The Waning Days of Dragonflight

Back in December I made a post debating about whether I would unsubscribe or not – What’s your Game? – and ultimately I think I was unsubbed for all of a couple of weeks. The sub ended December 28th and the blizz announced the Seeds of Renewal patch (with Reclaiming Gilneas) and I just couldn’t resist. The Gilneas starting zone is one of my favourites. Back in Cata days half my alts were worgen.

Anyway, I was still on a raid break. I sat Season 3/Amirdrassil out. I put in that blog post that I was trying to play more casually and remember why I loved the game. That I had got hooked achievement hunting/collecting mounts, pets etc. and to go back to that. This ‘attempting to play casually’ is something I have kept doing in the last few months.

Before I continue one last note about another blog post, the one I did on the Waning days of Shadowlands. In that I talked about some of my issues with the Shadowlands expansion and a bit about the upcoming Dragonflight – what I liked the sound of, what I was hesitant about, and what I wished was coming but wasn’t. I think I noted in that blog post that I had done a similar post pre-Shadowlands (it’s becoming tradition it seemed) and that it was interesting how much I still agreed with my past self – how much had actually come true. That is very much what has happened this time.

My big concern with Dragonflight before it launched was the profession rework – what do I hate the most now? Ah yes, the profession rework. The whole quality star system should go die in fire. I haven’t succeeded in levelling any profession bar fishing and skinning I think? And it pisses me off having to buy enchants from the AH (they are expensive).

But before I get too much into that how am I feeling about the game these days? I said above I had considered taking a break, and was trying to remember why I liked playing. Six months later – have I remembered?

The Problem with Obsession
I don’t really do anything casually very well. I’m either disenchanted and just logging in to raid, or I’m thinking about the game more often than I should and opting to play every night (and now neglecting my PS5 and my insanely long TV watchlist). Yes I have rediscovered my addiction if you like, to chasing achievements.

I have also gone back to raiding. Rejoining the team for the ‘Awakened’ Season 4 patch. Thus far that’s been fine. I haven’t had the “But I don’t want to” dragging of my feet pre-raid yet, that was the regular routine for the past year or two. We’ll see how I feel. I’m not committing to anything past this tier yet. I also need to remember something very important…

This is the end of the expansion.

Historically I ALWAYS play more at the end of expansions. It’s the time I like the best. When we’re all a bit OP as we have the most power we’re going to get, and thus everything is correspondingly easier and faster.

I need to remember that the start of the new expansion will not feel like this. Everything will be new again. Confusing, overwhelming and important. There will be tasks I ‘should’ do, rather than just me doing as I fancy as none of it matters anymore as the next expansion will reset it. Should I raid at the start of the next expansion? I’m going to come back to that.

Dragonflight: A Post-Mortem (kinda)
Ok, I put a pin in the profession complaining and now here is where I come back to it. Really there’s not a lot more to say beyond I hate it. I really wish that I either knew something and could make it, or I don’t – this quality stuff is bullshit – BUT it ties into a deeper issue with professions.

I didn’t play Warlords properly so it’s hard to judge. I did level those professions but I may have done it when it was easier (aka after Legion had come out). So the last time I properly levelled the professions was during Mists – and that’s when we had the farm. Now Warlords had something similar with the mine/garden + stable building (I think? Well the profession buildings anyway). However, the farm in Mists is what I remember the best and I miss it so very much.

In one of the posts I linked above I tried to be objective and say that some things were due to the time in my life. It is an absolute fact that I played Warcraft a LOT back in Mists time. It probably saved my life to do so. Having a ton of time to throw at the game is going to help with getting stuff done. The farm helped even more because mats were easy to come by.

The profession bullshit in Dragonflight isn’t limited to crafting – it has infested gathering as well. I haven’t maxed mining or herbalism because less than halfway into it, the nodes stop giving points. You need rare nodes to get points that spawn well – rarely! And that’s annoying as fuck because as far as I understand it, you need max profession in order to gather the 3 star mats, which are needed for 3 star crafting.

Dragonflight has a major advantage over other expansions because wonder of wonders they didn’t make us wait until more than halfway through the expansion to give us flying. I LOVE that (it also appears blizz have maybe learned their lesson, as we get instant flying in the War Within as well but I digress). So anyway with flying, gathering should be easy! It’s not due to the aforementioned points problem and also because of a ‘time in my life’ issue. When I moved house a couple of months before Dragonflight released I hooked my beast of a gaming PC up to the TV in the living room. It is very comfortable to use the CouchMaster and the big screen but I Can. Not. See.

