I would have had a post yesterday, but after a near 7 hour drive to get home and a 2 hour raid, my 90 minutes of attempts at my original post idea (a wrestling one that I am going to keep chipping away at eventually!) bore no fruit, so I gave up, gave it a sleep in my own bed and a full day to let things percolate.
There was a lot of WoW news to discuss while I was gone, mostly about the contents and changes of patch 9.1.5, but I want to focus on something near and dear to me.
The Mage Tower.
Wowhead found datamining suggesting tuning being done to the Legion Mage Tower scenarios. The tuning was in-line with that being done for the dungeons used in Timewalking for the addition of Legion dungeons in 9.1.5, but slightly higher values. Now, this doesn’t inherently mean anything – we have no confirmation of what this tuning is for or what form it will take if any in the finished patch, but the fact that they are doing it at all signals something – given the now-deprecated nature of the Mage Tower content, action taken to tune and change it would seem to be wasted…unless it was coming back. Alongside this datamining has come a series of new tints for the Tier 20 class sets from the Tomb of Sargeras raid, which themselves were HD remastered versions of Tier 6, one of the more iconic tiers for class looks (except for the 3 classes which did not exist then, which got new armor, with DH and Monks getting cool stuff and Death Knights getting…uh, not cool stuff). That would also be weird, especially since the armor models used for these new colors are the Mythic-variant or Elite PvP sets, with increased details and additional particle effects.
Those two items together have been enough to create a firestorm of debate.
The Mage Tower is, more than anything else in the game, a shining example of timelocked, no longer obtainable rewards. It was built and made to be a skills challenge locked to that period in time – Legion skills and powers, stat scaling as appropriate, and with gameplay built specifically for that time, with a reward that had an expiration date noted fairly early in the lifecycle of that content. Intentionally, it is sort of a note to show that you were there at that level during Legion, and it makes the reward special, in theory at least, that it is not universally obtainable or something that a higher-leveled player could go back into and steamroll.
So this has been something of an interesting topic to watch, because there are a few emergent schools of thought as I have seen them – people who want Mage Tower back with the old rewards, people who want it back with the T20 recolors only, people who want it back with both the prestige skins and the T20 recolors as rewards, and people who don’t want it back, for a variety of reasons (gameplay or just the prestige of the experience, I suppose). It is an interesting dilemma – if you bring it back, you run the chance of new players getting those skins and diluting the perceived value of having done the Mage Tower as fully current content in Legion. If you bring it back with only class set rewards and only the single new recolor that has been datamined in most cases, then it would seem to be easy enough to run just the easiest scenario for your class to get the recolor and that’s it – unless the game makes you do all available scenarios, in which case it could feel unfairly easy for Demon Hunters and unfairly hard for Druids. If you make both rewards available, how do you manage the acquisition for that?
I could speak to the broader community reaction, but I want to take today to just speak to my own reaction.
I went through a pretty broad range of feelings about the potential re-addition of the Mage Tower to WoW. My first reaction was a sort of broadly defensive one, a feeling that the work I had done in Legion would be subverted by this news in some way. As I thought about it, however, my position warmed on this potential addition – a lot.
The Mage Tower was many things to many people, but for me, it was a sort of demonstration of mastery. Since Cataclysm, I had maintained a full stable of max-level characters, with one of every class. Was I particularly great at all of them? No, of course not. When the Mage Tower was announced, I thought it was pretty cool, but I wasn’t particularly concerned with it. It took a little bit before the bug bit, when I started knocking over challenges, when I then realized that I could potentially get them all, and so I set out, and I did it. The long-term readers, the real Kaylriene-heads, will remember that I wrote a lot about it, and as I was doing it, so it ended up being a very good living document showing my change of heart on the Mage Tower and my sheer jubilation at having done them all.
And to be clear, I suppose the most interesting feedback I would have about the Mage Tower is this: past a point of resistance, they aren’t actually that difficult. What made them hard in Legion was a mix of things – mostly down to what item level you started hitting them in, the limited attempts and limited access giving you a small window in which you could get some practice in, and those first attempts on each unique challenge. Once I downed my first tank challenge, the rest were all substantially easier, save for protection warrior because the tuning and mobility mechanics required a lot more finesse. Once I did my first healing challenge on Holy Priest, one of the hardest specs to ice the challenge with, the rest were downright comical, save for Holy Paladin (the other challenging spec in that challenge).
