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It’s 4.3 and I Can’t Sleep December 2, 2011

Posted by Stormy in General Whinging.

After several months of hype, patch 4.3 dropped this week, bringing with it three new dungeons, void storage, transmogrification, the Raid Finder, and oh yeah…the gruesome end of World of Warcraft’s Big Villain du Jour, Deathwing the Destroyer. Much digital ink has been spilled over how Cataclysm just doesn’t feel as…epic as Wrath of the Lich King or The Burning Crusade and how the sense of urgency in killing Deathwing just isn’t there. Sure, he flies around the world and periodically deep fries people, but he’s just not the tragic villain Arthas was. Beyond that, much of the actual story of Cataclysm has been told through the novels and online short stories rather than in-game, so people who don’t avail themselves of those resources have been floating around in a state of confusion since last December.  Combine this with the brutal difficulty of the early Cataclysm dungeons, the new questing-on-rails philosophy that leads to “Oh, I’ve seen this movie” syndrome, and the past and impending releases of some new competing games, and it’s easy to understand why there are an awful lot of people who just don’t feel invested in WoW the way they used to.

Emotional Investment

I think patch 4.3 is a clear indication that Blizzard got the message. There really is something for nearly everyone in patch 4.3, and they’re all united by the common theme of trying to rekindle emotional investment in the game. Whether it’s reliving glory days, geeking around as a fashionista, or saving (or killing) important lore figures we care about, there seems to be a concerted effort to give everyone a chance to latch on to old memories and remember just what we loved so much about Azeroth in the first place.

Watching Twitter for the last week or so has been so much fun. All my WoW tweeps have been acting like kids in the proverbial candy store. Everyone’s hitting up Wowhead and all the various model viewers and transmogging sites to pick out their transmog sets, planning gear and rotation changes, updating guides and generally getting themselves ready for the patch. I’ve seen a sense of excitement that’s been missing from WoW for a long time now. This week I’ve had three old guildies who had previously disappeared into the void miraculously come back from said void and restart their accounts. There’s a sense of “OMG this is so cool!” that I haven’t seen in the air in a long, long time.

The story of Cataclysm has been, in my ever-so-humble opinion, rather rambly and disjointed. We all knew there was a big dragon flying around Azeroth periodically purging the landscape with fire, but unless we’d read the books–or at least the Wowpedia article–it was hard to be sure why. The only center-stage character in Cataclysm that I have any previous experience with or emotional attachment to is Thrall (and you should have heard my squeals when we zoned into the Hour of Twilight dungeon yesterday…”THRALLIUS! MY HERO!”). But as I wound my way through the new End Time dungeon, I got to see the future destruction of the as-yet-unproven warchief of  the mighty Tauren, Baine Bloodhoof, and my absolute favorite WoW lore character ever, Sylvanas Windrunner. Alliance characters could see the same thing in Jaina Proudmoore and Tyrande Whisperwind. Old-school lore geeks could wait a while until the next dungeon and be escorted by Tyrande Whisperwind and the Brothers Stormrage in their efforts to take down Queen Azshara and Mannoroth. Last night when we zoned in to Well of Eternity I could practically hear my guildie Suzanne squeeing through the tubes at the sight of Illidan and Malfurion.

A Return to Simplicity

As far as the dungeons themselves, on the one hand I think they’re some of Blizzard’s best work. I honestly think the Murozond fight is my favorite Cataclysm fight, period. One of my biggest complaints about raid/dungeon fights of late is that they have a tendency fall into two camps: twitch gaming or fights that prevent me from playing the class I want to play. Sure, the Murozond fight requires you to step out of the yellow circles, but there’s no “interrupt this in .0025 seconds or everyone dies” mechanic. If I’m not the person responsible for operating the hourglass, I can pretty much just stand there, pop all my cooldowns, and go nuts. There’s actually incentive for me to know my class, to perfect my rotation, gear, gems, enchants and so on to be the best shadow priest I can be, rather than putting me behind the wheels of some kind of vehicle or rewarding my ability to master a dance.

On the other hand, I have to wonder what the new dungeons have to say about the future of dungeon design from Blizzard. At the start of Cataclysm one of the major complaints was that the new dungeons were simply too long. Collectively we were used to 20-minute Nexus and Old Kingdom runs, so stepping into Halls of Origination with its seven bosses was a bit of a shock. End Time, specifically, has a combined total of eight trash packs, two minibosses and one “real” boss fight. Once we’re all accustomed to how the fights work and have some decent gear, we’ll probably be running it in fifteen minutes, tops.

More interesting, though, was the Well of Eternity dungeon. You’re greeted at the door by Illidan Stormrage, and then Illidan literally escorts you through the first two thirds of the dungeon. He provides verbal cues for every action–“Stay close, we’re leaving.” and “Strike this one down from the shadows!”, to the point where you could conceivably bring a totally new group into the instance and they could get through at least the first boss. LOTRO has solo instances that are set up the same way, with an NPC guiding players through a dungeon and providing instructions on how to complete it, but I was surprised to see this kind of hand-holding in WoW.

Adding it All Up

I won’t go so far as to say “WoW is back, baby!”, but if this is the direction the game is headed in, I’m glad I signed up for the annual pass. As I walked around Orgrimmar on Tuesday night I saw dozens and dozens of Tyrael’s Chargers, an indication that despite the flaws of Cataclysm, lots of people are in this for the long haul. If patch 4.3 is any indication, Mists of Pandaria is going to be an amazing, wild ride.



1. Suzanne - December 2, 2011

“Last night when we zoned in to Well of Eternity I could practically hear my guildie Suzanne squeeing through the tubes at the sight of Illidan and Malfurion.”

It’s true. I did. Though I do have a beef with them using a slightly incorrect model for Neltharion in WoE. His body hadn’t cracked open that much from the corruption yet. The WoE model is the same as the Cata-era Deathwing model.

But yes, I agree with your excitement of 4.3. Last night was the most fun I’ve had doing dungeons in months.

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