With the release of Battle for Azeroth earlier this year, the World of Warcraft community has not exactly been happy with Blizzard for various reasons. Mostly though, people are just not pleased with the state of the game.
While Battle for Azeroth reveals the issues of modern World of Warcraft better than any recent expansion, this article is not a critique of Battle for Azeroth, but modern World of Warcraft in general. Yep, that includes World of Warcraft: Legion as well.
Warning: Opinions ahead.
This article is subjective, and a lot of people still enjoy World of Warcraft in its current state. This article is merely to point out why I, a World of Warcraft player that has been playing since the beginning, no longer enjoy the game.
10. The Only Grinds are the Arbitrary Ones
Do you know what made the Winterspring Saber or Netherwing Drake so special back in the day? The grind was long, harsh, and boring as hell, but at the end of that grind, there was an incredibly rare and unique reward waiting for you that made it all worth it.
Now don’t get me wrong. I think world quests are a decent addition to the game as it gives people a reason to go out into the world after hitting the level cap, but does it have to be the only reason? In Battle for Azeroth, we have 6 reputations to grind up, and what they all have in common is that every single player in the game will reach exalted within a few weeks or month and never think about it again. There is not a single unique reputation or grind that you can CHOOSE to do to stand out from the crowd.
The World of Warcraft does not have a single grind that you choose to do; every grind is a grind everyone does. Rewards are a lot less exciting and fulfilling if it’s given for arbitrary participation rather than hard work.
What exactly would the harm be in adding a few Mist of Pandaria styled daily quest hubs that can provide people with a long term goal and unique rewards? It feels as if Blizzard is afraid of adding anything to the game that everyone will not instantaneously be able to obtain with little to no effort. Except for store mounts, of course.
9. Not so Massively Multiplayer
Wow has become a singleplayer adventure game
World of Warcraft is no longer designed as a massively multiplayer experience. It is a singleplayer game with an option to opt in to multiplayer. Group quests are easy enough to be done on your own, automatic queues for everything paired with incredibly easy baseline content makes it, so you never have to talk in groups, you can obtain almost everything in the game with the push of a button.
Looking for Raid
You can ”defeat” the last boss of the game on the ‘Looking for Raid’ difficulty without ever socializing in the slightest. Heck, you might not even need to be at the keyboard.
Now I KNOW that beating LFR is hardly beating the game, but when everyone has already seen the last boss of the game, people feel less inclined to do the rest on a higher difficulty.
Everything in World of Warcraft today is designed to be easily beatable as a solo player, and it no longer incentivizes people to socialize.
”Join World of Warcraft today and experience a massively multiplayer online role-playing game like no other with millions of players!”. You have to hope that no more than 20 of them are at the same space at the same time, or the servers will start to struggle.
Warmode was a great idea in Battle for Azeroth, but the fantasy of world PVP quickly crumbles when the server cannot handle a simple 20 versus 20 battle without vigorous latency issues.
The current servers that World of Warcraft runs on are downright embarrassing. You cannot claim to be an MMORPG while not being able to handle large clusters of players at the same spot.
World of Warcraft should be playable as a singleplayer game, but it should never be the baseline way to play.
I believe that one of the biggest reasons that people stayed subscribed back in the day was due to the social relations and friendships they had inside the game – Friendships made because the game incentivized social interaction.
Related: Best MMORPGs to Play Today.
8. Phasing & Sharding
Phasing and sharding have clear beneficial applications that can enhance the World of Warcraft experiences, such as making the launch of a new expansion or patch much smoother than it used to be. However, the price of this convenience has been catastrophic if you ask me.
Whereas the cities and the world used to be full of familiar faces from your server, the World of Azeroth has now become a sea of faceless nobodies that might as well be Non-player characters. People from across all servers are cramped into small shards, and the chance of seeing the same players in your capital city two days in a row is virtually nonexistent.
So why is this so important?
Let me ask you this: Who are you most likely to socialize with? People, you meet on the bus or people at your workplace or school?
People do not feel incentivized to socialize with someone they will likely never meet again; that is how humans work.
World of Warcraft used to be filled with familiar names, guilds, and an actual community, and people used to have a reputation and an incentive to interact. Now we have a ton of nameless characters with random guild names that hold no meaning.
”In Battle for Azeroth, I can be in Boralus in the same spot, at the same time as another member of my guild, and the likelihood is that we won’t even see each other”
Think about this for a second. In Battle for Azeroth, I can be in Boralus in the same spot, at the same time as another member of my guild, and the likelihood is that we won’t even see each other. Mind you, this is as an Alliance player on Sylvanas, an 85% full alliance server, a server that has more than enough people on its own to populate the world, but it is still filled with random people from random servers that I will never see again.
