So let’s take another post to talk about Artifacts.
They are still the new hotness, even as Legion is one week away from reaching its one year launchiversary. We know, based on multiple interviews and blue posts, that Legion is the start and end for Artifact Weapons as a thing we carry around.
I’ve posted previously that much of what they do will be rolled away once we launch into 8.0 content, and speculated about how that would work. The question I didn’t address at the time, however, is an interesting one in its own right – without Artifacts, what do we do for weapons?
Let’s put our tinfoil hats on and see what we come up with!
Artifacts – Solving Multiple Problems in an Elegant Wrapper
The historical problems that Artifacts solve are many. Before they existed, weapons were independent drops you had to get. You could pick from a variety, but basically each raid tier had maybe 3 options for you, tops. This is the way every MMO did it back when WoW launched, and the way many RPGs handle the same problem. However, it did cause or exacerbate some problems.
No Good Drops – some tiers, you’d just have to be the spec who doesn’t get their preferred secondary stats. You’d have crit/haste, crit/mastery, or crit/hit – but maybe you were a melee who needed to expertise cap, and none of those options have that stat on them. This was a bit less of a problem in a world with reforging, and Blizzard’s attempt to remove this problem was actually pretty decent in Warlords of Draenor – without reforging, more weapons with varied stats had to drop. The problem that came in late in that expansion, though, is that by varying item level throughout Hellfire Citadel, if your best stats were on an earlier weapon, you’d have to give up weapon DPS to get them. This was not always a simple, binary decision and it could be detrimental to performance to choose incorrectly.
1 Weapon Now, 2 Weapons…Some Day – if you were a dual-wielding class, well, drops were torture. You could see that main hand weapon drop, upping your DPS, but then never see the off-hand weapon that would get you a big upgrade. Same thing for shield tanks and caster off-hand items – you might get the weapon or the shield/off-hand and then never see its mate until 2 years later when you solo the raid and flip your desk over in pure rage.
Lack of Variety – you had more potential, usable combos available – Outlaw Rogues with axes! Windwalker Monks with polearms! But, some tiers, good luck getting your favorite type of weapon with a new look. Fist weapons, for example, are very minimally represented, and not exactly welcoming of transmog. Strength polearms were popular, but Wrath of the Lich King had…one? Maybe two? Transmog has lessened this concern, but it did exist right up until Artifacts. Even then, being forced into a specific weapon type has reduced the available transmog options for some classes and specs.
On top of these, though, is a larger wishlist item we knew of from Blizzard – endgame, post-level cap progression. Since the announcement of Cataclysm in 2009, we have known that Blizzard wanted us to have a way outside of gear to progress our character power. Path of the Titans was announced, and then never materialized, and ever since then, we waited for when it would come back.
All of these problems are solved to some extent by artifacts.
No Good Drops – well, maybe, but since Relics are the way forward, you always have at least a few options. It would be inconceivable that every trait would be capable of being buffed in a given tier, so it seems like the current model with multiples of each relic school being offered is a good compromise. Plus, Mythic Keystone dungeons have the option to give a random dungeon drop with enough item level to compete. The Netherlight Crucible in 7.3 may help slightly with this as well!
Dual Wield All The Time! – no need to worry about that offhand weapon anymore, every class and spec has both slots filled and at parity with one another.
Lack of Variety – this still exists, slightly at least, but each spec gets 6 skins and 4 tints per skin for the Artifact Weapon. Transmog also still works, so you do get to make your artifact look mostly how you want. Sure, you don’t get to be a 2H Windwalker Monk anymore, but you do have some choices.
Endgame, Post-Cap Progression – this is the selling point of artifacts to Blizzard. Using lore weapons makes them cooler, but not every weapon is up to the standard of something like the Ashbringer. So the sales pitch is that Artifact Power means logging in always nets some advancement, some character progression, and this is a worthwhile goal. You can debate how well they did with this (maybe not so hot early into the expansion) but it’s hard to argue that they didn’t stick the landing. Empowering your weapon with new traits makes your character noticeably more powerful, which is a good thing.
