World of Warcraft: Battle for Azeroth has been out for a few weeks now, and I am having fun with it, but the cracks are starting to show.
The fun I am having is not through the new systems but dungeons, raids and, PvP. Since the BFA systems such as Island expeditions, Azerite armor, and Warfronts seems to have completely missed the mark, which is a shame. Especially considering that these new systems are great in concept but just poorly executed.
So today we will talk about the new features in Battle for Azeroth and how they could still be improved and why this expansion could still end up as one of the best in the history of World of Warcraft.
1. Warfronts – Why they don’t work right now
I don’t think I am the only one that could barely contain my excitement when I first saw the Warfront feature in the Battle for Azeroth trailer, as it looked like some new fantastic Player versus Player versus Environment mode with callbacks to Warcraft 3. However, most of my excitement disappeared when I found out that it is a purely Player versus Environment mode and that you will either win slow or win fast. If there are no losers there can be no real winners, and completing the Warfronts feel quite hollow and right now they mainly just function as a loot slot machine.
Okay, so what’s good about the Warfronts and why do I think it has so much potential?
- The rehauled Arathi Highlands look incredible
- The Warfronts are pretty visually spectacular with all the siege weapons, NPC’s, etc.
- The overall idea is very cool.
How Warfronts Could be Amazing
Having the weekly guaranteed win is alright as we need the world bosses, quests, etc. to rotate. However, if Blizzard chooses to stop there, it would indeed be a waste of potential.
Player Versus Player Mode
Warfronts in many ways are very akin to Blizzard’s own MOBA, Heroes of the Storm, as you go around the map and claim objectives to gain an advantage and to be able to push into the enemy base. It feels like Warfronts was made for PvP, but that the mode was just removed by mistake at some point so of course, we would need 1 or more PvP versions to save this feature.
- 40 player Warfronts: Queueable epic battleground. The mixture of PVE and PVP would feel a lot like the grand Alterec Valleys of the old days and much like what Ashran should have been.
- 15 player Warfronts: Regular Battleground. Everything is scaled down to match 15 players and to suit a faster game.
- 6 player Ranked Warfronts: Fully fleshed MOBA mode. Everything scaled to be done by fewer players. This mode should have it’s own ranked bracket and should reward accordingly. The PVP community has often requested 6-man rated battlegrounds as 10 man is a bit much for a competitive PVP mode. Rated Warfronts could even become the esport that Blizzard so desperately wants from World of Warcraft and would be a lot more viewer-friendly than Arenas to the average viewer.
The current Warmode while spectacular to look at feels pointless because you cannot loose and the entire sense of urgency that war should have is removed.
- 20 player Heroic/Mythic Warfronts: Can be completed once a week and functions a bit like a 1-boss raid. Providing appropriate gear once completed. The difficulties should be very similar to the raid equivalent.
- 5 Man Mythic mode: Can be done once a week and drop loot comparable to normal mythic dungeons or perhaps slightly more. With the introduction of this, the loot from regular Warfronts should be nerfed to make the challenging content worth it.
Anyone that has tried Warfronts knows that it would not take too much work to make a lot of this work and I would honestly be shocked if some iteration of a PVP Warfront isn’t in the next major patch or the one after that and adding a hard mode version seems obvious for PvE. It’s not fun winning if you cannot loose and playing a 20man Mythic raid Warfront could truly be epic and feel like a war.
We also know that there are more Warfronts coming in Battle for Azeroth which would mean that we would get both PVE and PVP content consistently throughout the expansion which is long overdue.
Island Expeditions – Why they don’t work right now
Island Expeditions are a solid concept that in theory offer a lot of variation and replayability but in reality, they feel quite stale, and the difference between fighting Murlocs or Crockodiles doesn’t feel that big. While the Faction NPC’s are slightly more player like than regular NPC’s it is not enough to offer lasting variation and replayability. Lastly, one of the major issues are the rewards. As the primary motivation to do them are artifact power which is useful but ultimately very dull rewards, and the tiny chance for mounts and transmogrification items is not enough of a motivator for most people. In other words, it feels a lot like a dungeon without bosses and loot.
So, what works with the Island Expeditions and how could they be great?
- The PVP versions are a lot of fun and should get more attention.
- Visually the islands are very pleasing and offer decent variation from one another.
- It’s quick and efficient content.
