|Mr Flintlocke lays it down.|
As I type this the US is about to go into 5.0.4, and I have a mere 24 hours of
There have been times during this expansion when it felt I was the only person enjoying themselves. The fact that so many people I know considered Cataclysm not only a chore but also a colossal waste of time should be enough of an indicator that yes, Blizzard got it wrong. Whether it was the appallingly-concieved Molten Front dailies (if it works once that doesn't mean it'll work on the ninth time around) or the Seven Circles of Hell that LFR has become for anyone with an ounce of common sense or the ability to feel anything, Cataclysm missed the target for a vast majority of people. I think my new Blogging compadre The GrownUp at Confessions of a Grown-Up Gamer sums up how this Expansion fits into the scheme of things quite well (via Blog Azeroth's Ice Cream Flavours topic) Cataclysm was French Vanilla: trying to be something it wasn't, struggling to taste familiar and ending up doing anything but.
Of course, in financial terms, this game continues to be an unstoppable behemoth, but even Blizzard have publicly admitted they may not have hit all the targets they were aiming for. That means, when this first patch is applied, there will be countless changes not simply for the sake of them or because the developers felt they were needed. There has been an almost unprecedented amount of user input into this new set of talents, these new spec setups, even the way the game is laid out for people to take in. The question now remains whether all of this will bring people back to the game, whether it will go some way to repairing the fairly large amount of seething ill-will that still remains in large sections of the gaming community. For everyone who considers Warcraft a great game there are, it seems, almost an equal number of fervent critics or those who just stopped playing because it was just not fun anymore AND THIS WILL NEVER CHANGE. I sense Blizzard isn't looking at people like me with this new Expansion, I'm a given for coming back and learning everything for a fourth time. Blizzard's looking to the left for the haters on this one.
Something has changed in the last few weeks, that much is obvious. I've seen long-term absentees come back with enthusiasm, with the possibility of even longer term players who've been away returning for a look at how things are going to change. Undoubtedly a lot of this is tied to the quality of life amendments the game is now offering: a fair LFR looting system, more flexible questing paths, an immersive lore system that has already begun its work via the new Theramore novel. The upcoming Scenario we'll have to wait for that reveals this 'in game' is still a couple of weeks away, which in itself is actually clever planning on Blizzard's part. We've been given time to learn our new talents, to grasp mechanics and master rotations, rather than being thrown in at the deep end. That's a step forward, an acknowledgement that even the best player isn't going to pick this up straight away.
Cataclysm actually had a lot going for it: the changes to 1-60 quest areas is woefully overlooked by most people (mostly because Blizzard puts the best rewards in LFG, which needs to be changed) Firelands was actually one of the more tolerable reboots of Old World Bosses with some genuinely challenging fights (Ragnaros Mark 2 still gives me nightmares, and I never even saw Heroic Mode) and actually, those last two fights in Dragon Soul are a decent example of how an 'old' game can still bring a fresh new approach to the concept of the Boss Fight. However, all this will soon be forgotten if Pandaria does what it is capable of and 'brings all the boys to the yard'. I have no doubt that, at least for the levelling portion of the first month, many people will come back on a monthly sub 'just for a look'. The acid test (of course) will be how many are raiding at Christmas and beyond, and whether Blizzard's gambit of radically redesigning pretty much every part of the post-levelling experience for the casual bears the vital subscription harvest.
Blizzard appear in confident mood: Blizzcon 2013's just been confirmed, and the level of anticipation around my part of the Blogsphere is palpable. Let's see if they can deliver the goods, shall we?