Monday, May 03, 2021

Player Choice and Power in Shadowlands

In Shadowlands, there's a lot more player choice which has to do with power than in the previous couple of expansions. We have:

  • Covenants
  • Soulbinds
  • The path through the soulbind tree
  • Conduits
  • Legendaries

In contrast, Battle for Azeroth pretty much had:

  • Azerite powers
  • Corruptions (at the end of the expansion)

Legion had:

  • The path through the artifact weapon tree. This was a temporary choice, however, as you could fill in the entire tree.
  • Legendaries

If you look at what people are complaining about in Shadowlands, the biggest complaint I believe is about these choices, especially covenants. By and large, all the extra choices aren't really doing anything as most people are following the main theorycraft and guides.

I wonder how Shadowlands would have looked if Blizzard had offered less choice. For example, suppose your class dictated your covenant. All paladins and priests get sent to Bastion, all druids and hunters join the Night Fae, etc. 

Blizzard would only need to focus on tuning one ability. The soulbinds could have functioned more like Legion artifact weapons, with a temporary tree that could be completely filled in.

I don't think the results would look all that different from what we have now. Most classes have one definitive covenant, and people use alts to see the other covenant stories.

Of course, in that alternate reality, we'd probably be complaining that Blizzard should have allowed us to choose our own Covenant.

1 comment:

  1. I felt that Shadowlands had the least amount of player choice of any of the expansions, which is also why I stopped playing. The entire game felt like you were watching a movie, except that you had to hand-crank the projector to move forward to the next bit each time. You would get phased away from your friend for each crucial part of the story, which only reminded you how much I wasn't a champion of azeroth, but a undergeared healer that had to shift from healing their friend to slowly chipping away the health of a boss, spending 30-45 minutes until I would be rejoined with my friend again.

    At least in the other expansions you could move between different areas, or even do a different dungeon (in Shadowlands you could only do the dungeons you 'unlocked' by doing the linear storyline).

    As the covenant was basically determined by your class, the linearity continued even into the end game, with grinding for the right legendary, for the soul ash, for the stygia, for the anima... all the things that were basically required each week, allowing no choice for the player to choose to do that which would be fun.