It’s funny, you know?
A lot of my recent WoW posts have focused on how the game is in something of an iffy-state – not necessarily bad, but definitely not good, and the playerbase is in a festering sort of revolt, with some players quite happy, others content enough with their core modes of engagement, and others yet still subscribed but unhappy, providing reams of feedback or giving up and quietly shortening game sessions until the hype of a new patch, with some packing up until 9.0.
I’ve been in the feedback, but content group for a while now. I was logging on to raid and not at all for non-raid time, playing just my Demon Hunter – and I was relatively happy with this. I almost wanted to quit during the grind of Conclave of the Chosen on Heroic, but I stuck out all 80 pulls it took to acheive victory and now we’ve been rewarded with relatively short grinds to down both heroic Rastakhan and heroic Mekkatorque.
But these are not the things I want to discuss today.
A few weeks ago, I decided I would level my Death Knight. I had a Draught of Ten Lands, I had full plate Heirlooms maxed at 120, I was ready to go. I accepted that the experience boost meant losing a lot of durability in the open world, as I would have zero Azerite traits and a lower overall item level. I logged in for about an hour a day, just to do a few quests, using Azeroth Auto Pilot to push me to an easy path for fast experience – no reading, no direct engagement with anything but gameplay. I started as Frost, but switched to Unholy, which made a huge difference on my DPS. I started at 112, where I had left when I decided that I was tired of the game for anything but raiding, and within a couple of nights, I was 116, with red Legendary effects but more powerful Heirlooms and a sense that the grind was doable. But I stopped, and switched to my Demon Hunter.
It wasn’t a raid night. No one else was online in guild but me. My friends list of 61 a barren wasteland of people logged in but not playing anything – if anyone entered a game, it was usually Overwatch. I decided to knock out the emissary quests that were up for me – so I set out and did them. The post I was trying to write this time was about how a pet-based healer class might work in WoW – I’ve been leveling Scholar in FFXIV, which is exactly that – but it turned into a bit of a side diversion of healer balancing through WoW’s history, so I stopped and just played.
I was item level 396 now, and while my Azerite loadout was all tank traits, I went Havoc and just tore through quest mobs, when something interesting happened.
I was having…fun.
It wasn’t super deep or anything – my rotation was simple, the mobs were little threat, but I could make a game out of trying to finish fill the bar styled world quests by pulling as big as possible and then eye beaming until everything died and my DPS spiked over 40k. I gained a lot of Azerite levels very quickly, mainly because raiding only, particularly the last few weeks with extended lockouts to focus on wall bosses, meant I hadn’t been acquiring much artifact power. I took the crown I had from heroic Opulence and put Havoc traits on it, then I did an emissary with an item level 400 shoulder reward, and put Havoc traits onto that, and I am currently 50 Titan Residuum away from a random item level 400 chest, which will complete a full Havoc set of traits. My Heart of Azeroth is now level 44, enough to get the full traits on all of my armor at Heroic level, and that has brought me to 398 item level. My DPS in the open world is high, and something occured to me during the process.
The early part of any expansion’s endgame can be rough, at times. Your secondary stats suck, and so your gameplay feels slow, unresponsive, and unending – it takes forever to complete world quests and the early part of 120 feels awful. These things are still, largely, true.
However, where I am now, the item level scaling of the enemies in the open world has reached a point where it is below my power growth, and so I feel powerful, and it makes world quests feel fun. The odd thing to me is that I support the idea of world mob scaling – it maintains some degree of interaction with mobs as you grow in power, and, short of some iffy decisions around announcement of the change and the scaling numbers during its introduction in patch 7.2, I’ve largely been okay with it since. However, the thing with it I realized is that we’ve never had it for the start of an expansion. By the time it was implemented in Legion, we had gear from Emerald Nightmare, Trial of Valor, and Nighthold. We had gained around 50% power from item level gain, and so we already had decent secondary stat loadouts, set bonuses, and artifact traits.
Battle for Azeroth was the first expansion that started with that scaling at endgame, and so hitting 120 felt like crap – at first. As Uldir gear piled up, your stat mix could get better, but it didn’t seem to reach a point where you leapfrogged the power growth of your enemies. Currently, it feels much more possible with Season 2 gear, and the end result is that it makes world gameplay feel more engaging.
I wonder what makes that line feel so defined? For me, I never thought I would really care that much about world mob scaling, but yet, I actively realize that it was impacting my fun. It made my experience in the beginning of BfA worse, without me connecting the dots until one random April evening, during which I finally got into the groove of things and was having fun.
On the one hand, I feel that the world experience of having more danger is interesting. It forces more strategic gameplay and can make world combat feel higher-stakes. However, the other piece I hadn’t considered before – world combat doesn’t really need to be strategic or high-stakes. If I am fighting a bog-standard crocolisk as a hero of Azeroth with the blood of the titan empowering my actions, the crocolisk should melt if I so much as look at him (literally, in the case of Havoc!). Having world mobs survive my onslaught for longer than a handful of GCDs doesn’t feel as good as melting mobs in relatively short order.
I still think that the game has large systemic problems in its current state. But through that acquisition of power, it at last feels like I can log in and zone out as I power through a batch of world quests. To me, this is the thing that WoW offers me that I value most – a fun, but non-taxing experience during my downtime in which I can log in, put on a video, show, or music, and simply play. I enjoy raiding and more engaging activities too – but the bulk of my WoW playtime has always been this sort of low-engagement activity – just fun. I can still log on and enjoy raiding two nights a week, but it is nice to want to log on for at least 20-30 minutes a day again.
So anyways, who wants to hear about pet healing? (That one will come later, when I can think about it without spending 1500 words discussing the recalibration of WoW healers in Cataclysm).