So given these points, what the hell is going to happen? I still think my prior post stands with regards to the artifact traits and such, but there is the question of post-8.0. What do we get while levelling? What do we get at endgame?
Let’s start with what we won’t get – a regular old weapon. After this genie was let out of the bottle, there is no way we just end up grabbing a Kul’Tiras Warglaive and going to town on Old Gods. It can’t happen. Okay, it could happen – but it would be a massive disappointment and would cause a lot of rustled jimmies, rightfully so.
My thought is this – what if we make our own artifact. Taliesin and Evitel have an excellent video up on this exact thought, linked for your convenience (spoilers within). I agree with this viewpoint – we’re going to create our own weapons, with a base option and components of customization, rather than just a fixed skin. If you’re, say, a Demon Hunter, you could make a glaive, starting with just a base hilt, adding your choice of blades, accents, hilt customization’s, and perhaps a glow. The options will be somewhat constrained (it’s not going to be any sort of Build A Weapon workshop, for sure!) but you’ll have a lot of assets to choose from.
How do I think that would work? Simple – every weapon base type (dual wield, 1H/OH, 2H) would get a quest to go get some base material – a rod, hilt, handle, some sort of weapon base. You take this back to some Titan forge, and there is some rustling around it – the smiths at the forge don’t know what weapon best suits the champion of Azeroth. But you do – and so you get a baseline set of options – 2H, for example, can choose to go mace, polearm, staff, sword, or axe based on class/spec options, and then you get some simple Titan-themed things to add on to it. Then, maybe you get another box of kit for finishing a zone or quest chain, with themed items that allow you to flavor your weapon after the expansion. Then you can get prestige appearance options, for maybe Glory of the Hero type acheivements, raid clears, etc. Maybe there is a class kit you can unlock that has class flavor, or even spec flavor like Legion.
Think of it this way – the art team on WoW made 216 skins in Legion for Artifacts, not counting transmog weapons like the Maiden mace in Tomb of Sargeras or the upcoming Argus-themed options. This is the largest number of unique models we’ve gotten ever – and sure, it basically breaks down to 36 themes with 6 interpretations of that theme each, but they are almost all pretty damn good. If you cut them loose to make just weapon components, you can get much further. A single blade model, for example, could be resized and kitted such that it works on a one-hander, a two-hander, as a polearm pointy-end, a staff accent, and a fist weapon. You could even offer special visual hits for players with certain acheivements – a fully developed Legion artifact might give a ret pally the Ashbringer hand emblem, or a shadow priest an Old God eye – elements they can add to a weapon to give it a distinctive flair. Maybe, as Taliesin hypothesizes in the linked video, you could even name the weapon yourself, so it is your own, unique thing.
As for the other stuff, well, that leaves us some wiggle room – Relics would probably remain as the progression mechanism for such a weapon, but what about stats?
Well, if it’s Titan-themed (just to say what I think it would be) – then what if you captured the essence of a certain Titan, allowing you to select two secondary stats for the weapon? You could use Aggramar’s Essence for Haste and Eonar’s Essence for Versatility, or something along those lines. Basically, my full proposal is a two-part quest – seeking out the base element around which the weapon is forged, and then imbuing it with the powers of your chosen Titans. This could be changed, perhaps as a gold sink, if maybe say you no longer want Haste – offering a modern, updated take on Reforging, but solely on your weapon. You would have one such weapon per spec, the same as the Artifacts, and they can be customized independently or an appearance saved and applied to all, like the Wardrobe option for transmog.
Lastly, endgame, post-cap progression isn’t going anywhere. It’d reset with the loss of the Artifacts in 8.0, but we’ll see some form of that return once more. Whether it’s a separate feature, decoupled from weapons (cough Codex of Creation!) or something bound up into the weapon idea, it’ll come back. Some similar traits, some different ones, maybe a new spin – but just like the Garrison systems, post-cap progression is here to stay, whether or not it’s tied up in your weapon.
All told, I think something like Artifacts will remain with WoW forever – but what shape that takes going forward, we’ll have to wait and see!