A quick post in between a few non-WoW ones and a few WoW ones coming down the pipe!
This week, my guild finally got our AotC acheivement on Jaina! Heroic Dazar’Alor is done, thankfully, and it has been a pretty decent tier overall.
I will write a more detailed post-tier wrap-up like I did for Uldir, once I can really look back at the fights and think about them a bit more objectively, but despite the huge walls my guild ran into (Conclave of the Chosen, reclears on Mekkatorque) the tier overall was fun and had some interesting design decisions and mechanics. Opulence is an interesting and fun fight. Jadefire Masters takes a few simple mechanics and puts them together in a fascinating way that makes the whole fight more than the sum of its components. Grong is a bit annoying, but his mechanics do allow for some degree of choice in an interesting way, and have natural difficulty ramps as the fight progresses. Rastakhan is a cool fight. Mekkatorque uses some interesting ideas, and the forced communication aspect is interesting, but it also feels counter-intuitive in WoW (not the communication, but the length of the time the bot phase lasts for). Stormwall Blockade is interesting and was our actual end-of-raid wall, as the coordination required to keep the two pre-boss enemies moving together is fairly high – something of a theme between this and Opulence.
Lastly, Jaina. I want to say that Jaina was hard, but our wipe count was maybe 10-12 pulls from start to finish? It wasn’t a hard fight, and it’s not like we had a ton of practice from normal mode – we did a similar number of pulls on normal, killed her one time, and never went back. The mechanics of the fight are interesting, sometimes fun, sometimes frustrating, but the fight ultimately comes together to be a great piece of design, in my opinion. Particularly the unique touches, like the use of modified player Mage spells to enhance the fight, Jaina’s response to a Heroism/Bloodlust/Time Warp, and the last transition phase – all of these elements are great touches on a fun fight.
However, I do think this tier has some negatives. It feels odd to call this a tier, as in most of the game’s history, this raid would have simply been the endcap of the first raid tier. It feels somewhat disingenuous to suggest that this is a full tier all its own – as it feels more like the parceling out of content to maintain a pace of “new” things through the expansion. While I like the Alliance/Horde battle aspect, I’m not quite so sure that I like the implementation as much as I once thought I would – it’s a rather simple gimmick that serves its purpose, but the use of the Mercenary mechanic from PvP and the forced gear transmog kind of ruins it for me – which is a minor complaint, to be clear. I don’t know an alternative route, however – while I would love to suggest that our characters could be responsible for fighting all 9 bosses, that would mean Jaina and Rastakhan would have to be legitimately evil or at least turned against their own factions. The other problem I have with the lore of the raid is that, well, there just isn’t very much. The nature of the design means that the first wing is interchangeable jobbers whose names I couldn’t even actually tell you with the exception of Grong, who has some introduction for Alliance players but none for the Horde. Likewise, the Alliance section of the raid falls flat on this front again, as the only lore character of any significance is Rastakhan (and Bwonsamdi), while the Horde wing has both Mekkatorque and Jaina to contend with. The end result of this is that the whole raid tier feels like a stop-gap measure in the story – to get us to Nazjatar, to move us forward in the Allied race stories and to pay lip service to the faction war, we needed to have an escalation of tensions, and well, here we are.
The raid design also has some quirks – the split-faction nature of the first wing introduces progression path differences, and the design of the rooms changes the difficulty of Jadefire Masters slightly. The trash on the Alliance side first-wing is awful, and wipes on the first 3 bosses necessitate a growing run back, despite the city being literally a large staircase up the side of the pyramid on that side! Also, while Blizzard made an effort to tweak the design of the city slightly, players who have played both factions (or just Horde) get to see the very same city they fly through daily as the raid, with such minor variations that you might sometimes think of running to a vendor that isn’t there. Sure, Alliance has some version of this with Siege of Boralus, however, Siege of Boralus modifies the city with conflict – flames, skirmishes, and new barricades that change your path through the lesser-known portions of the city, while Battle of Dazar’Alor basically uses the city as-is with a few walls and a small new section in the Alliance wing of the raid. I’m not going to use the word “lazy” because I think it was an attempt at serving the story and makes logical sense, but the use of this location is a bit disappointing. More should have been done to modify the city, to convey a sense of actual battle. Instead, it feels like a low-budget staging of conflict – there’s not much NPC fighting happening, there’s no sense that the Horde even tried to fortify anything except the docks, and for as ruthless as the Alliance are supposed to be for fighting this way, nothing in the raid really sells this all that well. It feels like most raids in WoW – you zone in and trash is waiting for you to run in and fight, nothing is defended until you show up, and the sense of a dynamic world is somewhat missing. If this was an indoor raid, I could excuse that because that is what defending an indoor venue would be like. However, here, it just peels the curtain back a bit too far. To be fair, I am making a relatively minor gripe – I don’t need every WoW raid to show an enemy using realistic combat strategy (and I would probably not like that for different reasons), but the story makes this feel like it’s supposed to be a huge conflict and the Horde are supposed to be helping the Zandalari, yet, all we fight as we run up the city is Zandalari foes, and the only deaths outside of Jadefire Masters are Zandalari.
However, those gripes aside, I really did enjoy my time in Battle of Dazar’Alor overall and it was a positive raid tier for me after the very mixed reactions I had to Uldir. Onward to Crucible of Storms, and from there, on to Nazjatar!