azeroth since late January, so they have had a lot of time to pack in the sales, making the “fastest selling” claim a bit dubious.  (I am pretty sure that title really belongs to The Burning Crusade.)

But there were reasons to buy the expansion early, aside from the usual max level character boost (and mounts and pets if you bought the digital deluxe version).

There were four allied races to unlock (for which we received four more character slots per server) and level up, with special transmog gear if you hit level cap with them.  So, as a “giving people something to do” option it had some additional pull relative to past expansions.  And even that was only worth an additional 100,000 sales I guess.

The real number we’d all like to know, how many people are actually subscribed to World of Warcraft, remains hidden.  Once a staple of the Acitivision-Blizzard quarterly reports, they have kept it hidden since the dark days of late Draenor, when the number dropped to 2006 levels.  I suspect that if the subscriber base passed 13 million they would issue a press release, but the days of being able to track that quarter by quarter… or even pick out WoW‘s revenue from the financial statements… are long gone.  The irony of being a public company; they are required to report important data, but they get to decide what is important.

We will see how Battle for Azeroth does in the longer term.  A lot of people are very happy with the open world story and quest lines and the look of things in general.  But there is still the whole question of Sylvanas, a story line that upset some people in the pre-launch events. (#notmyhorde) And then there are the recycled bits from WoW Legion that pop up pretty quickly.  Those aren’t bad, but they aren’t new either.  Blizzard has had time to learn how to keep people engaged with an expansion.  They did well enough with WoW Legion, even if they did open up the Battle for Azeroth pre-orders seven months before it was done.  They will get to show us what else they have learned I suppose.

My Horde Battle for Azeroth Boost Plan

As has been a thing with the last few expansions, I was wondering how I should use the level 110 boost that came with the Battle for Azeroth expansion.  And, as I suggested in that post, I decided to go the Horde route.

I already had a level 110 Tauren druid, but wasn’t happy with the druid thing in Legion.  The only class with four specs and still I wasn’t happy, eh?

And while I thought about something new, like maybe a monk, in the end I copped out and went with a class I knew I would enjoy.  So now I have a level 110 Blood Elf paladin.

My new pally out in Uldum

Even the name was less than original.  I was running through names to see what I get and I put in the name of a friend who still plays on TorilMUD… and that name was available.  So now I have Nilan the Blood Elf pally.  I’ll have to apologize to the original if he finds out.

I had started working on a different pally with an eye towards getting to level 60 so I could get the trade skill boost along with the level boost… but then I found out that the trade skill boost went away with the 8.0 patch, when they redid how profession skills are distributed.  I was bummed on that.

On the other hand, during my nosing around to figure that out I ran across a suggested plan for how to boost a character.  Apparently if you roll up a fresh character and use the option to try it out at level 100 and then boost from there, you get more stuff.  An extra set of 22 slots bags is always appreciated, but better still you get a level three garrison in Warlords of Draenor if you go that route, with some key buildings already setup and a suite of followers.

This, and the changes to professions so that they are now served up per expansion rather than as one long, 800+ point single continuum, made up for the lack of trade skill boost.  The only reason I wanted the boost was to be able to make some 30 slot hexweave bags.  I am pretty much on track for that now.

All I need are the materials and I am set

Covered on that front I, ran him through the pre-expansion events in order to see them from the Horde side then, when the expansion actually hit, I ran off with Vikund, my alliance paladin and the oldest character I still play, and went to Kul Tiras with Jaina.

Having gotten stuck into that a bit, and impressed with the lay of the land, I decided I wanted a peek at Zandalar.

There are some spoilers about the Horde starting event past this point.  Not a lot of details, but key events are covered.  If you want to stop here, just know that if you’re going to run them both and you want to do them in chronological sequence, you should do the Horde first, then the Alliance.

That starts off the same way on the Horde as it does the Alliance.  You have to run off to Silithus to wrap things up and get the Heart of Azeroth so you can play with azerite.

Still looks like a magic pocket watch to me…

Then you’re back to Orgrimmar where Sylvanas has a new task for your.  She wants you to go on a raid to Stormwind to break out some prisoners from the stockades.

In the Stockades you visit Saurfang who, like many players, is still bitter about what happened during the pre-expansion events.

In Saurfang’s cell

He won’t escape with you and talks on about honor and seems prime to be the resolution to the Horde Warchief problem at the end of the expansion.

Also on the list of prisoners of interest are a couple of high ranking Zandalari trolls.

They don’t stand out at all in Stormwind…

Sylvanas wants the Zandalari as allies, just as Jaina went to Kul Tiras looking for allies, so these two were a bargaining chip.

As we broke them free we were discovered and ended up in a running battle with the 7th Legion, who dogged our every step as we tried to slip down to the docks where a boat waited to carry us off.

Eventually even Jaina stopped by to say “Hi” to as as we tried to get to the docks.

Not the Jaina I remember from Kul Tiras

However she had other fish to fry… or fires to put out.  It seemed that Stormwind was having a flammability issue.

Seriously, is there anything the Horde won’t try to burn down?

That gave us the breathing room… sans smoke inhalation… to make it on to the boat and set sail.  However the locals set out in pursuit of us.

Stormwind Navy is in hot pursuit…

However, as we sailed through a fog bank and closed in on Zandalar, we met their navy.  They made short work of the Alliance ships, with only one surviving to escape.

