Friday, April 16, 2010

Reflecting on Wrath

No, the title doesn't mean I rolled a Warrior and pwned a Druid. It means I'm taking today to look back on WotLK and point out what was fun... and what wasn't.

Naxxramas: Fun. Naxx was where I first learned to raid, since a couple forays into Kara the week before WotLK came out really don't count. Because of this, (and the low quality of the guild I was in at the time,) it was tuned appropriately for me. The fights were varied enough to each be interesting, ranging from truly tank-and-spank like Pathcy, to things demaning some strategic contribution from everyone, like Heigan, Sapphiron and Loatheb. Overall, it was an excellent place to learn to raid for beginning players, and every expansion should have something like Naxx.

Original 5-Mans/Heroics (pre-Dungeon Finder): Meh. They were really fun the first time or two through them, but on my umpteenth run looking for Gal'darah's Signet in regular Gun'drak just so I could reach the 535 defense cap for Heroics really sucked. 5mans are fun about twice. Then they're fun on Heroic mode as long as they remain appropriately challenging for some reason other than your party sucks. Being "forced" to run them beyond that is poor design and should be done away with.

Glory of the Hero: Fun! These ranged from "so easy a caveman could do it" to "legitimately challenging with a group of 5 seasoned raiders." It was a fun achievement in ~213 gear. A word to the wise: don't go trying to do this in the Dungeon Finder. It makes you an asshat.

Vault of Archavon: Awful. While it was fun when Naxx was fun, (because I was bad,) it degenerated into something ugly. By putting all four bosses on the same raid lockout, it made it basically impossible for people who need the lesser bosses to actually do them. And really, the only real challenge in the place is being online the one time your faction gets VoA this week. Like the dungeon finder, the rewards were too good; they encouraged us to do unfun, unhealthy things. Also? Never tie raid access to being on the populated side of your server again! >.< Obsidian Sanctum: Fun! Easy enough to show your bad casual friends a raid with no real fear of failure, yet individually punishing even on regular mode (I.E. people who ate flame waves got repairs.) And then the hard modes... wow were those fun in appropriate gear. Granted, I never got to down OS+3 in ilvl ~213 gear, but we did manage OS10+2 after a few weeks, and that was some of the most hectic fun I've ever had.

Eye of Eternity: Not fun. Take a raid, add clunky vehicle mechanics, a mandatory class, (a non-tank DK for Grip-Chains on the Power Spark,) and flying combat, and you have a recipe for a buggy, clunky, awkward raid. It was easy enough, but it just wasn't fun.

Ulduar: Fun! I never full cleared it. On regular. It was plenty challenging, the art and story was truly epic, and it kept me occupied for an entire patch cycle. What more can you ask for in a raid? Another note, this is the first time they did vehicle combat right. FL+0 was tuned easily enough that you could work through the various vehicle UI problems and learn the new controls bring your non-raider friends and still have a fair shot at it. And after that, the farm content wouldn't get tiresome, because you could crank the difficulty to fit your raid group. We did FL+3 in appropriate gear, and it was fun. I also recently went back to tackle the hard mode achievements (in ICC gear) and one of them at least was still hard and fun: Firefighter. To anyone who has never done Firefighter, I strongly recommend going back to do it before level 81. You'll be glad you did.

5man ToC: Fun! While I'll admit that I didn't specifically like the jousting or the Wall-O-Text, neither detracted enough from the instance to make me dislike it as a whole. The epics falling from the sky cause a crash in the Abyss Crystal market, but I think that this was one of the best ways to ensure that newcomers could gear up quickly. Certainly it was much better than ~50 random heroics. The random bosses were a nice touch, and this was legitimately hard in ilvl 200 gear, putting it properly in progression after the original Heroics and Naxxramas.

ToC raid: Mixed. This was fun the first time, and remained fun until we had beated it. Which didn't take very long. The fact that hard modes were separated from regulars was, I think, a bad idea, and thankfully it seems that they have at least somewhat learned from this for ICC. This was the first time they scaled-up the old sources of emblems, to give Conquest. That, I think was a mistake, they should have made most things give Valor, and leave Conquest in Ulduar and H 5man ToC, so that gearing up remained a proper progression in all parts.

Heroic ToC raid: Fun! Still hard, still fun now. Unfortunately, it's not incentivized now. Give it a shot if you haven't before. You'll need a free night and some good players though; out-geared or not, it still won't tolerate sloppy play.

Dungeon Finder: Mixed. It was very novel to be able to group in ~30 seconds, as opposed to ~30 minutes, and being able to chain-run an alt was great... for about a week. The rewards were too big on the Dungeon Finder, and that led to many people running beyond when hey stopped having fun. Please don't use rewards to get us to do something we hate. Use them to get us to try something we might like.

Heroic 5-man ICC: Fun! Challenging, rewarding, full of plot, everything I look for in a 5man. Halls of Reflection was particularly fun with a group of 4 of my ToC25-raiding friends. That said, it's specifically not fun to tackle challenges with people whose skill, motivation and gear are a crapshoot; HoR should never have been a random dungeon, though having it available to queue specifically for it was a good call.

ICC: Fun! Like Ulduar, it had fights ranging in difficulty so that everyone and their alts can see a few fights, while being a true challenge as you get deeper in. I refer to Funship Battle by that name for obvious reasons, and I've still yet to kill the Lich King (mostly for lack of trying; I haven't played since the warsong went live, and we were damn close before that.) I do wish that a full clear wasn't required for hard modes, however; I wish we could set Marrowgar, Deathwhisper, and a few others to medium mode so they wouldn't be so boring.

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