How Island Expeditions could be a lot of fun
I have had a lot of fun in the Player versus Player version of the Island Expeditions, and Blizzards needs to harness that potential. While the regular Player versus Environment mode mostly needs an improved loot table and some buffs to the faction NPC’s.
Player versus Player Expeditions
- A PvP appropriate loot table. They should give honor, PvP gear and perhaps even rare chances of Vicious PvP mounts.
- Ranked Mode. Nothing spices up a PvP mode like ranked mode with leaderboards. Ranked play should reward conquest points and loot appropriate to your rating.
- More rewarding objectives. Maybe add some of the store items like the Siege engine to massive bosses and announce it before they spawn, so both teams have a chance to claim them.
Player versus Environment Expeditions
- A more interesting loot table. Increase the number of unique items and mounts that can drop in there.
- Mythic+ mode with increased rewards and leaderboards. Affixes would be interesting combined with the randomness of Island Expeditions and especially the faction NPC’s.
- A return of the Justice and Valor currency. Add a vendor with decent starter gear that can be purchased with justice points and better items that can be bought with Valor points. Valor points should only be obtainable through Mythic+ versions and have a weekly cap.
- Buff to the faction NPC’s. Right now the so-called ”intelligent A.I” is incredibly easy to beat, even on Mythic difficulty.
These changes would offer consistent rewards and provide something for top players to aspire for in both the PvE and PvP mode. Sadly I don’t see Blizzard returning to the Justice and Valor system, but even without it these changes would make Island Expeditions a lot more interesting and take them from something you have to do to something you want to do.
Azerite Armor & The Heart of Azeroth
The Heart of Azeroth is the new system that is mainly replacing the Artifacts from Legion but also to a certain extent act as a replacement for Legion Legendaries and Tier sets. When you consider these 3 systems and compare it to the Heart of Azeroth, it certainly seems underwhelming, and that’s because it is.
While there are several downsides to the Battle for Azeroth system compared to the Legion counterpart, there are also plenty of upsides, and I do understand why Blizzard chose this system. First of all, it is not specialization specific like the Artifacts so you won’t have to invest in particular specializations. Secondly, it only takes up 1 equipment slot whereas the Legion systems locked you into 7 or 8 slots. However, I still think that the downsides are far more plentiful than the upsides as the system stands right now and here is why.
Why The Heart of Azeroth doesn’t work right now
- Inconsistent unlock levels. Radically higher item levels are not always an upgrade due to having higher trait unlocking requirements or just much worse traits.
- Trait balance. The additional damage per second that a player will do can vary between a few hundred and all the way above 2000 and generally speaking the neutral traits perform better than the specialization-specific.
- Only one trait per specialization. Even if the balance got fixed, you would have little choice as each item only have 1 trait per class specialization.
- Most traits are boring. There are a lot of traits to choose from right now, but a vast majority of these are entirely passive and have zero effect on a players gameplay.
- Heart of Azeroth Item level is tied to reputation. This is mostly a problem for players with several characters but having to grind that reputation from the bottom each time is very disheartening.
- Very difficult to obtain for non-raiders. As it stands right now it is very hard for non-raiders to gain high-level Azerite gear.
How The Heart of Azeroth system could work
This is the Battle for Azeroth system that needs the most radical changes actually to work well but probably also the most important to fix.
- Make Azerite gear specialization specific. The traits should work like talents and change if you change your specialization. As an example, fire mages should have 3 fire traits and 1 neutral, and if the mage specializes to frost the same item should have 3 frost specific traits, etc. This would give more options to choose from and remove the need for having 15 extra pieces of Azerite armor in your bags.
- Higher item level should generally mean better. New pieces of a higher item level should be an upgrade.
- There should be more gameplay altering traits. Blizzard should add more class specific traits that affect how you play instead of bland, passive bonuses.
- Better balance. The difference between the best and worst traits right now is ridiculous and unintuitive. So unless you run your character through simulations, you are likely to pick the worst trait and hurt your character a lot.
How to fix the Item Level issue with Azerite Gear
There are several ways Blizzard could do this, and sadly most of them are quite dull. However, something needs to happen.
Boring Solution – Make traits scale with Heart of Azeroth level
This way all traits would require the same Heart of Azeroth level to unlock and traits would scale with the Item level of the item. So once you have a high enough Heart of Azeroth level, you can unlock all traits on any piece, but the item level determines how strong those traits are.
I feel like this is the safest solution but also incredibly boring and would effectively nullify the entire concept.