(seriously this is a major issue)

It’s a total first world problem I know but the TV is not in front of my face like a monitor. Everything is smaller. I can still read quests but the little icons on the minimap? That’s a lot harder. Plus not going to lie back in the day I used to do like SuperSquirt to farm pet levels, or fishing for all those reputations in Legion etc. with one eye while I watched TV. Farming is not an activity to really focus on, but with it on the big screen I kinda don’t have a choice. It also feels weird somehow to farm on the big screen, like I shouldn’t be doing something so ‘unnecessary’. That’s not really the word but I don’t know, it doesn’t feel right.

With anything that’s new only time and practice will overcome it. When Dragonflight launched there was so much going on, and also it was November (NaNoWriMo) and plus there was the legacy of Shadowlands. I think I touched on this in one of the other posts but I had got seriously out of the habit of playing. In the waning days of Shadowlands I did play a little more (I do love the end of expansions) but I mostly just levelled up my alts. There is a metric ton of Shadowlands stuff I never got round to doing.

Which brings me to my next point – overwhelm.

I am currently crying in bag space because I have none. You only have to look at SimpleArmory and the staggering number of mounts/pets etc. that have been added in Dragonflight, which is more than Shadowlands, which was already by an order of magnitude more than Legion etc. So, so many and a lot of them are hidden. Achievements too, it all requires gathering things and I have bags and bags full of stuff. Why they couldn’t simplify it to a handful of currencies and put them in the currency tab.

It’s funny in my ‘waning days of Shadowlands’ post I said – well not really as we probably still have most of a year left as the last patch just dropped. That was in June – Dragonflight launched that November. It seems the days of content droughts are over. Most people probably celebrate that but I am sad because it was a great time to get caught up, to be able to breathe. It feels like there’s a new patch bringing something every few weeks. It’s a lot and I can’t keep up.

I like Dragonflight. I really like the dragonriding (soon to be renamed dynamic flying and expanded), though I am pretty useless at the dragon races. I love the dragon isles, the zones are spectacularly pretty. I’m so happy I can fly everywhere (unlike the bloody maw and Korthia). I much appreciated the lighter tone after Shadowlands, and the spirit of exploration. It’s a great expansion.

Aside from all the stuff in my bags it does have one major flaw – timed events. They started these in Legion? With the invasions. BfA continued with them with the warfronts and the faction assaults, but Dragonflight has cranked it up to eleven. Everything! And I mean EVERYTHING, is on a timer. Siege, the cooking thing, the storms, the new digs, the researcher event in the caverns, the superbloom, the time rifts – just off the top of my head! There’s even more. I hate it. I like being able to log in and do stuff on my schedule (outside of raids obviously). Logging in and seeing that there’s a storm I need, whelp guess I am doing that, no matter what I might have planned on doing. OR there’s the superbloom in 10 minutes so no time to do anything else, guess I better afk and wait. OR get this – twice a week escort and protect the camp achievement. So it’s what every 10 days the camp move comes round again? I stayed up until 11pm last night to get the one I needed because that’s when it was shifting. The previous move was at 6pm but I haven’t worked out what the rules are and whether this particular move would always be so late. It’s absolutely ridiculous to basically have to “make an appointment” to do stuff in game. I hate it. No idea if it will be this bad in the next expansion but merlin I hope not.

So yeah my conclusion is I can’t breathe. The pace is relentless and it’s ironic that we’re going back to Mists (more on that in a minute) because the tagline there was “slow down” and sweet merlin that’s what I wish blizz would do. That and pretty please stop adding so many things I need to keep in my bags. It’s too much!

Pandamonium – Return to Mists (and other game modes)
Before I talk about The War Within I need to mention the new game modes.

Oh sidenote – Classic. I would be remiss in not mentioning it after I talked about it in my previous post.

I said I was interested in Season of Discovery (and this is also connected to the Pandamonium). Basically on a TLDR front, I tried Season of Discovery and it was too ‘classic’ and so I quit after a few sessions. I said in the post that I was dubious I would like it because I love my QoL features too much and basically I was right. I am still fascinated by the notion of rogue tanks and other twists, but I never got to experiment with that as I didn’t make it out of Elwynn Forest. I just don’t like the classic vibe.

I also mentioned that Cata Classic is coming this year. The pre-patch dropped last week on my birthday, bringing the shattered world, worgens and goblins and… I have not touched it. Truthfully I don’t really understand blizz. The thing with classic was restoring the world before the shattering and now that’s gone again. There are no TBC servers, no Wrath servers. There’s hardcore and season of discovery and maybe just a normal 1-60 classic? But no Battle for Undercity, no Wrathgate. I just don’t get them. The people that wanted classic wanted to go back before Cata and now they just have Cata again – so why not play retail? I said I was nostalgic for Cata and I am but I am also lazy. It’s too much the same game for me to want to invest my time and effort in something I don’t get to keep (aka my main account). I am curious as to if kitty druids play as fun as I remember them being in Cata, but I don’t know if I will try it out and see.

