Friday, August 31, 2018

Warbringers: Azshara

Last week Blizzard released the final Warbringers video, this one focusing on Queen Azshara:

It's a great video, and does an excellent job of showcasing Azshara's arrogance, and how that trait is almost admirable. The portrayal of N'Zoth is also also very well done, creepy and effective.

I've mentioned before that one thing I enjoy in movies and other media is a good introduction of a villain. This dual introduction of Azshara and N'Zoth is one of the better ones I've seen, revealing both their characters and establishing their power with beautiful efficiency.

One criticism I've seen on the forums is that N'Zoth "outplayed" Azshara, and didn't actually give up anything of value. I think it's best to think of these magical bargains as binding on both parties. If Azshara had made the first bargain, she would have been a literal slave, unable to disobey N'Zoth. Instead she successfully bargained for both power and free will, a triumph indeed.

Ranking the Warbringers video, Jaina's is definitely the best. Azshara's comes in second, and Sylvanas's is last by a wide margin.

Thursday, August 30, 2018

Dungeon, Island Expedition Impressions


I have almost finished the Kul Tiras story. I'm have to do the Siege of Boralus dungeon. It would have been nice if Blizzard had actually noted that Siege was a Mythic-only dungeon in the quest text. It was very confusing.

Actually, this is a bit of a general problem so far at max level. Blizzard isn't providing obvious directions that I think should be provided. For example, emissary turn-ins. I finished a Champions of Azeroth turn-in and I had no idea where Magni was. Apparently there's a portal to Silithus in Boralus? When did that happen? Same thing with the Tortollan emissary.

Dungeons so far are interesting. I finally got to i305 and started doing heroic dungeons.

It's kind of weird doing the Horde dungeons. Normally during an expansion, I've done all the quests beforehand and know the story for each dungeon. But now you enter a Horde dungeon, and there are trolls and gold and dinosaurs running around, and you have no idea why. Especially when a boss is talking smack to you.

If the tank pulls one pack at a time, heroic dungeons are pretty easy, even at minimum item level. If she pulls multiple packs, all bets are off.

I did get my item level up to 312 or so, thanks to a couple lucky drops. Perhaps that's enough to start tackling Mythics, at least with my guild.

Island Expeditions

I also did an island expedition on Normal difficulty. I'm not too sure what to think. The thing is that we were rushing to gather Azerite so fast that you couldn't really understand the nuances of the place. Apparently the opposing faction NPCs have really cool AI or something, but everything went by in a blur, so I'm not sure what really happened.

I kind of wish it wasn't a race, and there was more room to slow down or be strategic. But I don't really know how you would accomplish that. Maybe increase the damage and disallow resurrecting when you die.

The only thing I noticed about the Horde NPCs (a blood elf mage team, I think) was that they jumped an awful lot while fighting. So kudos to Blizzard for successfully imitating human PvPers.

Wednesday, August 29, 2018

Battle for Azeroth: First Impressions

It's pretty late for a first impressions post, but I played a lot on launch week (though I didn't take time off or anything). Then I went on vacation for a week and didn't play at all. So now I'm back, and currently behind everyone in my guild. Oh well, they can carry me for the first couple weeks of raiding.

Some scattered impressions:
  • There is a ton of content. I'm still not finished with Kul Tiras on Coriel, though I'm close. Then there's the whole Horde side to go. It really feels like two expansions in one.
  • There seems to be a lot of angst about level-scaling. Honestly, I didn't really notice any real change from 115 onwards. Before 115, Coriel out-geared the mobs, so it was a bit faster.
  • Azerite gear and mechanics seem okay to me. I do think that Azerite gear makes a bad first impression, especially compared to the artifact weapons in Legion. Maybe I'll expand on this later.
  • I actually like the talent setup a lot, at least for Retribution. I've been playing around with the options, and they all play slightly differently. Inquisition, no Inquisition, Wake of Ashes, no Wake, more or less Art of War procs, faster Crusader Strikes, Divine Purpose procs. You can tailor your rotation to just how you like it. I use faster Crusader Strikes, Wake of Ashes, and no Inquisition. Fairly straightforward, with a small amount of procs to make life interesting.
  • At least, you can tailor your rotation if you don't care about absolute max damage. For raiding, you'll probably get stuck with the cookie cutter build. But for levelling and solo play, it's quite good.
  • There are a lot more cutscenes than I expected, and it's nice to see that a lot of them feature your character.
  • Normal mode dungeons are pretty solid, though best with a steady tank instead of one who pulls everything. For some reason, out of all the tanks, Brewmaster monks seem the most impatient to me. Which is rather ironic.
  • Professions are pretty good. I really like having a separate rating for each expansion, rather than one giant bar. It also looks like Blizzard has made the ranks easier to get. In Legion, it kind of felt like Blizzard expected Rank 2 to be the standard, and then Rank 3 was a bonus that a given character might or might not have. However, everyone got upset when they didn't get Rank 3.

