It's been a while since I've written the World of Warcraft column, and it's honestly nice to pick it back up again. I had a lot of conflicted feelings about continuing to play WoW after all of the turmoil of the working conditions for employees and how it has seemed like ABK was doing the bare minimum to improve things. However, I was able to arrange to pay my sub for a year by donating to the ABK Strike Fund, so I feel freer to enjoy the game. I wish they'd do more to make it a great place to work, but I also realize that with the pending Microsoft deal, not much is likely to change until after that goes through. Nonetheless, there are exciting things afoot in WoW.
9.2 Launch Next Week
It's been almost eight months since 9.1 launched, and as much as I have enjoyed Korthia, I can't say the same about Sanctum of Domination. I'm honestly not sure there's a raid tier I have ever been happier to see the backside of, and the main reason is the Sylvanas fight. The structure is just so frustrating; I wish it had been split into multiple fights. Just the first and second phases as one fight, and then the third phase as the second fight would have been perfect. But I digress.
One of the things I am most looking forward to with 9.2 is more story to play through, but weirdly I'm not that interested in the larger pieces. I don't care very much what happens to Sylvanas. I was never a huge fan of hers, and after burning the tree, I was out for blood. Though, I also believe Tyrande was wrong for pursuing her the way she did. As I have discussed before, no matter what happens to her, nothing will be fixed or undone, and no justice is possible due to the scale of her crimes. One life does not balance thousands.
I am interested in the "smaller" stories that will be told. One of the best parts of the 9.1 story was working with Uther and exploring his past, and helping him come to terms with the choices he made. The theme of compassion was handled in an exciting way, and I am hopeful for more moments like that. Sure we need to stop the Jailer and hopefully save Anduin, but for the most part, everything surrounding the main story is what I'm most interested in. Hopefully, there won't be any more monumentally stupid choices forced on us like there were in 9.1 as well. Taking the sigil to the Runecarver was an exceptional level of bad choice.
I also have to point out that seeing what seems like a faster iteration on feedback this PTR cycle has been reassuring. As a more casual player, I don't mind caps on rep and story, as long as it is possible to catch up. The way Renown ended up was pretty ideal. The main change I would have made would be more guaranteed ways of getting Renown when behind. However, since each Renown gives a new level rather than filling a bar a little more, I suppose having more guaranteed ways to catch up might have messed other things up somewhere. I hope the devs keep this thought process in mind when developing systems for the next expansion.
This is how feasts should always work
One of the best actual things coming with 9.2 is the new Stone Soup Feasts. I usually dread new feasts a little bit because it's generally a whole list of ingredients the guild needs to work together on gathering to keep us in good supply. For example, the current feasts have eight ingredients, though three of those can be easily bought from the cooking vendors. However, it still leaves five ingredients we need to stock up on to make these feasts. When progressing through a tier of raiding, hundreds of these feasts are consumed, which is why we as a guild work on gathering the mats instead of relying on one or two people to provide them all.
The Stone soup is a significant step up in a variety of ways. First of all, the recipe appears not to be locked behind a reputation farm; however, it does require a cypher of the first ones unlock. Given a choice between the rep and the cypher unlock, my instinct says the cypher will be a better method, but that also depends on how painful or frustrating the cypher is to use and progress. Getting to revered with Court of Harvesters was annoying because I didn't focus on Revendreth things very much in the early part of Shadowlands, so I felt forced to focus on content I wasn't very interested in. Since the cypher is one main thing in the new zone, it feels like it'll be less of an annoyance to attain.
Blizzard could have also made crafting the kettle itself a pain, but thankfully it's straightforward. The most expensive part is the Empty Kettle, which costs 250g. I tend to never have much money in WoW as I put no effort into earning gold, but even for me, 250g is barely anything. The only thing that gives me pause about the Empty Kettle's low costs is that it seems quite likely it isn't reusable… which, if that's how it works, it feels much less awesome. If an empty kettle of stone soup is needed for each feast, then hopefully, the empty kettle is reusable. If you have to pay 250g for each feast created, that would be nonsense and ruin a great idea.
The best part about the Stone Soup Feast is that any meat and fish mats will work for the feast. The caveat here is, the way it's set up, it appears that we'll need one of every kind of fish or meat for the meat medley and fish medley. This means that as much as I am excited to use all the aethereal meat and lost sole I have, my use of them will still be limited by how much elysian thade I have. Hopefully, future iterations will allow individual stacks of fish and meat to be contributed. There are always a few types of meat or fish that end up in huge supply, and you can't even really sell them because everyone has a ton of them. It would be great if this kind of feast model could be leveraged to use those up.
The announcement of cross-faction play has caused a considerable stir in the WoW community at large. Personally, even back in Vanilla WoW when I was super into PvP, I never cared about the faction war at all. I also made friends on the Horde side and even created Horde characters on other servers. I've also always missed being a troll ever since I switched back to the Alliance in Warlords to raid with friends. In my guild, there's a handful of us who have wanted to be Horde for a while, but we like playing with our friends, so this is the perfect solution. I can't wait to be a dinosaur!
However, as an officer in a guild that raids, this also represents a bit of a logistical kerfuffle. Since cross-faction guilds aren't currently going to be a thing with this change, we have to make a sister guild Hordeside, which on its own isn't a huge issue. It complicates gathering materials for feasts (helped a bit by the new ones), cauldrons, and various other things, but it also complicates something as simple as the weekly guild challenges. They aren't a huge source of gold for the guild, but it does help mitigate the costs of guild repairs. With cross-faction raiding in 9.2.5, we'll have to consider how many we have from each faction raiding to get credit for a guild group.
The cross-faction communities will help keep everyone able to talk to one another and help maintain the guild feel a bit. However, they don't help with the other aspects of being in a real guild together. I am hopeful that one of the features of 10.0 is cross-faction guilds to reunify everything. The longer guilds have to have two guilds to take care of both factions, the more strain it will put on everyone. Cross-faction guilds won't take care of every issue, but it would go a long way to fixing a lot of them.
All in all, I am quite excited for 9.2 and getting to head towards the wrap-up of this expansion. I have mostly enjoyed Shadowlands, but I am ready to move on to something new at this point. Hopefully, Blizzard will stick to the thought of putting the focus on faction conflict to bed. Each faction can have its unique identity and how they interact with the world, but that doesn't mean we need to be fighting each other all the time either.