I guess I am just not Classic’s intended audience.

Anyway, this is sort of related to the Pandamonium because they are bringing a quasi Season of Discovery twist in with some borrowed power things. Like you can get gems to get abilities I think? So paladins could have rogues sprint and stuff like that. Anyway, this game mode is within retail but temporarily separated (the characters are locked to Pandaria) until the event is over. They promise basically OP power, crazy fast levelling. All of Pandaria is unlocked and dynamic to level within – including raids.

BEST OF ALL – collectors dream. They are adding a stupid amount of new mounts, plus allowing purchase of the rare drops like from Galleon that despite hundreds of kills have never dropped for me.

Blizz did just do a totally separate gamemode called Plunderstorm. It was within the Warcraft client but didn’t use any of our characters and it was a Battle Royale type thing. Not my cup of tea but it had collectables and so I had to max it. Once I got into it, I didn’t mind the grind. What I didn’t like was that it was PvP based, so if you were unlucky other players ruined your round. I’m not one for PvP and basically treated it as a PvE experience, which it wasn’t so that’s my problem really.

Anyway, this is both interesting and troubling. It’s interesting because blizz are now experimenting and I think that’s great! Something I fervently wished was that they would be willing to try new ways of doing things. I hated the level squish – it felt really bad – and I wished they had found another way. It still feels like we’re heading for having to do that again, as each new expansion adds on more levels (we’ll be at 120 again before we know it). I really don’t want them to slash the levels again, but maybe they won’t this time. Maybe this experimenting will lead them to trying something new.

But it’s troubling because it just adds to the overwhelm. The final raid of the expansion dropped last November – this should be the content drought. Instead we had a mini patch in January, then Plunderstorm, then another patch I think? (I’ve even lost count!), then season 4 started, then we’re getting another patch tomorrow, and then this Pandamonium the week after. Honestly it’s exhausting. When is my free time to catch up with all the stuff I didn’t have the time to do? They keep giving me more things to do!

Now obviously I am very eager for this Return to Mists Pandamonium. Why? Well it promises to be an overpowered, speedy blast (feeding that serotonin with every level whoosh). It goes back to an expansion I have warm nostalgic feelings for (I’m not immune to the nostalgia). It offers a lot of collectables and the chance for me to level up some new alts I haven’t got round to since BfA (heritage armor achievements). So I’m not exactly complaining about the mode – I think it will be great! But it is yet another thing and I still have so much undone in the Dragon Isles (and a lot in Shadowlands, and a few things in BfA, and a couple of things in Legion if I’m honest). But anyway my point is the amount of undone things is going up and up each expansion. There is more and more to do, and less and less time in which to do it.

The War Within
Might as well do a ‘look forward’ while I’m writing this epic length ramble.

This expansion has the vibe that finally we get what we want (kinda). Account wide everything with Warbands, basically merging the servers as cross-realm, cross-faction guilds are going to be a thing. I already mentioned we’re getting flying from the start. It’s funny to me as someone that played back in Mists/Warlords when the blizz dude basically said he wished they had never brought in flying as it ruined the game (people flying over mobs) and if it was up to him he wouldn’t allow it in any new zones. Now we’re getting even super faster flying all the time – I love that for us.

Something else that I think will be great – in the theme of account wide everything – is delves. It’s solo content (or can be grouped) that offers another gearing track. So basically I can get gear without running Mythic+ (is my understanding). Also gear can be made ‘warbound’ and sent to alts. Reputations will be account wide too so bonuses, or unlocks, will be available to alts. It really looks like it will be easier to play other characters and I love that for us too.

Where I am hesitant is it looks they are sticking with the same shitty profession system they introduced in Dragonflight. Also the War Within is, as you would expect, mostly underground and… mmm. I’m not a fan of Zaralak Cavern though it’s not done badly (I miss the sky). So we’ll see on how claustrophobic the zones feel. I didn’t mind Deepholm now I think about it, so maybe it will be ok.

I’m really looking forward to the ‘server-merge’ as I’ll be getting back all the alts I left behind on my old server. When I swapped to Emerald Dream I only brought my main, and rerolled everything else. I went for efficiency (one race, one class) which matched up perfectly with a dozen races and a dozen classes, but it led to some alts I just simply don’t vibe with. Plus that was Alliance only, no Horde, and with all the cross-faction stuff, I can play Horde now without much penalty! The one thing I hope is that with the new screen I will be able to order my character list still, as I like to put the ones I like the best at the top.

