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World of Warcraft Column: A Peek at Patch 5.4

By Reza Lackey on June 17, 2013

Surprise! The next content patch is well on its way and it’s hitting the test realm soon. Blizzard has released a partial list of notes for the next chapter in the Mists of Pandaria campaign. While the patch notes are not complete, a fair amount of content has been data-mined and some of this content I would consider to be spoiler heavy. Don’t worry, I will avoid any potential spoilers for those of you wanting some surprises come patch day.

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Flexible Raids

Currently there are three difficulties for raids in WoW: Raid Finder, Normal and Heroic. In patch 5.4 Blizzard plans to add a fourth, unique difficulty: Flexible Raid. This new raid difficulty will sit between Raid Finder and Normal in terms of challenge and loot item level. Flexible Raids are intended for pre-made groups consisting of 10 to 25 players and the difficulty of the raid will scale depending on the number of players present. Additionally, Flexible Raids require no specific item level or role requirements for players and friends from other realms will be able to join in on your raid. The Flexible Raid has it’s own independent lockout so players will still be able to participate in other raid difficulties and raid achievements can also be earned.

I am totally on board with this new raid difficulty as it will allow me to raid with both real-life and in-game friends in a low key, relaxed environment. We won't have to be worried if suddenly someone is unable to join at the last minute and since the Flexible Raid uses the same per-person loot system as Raid Finder, there is no fear of drama or hard feelings when the shiny things begin to drop. I think this is a welcome addition to the game and hope to see it well received.

Virtual Realms

Virtual Realms is a new feature being added to the game for the first time and I believe it is a tremendous enhancement. Virtual Realms are different realms that are linked together acting as one in which players can play with one another just as if they were on the same realm. You will be able to join guilds, run dungeons, group up for quests and play with others just as if they were on your realm to begin with. You will be able to identify players belonging to the same virtual realm by a (#) symbol by their name.

This new feature will allow Blizzard to manage realm populations in a very unique way by linking low populations realms with others to increase player density in the world. This can also be used to balance the factions - a Horde heavy realm could be linked to an Alliance heavy realm. For those of you on low population realms, the days of seeing a deserted Orgrimmar at peak hours may be over.

Proving Grounds

Another new feature being introduced this patch is one that has been mentioned a few times before by various members of the development team as something they were hoping to eventually add to the game. This new feature is the Proving Grounds which is designed to allow players to test and improve their skills, whether it would be tanking, healing or damage. Each role will have four difficulties, bronze, silver, gold and endless. The endless difficulty will have players facing increasingly harder enemies. Based on the patch notes, it would appear that this is a high-score based system in which players can compete for bragging rights. So far there doesn’t seem to be any indication of rewards for this system but it is still early in development so this could change.

This new system is a welcome addition to the game as it will allow players to practice their PvE skills within solo content outside of a raid or dungeon. Testing new rotations and armor / weapon combinations is finally something we’re going to be able to do beyond the existing practice dummies in the game. Not to mention, this may also help alleviate potential anxiety from players who are about to run a dungeon or raid for the first time as a new class.

Other notable items

Some other notable items from the test realm patch notes:

  • Siege of Orgrimmar Raid
  • New area: Timeless Isle
  • A new pet battle tournament
  • The drop chance for loot on all existing Raid Finder raids has been increased
  • Season 14 Grievous PvP gear is now available
  • All permanent item enchantments can now be applied to items of any level

There is a lot to be excited about with this patch and there is still a ton of stuff not mentioned or detailed in the existing notes - what exactly is the Timeless Isle?! For the latest Patch 5.4 PTR updates, check out the official Blizzard notes here.

What do you think about the patch so far? Let us know in the comments below!

This weeks throwback item: Ring of Blackrock

Follow me on Twitter @rezalackey

Reza Lackey / Reza is a giant nerd who loves video games, board games, film and way too many other things. Works in the film industry, on some startups and thinks science is cool. Also launches rockets.


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