Thursday, November 13, 2014

So Warlords of Draenor is here...

Apparently the new expansion to World of Warcraft, Warlords of Draenor is out, and for the first time since World of Warcraft was released, I'm not there to jump in from the start. Or possibly, probably, ever.

My Twitter feed is currently flooding with glee (and quite a lot of frustration) about the new expansion , it's quite contageous to be honest. It's not like I don't think about WoW almost every day as it is, I have been seriously considering getting this new expansion eventhough I most likely won't be able to play it. Ok, that's only a half-truth. There are tons of things you can do in WoW even if you don't have time for raiding or even dungeoning. You can do all the quests for instance or challenge yourself with some odd form of Ironman. It's not like I don't have any spare time, I am using some of that to write this after all. Time I could spend playing WoW of course! I've spoken to the better half about dividing baby time so that we could allow eachother (because he wouldn't mind playing a bit again) to do a dungeon or LFR every now and then. But it's stayed at talks so far because quite frankly, even though I really want to play WoW again - I actually don't want to play WoW again. I've said it before and I am going to say it again. I know WoW will take up all of my spare time and I still have a shit-ton of other games I want to play. I think "you know what, let's just install the damn thing again" and then I immediately go "no, I won't. I still want to play Baldur's Gate, Thief 2, Legend of Grimrock, Pokemon Omega Sapphire, Koudelka..." and so on and so forth. If only I could trust myself to only play WoW occasionally and also give time to other games. But I wouldn't. I am too cheap. Since WoW is subscription based I know I would want to get my moneys worth and try to squeeze out as much time with it as possible. So for now, no WoW. We'll see how long I'll last. But enough of this, what I really wanted to talk about were WoW expansions. Because I've seen them all.

There have been better and worse expansions but overall I really don't think there's been a bad one. I mean, what would that have been? Really boring quests and instances/raids I guess. With every expansion I thought there was something really fun but I also feel like my level of fun was closely connected to my commitment to the game and the quality of my surrounding social life. This is an mmo after all and there is only so much fun you can have on your own, as I quickly learned in Vanilla.

Burning Crusade
Admittedly I wasn't there for the launch of WoW, I joined the WoW crowd some half-year afterwards, but I have been eagerly at the gates for every expansion. With Burning Crusade I was still a mere fledgling, eventhough I had played the game for over 1,5 years at that point (don't ask me what I was doing with my time). I didn't find my role in the game properly until BC was released, that is when I first started raiding and also decided on actually maining my priest (although I had already played her quite a lot beforehand). But there is nothing like the very first expansion, and Blizzard got everything damn right. I remember the feeling of the pre-patch leading up to the expansion and the mayhem that was the Opening of the Portal. It was a clutter so full of Horde and Alliance and death and kill-steals it was glorious. To then run through those portals and have the vast landscape of Hellfire Peninsula in front of you was such an amazing feeling. It looked massive and it looked like loads of fun and most importanly it held so many new things we had never seen before. New races, new mounts! New everything! With Burning Crusade Blizzard managed to make everything fun - this is where they got dungeons, raiding, pvping and questing absolutely right.

Just looking at it I can hear the tune -

More importantly however, it managed to make me feel included, like I was part of the gang. All through vanilla, and like I mentioned I played it for quite some time, I had had the feeling that I was part of someone elses show. I was invited to their groups and their raids, but only when they desperately needed someone. It could've been anyone. And I wasn't part of the team, I was a guest - if even that. I was in guilds, but they didn't feel like home yet. I don't blame the people, this was during a time when I still hadn't decided to take part of endgame simply because I thought a lot of it was quite boring (40-man raids? What were they thinking?). But that meant standing outside and watching everyone else having all the fun. Also, I constantly had the feeling that I was late to everything. Whatever I wanted to do, most people had already done and it wasn't cool any longer. There is a huge difference between being in a raid where everyone is enthusiastic and where everyone just does it because they don't have anything else to do, as frequenters of LFR will know.

People complain about Blizzard making WoW too accessible, heck even I have. But BC made WoW accessible to me and I definitely encourage any steps Blizzard take to make as many people as possible feel like they have a spot (which is not the same as saying that I agree with every change they've done).