Thursday, August 16, 2018

The Siege of Lordaeron

The introductory scenario for Battle for Azeroth is the Siege of Lordaeron. The Alliance attacks the Undercity. This scenario was very well done, presenting the battle from both the Horde and Alliance perspectives.

The Horde portion of the scenario even has a small moral choice. Sylvanas uses the Blight, and the  Horde players can either attack the Alliance with a blight-sprayer, or just rescue their own soldiers. Despite a lot of the forum anguish, the vast majority of people in my raid gleefully blighted the Alliance. Though one person said he regretted it afterwards.

The Alliance gets to battle Saurfang, and then Anduin echos Arthas in Warcraft III with his entrance into the throne.

Horde-side, the conversation (not in the video) between Sylvanas and Saurfang was spicy. It drew gasps in raid chat.

Ah, there's the Sylvanas we know and love. Arrogant and snarky. I bet these videos greatly restored her status among Horde players.

For the most part, these scenarios are excellent. Putting major content into the game instead of novels or other secondary media. Blizzard also interleaved game-play and cut-scenes very well.

About the only criticism I have is that the Alliance seems curiously unprepared for the Blight. Here's how I imagine the planning session went down:
King Anduin Wrynn: Our siege towers and armies are ready. Let us march on Lordaeron! Any final concerns? 
Sky Admiral Rogers: Sir, what about the Blight? Do we have a plan to deal with it? 
Anduin: I don't think Sylvanas will use the Blight
Rogers: The Forsaken used the Blight at the Wrathgate. They used it at Gilneas and Southshore. Why would the Forsaken avoid using the Blight now? 
Anduin: You know, Sky Admiral, I don't think we will need a flying ship in this battle. I'm leaving you behind to guard Stormwind.
And that's why our beloved Sky Admiral Rogers wasn't at the Siege of Lordaeron.

Sunday, August 12, 2018

Cinematic: Old Soldier

Blizzard released a coda to the War of Thorns: "Old Soldier"

This cinematic focuses on Saurfang's reaction to the Burning of Teldrassil. It also features a young troll nicknamed "Zappy Boi", who first appeared in the Battle For Azeroth trailer.

The cinematic is quite well done. Technically excellent and a nice look at the Horde. It's somewhat surprising that they went for a full cinematic here, as those are usually reserved for trailers.

If there is any problem here, it really harkens back to an old post I wrote, Alliance vs Horde Storyline Favoritism. In that post, I wrote:
That sets up two stories: a civil war within the Horde, and the Alliance attempts to finish Garrosh. Of those two stories, the civil war is always going to be the more interesting story.
You can see the same pattern repeating. The civil war story is more interesting, and has more focus than the other story. We will see what Blizzard does with the Alliance though. If they will introduce an internal conflict for that faction.

A lot of people are predicting a repeat of Pandaria. At the end of the expansion, Sylvanas will become a raid boss and new Warchief will be chosen.

My prediction, however, is that Sylvanas stays Warchief throughout the expansion. The Horde rallies behind her, and unlike Garrosh, she does not turn on them. I think Blizzard will keep the faction war "hot" for the next few years, and the best way to accomplish that is to leave Sylvanas as the Horde leader.

Wednesday, August 08, 2018

War of Thorns: Conclusion

Last week, Blizzard released the second part of the War of Thorns, including the Warbringers: Sylvanas cinematic. They started off quite well in the first week, but did they manage to stick the landing?

And the answer is "No!" It's been a while since we've seen a game writing team face-plant so spectacularly. Not since Mass Effect 3, in fact.

In my opinion, the problem is the writers' use of emotion. Emotion must be anchored in reason. If emotion is divorced from reason, the character is irrational. And no one likes following irrational leaders. It's especially bad for Sylvanas, who's basic character is the cool, calculating, ruthless archetype. A night elf talks smack to Sylvanas, she gets mad, and burns the tree in a fit of anger? That's so far out of character that it's just senseless.

I'm not objecting to Sylvanas burning the tree, by the way. It was almost totally what I hoped for. (A pity the Horde did not have a quest to light the torches and fire the catapults!) If only Sylvanas had said something to the night elf like:
I am not wasting a Horde army in a pointless occupation. Nor will I watch them be bled by your sentinel "resistance". Burn the tree.
That sort of attitude would have been totally in line with the existing characterization of Sylvanas, and lead to the same result.

Other than the cinematic, the conclusion to the War of Thorns was short but decent. The final Alliance quest, where you try to save as many night elves as possible before being overcome by the fire, was excellent. A great use of standard quest mechanics to drive home the point.