The Zandalari open fire

This I recognized from the Alliance starter story.  As you speak to King Anduin Wrynn he is interrupted by a report from the surviving ship about what happened here.  This is what sends the Alliance looking for allies in Kul Tiras and has Jaina back home with her very unhappy mother.

So yes, as I noted above, if you want to do this in chronological order, you should do the Horde starter first, then the Alliance.

After that I was into Zandalar and… and… it was everything I hoped for.

Welcome to Zandalar!

And when I say, “everything I hoped for,” what I mean is something like a Blizzard homage to The Emperor’s New Groove, one of my secret Disney favorites.

I mean, it isn’t blatant… and the city is amazing and beautiful… and it takes itself as seriously as an Azeroth setting can.

With King… and I am not making this up… Rastakhan

But the city is also very over the top, with stairs and giant carvings and images, and when the possibility of the King throwing me out the window came up if he was displease, I will admit I laughed.  It is very much an Andean civilization setting in its way… only with dinosaurs.

Even flying dinosaurs

Anyway, you get yourself setup in the city without the inconvenience of having to escape from jail or anything.  Portals are opened to the Horde cities so you can get back home, you get a tour of the location and can check in with the profession trainers to get the current starting level for the expansion.

Then it was time to choose a zone to start in.  As with Kul Tiras, there are three zones on Zandalar to choose from.

The zone choice map

I did not make a choice yet, though there is a story for each zone.

This is the reason I wanted to boost a level 110 Horde in a class I enjoyed, so I could see all six of the initial zones and run through the stories within.

Of course, it turns out that just because you’re Alliance it doesn’t mean you won’t be running around on Zandalar.  Vikund had already been for a visit.

Warning: Heart of Darkness references ahead…

But that is a tale for another post.

Arriving in Kul Tiras

I was in luck.  I got home about an hour after the Battle for Azeroth went live in my time zone and was able to log straight in and get started. No queue, not hangups, nothing wrong.  And the game wasted no time either.  New things were immediately presented.

I’ll tell you what’s new!

It was pretty much straight off to Silithus to finish up what we started back at the beginning of the pre-expansion events with Mangi Bronzebeard and the great big sword in the middle of the zone.

Mangi exposition while I look on

We did a few things, said good-bye to Illidan Stormrage, and went through the azurite intro which included me being handed a genuine reproduction of the Heart of Azeroth, a neck piece that lets you do the azurite thing.

In hindsight this is pretty much The Girl, The Gold Watch, and Everything

A bit of instruction, my first bit of azurite capable gear, a flash back through how that sword got stuck in Silithus, and things were wrapped up.

Somebody should do something about that sword though…

Then it was back to Stormwind for a quick meeting with King Anduin Wrynn and… well… anybody else who happened to wander into the room for that part of the question.

The classic moment is when he says, “Good, you’re here” in the crowd

Andiun and his advisors are concerned with word that Sylvanas is off to seek allies in Zandalar.  If the Horde manages that it will lead to a naval ally gap.  The Alliance needs their own allies in that regard, so I was sent off to meet Jaina at the dock.  She has a spiffy new boat.

Stormwind harbor is never neglected

Somehow I managed to fall off the boat almost immediately.

We’re going to get wet again…

Apparently there is a no flying mount zone around the boat, so my mount disappeared right above the gap between the dock and the boat.  Fortunately there was a ramp pretty close to hand and I was able to get out of the water and on to the boat with Jaina, at which point we sailed to Kul Tiras.

On arrival I immediately began to regret that I hadn’t paid more attention to the lore around Jaina and the Proudmoore family.  She was not welcomed with open arms.

I feel like you could have mentioned some of this on the boat…

Her mother runs Kul Tiras and blames her for the defeat at Theramore and the death of her father, so things were more than a bit awkward.

Not her happy face

Jaina was hauled off and I was thrown in jail.  But, as we know from all RPGs through all time, the hero breaking out of jail is super easy, barely an inconvenience, so I was out and free in short order and headed off to Boralus Harbor with a bit of exposition along the way.

In case you were wondering…

From there it was a tour about town, a couple of tasks to get me acquainted, and then off to the familiar from Legion decision as to which zone to go after first.

Only three zones? You have a couple hidden here for later, right?

I went with Tiragarde Sound which, in its description, held the promise of getting in better airs with Jaina’s mother Katherine, which seemed important given recent events.  While there is no jail in Azeroth that can hold me it seems, I’d still like to move pas all that.  So off I went to get stuck into my first zone of the expansion.

At this point I want to stop for a moment and praise the new areas.  While I have adopted a flippant tone, I do have to say that walking about Boralus Harbor really impressed me.  It is a beautiful, detailed zone that feels like part of Azeroth yet not a place I have been before.  It certainly isn’t another trip back to Dalaran.

Looking out on the town

It has a very organic, seaside town feel to it.  Also, the main color scheme is in greens, so I clearly chose the right transmog to wear.  I just tell everybody the shovel is an oar and I am set.

Flying over Boralus Harbor on the local griffon substitute

So first impressions are pretty positive.  I had to stop playing to take care of some things around the house… and then to write this… but I really want to get back and carry on.

I am kind of amused that several sites out there have guides up about getting to level 120 as fast as possible.  While I am often a destination guy, there is some journey here to enjoy.  I don’t have to race with this guy.

Four and a half hours and he’s through.  Now what?  Do you start working on alts then or just badger your guild mates to hurry and catch up?