Risky Solution – Add new rings for each tier
All pieces in the same tier should require the same Heart of Azeroth level to unlock and instead they could add an entirely new ring of traits for each new tier. So as an example Azerite gear from Uldir should have the same unlock requirements as gear from Mythic dungeons but instead also have an additional ring that requires a decently high Heart of Azeroth level to open.
This could make obtaining Azerite armor from new raids very exciting but could also potentially get out of control with each piece having too many traits later in the expansion.
Warmode – Great but could be Extraordinary
Warmode is the only of these features I’d call successful as it is right now. Warmode has made world player versus player combat more alive than ever, and that is coming from someone who has played since Vanilla. However, while I love Warmode and I haven’t turned it off once I still think we are only seeing the tip of the iceberg concerning its potential right now.
The fact that it’s optional is excellent and probably the only reason it works as the community is split on how they feel about it. Secondly, the bounty and assassin system is great and works an excellent motivator for engaging in PvP combat.
How Warmode could be even better
- Increase the amount and rewards of World PvP achievements. The titles you can get right now is pretty easy to achieve, and I think the players should always have something to strive for. Add much harder achievements with appropriately improved rewards. Right now we have a quest for killing ten players while having a bounty. So as an example we should get an achievement for killing 20 players, 30 players, 50, players and so on. Perhaps add Vicious saddles, appearances, and gear for some of the hardest achievements.
- Increase the rate of supply crates. They don’t often happen which is a shame as it is an excellent motivator for fighting and give another reason to get out there and farm world PvP.
- Bonus honor zones. 1 zone on each continent randomly become a PvP hotspot and grant a lot of bonus honor.
- PvP World Quests. How is this not a thing in Battle for Azeroth? At least something akin to the 4 unique PvP world quests we had in Legion, but why stop there?
- Weekly World PvP Quests. It would be fantastic to add weekly World PvP quests that could only be done once a week but of course be harder to complete and have better rewards. An example could be to assault and kill a particular NPC in Orgrimmar or to kill 20 players inside Orgrimmar as an Alliance player.
PvP World Quests could be the best thing ever
I am not talking about Warden towers or killing Nagas in Azsuna. I am talking real Horde versus Alliance battles across the whole of Azeroth.
Here is how it could work(Core concept)
- Every third hour a random Town or Village across Azeroth either needs to be defended or assaulted. Everyone with Warmode active gets a pop op quests, and one of your faction leaders call for your aid.
- As an example, let’s say all Alliance players with Warmode active is ordered to strike at the Crossroads in the barrens, while all Horde players are asked to come to the aid of the Crossroads.
- When the World Quests spawn, a faction champion will spawn for each side with a bunch of elite guards around it. As an example, let us say Muradin spawns for the Alliance and Nathanos spawn for the Horde.
- Once you arrive, you will have to assault the city and slay the leader of the opposing faction.
- While inside the area you will gain a huge bonus to honor gains and when you are done, you will receive a PvP appropriate reward. The winning side should also receive a greater prize.
- Once you enter the area, you automatically form groups with your faction as to not allow players to form raids and mess with the phasing. This would ensure a decently even battle each time.
- There could easily be different kinds of these World quests. Deathmatch, King of the Hill, Tug of War, etc. So one of them is merely about killing the opposing sides faction leader, while another is about claiming the flag inside the city and hold it for a set amount of time, or a purely kill based battles with a ”fill the bar” where you fill it by slaying enemy players. You could even have a ”Tug of War” styled quest akin to the old Southshore Versus Tarren Mill battles where both teams are defending and assaulting.
- The cities involved should probably be restricted to a few for each side so that Blizzard could work on different phases of that city. So the Crossroads would have a conquered version where the Alliance occupies the city or even a burned down version. This would give weight to the quests and make the war feel alive.
Battle for Azeroth desperately needs something to make the war feel real, and while I would love to see all of this happen, I would be more than happy if they just added the Assault/Defend World Quests.
It seems that Blizzard’s resources had been spread too thin during the development of Battle for Azeroth which have caused most of the new features to feel lackluster.
While the expansion builds on the rock-solid foundation that Legion put down, it feels less polished.
However, with that said. This expansion could and still can end up as quite the masterpiece if Blizzard work overtime to fix at least 3 of these features. Mainly Island Expeditions, Warfronts, and especially the Azerite armor system.
Surely Blizzard knows that they have to pull out something great at Blizzcon to keep the game healthy and patch 8.1 will likely decide the fate of Battle for Azeroth as a whole.