Something I feel has no good answers in the current state of World of Warcraft is the way in which patch story quests unfold.
Early in the expansion, it seemed fairly safe to assume that the War Campaign, designed as the connective tissue of the early endgame experience, was going to be a must for alts going into the future of the expansion. Did that necessarily mean everyone pushed alts through it? No. In fact, all of my alts are still in the various phases of the initial zone unlocks for the opposite faction. I’ve only done the complete war campaign twice – once Alliance, once Horde. For how little I’ve wanted to play the game as of late, this has been suitable.
However, today, I saw that there were two 2,000 gold reward emissary quests up – one of which was the Ankoan. I decided to see for myself how long it would take me to go from unfinished war campaign to Nazjatar daily quests unlocked on a bad alt.
So I picked my Priest, currently specialized in Shadow (the spec in the game I probably play the worst) and set out.
Firstly, something weirdly fascinating to me is how much Blizzard abandoned the flavor of the patch quests. The Darkshore series started with Tyrande’s owl Dori’thur swooping in to send you on your way, but now that very same owl just sits on your mission boat. Also, the quest it sends you on is no longer necessary in any real sense – instead, you can just talk to Greymane right next to it to immediately head out to Nazjatar. Sure, you might need to do it to unlock the warfront, but I haven’t bothered on an alt yet.
Secondly, it struck me as odd, the whole thing – the story told in the launch experience and war campaign through 8.1.5 no longer really feels necessary, and the game treats it as such on an alt, to the point that I’m not fully sure if it makes anyone do those quests anymore. Surely it must, but at the same time, early BfA was a sort of bleak time for the game and it wouldn’t altogether surprise me to see Blizzard drop it like a bad habit. It was, indeed, the era of San’layn that weren’t properly built into the lore, a sort of odd start to the war, and of course, the era when the game expected players to fall in love with Azerite armor, which…well, never happened.
However, I find myself at odds. My base answer was that this design was good – skip the garbage, go straight to Nazjatar and get those essences and the better gameplay that awaits with them. At the same time, however, there is some genuinely good lore in that, and the experience of not having done the 8.1 quests on my only Horde alt made it even worse – you jump straight to mourning King Rastakhan with little context provided outside of just quest text. Alliance players miss the excellent Pride of Kul Tiras story, which can still be done, but has far less significance placed on it. The Battle for Dazar’alor might as well not have happened for the Alliance, as Jaina is healthy and roaming around to ease you into Nazjatar.
It is a curious conflict, because I do think that designing it in this way is to the benefit of the gameplay – streamline out the minutia of the lore and go high level story beats to pull people into actually playing their characters in current content and upgrading Benthic gear, but at the same time, I feel like it leaves something to be desired.
I don’t think the ideal solution is to make everyone play the whole story, certainly, but I wonder how many people think worse (or better!) of the lore of World of Warcraft because their exposure to many of its events is in snippets presented like the beginning of a Dragon Ball Z episode? I imagine there is a non-zero number of players out there that don’t have any weird feelings about the various battles and minor aggressions of the early stages of the BfA story, and instead, at the macro level, see a story of underlying faction tension being leveraged by maniacal rulers like Azshara and Sylvanas. Is that a better story? Maybe – I think I would like the expansion a lot more if they found a great, well-paced way to deliver on that concept.
But, then again, maybe that is just me.