7.3 Early Impressions – An Empty, but Beautiful Stage

Patch 7.3 has been out for a week now, and Argus is becoming an ingrained part of everyone’s WoW experience. I’ve played quite a bit of the patch, although perhaps not how you’d expect…because alts.

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It’s been my tradition every expansion since Cataclysm to have a full stable of alts – 1 of every class, at max level by the end of the expansion. Legion is the first time I’ve done that before the next expansion pre-patch ever, because with class hall campaigns and the like, I just felt like I needed to see all the story and lore bits – so I did. I’ve had a full stable of 110s since about a month ago, when I finished leveling my rogue to complete the roster. I’ll probably do Horde alts soonish as well, but for right now, they are on the back-burner.

7.3 (and the Cataclysm Timewalking event) got me to dust off all 11 alts and play them, adding up to more total playtime than my Demon Hunter got in the first patch week! With that perspective in mind, here are my early patch 7.3 impressions.

Argus Itself

Boy, this is a cool set of zones. They are a lot larger than they appear on the map in-game, so the scale of being on another planet is pretty clear and awesome. I don’t mind the lack of flying, as I tend to enjoy the gameplay-amplified non-flying zone design Blizzard has moved to since around Mists of Pandaria. Having said that, Alternative Chat put it best when noting that while Argus is huge and interesting, it also has neat components that feel strangely empty, which I noticed from exploring around. It’s clear the game will take you to nooks, crannies, caves, and Legion buildings with story quests that, for that moment, populate the area with NPCs, but until then, they are just weirdly empty. I found a few such places, where time and care was put into crafting the environment I was in, but it felt weird, lost of purpose. The two zones so far seem to be crafted to this spec – meant to be consumed for story and world quests but not really explored. Which is a shame, because the world itself is gorgeous in a new way for WoW – a beautiful kind of desolate that the game has struggled to capture before.

I want to emphasize that I really like Argus, even after all of that – because it is a gorgeous, well-crafted zone. But I can’t shake the feeling that unlike very nearly all the rest of the game, I’m not meant to want to explore it – rather left to consume it in chapters and pieces as guided by the game.

The Argus Quests

They are great. There is a definite abundance of lore and storytelling happening here, although how much of that exists due to the sharp contrast with Broken Shore’s lack of both is hard to say. The quests in Week 1 jam a lot of exposition into a compact package, a series of quests that maybe take 90 minutes on your first go, but cram each of those minutes with a sense of the lore that is building to a head on this broken world. The implications of the heaviest of lore moments is well worth exploring, which I will do in a separate post later this week 🙂

World Quests

The Argus WQs are worth a go, as they are a bit more challenging than what we’ve seen before. It’s the first time since I hit around 810 item level on my Demon Hunter that I’ve had to think about doing quests as Vengeance, instead of steamrolling everything in sight as Havoc. The rewards are once more inflated in item level, but if you’re raiding even normals, they’ll quickly depreciate in value. What I do like about the system, as it now exists in 7.3, is that while there’s still a very clear divide as we’ve had in prior expansions between last-patch and earlier content, there is still a purpose for a character that has done that earlier content to go back and continue to do it. Emissaries are still valuable, even if non-Argus world quest items cap lower, and removing some of the incentive for stacking Broken Shore world quests helps move you primarily to Argus, rep grinding for its two factions.

Catch-Up Mechanics

Hoo boy, are these ever good. My bastion of alts basically ran a gamut, with my main at 925 item level, and alts anywhere from 885 (my Druid who did a few alt raids with my guild) to 850-ish for my earliest 110 alts that ground through a few days or weeks of play, to 830ish for those that dinged 110 in the middle, near patch 7.2. As of reset, my lowest alt is now 871, and that is with almost no Argus play on any of them, save for the earliest quest with a relic reward. Timewalker vendor gear at 880 helps greatly, as do TW drops at 880 with 895 warforged, and it helps even more that I can use Dauntless gear to fill in really underpowered gear slots, with a hopeful grind of Unsullied gear to fill out more slots at 880, and slow purchases of Relinquished gear at 910 to finish out gearing. Plus, dungeons are once again more rewarding, albeit not to the same extent as 7.2, since Unsullied gear and Timewalker rewards are within 5 item levels of both the current LFR tier and Mythic Dungeons, which does push down the value of those activities slightly. Overall, while I wish I could buy Unsullied gear (and I wish there was a non-dungeon, non-WQ, non-Relinquished relic catchup for alt Artifacts), I can appreciate what Blizzard has done with these mechanisms. By putting everyone within easy reach of 880 item level, it makes Argus world quests, ToS LFR, and the eventual Antorus LFR valuable, and incentivizes playtime on those alts, rather than simply gearing them out and leaving them alone, or doing old content for transmog or the like.

New Caster Animations

I really quite like these, although they can be weird. The hand-raised posture of casters in combat but not casting is a bit strange, and the resurrection casting on healers looks like a weird stretch, but I enjoy the effects overall. They were the biggest boon to my Priest, who gets appropriately glowy golden effects alongside very dark, Void-y shadow, my Mage (who really, really goes on fire and it’s great), and my Shaman (resto gameplay feels much more cohesive in theme when the water themes are reflected in all of your spells). Warlocks need some love, and some of the animations need a definite touch-up, but it’s a good start. One other thing that has proven divisive – the animations are now class/spec based rather than racial, which adds a layer of homogenization to the game, but at the same time, I like that it makes the class appear to have a degree of discipline, lending a lore credibility to the idea that one trainer in a town could teach 7 different races how to cast a spell. Now if we could get idle animations and such that are class-specific, I think I’d be satisfied with the state of animations in the game!

That’s it for Week 1, but today, Week 2 is open, and I’m sure I’ll have things to say about Invasion Rifts and the like a bit later on!

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