#1 - 2012/01/17 04:47:00 PMWith Cataclysm essentially coming to a close as I post this, I'm wondering if Mists of Pandaria is really going to be worth its cost to me.
I am the .1%, I am the last of an, apparently, dying breed - a hardcore 25 player raider. My guild's schedule is extremely light compared to most of the guilds ahead of us, raiding 10 and a half hours every week, but to a lot of the people playing this game, that kind of time commitment is huge.
Raid design in World of Warcraft is starting to show the shift in the mentality of the player base since the "golden era of raiding" in Burning Crusade. With the release of Firelands and Dragon Soul, I fear that Bastion of Twilight, Blackwing Descent, and Throne of the Four Winds is going to go down as the last great raiding tier.
Firelands had its positives. Ragnaros was a terrific encounter, a few of the others were fun and challenging, and the artistic design of the zone was very fitting (though having a tier made of fire and brimstone exclusively got a little tiresome on the eyes - almost like there should've been another one alongside it. Perhaps with a watery theme. /wink).
The amount of content released since tier 11 has left me concerned. There are many ideas, potential factors as to why Cataclysm has had literally half the raid bosses that each of the previous expansions and Classic have had. My thoughts are these:
- Balancing 10s with 25s with two different difficulty settings for each is a very time consuming process
- The lack of success Cataclysm has had has caused the developers to go back to the drawing board for Mists of Pandaria, and leave much less attention on Cataclysm.
- There just simply aren't enough players raiding to warrant that kind of development time on raids.
My "ideal gameplay experience" is found in raid zones that don't try to tell you a story when you enter them. The storytelling I've always felt is best left for the solo questing experience - to experience on your own time at your own rate. In a raid, you're invading the fortress, the stronghold, the lair, the city of your enemy. You are there to fight a war - not watch a movie. The constant cutscenes, the frequent speaking with friendly NPCs, the wave after wave of mind-numbingly dull and boring trash dragons in an extremely poor attempt to simulate being under siege severely hurt the experience. Dragon Soul is not a good raid zone for these reasons - I didn't buy the game to watch cutscenes of Thrall shooting lasers at dragons. I bought the game, and pay my subscription fee, to kill the dragons myself with a group of friends.
Removing the lore isn't what I want either - knowing why we're in there fighting these bosses, knowing where they came from, what their plans are, and what threats they pose are things that should be available in game to see for those who seek them - through solo quests. Having occasional mood-setting RP like what's present with the Vaelestrasz, Illidan and Lich King (unless you were on attempt #225 for Heroic) encounters isn't so bad either... but I'm frankly tired of hearing "heroes!" from ally NPCs every 5 seconds in dungeons and raids. It was never interesting to begin with. Having an occasional friendly NPC in a raid is one thing - having a raid that is more about Thrall and the Aspects than it is about you greatly cheapens the experience. Also, the opening sequence to Dragon Soul... the uninspired voice acting makes me cringe. Hagara's voice acting during trash makes me cringe. Just go without it next time. The Wyrmrest Accord NPCs at the entrance just simply should not have been there at all.
An example of a successful raid is this: Icecrown Citadel. While certainly not my favorite, it had a lot of great memories and the well-crafted buildup of an entire expansion climaxing with the encounter with the Lich King. The zone itself had SOME "RP" in it, but, for Alliance at least, it was just right. There were some negatives, however. The trash leading up to Valithria, as well as the dreaded "spider room" leading to Sindragosa (dreaded as in long and boring, rather than fearsome) were drawbacks. The Valithria trash probably didn't need to exist. The Sindragosa trash was the complete opposite - it had SO MUCH potential that was utterly wasted. The spiders crawling down the walls out of a hole in the ceiling, more of them dropping from webs, this would have made an AWESOME boss encounter (and perhaps inspired Beth'tilac?). The first time I did it, my reaction was "FREAKING COOL". Then it turned out to be a 5 minute AoE fest that felt like it would never end, with practically no threat to the players involved.