Times are changing in the World of Warcraft - yet they are standing completely still. Patch 5.4 is currently well into testing on the private test realm and I have spent several hours wandering through the new Timeless Isle zone that is being introduced. This week on the WoW Factor, I’d like to share my thoughts on how this new area could possibly be the most substantial and unique addition to the game since Mists of Pandaria shipped. I’m also going to briefly touch upon the very recent separation of Activision Blizzard and Vivendi Universal.
A New Deal
In an announcement last Friday, Activision Blizzard will officially be breaking away from its parent company Vivendi Universal by buying back approximately $8.17 billion shares. This essentially makes Activision Blizzard an independent studio alleviating the financial leach that was Vivendi, a company that has been in economic trouble for quite some time. How this will impact WoW and Blizzards stable of games will most likely not be seen for quite some time. However, I can’t imagine this will have any negative ramifications on their games as a majority of their shareholders are no longer bleeding money and may be open to bold new ideas. We might eventually see Blizzard take new risks that they may have been advised against in the past. It’s going to be very interesting to see how things play out.
In addition to the Vivendi split, Blizzard also announced the loss of 600,000 subscribers bringing down their current active player base to around 7.7 million. This is not much of a shock to me as WoW sees a decline in active users towards the end of each expansion cycle. Many commenters on the subject seem to think that this has to do with the graphic fidelity of the game when compared to newer titles and not so much its content. What do you think is the cause of the decline in players? Let’s discuss it in the comments below. I have no doubts that we’ll see an influx of new and returning players soon after this years Blizzcon.
Now onto the main course of this week's WoW Factor: A look at the Timeless Isle.
What is the Timeless Isle?
Just off the southeastern coast of the Jade Forest, a small new island has emerged from the mists - an island frozen in time where the sun hangs still in the sky and never sets. What caused the sudden appearance of this new place remains unknown but there are a few theories being tossed around by those who have recently ventured there. Perhaps it will be you who discovers its mystery.
The Timeless Isle is a place for pure exploration. Upon first arriving, there will be one quest which is essentially a tour of the island, taking players to several areas of interest. Unlike most of the content patches this expansion, there are no new quest hubs or rotating daily quests being added. Instead, there will be a plethora of dynamic events and activities to participate in around the entire island. There is very little direction for players in terms of what to do or where to go other than simply explore and discover new things - loot and treasure included.
So what exactly is there to do while “exploring?” As I mentioned earlier, there will by dynamic events that will randomly spring up across the island and there will be UI notifications on the minimap to alert players that an event has begun. Think of the escort quests currently in the Barrens where players must defend randomly spawning caravans from Kor’Kron attackers. There will also be many, many rare spawns and difficult mobs that can be dealt with in groups or in some cases as a lone player. There will be five new world bosses, four of which are the August Celestials: Chi Ji the Red Crane, Niuzao the Black Ox, Xuen the White Tiger and Yu’lon the Jade Serpent. The fifth world boss is Ordos, Fire-God of the Yaungol. This new boss requires all members of the attacking raid to have the legendary cloak completed to have a chance at his loot.
A new currency, the Timeless Coin, is being introduced on the island which will drop from all the aforementioned events, mobs and bosses in addition to random chests and such littered across the island waiting to be found. These coins can be used to purchase a wide assortment of items such as mounts, pets, cosmetic toys and even account-bound ilvl 496 gear. Interestingly, Timeless Cache’s can be purchased for different armor types (cloth, leather etc.) that once opened will generate a random, soulbound item for your current loot specialization of the chosen armor type. Lesser Charms of Good Fortune can also be found throughout the island making it possible to earn Mogu Runes of Fate (also purchasable with Timeless Coins) without the need of participating in daily quests.
In addition to all of the above, there is also the Celestial Pet Tournament in which players will take on seven battle pet challenges in a row: defeat four pet tamers each with with three pets and then face four legendary elite pets. Between challenges there is no healing allowed so you’ll want a stable of high-level pets (currently on the PTR you need 30 max-level pets to enter).
So what did I think after spending a few hours exploring this fascinating new addition to Azeroth?
To the Isle, Ricky Tick
Upon entering the Vale of Eternal Blossoms, I was automatically given a quest to meet Chromie of the Timewalkers just outside the Seat of Knowledge. Chromie handed over some type of spacetime device that instantly teleported me to the new island. After learning that the August Celestials had warned the Pandaren not to push further inland, of course I had to venture as far in as I could. Let me tell you: This place is an absolute blast.
Running around with a bunch of players exploring the land, charting caves, downing all kinds of mobs and raking in tons of Timeless Coins (these things are plentiful) is incredibly fun. More so because the game isn’t telling me what to do or where to go removing the feeling of “having a task.” Along the way, I also learned a few interesting facts about the new area but I’ll keep that to myself to not ruin the fun for the rest of you. The rate at which the Coins and Lesser Charms drop in addition to the bind on account items also make this a great place to get Alts up to speed and raid-ready for the new tier.
In addition to all of the fighting, there are tons of things to find. From treasures laying around to food and other items that will grant you temporary buffs while on the island. Tons of very cool vanity and cosmetic items can be acquired as well including a warning sign that players can plant into the ground and etch a message onto for other players to see. There is an item called a Cauterizing Core which allows you to resurrect on death with 20% health and mana. There are tons of really cool items to be found like this, some having very interesting effects on the world that I don’t want to spoil.
The Timeless Isle is a great reason to hop back into WoW if you’ve been away for a while and for those of you who have been enjoying the ride thus far, hang on. The Timeless Isle is the beginning of what is amounting to be a fiery finish to a great expansion cycle because while time is stuck here, in other areas of the world, change is coming:
If you’ve checked out the Timeless Isle on the PTR, let me know what you think in the comments below. Also, what are your thoughts on player direction in MMO’s? Should adventuring be more self-guided or do you prefer quests moving you through the world in a more linear fashion?
This week’s throwback item: Polished Zombie Exterminator
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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.