Archive for November, 2011

Chapter VIII – The Hour of Twilight is (almost) upon us!

Or should I say the Hour of the Big Resto Nerf?

Whatever healing meters will look like after 4.3, I have to say I am really looking forward to Dragon Soul and the new 5 man dungeons.

To Dragon Soul, because this is the first time I get to raid a whole expansion while it’s current content. I started raiding in ICC with the 10% buff – or was it 15%? It feels such a long time ago somehow – then had my healing epiphany in Blackwing Descent, learned and refined the Resto craft in Firelands and finally I get to kill… uhmm… keep my guildies alive while they kill the big bad Dragon for me. While I know that challenging Deathwing to many doesn’t give that ‘epic feeling’ that was present in Fall of the Lich King, Hour of Twilight feels a bit like a final test to me. I know that I’ve been steadily making some progress and my self-expectations make this final patch feel special beyond its apparent meaning.

To the new 5-mans – especially Well of Eternity – because it’s been a while since I’ve seen instances, even raids, with a strong storyline behind them. Some of the Cataclysm ones, while aesthetically amazing, felt a bit lacking in that department. Caverns of Time dungeons, on the other hand, are among my favourite ones (yes, I know Stratholme was one of the most hated heroics at some point) as they give you a glimpse of Warcraft lore you would otherwise have no clue about… did I ever mention that I don’t like RTS videogames? Anyway, from what I have seen so far, Well of Eternity alone feels more compelling story-wise than Dragon Soul, although I expect (hope?) to be corrected in the next few weeks as we explore the new raid.

THAT’S GOOD TO HEAR, BUT… WHAT NOW?

A lot has been said about the nerf to Wild Growth and its related Glyph. Other than that, there are no major changes we have to worry about – just pray that your favourite add-ons don’t leave you alone on patch day, practice Rejuvenation spam and everything will be fine. Enjoy Transmogrification, rejoy for Void Storage, play the new Faire games. Don’t care in the slightest for those? Well, it’s time for some gear lists then. There are already quite a few of them around, which is nice as I can focus on my favourite loot listing, gear by itemizations stats! That’s definitely something for the next Chapter though….

P.S. Yes, almost. Patch day on Wednesday instead of Tuesday sucks.

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Chapter VII – Tora! Tora! Tora!

Blizzcon 2011, Anaheim. Blizzard Entertainment shocks fans worldwide by revealing Mists of Pandaria as the next World of Warcraft expansion.

Although it had been revealed that a MoP trademark was registered earlier this year, the thought of an expansion focused on the forgotten continent of Pandaria, and its inhabitants the anthropomorphic pandas Pandaren, was met with a very strong reaction from WoW players.

“Complete surprise is achieved

The introduction of this post would have been so much better had Blizzard based MoP on the Japanese culture and imagery instead of the Chinese one. There seem to be a lot of sakura trees on Pandaria though, that’s for sure.

Anyhow, I like what I have seen so far of the new expansion. The scenery is certainly impressive, and the change in dungeons and raid environment will be most welcome from me. I started raiding in Icecrown Citadel, which of course had a captivating backstory, yet a very bleak look; then I moved on to Cataclysm, where raids and dungeons so far have been mostly huge rocky caves. At the beginning of the expansion I couldn’t even tell BRC, Grim Batol and the Stonecore apart because it was all a massive blur of maroon/purple/dark brown in my mind; as well as Blackwing Descent is designed, it doesn’t even compare to the stunning Throne of the Four Winds, which is a lone gem in a sea of dullness.

I am not sure about the Pandaren yet, but I have enough faith in Blizz left to believe that they’ll make a decent enough job to give them an adequate background. The new Monk class sounds interesting enough and, being the manga geek… I mean connoisseur that I am,  I have already “reserved” a number of variations on the Genma Saotome name for my future Pandaren Monk.