When I thought about that, it brought a new perspective to me and changed my outlook on the idea of the Mage Tower’s return. In my head, it was a challenge with a limited time I had met and I didn’t want the value of that to be diminished. In truth, though, I find myself thinking that if anyone can do it now with Shadowlands systems and design, they have earned it as much as I did back in the day. I have the date-stamped achievements and the written record here to prove my accomplishment, and anyone else earning them doesn’t reduce that feeling, because they’re likely to meet with challenges from the design and the same sort of limited-time ability to engage with it (I assume it will only be up on Legion Timewalking weeks, which will mean a much longer space between attempts, even compared to the limited nature of the Broken Shore buildings as they were then). It could even be a double-whammy, where you’ll need to ensure that the Mage Tower is activated through the old Broken Shore gameplay mechanics prior to being able to try (I assume this will not be the case, but hey).
Ultimately, what gave me the value I got from having done the full 36 appearance run is that it was validating to me and my ability to learn and adapt, both to the challenges and how each spec played in them, but also to my alts, to prove to myself, my guildies, and anyone who looked on that I wasn’t just a novice at WoW with a handful of Recruit-a-Friend leveled alts, but a skillful player in my own right who could adapt and conquer. The feeling of validation I got from it isn’t a thing that can be stripped away just because someone can go back in a few months and get the same appearances. In fact, the chance to get those Tier 20 recolors would be sufficient motivation for me to get back in there and keep pushing on them again, nearly 4 years after I finished the last challenge on my list and walked away at 36/36. Some of these T20 recolored sets offer the best looking colorways for their sets, and being the Mythic/Elite base model means it is a cool way to add those looks to my wardrobe.
So on one hand, I sort of get it – to some players, there is a sort of sacred cow being slaughtered if the Mage Tower fully comes back. It also prompts a lot of questions about exclusivity (as someone who only did Pandaria Challenge Modes on Gold on a single character, I would love a shot at them now during MoP timewalking, and the same goes for WoD Challenge Modes, where I only did mostly Bronze with some Silvers mixed in and would love to get the mount and the weapons), and a lot of players might feel differently based on which achievements they reached or didn’t. I know part of me invoking the Challenge mode rewards is that I didn’t get all of them how I wanted and I would love a chance to get them all, but at the same time, I was initially resistant to the idea of the Mage Tower awarding the prestige skins. Hell, when we get BfA timewalking in 10.1.5 (mark it down and please look forward to it), who is to say that we couldn’t have another shot at Keystone Master for BfA with the mount that was rewarded in the final BfA season? All of these things were timelocked, offered as such, and a lot of players pushed hard to varying degrees of success or enjoyment in order to meet that challenge, and there is a visceral reaction of wondering if that time was then wasted if you can go back during Timewalking and just do it. It can feel diminishing, annoying, or devaluing to know that you pushing to meet that time commitment in-time wasn’t strictly necessary.
However, on the other hand, I think that the skill and play level required for such endeavors means that there isn’t a huge audience that will go in and faceroll through a 36-appearance gauntlet from zero, or would do CM Golds in both applicable expansions. There’s a small audience for whom that would even be possible, and most of them are new players who didn’t even get to see the Mage Tower, are pretty good, and are currently locked out of those appearances (yes, there are people like this and I know several!) – and outside of that, the Mage Tower will remain a thing that most don’t care to do or simply cannot do and are aware of their own limitations. Unless the tuning is abysmal, a rebooted Mage Tower wouldn’t be the worst thing in the world, and if it is only available and reward-giving during Legion Timewalking weeks, that means it would take around 3 months off between being open, so you’d only have a shot at it around 4 times a year for a week each time it comes around. That’s actually way worse, because when I was grinding them out in Legion, the tower was up for 3 days at a time and usually came back around 3 days after it went down, so any progress on challenges was easy to pick up again with the next Tower availability.
And honestly, here’s the thing – I think that explicitly wanting people to not have access to a thing is a bad way to be. It’s not like every guild’s bad hunter is suddenly going to have the cool Beast Mastery crossbow-gun crossover skin or the Rhok’Delar throwback MM skin, or the glut of bad Holy Paladins you see clogging up Mythic Plus are suddenly gonna get the cool burning hammer. The people that will get there are people who care and who will earn it, and I think there are enough people out there who came into the game late and deserve that shot. Not everything is or must be time-limited and not everything that is time-limited in WoW should be, in my opinion, especially when there are other limiters in play, like access to practice the challenge and work towards completion of your goals.
So in the end, all of this is to say – let’s get that Mage Tower back in the game, folks. Assuming it’s built and balanced correctly to maintain the challenge of yesterday, I welcome it, full rewards, and then some, back into our lives.
(Also give me those Challenge Modes back Blizzard you cowards)