Back from Blizzcon and onto the grind!
So I got two more sessions in with the WoW: Battle for Azeroth demo on Saturday before the end of the con, doing the dungeon of Atal’Dakar as a tank and playing the Horde leveling area in Zandalar.
The Horde has one of the coolest dungeons to itself for leveling. Atal’Dakar is gorgeous, a multi-tiered golden pyramid with multiple paths between bosses, with all the early bosses being needed in order to unlock the last boss. There are fun mechanics, and it definitely sticks the landing with the last boss and the awesome reveal graphics with a moving staircase.
But I want to talk about ability changes and gameplay, because we have more info from the Q&A and some additional interviews!
Firstly, my hands-on – Vengeance Demon Hunter is in a great spot in 8.0 so far. I know, it’s early, not complete, no alpha or beta, etc, but changes have been made. Almost all tanks that had active mitigation with flat damage reduction components are now tweaked, so the bonus is armor instead. With Mastery on the demo gear, I got a 212% boost to armor with DS active. The cost has also gone up by 5 Pain, making it not evenly fit into your Pain generation cycle, so taking damage to get boosted on Pain is essential to avoid weird resource cycling. You do take more damage, but your self-sustain is still really good. A soul fragment now heals for 20% of your health, meaning a 5-stack will full heal you. This is in addition to Soul Cleave base healing, which still scales off of Pain spent, and also Feast of Souls, if you take that talent.
Metamorphosis is still strong, and our DPS output is still great. We no longer have Empower Wards, and many classes have received nerfs to magical damage mitigation or healing. With the changes, Vengeance is in a good spot, I think, and the incentive with the removal of Empower Wards is to build differently for magic fights, maybe taking Soul Barrier to ensure you have available mitigation.
Other tanks have had similar changes – Blood Death Knights still get Anti-Magic Shell, but it has been nerfed in damage reduction. Guardian Druid healing no longer scales off damage taken, so it is strong to a base level, but cannot be cheesed.
For the rest, there’s not a lot. Let’s recap:
-Warfronts sound awesome, but I need to see the gameplay. Interesting that our Garrison tech application is in a game mode, rather than a maintenance task. We can research upgrades outside of Warfronts, but how that happens is unknown.
-The Heart of Azeroth sounds pretty cool but also way less interesting than the Artifacts. This might be good, however. Also, I like that the idea for a catch-up mechanic is that the cost of a level decreases, rather than the gained rewards needing to increase. Even better, no more clickable items!
-Server Ruleset Changes/World PvP – I like it. Sounds good, interested to see how the World PvP reward idea is implemented.
-Allied Races are a cool concept, provided that the server character limit is expanded accordingly.
-More base backpack slots with an authenticator!
-No more Legendaries!
But, overall, I need to end this solidification of information with some speculation. I think, if you look, you notice that Blizzard, for all the preparation and delay to the announcement – they didn’t really announce that much. This is less info than we had about Legion between both Gamescom and Blizzcon 2015. It is more info than just Gamescom 2015 had about Legion, but still – it felt somewhat sparse.
Now, the real question, is why was it so sparse? Does Blizzard not have that much on deck and ready?
I think…no. I had a conversation with some encounter designers after the show on Saturday, and for all the announcements and conversation, there is content in the works that is more done than we expect. The content in the demo seemed very complete. The dungeons were balanced to a presentable degree, and represent 20% of the new dungeons in the game at launch. The zone content felt mostly complete, just awaiting voice acting. The chains are multi-faceted and have interesting, fully written content. They are, as I said before, just WoW quests – but they felt complete and ready. The item squish wasn’t even just an idea, but a fully-formed implementation with thought put into it – good thought.
Further, the art panel, unlike such panels at previous expansion announcement Blizzcons, they were showing off complete, 3D models that were fully done. The demo areas had zero placeholder assets – they were all complete. Some bugs, like a cave in Drustvar that had weird geometry that had a whole you could see down through, but other than that stuff, it felt really complete. The world map for the two zones was fully illustrated and release-ready, and while the full world map wasn’t done, nor a zoom-out available, the rest was fully featured. We had a dungeon journal with actual text for the dungeons we did. Loot was implemented. Further-further, Red Shirt Guy ended up being unable to ask a question at the WoW Q&A, an event which I am told happened because he pushed to create a new character rather than using the Play the Expansion button on the demo, which allowed him to see the opening experience in 8.0 and showed some story spoilers, which I will talk about in a post later this week!
To tie this thread up, there is one other piece – the novel Before the Storm has an early May release date. With a specific release date, a complete cinematic, and all of the pieces we did see, I speculate that Blizzard is going to actually legitimately surprise us with a December closed alpha test and we will go forward from there.
Either way, it is exciting to see what may happen going forward, now that we know the theme and have a strong idea of what to expect!