The new features like Scenari and Challenge Mode were met with a blank stare from me (I pretty much stopped reading at “The rewards for delivering top Challenge Mode times will be mostly cosmetic in nature” and skipped to the next section). I am kinda surprised at how the Pet Battle System is a total Pokemon clone, though. I guess the people at Nintendo are cool with that.

The talents overhaul seems like a move into the right direction. I don’t agree 100% with the notion that we were left with cookie-cutter talent builds, but as a druid I like how the new talents are mostly focused on utility; being relatively new to the druid class, I am still learning how/when to use bear/cat abilities while healing and it’s something I definitely enjoy.

Speaking of druids, I was happy to see Blizzard acknowledege the Resto AOE healing issue in one of their Q&A sessions. Apparently we’re getting new tools, such as healing mushrooms, and according to the MoP talent list we will be able to choose Force of Nature as a healing cooldown (I’m guessing it will be something similar to the current Paladin ability Guardian of Ancient Kings). This sounds exciting but it does nothing about the issues we might face in patch 4.3, although they might have something different in store for us.

Finally, the lack of a major villain has been met with very different stances. In my opinion, it is definitely a plus at this point. Back in WotLK there was a lot of doom and gloom but it felt justified; the Lich King threatened to swarm Azeroth with his legions of undead and we were constantly reminded of it. Almost every bit of questing and raiding was aimed towards the final do-or-die confrontation with Arthas. There was a strong sense of urgency throughout all of Northrend.

On paper, the same could be said for Cataclysm, with the Twilight cultists threat and Deathwing burning and destroying left and right. In practice, it fell flat on his head. People are stuck afk’ing in SW/Org except when *Cata’s main villain* is sighted, at which point players will run to get burninated and win the coveted achievement. The Twilight cult feels more like a joke. Having portals take you from Stormwind to pretty much everywhere doesn’t help. It doesn’t matter that we have the whole 1-60 experience reshaped by the destruction Deathwing brought – it just feels wrong.

So far, so good. However, something that happened at Blizzcon left a sour taste in my mouth.

So much fail

A lot has been already said and written about the Corpsegrinder fiasco. I am not here to discuss morality and sexual orientation, and I have actually rewritten this part of my post after some consideration. I am not going to put the blame on George Fisher; while I certainly do not approve of people randomly throwing around homophobic slurs, it was Blizzard’s choice to invite him and show that interview. What really ticks me off is the choice to introduce mr. Corpsegrinder as a WoW fan – someone we should, somehow, actually look up to.

Sadly, in that video he comes off as a total homophobic, unintelligent brute who likes to run his mouth and blabber about how Alliance is made of queers. I can’t understand how anyone in their right mind would cheer for that. Basically, the message coming across is that Blizzard caters to male high-schoolers with an IQ lower than a monkey’s – with all due respect to monkeys and intelligent high-schoolers.

Korenwolf of Paw Prints at the Portal already explained what’s wrong with the whole affair, probably better than I ever could. That was an astonishingly bad, mind-boggling PR move from Blizzard and they are very lucky that the story didn’t make it to national news outlets. I never wish unemployment upon anyone but whoever thought it was a good idea to air that interview – even in censored form, which only makes things worse – should be fired on the spot… except that this brilliant idea probably came from the higher-ups at Blizz.

World of Warcraft has literally millions of subscribers, from the most diverse countries and backgrounds. There are old people, housewives, kids who play WoW. With Mists of Pandaria the general consensus, which is probably spot on, seems to be that Blizzard is looking to a younger audience to expand the player base, or least looking to new kinds of gamers. There is nothing wrong with that. I like WoW and I’m happy that as many different people can enjoy it as well, as long as it doesn’t turn into Hello Kitty Online (which I might enjoy anyway). Yet the message coming from their biggest showcase of the year goes in the completely opposite direction, giving new strenght to years-old stereotypes. If that’s not a dumb move on Blizzard’s part, I really don’t know what that is.