Since the majority of this blog’s attention was on World of Warcraft during 2010, I thought it was worth a post to update folks on my progress there. That is to say… not much.
To be honest, I’ve played very little WoW since before the holidays. I was totally amped up about Cataclysm leading up to release and couldn’t wait to get started on launch day. My plan was to explore and gather ores and herbs during the first few days to take advantage of inflated Auction House prices (muahahaha) and let the new zones clear out a bit.
I started out in Mount Hyjal, did the first few quests, and then started flying around and gathering. The only problem was that as I flew around the zone, many, if not most, of the ores that I spotted on my map would disappear as I got close to them, and that was my introduction to Cataclysm-era phasing. Parts of the zone would abruptly change as I flew in and out of them, and it was a little disconcerting. Eventually I got high enough to mine the next level of ore, made my way to Uldum, and hit 525 mining that first evening.
I went back to Hyjal and started questing. First I have to say that I loved the story of Mount Hyjal. I’m a big fan of Malfurion and the demi-gods and the dragons, so that was all good. But as I quested, something felt a bit off. I never had more than 2 or 3 quests at a time, and they were almost too streamlined; in every instance I completed the quests at the same time. It was a bit too efficient. Still, I didn’t mind too much, because I was geeking out to the story.
Then came Vashj’ir, and that’s where it unraveled. I can’t think of a single underwater zone in any game that I’ve ever enjoyed, and even with the mechanics that Blizzard implemented to make underwater questing tolerable, Vashj’ir was no exception. I still was only completing 2 or 3 quests at a time, and just when I thought I was perhaps halfway done with the zone, I checked my achievement panel: 30/160.
I wanted to smash my head against the keyboard.
I finished it out though (ever the Loremaster), and during that time I discovered the downfall of heavy phasing. Exploration, real exploration, was greatly hindered. If you tried exploring new areas but weren’t to that part of the story yet, they would sometimes be completely empty of mobs, and would almost always look differently by the time you actually got to that point in the story. If you skipped a quest, you couldn’t go to a different quest hub. Those NPCs would just give you a blank stare, ask why you were there, and then sent you back to finish your chores.
I continued on to Deepholm, but by that point my enthusiasm for Cataclysm was gone. I was completely disheartened by the Vashj’ir experience, and while Deepholm is a stunning zone, I just couldn’t get into the story. I tried Uldum, no dice. Twilight Highlands, the same. I had stopped seeing Azeroth as a great, vast world to be explored and played in, and was now seeing it as moving methodically from quest hub to quest hub, doing 2 quests at a time and watching cutscenes, seeing the world and story not through the eyes of my character, but through the virtual binoculars that the developers had programmed for me.
This is where I confirmed something that I think I’ve suspected all along: I like worlds I can play in. I enjoy Themepark MMOs, as long as I have the ability to choose where to go and what to do. I’ve never had an issue with the previous WoW design philosophy, with quest hubs and breadcrumb quests, because I always had options. If I didn’t want to do quests in, say Skald, I didn’t have to do those quests; I could go someplace else. But while the developers had admirable intentions of becoming better storytellers with Cataclysm, it has also locked players into all-or-nothing play through the zones. That’s not as much of an issue in the lower levels, when you have multiple zones to choose from, but at higher levels you don’t have as much freedom.
I did get to do a few normal-level instances, and they were fun. But in no time folks were talking about chain-running instances to prepare for heroics, and it was all-too-quickly a return to the style of gameplay that I’ve been doing for the past 18 months, and don’t really have any interest in doing again. I had been looking forward to exploration, archaeology, and just enjoying the new world, but even that’s not happening right now.
So am I done with WoW? Considering previous history it’s highly unlikely that I’m done for good, but I am considering myself on a WoW hiatus for the time being. If I get the urge to log on, I will, but I’m also not pressuring myself to do so. I’m still keeping in touch with my guildies, they’re far too awesome to just walk away and they are the one thing that I miss from WoW at the moment.
In the meantime, I’m playing some LotRO (level 44 hobbit minstrel, yeah!), beta-ing Rift, and looking forward to Guild Wars 2. I’m also job-hunting, learning to hoop dance, and working on some projects at the house so the break from WoW has been a productive one so far.