Wrath of the Lich King
Once Wotlk was released my priest shoes fit me well and I decided to plan ahead and come prepared for this launch. BC I had just sort of experienced in full awe, Wotlk I was going to get in and own. I took my gaming way more serious for this release than I did for BC and I had raiding that waited for me at the other end of the leveling. I stood in line in the middle of the night for hours to get my Special Edition set. I remember stepping off the zeppelin in Howling Fjord (I was lucky enough to choose that starting area rather than Boring Tundra) and immediately loving it. The setting, feeling and music was great and the area was beautiful. This was another expansion Blizzard did extremely well, basically perfecting gameplay elements they had implemented in BC and trying out some new ones (different difficulties on bosses in raids was one of my favorite features that I really wish they would've kept). I loved every bit of Burning Crusade, Karazhan is one of my favorite raids, but by golly if Wotlk wasn't even better. I think every raid in Wotlk was fun and well done (yes, even TotC!) and I had a good and steady guild to raid with. Unfortunately towards the end of Wotlk, like Ikarus to the sun I wanted more and decided to leave the awesome guild I was in for one that was more raiding oriented. Things kind of spiraled downward for me from there.

That frost wyrm was really annoying though -

For Cataclysm I decided that a digital download would be the fastest and smoothest way to get into the game. Time was of the essence because I wanted to be among the first to get into the end-game instances so that I could be geared to raid as quickly as possible. But I still didn't want to play through the quests so quickly so that I missed out on the experience, I tried to find a nice middle-path and managed to level fairly quickly (especially considering I did it as a healing priest, just as with the previous two expansions), taking a couple of days to reach the new max-level. I liked the questing experience of Cataclysm quite a lot. Eventhough I understand why they had to give the old world a face-lift, I wasn't too happy about it, but the new areas were fun (yes, even Vashj'ir!) and I liked the first couple of raids as well. Firelands was pretty meh and Dragon Soul could've been better so to me Cataclysm ended on a bit of a low note, compared to BC and Wotlk that definitely went out with their flags raised high. But maybe this coincided with me having issues with my guilds and eventually also on a personal level where I had less and less time to raid and play overall. I probably would've enjoyed Cataclysm all the way to the end if the conditions had been the same. Even still, BC and Wotlk were definitely better expansions, I think most people agree on that (right?).

Actually Dragon Soul wasn't that bad -

I'd say early Cataclysm is probably when I took my gaming the most seriously. I had done some pretty heavy raiding all through Wrath (and BC actually) but for Cata I was in a raid-oriented 25 man guild whereas previously I had "only" been in a casual-raiding 10 man guild. I blogged a lot about priest healing (and other things WoW) like changes to the class, specs and loved trying different tactics and gear to see how I could optimize my healing. Sometimes I wonder if my quest for glory got in the way of having fun, and on a guild level I think that might be true. I think a lot of people can recognize themselves in the problem with trying to balance fun with progress in any progress-oriented guild. A lot of the time progress = fun. Finally downing that boss makes all the wiping, farming and grief worth it. But only if you can acknowledge that success and not just feel like it's not worth anything unless you also down the next boss. And the next, and next and so on. There is a lot that could be said about that for sure.

Mists of Pandaria
Another digital download but this time a slower pace of leveling. To be honest, eventhough this is the most recent release (not counting the current one) this is the one I remember the least of. I remember being frustrated about disconnecting, quests not working properly and not being able to click quest items/givers because there was a literal horde of players standing in the way (on their mounts just to be extra much of a nuisance). I am sure that didn't differ much from any of the previous releases, but for some reason I remember the annoyance part a lot more than the awed part. MoP did not sweep me off my feet like all the other expansions had. Maybe at this point I was already too roughed up and the stars had been dusted out of my eyes. Maybe I was getting old and bitter.

MoP was nice, but I never got into it. I didn't catch on to the lore and I just wasn't very excited about the whole process again. It's really not the games fault, at this point I didn't have as much fun in WoW as I used to, for reasons I've delved into in this blog several times before. A couple of things bothered me about MoP, something that had started already with Cataclysm. I felt like it had a lot less content than BC and Wotlk. Less instances primarily (I don't know if this is actually the case though) and having to trudge through the same two (it always felt like they came in pairs) got tedious and boring very quickly. Also, as mentioned, the story about the Pandarens didn't interest me anywhere near as much as the demons, undead and Old Ones of BC and Wotlk had done. Even the dragons of Cataclysm were more interesting.

At least no more dragons -

But like I said, I think this has a lot more to do with the fact that I didn't have as much time to raid and had swapped guild a couple of times at this point. I ended up in nice guilds every time (eventhough they tended to crumble pretty quickly around me) but not knowing the people you raid with still makes a difference. In a way I guess I had come full circle, feeling like an outsider again. Joining in as a guest when desperately needed, just like back in the Vanilla days. I felt like I needed more to fully enjoy the game back then and I still do so if I ever decide to actually start playing WoD it would have to be in a completely different way to what I have been. But maybe that's not as difficut as I think it is.

What are your experiences with the different expansions and which one do you think was best? (Hint: It's WotLK)