This game is kind of bad, right now.
I feel a need to just say that, first, because for all the hope we had pinned on 8.1, I think the early impression I have, coupled with seeing a lack of engagement from my guild, is that the game is not in a good place and the weight of that is beginning to drag on even the most dedicated players.
My early, pre-8.1 Q&A session impression of 8.1 is that the patch does have some good things. I like the war campaign quests, on both sides. Incursions are fun, while also being rote world quests without a lot of interesting new gameplay. Darkshore warfront is legitimately pretty great – the gameplay is far more focused on combat than Arathi and the map uses tighter lanes and fewer distraction objectives to keep you in conflict with the enemy NPCs. It is still too easy, however. I haven’t done an island, because the changes haven’t baited me into wanting to. The experience changes will lead to me trying to level more alts, including Allied Races. The increases in reputation given in the War Campaign has made unlocking Mag’har Orcs very possible, and I’ll likely have them this weekend, putting me back at 100% allied races unlocked.
And on the bad side, professions still feel punishing and unrewarding, compounded by a lack of benefit, even with improvements to crafted gear and the ability to use Sanguicells. The sense of reward for world quests is still not present – once I have Mag’har orcs unlocked, I’m likely done with them until January 22nd, at the earliest. Dungeons feel meaningless short of high Mythic Plus keys, which were already punishing and have had stealth buffs to the worst dungeons making them awful-er. Underrot trash at the entrance can now pop you out of stealth, making you deal with the worst packs in the dungeon. King’s Rest berserkers cannot be CC’d now, making their high damage stack ever higher, and making these mechanics less fun than their already not-fun state. Compounding this, you can no longer delete your Mythic Plus key, a common strategy to allow you to get a refreshed key from your next Mythic, so if you have an awful dungeon, the key is likely to just (under)rot.
Then there is the fact that currently, our Azerite options remain the same limited, low-interaction traits that don’t enhance gameplay. Confusingly, making this worse, Blizzard has decided that Artifact Knowledge for the Heart of Azeroth will not increase again until the new raid opens on 1/22/2019, limiting ability to farm for the trait rings on the new armor. And sure, yes, the holidays are upon us and so I’m maybe sympathetic to saving players from themselves, but at the same time, dammit, when players are already finding it difficult to want to log in at all anyways, why take away even a rotten carrot on a stick? Uldir has worn thin for my guild, and while we have a meeting next raid night to see if we’ll continue, the likely answer is no. Ahead of the Curve is earned and the later fights are so punishing that they make raid nights tense and dreadful.
This week, I’ve found myself playing WoW more on a nightly basis than I have in the past several weeks. I like that my new PC can really stretch its legs in DirectX 12 now, and the performance gain is astounding. I’ve done both War Campaigns all the way up to the last phase, I’ve done the warfront and quests on Alliance side, and I’ve done some crafting. I’ve done incursions and farmed old raids. And yet, I find myself wanting for more. When I log in, unless there is a clear goal – a raid, a dungeon, an acheivement – I am just bored. I don’t want to grind out Azerite, and realistically, I can’t even do so in a beneficial way on my main. I don’t want to chain run Warfronts – just give me one for the quest for the high level gear, and maybe more on a lower-geared alt. I don’t want to do world quests, they’re dull and the rewards for them just aren’t worth caring about. I could do LFR on alts – but I can gear to that level and beyond without touching LFR, and so there is no point. I’ve played the story, multiple times, I’ve played tanks and healers and DPS, I’ve done war quests and explored islands, I’ve been in warfronts, and all I find myself thinking is – “is this really the game I’ve spent 13 years playing?”
The answer to that is, of course, no. It’s not. It is a husk resembling that in some way – the contours of its form are similar to the World of Warcraft I fondly know, but this is not it. Even in Warlords, even in the worst time for the game in modern history, I wanted to log in nearly daily. At the point I stopped wanting to log in daily, I still could find interest when I did log in. Last night, I logged out of WoW to do my budget, and spent more time spreadsheeting than I did playing. My budget is automated to a point, so there’s not a lot there to interface with short of plugging in projections, lest you think I was doing complicated math. I logged out with 3 active emissaries on all of my 120s. I haven’t done the Darkshore warfront quest on my alt 120s. I haven’t done the Darkshore world boss and world quests on my 120 Horde alt.
I loathe adding to the doom and gloom around the game right now, but man, right now, it is just boring. I’m not even really mad, it just makes me sad and bored. A year ago, I was gushing about the potential for this expansion and how excited I was based on what I played at Blizzcon 2017. It was fair to be excited then, it looked good! The core of the game is still pretty good, and so I can play out of habit, but I am very aware that I am playing out of boredom and deadlock on deciding on another game or activity, which has never before been the case.
And then, to continue to the parallels to WoD, yesterday, a new store mount goes live. I like the way it looks, but I cannot justify giving Blizzard $25 for it when they’re taking $12 a month now to make me bored. Being bored on a flying blue fox is ultimately still being bored.
I still find some optimism for the future, in patch 8.2 and beyond. I’ll level allied races, get my alt stable to 120, and when the new raid comes out, my harsh boredom will likely soften. But the core problems still exist – the reward loop is so fundamentally broken that there’s simply no need to log in for anything until then.
And the fact that I feel that way at all makes me really sad.