I am worried about pacing. Dragonflight has been so intense, just non-stop ‘go, go, go’ and from interviews it seems like they are intending that to continue. I said earlier about raiding in the new expansion and that comes to the last point I have in mind (I may have missed saying lots of things but this post is long enough I guess) – the elephant in the room of early access.

Start of expansion + raiding is a stressful time. I did it in Mists and didn’t have a problem but then I was playing all day, everyday, back then pretty much and so had the time to burn. Then I did it in Shadowlands and I hated it. I somehow was so much slower than most of my guildmates. I did level up in time, and I did manage to scrape up the gear level the RL recommended, but I felt rushed. I wanted to chill and do loremaster quests and not stress but I was stressed. Dragonflight time and exactly the same thing happened. I was ready but at what cost?

The War Within has 3 editions. There’s the base game, the deluxe and then finally epic. Something epic offers is to play the game 3 days earlier than anyone who bought deluxe or standard. Leaving aside how sad and disgusting I find it to gatekeep playing with your friends, and experiencing new content together, behind a paywall – raid ready. We don’t know yet what day they will launch the game. Dragonflight released on a Monday (and so did Shadowlands) but google says BfA was a Tuesday (though Legion was a Monday). Anyway, there is a pattern there and it’s presumably because they do US maintenance on Tuesdays/Europe in Wednesdays and so any problems, they are very close to having that maintenance window. So will they do that for early access?

Looking back at Dragonflight and Shadowlands they both offered basically two weeks/a day over between the launch and the raids opening. If they launch for early access on the Monday, then for everyone else on the Thursday, and then open raids not the following Tuesday/Wednesday but the week after, suddenly the just over two weeks, is less than two weeks unless you pay basically double the price of the expansion. I already said I felt stressed and rushed, like I had to race through the content/play more intensely than I wanted, with the two weeks, two days.

I would be lying if I said the Epic edition wasn’t attractive (beta invite too) but I don’t want to reward what I see as shitty behaviour. I don’t want blizz to get away with this early access crap. I think it should be a level playing field with all players getting the same chance. I don’t play the AH personally but for those that do, if you don’t get early access people will have levelled and farmed and cornered the market before you even enter the starting zone. It takes what is already a ‘race’ to avoid being left behind and puts it behind a paywall which in today’s economic climate really isn’t fair.

Nearly forgot! My beloved Paladin
The War Within is adding some new sub-talent tree thing but I don’t know much about it. However I doubt very much it will fix my issues with the paladin – issues that I think might be due to my lack of skill rather than the class itself.

Before Dragonflight I did a wishlist and basically it is virtually identical now. I said in an ideal world I would basically turn back the clock to how paladins worked in Mists. Although I do like the Divine Toll multi-avengers shield button. My only complaint is the 1 min cd which sucks for trash packs which are more frequent.

I still feel like it’s mostly AoE that I am lacking in. I struggle to keep threat on large groups. I would kill for a DoT as I think that would help. Last time I said about how in Mists I could choose my burst (between Execution Sentence and Lights Hammer). Now I think Divine Toll basically replaces the functionality of Lights Hammer (though the slight passive heal of this was a nice touch) but I lack anything single target wise. It would be nice to add a talent choice maybe between Divine Toll and Execution Sentence (to swap between encounters like I did back in Mists days).

It goes back to choice which these new huge ‘classic’ talent trees were supposed to bring in. I think I said at the time that I felt the talent trees were too bloated, far too many passives etc. To be honest I think that is still true. I basically look up what IcyVeins says is the build, set and forget. To me that makes the talent tree functionally useless, it must as well not exist. That isn’t compelling gameplay.

Another choice I miss from Mists is between Sacred Shield and Eternal Flame (a shield or a HoT). Now mostly I used the shield because it gave me an absorb which paladins otherwise don’t generally have. I can mitigate hits but I am very dependant on healing up which makes my health quite spiky. An absorb would smooth it out nicely. Still sometimes the HoT was the better choice – and an actual choice is what I would like.

Finally as more of an aesthetic thing back in Mists we had Speed of Light. I greatly prefer that to pulling a horse out of nowhere for a speed boost. Quite why blizz threw it out in favour of the horse in Legion baffles me.

A little TLDR I guess.

I am tired but I have found my interest in targeting achievements again. I wish they would slow down on how fast they are releasing content (as there seems to be so much more of it now as well in each patch!) but I do like what they are releasing so it’s hard to say no (Pandamonium really does look fun). I still hate the shitty profession quality stars but I am counting down the days until they implement the warband stuff, and also delves look cool. Just so long as there isn’t a timer (please, don’t let there be a timer).