After about ten weeks on the PTR 8.2 Rise of Azshara finally went live, and we’ve been able to take a far more comprehensive look into it. Though I’ve been participating the PTR the whole time there are a few things which surprised me in the live version (since everything wasn’t completely implemented before I stopped playing about a week before the patch). Let’s look at where 8.2 gets things right and where things are either a miss or just not quite right. There will be some spoilers because the story is a big part of this patch. Now that you’ve been warned let’s start with what’s right about 8.2.
This first aspect which is right is the first storyline and that first cutscene which gets everyone into Nazjatar. I hadn’t seen it before launch, so all I knew was the Alliance is chasing the Horde ships who are headed out to the middle of the ocean because of reasons. Then Azshara does something which opens a hole in the middle of the ocean, and both the Horde and Alliance get shipwrecked. So, when I saw the opening cutscene, I was impressed, and it was a heck of an intro to Nazjatar. I do have one question, though. When did Azshara get ahold of the tidestone?? I don’t remember that happening, and I feel like maybe someone should have been checking on the Pillars of Creation, and I don’t know, maybe should have let us know one was missing.
The storyline in both Nazjatar and Mechagon are also interesting, and there’s a lot of detail in the zone design to make them feel authentic to where they are. For example, in Nazjatar, I consistently feel a bit weird because everything so clearly should be underwater, and yet I’m not swimming. It’s an odd sense of dysphoria, which is a testament to how well executed the zone is. Mechagon has an equal level of detail to it, though since Gnomes have a low success rate on their creations, my unease about being there has more to do with wondering what random thing is going to blow-up for no apparent reason.
The new War Campaign is also very well done. Cairne, Baine, and Saurfang have always been favorites of mine, so seeing Saurfang risk everything to help Baine was a big deal to me. I’ve been proud of Baine lately and seeing this group band together to help him meant the world to me. After Cairne, Ysera, and Vol’Jin I don’t know if I would have been able to forgive Blizzard if they had killed off Baine like that. It also was huge for me to see Thrall talk openly about the mistakes he made, particularly in his failure to Cairne. Also, to see Jaina not consumed by hatred anymore and commiserate with Thrall was huge.
One aspect I had been concerned about was how long it would take to get from Heart level 50 – 65 considering not many of the Nazjatar quests rewarded Azerite Power. I was also concerned about the fact originally players had to have heart level 50 to get the questline to unlock Essences. However, when 8.2 went live, Blizzard had addressed both my concerns. The amount of AP needed to gain levels had been severely reduced, and anyone could start the quest to unlock the first Essence as long as their Heart level was at least 35, and they finished the introductory questlines in Nazjatar. This is a massive help to the community and especially anyone behind the eightball on leveling their Heart. Making the first Essence more accessible is huge because the active powers on Essences are part of the overall fix to make the Heart of Azeroth feel more enjoyable to use.
Regarding the Heart of Azeroth, there was some disappointment this past week regarding the Rank 4 Legendary versions of the Essences. Previously we had been told players wouldn’t need to get the ranks sequentially, but this is only true for Ranks 1 – 3. In a recent tweet, the WarcraftDevs account clarified having Rank 3 is a requirement to unlock Rank 4. While in most cases a player would naturally get Ranks 1-3 while working on Rank 4 there are a few which could have been skipped over by skill or getting people to carry you through content. Mostly this isn’t a huge deal, but it would have been helpful if this had been communicated more clearly from the beginning.
I had previously thought I wouldn’t mind dailies making a return and when I was on the PTR, I wasn’t at all bothered by them. However, now that they are live I kind of resent them. The days where I log onto WoW every single day have long since passed. I have more real-life commitments now, and honestly, I play a few different MMOs because no MMO offers everything I want out of an MMO these days, and I’m completely fine with that. However, I want to fly asap, which means I need to get my rep up quickly. Missing any day of dailies feels terrible, and I just resent it. This is one of the reasons I’ve always been a big fan of the World Quest system overall but adding dailies on top of WQ’s is not great.
Dailies aren’t just a problem due to the daily compulsion of them but also because many of them seem to be bugged or just a general pain to do, especially in Nazjatar. The most frustrating one for me currently is the bounty to kill rares. It’s come up a couple of times already, and every time it’s incredibly frustrating. The first issue is finding the rares in the first place because there’s nothing in the game to point them out unless you are already close to one. The second problem is getting credit when you find and kill them. I’ve killed a total of five rares in Nazjatar and only have received credit for 2 of them. Most were rares I killed on my own, so there shouldn’t have been any tagging issues, and no I wasn’t in a group or raid for the ones I didn’t get credit for. If there are certain rares which don’t count, there needs to be something in the game to let the player know before they waste their time.
Another issue with dailies and regular quests is the general lack of objective marking. I get the idea is for players to explore and find things, but forced exploration is never fun. What works well is putting breadcrumbs in the game for players to follow and check out if they are interested. When a player logs on to accomplish a specific goal, and you make achieving that goal difficult, not due to skill just tricky because there’s no direction, all you’re doing is frustrating that player and making them want to play less. I love exploring and finding hidden areas in MMOs. It’s honestly one of my favorite past times. Try to force me, and I will hate every second.
The other huge issue with dailies in Nazjatar is phasing, or sharding maybe? Either way, there are a few dailies where the objective is to find and collect something (or a variety of things). In the case of the starfish collecting, they seemed just generally to be scarce; then when I was lucky to find one, it would often disappear on me for no apparent reason. Occasionally this was because someone else collected it, which come on Blizzard we are in 2019 now why are we still doing that? Why do you want players not to be happy to see each other out in the world? Most of the time though the starfish would disappear for no apparent reason whatsoever.
There also seems to be some weirdness with tagging on some of the dailies. There’s an Ancient Corals daily where you have to kill ten of these ancient corals (which are not at all named ancient corals). I went to the coral section because hey that made sense and there were two different mobs which counted in that area. Whitewave Riftwalkers were a smaller mob, and it seemed like there was a fair number of them around. There were also Seashell Riftwalkers which were bigger, had more health, and there were fewer of them around. Now, I’m fine with there being tapping on the smaller ones (I don’t like it, but it’s fine really) but why are the large ones not shared? They take much longer to kill, and there are fewer. They should be shared across faction because as is, it’s just needlessly frustrating.
Really that’s the takeaway of 8.2 so far, needlessly frustrating. As I mentioned before I like a lot of what happened in the story in this patch so far, AP changes are fantastic, and zone design is excellent. However, so much of just existing and doing things in Nazjatar is just frustrating. I’m reasonably sure this is a result of how testing on the PTR is generally done because there isn’t usually time to organically go through what’s planned to be the live build. Nonetheless, the issues with the dailies especially really need to be solved quickly or Nazjatar is going to get old fast.