Archive for October, 2013

Ranking the WoW Expansions

It’s not quite a top 10 list, since there’s only 4 entires, but hopefully you’ll enjoy reading it!

Recently WoW insider did a Community Blog topic about their reader’s most and least favorite of the 4 expansions for World of Warcraft. I wanted to chime in with my own thoughts. I’ll start from the least favorite and work up from there, talking about what I did enjoy in each one along the way.


Least Favorite – Burning Crusade.

BC logo

The Aesthetics of Outland, especially Hellfire Peninsula (a constant back and forth neverending war with demons raging around you, and a landmass that was not-quite normal feeling, where anytime you were along the edges, you felt you would slide off into the Nether around you) and Netherstorm (similar feel, plus the Manaforges were just awesome looking)
The first real step to equalizing all the hybrid classes’ DPS specs into being useful
The artwork for weapons and armor – the otherworldliness of it makes it some of my favorite stuff to use for transmog to this day.
The Shattered Sun Offensive dailies were extremely fun, working to progress to unlock areas.

Raid Content maintained the exclusitivity that it had from Vanilla, unless you were a hardcore raider, too much of the game was inaccessible to you.
Many of the level 70 instances were either overly difficult, overly long, or both. Trying to find a group sucked.
Story was kind of a flop. Why exactly were we fighting Illidan again? The idea of Kael’s blood elves turning against him was a novel idea, but Kil’jaeden showing up felt forced. And nothing ever actually came of the ending of that raid. It’s like everyone actively tries to forget what happened.
Seriously, screw Arenas. Worst thing added to the game ever. These things did absolutely nothing except screw up class balance as far as i’m concerned. Get rid of them, please.

Second Least favorite – Cataclysm

cata logo

The rebuilt Azeroth – The questing is better and more engaging as a story, the loot actually makes sense, areas that were previously all but untouched for various reasons became relevant again, and OH MY GOD FLYING IN AZEROTH FINALLY
The Molten Front offensive story (heck pretty much all the story surrounding Hyjal) was pretty awesome. The dailies were enjoyable and the achievements surrounding them were a lot of fun to work for.
The Hour of Twilight Heroics – These are what 5-man instances should be. Chock full of story, enjoyable bossfights, excellent design. A very successful iteration of the Icecrown heroics of the previous expansion, perfect as a raid catchup mechanic.
Transmog was introduced in this expansion, easily one of my favorite features added. I love having all my old gear be relevant while actually playing again. It allows us to create unique looks for characters.

Story was a screaming mess of wasted potential. Deathwing could have been used as Arthas so excellently was in Wrath. He’s got so much story experience as a cunning manipulator, instead he became a boring faceless thing of destruction. Far too much of the raid content was rehashed villains from Vanilla. No sense of cohesion to the threats we faced. And so much potential with the Old Gods was completely unused. Don’t even get me started on the ending, Captain Thrall-takes-all-the-credit.
The new level content was not good. Vash’jir was painful to level through, and there was no payoff to the story. Uldum took the “Indiana Jones” story way too far. Twilight Highlands railroaded Horde Players into being Garrosh lackeys
Removal of too many good catchup mechanics – The previous expansion had an excellent catch-up mechanic that it introduced, where you could buy the tier set for the previous tier’s raid content simply by farming enough Badges (now Justice Points). Cata did away with that mechanic, which angered the heck out of me. I loved the mage set from Tier 11, and not being able to get the remaining pieces without having to venture into the raid in a PuG…awful choice.

Second most favorite – Mists of Pandaria

mop logo

MoP’s story, on the whole, has been pretty good, with some exceptions
Pandaria is gorgeous. I said it before and I’ll say it again, you can tell the artists poured their heart and soul into this one. So much amazing detail, so many cool little hidden things to find, it’s truly awesome to see
The many great features added in, such as the Farm where you can grow various crafting materials, Pet battles, Flex raiding, account bound mounts, etc.
Timeless Isle is a truly innovative stab at catching up along the gear curve, and I love the account bound tokens. Perfect for alts, something that MoP ignored.
Wasn’t sure how LFR being available from the expansion’s start would work out, but for me it’s allowed me to see pretty much all of the content at level

Way too many quality-of-life changes that were made in the previous two expacs were rolled back. No rep tabards, Gear/recipes/rewards were double-gated behind reputation and justice point grinds, flying was once AGAIN made only available at level cap (though this time no alternate way to get it for alts) and even then some of the newer areas restricted it. Blizzard needs to stop taking away these sorts of things.
The literally insane focus on dailies and rep gates made the very idea of playing alts an utter nightmare. This was improved greatly with the advent of the Timeless Isle, but it made the early part of the expansion an ugly grind to actually progress.
Storywise, we ran into an issue I often hate, where your character has utterly no input as to what they’re doing. Especially on the Horde side, I felt railroaded into being a loyal Garrosh soldier during the initial zone of MoP as well as the Dominance Offensive storyline. Most Horde players already had a severe dislike of Hellscream based on their experiences in Cata, and saw the destructive results of his invasion into Pandaria coming a mile away, yet we had no choice but to play through it. That needs to never happen again.
5-Man instances were put on the backburner, replaced by Scenarios for Valor farming and LFR for gear catch-ups. Though later augmented by Timeless Isle, I consider 5-mans to be among my favorite group content in the game. The Scenarios were a decent idea, but many of them were flops to play through (Theramore anyone?), and the rewards sucked. Heroic Scenarios are simply not fun. They remind me too much of GW2 dungeons. I’m hopeful Blizzard returns to 5-mans as the preferred method for gearing up, and continues to develop them as “catch-up” mechanisms. They provide what is in my opinion, the most fun method of this.

Most favorite – Wrath of the Lich King

WOTLK logo

It’s the thing most WoW players were calling for since WoW was introduced – we wanted to take the fight back to the Lich King. He was at that point the most well-known villain in the WoW universe, and we got to take him down. Storywise, he was handled well, showing up many times during the leveling experience to taunt us, and his ultimate plan, revealed during his battle in Icecrown Citadel, made for a great conclusion.
This expansion introduced probably the greatest feature added to WoW in years, the Random Dungeon Finder. There were several other features that Wrath added, but this one was the best received.
Raiding began the trend of opening up to a wider audience, with a comparatively reduced difficulty in the intial raids of the expansion versus previous ones. This allowed more folks to get into raiding, and continue on with it as the expansion progressed, myself included.
Starting with the latter half of the raids, we became able to farm tier sets using the badge system that would eventually become the justice/valor point system. This, coupled with the added 5-man instances, allowed players to gear up to the later raids and stay current in the story.
I loved all of the zones introduced in Northrend, they continued the epic war feeling that was introduced in Hellfire Peninsula, but continued it all the way through Northrend, especially in Icecrown. Storm Peaks felt epic in it’s scope, Grizzly Hills was a beautiful joy to play in, and i can’t really think of a zone I did not enjoy.

I had some storyline quibbles (Fordring taking credit for our hard work, despite spending the Lich King fight in a block of ice springs to mind).
I liked Trial of the Crusader as a raid in concept (no trash just bosses), but this one kind of flopped for me due to the PvP fight and need to constantly do 4 versions of it for badges and gear. I’m glad there’s a lockout between 10 and 25 now, preventing this sort of occurence.
The artwork in gear veered too far away from the fantastical that was pre-eminent in BC for me. I know it was supposed to be rough and rugged, like the landscape, but I’m still not a fan.