Sharding hurts almost every single aspect of the game, and it destroys the community aspect of the game entirely. This is, without a doubt, the most significant reason that people have such fond memories of Vanilla World of Warcraft and The Burning Crusade by quite a large margin. It was a social game with a community, something World of Warcraft today has utterly abandoned.
7. Play the Patch, not the game – What’s the point?
When I quit Battle for Azeroth a few months back, my item level at 377 was among the top percent of the player base at the time and required no small amount of work to obtain. Today I would be able to reopen my account and reach a higher item level on a new 120 character within a day or two, only because a new patch has dropped and everything effectively gets reset.
It is hard for people to motivate themselves to do the hardest content in the game when everything is reset a few months down the line.
The freshly released raid, Battle of Dazar’alor provide the same gear on ‘Looking for Raid’ difficulty as Heroic Uldir and normal which is easily doable with a random group on the first week provide the same loot as Uldir Mythic.
Now I am not saying that there shouldn’t be a jump in item level from tier to tier, but I do not understand why every new patch has to nullify everything from the patch before completely. The brand new Warfront in Patch 8.1 gives a quest that provides you with a guaranteed item that is better than anything you could obtain in 8.0, and this is content that you can basically do while being away-from-keyboard and watching Netflix (LFR, World Quests, etc.).
Why would anyone bust their hump and work 8 hours a day if they know they will get everything they can earn and more in a few months for free?
Blizzard is actively giving everyone less content to do by effectively deleting all previous patches with every new one.
This issue is made even worse by the addition of Titanforging and Warforging, so let us talk about that while we are at it.
6. Titanforging, RNG & Catch ups
”For the vast majority of the people, the catch up is just how they gear their character normally. Catch up is just the gearing system now”
Preach Gaming, Gear Monster – The Desire to Care
How do you further diminish the reward of hard work in an MMORPG? You provide the same prize for no work at all, of course!
Now, this might be exaggerating, and a mythic raider will likely have better gear than any casual most of the time. But at the end of each patch cycle, we reach a spot where someone who does nothing but the easiest content in the game will have the same item level as a cutting edge raider.
Disproportionally rewarding people with a lot more than they deserve are not just devaluation of hard content, but it also messes with the casual player more than anyone. Almost no matter how casual you are, you will have better gear than the regular mythic 0 dungeon drops and likely also better than the first few levels of mythic keystones. However, you might have never done a single piece of challenging content and might have no fundamental understanding of how the game and your character work because you never had a reason to learn. This means that the gear you didn’t work for will force you into content that is a lot harder than you can handle, which is partly why the mid-level mythic plus keystones are usually tougher in a random group than the 10’s and above. You might get some well-geared guy who has yet to learn how to interrupt.
A popular counter-argument here is, why do I care? Why do I care what items everyone else have, I should do the content I enjoy regardless of rewards, right? This is utterly ridiculous, and while some rare individuals might be advanced enough not to care, that is a tiny fraction of the player base. The truth is that most players want a way to overpower their opponents in a battleground and charge in with high-end gear and destroy other players. Now I know I am going to get a lot of hate for this, but I don’t think people should be rewarded with fantastic gear for doing trivial content.
Not only does it devalue the rewards you get from harder content. Make players worse at the game, and demotivates people from stepping into harder content. It also removes the concept of ”best-in-slot” items, which used to be an essential part of the gearing progress. Titanforging and constant free epics make gear less exciting; when you are showered in epic loot all day, epics are no longer epics. Heck, they aren’t even rare.
The current gearing system, much like communism, is a sweet idea in theory, but it just doesn’t work.
When the entire progression and reward system is out of balance, it doesn’t matter how good the content is, people will stop doing it.
The desire to care
The World of Warcraft Youtuber, Preach Gaming said it better than anyone else in my opinion in this video where he goes over the pitfalls of the current progression system:
5. Character Progression, Scaling & Templates
When people talk about what defines the role-playing game genre, what comes to mind? That’s right, Character progression and expression. So what happens to an RPG when you almost entirely remove the feeling of progress both concerning new skills and overall power? Well, it turns out it’s not good.
The progression in World of Warcraft feels bad enough while leveling from 1 to 100, where you still get a talent every 15 levels and a few spells here and there. However, post level 100 progression is a tragedy that makes you question how on earth World of Warcraft is the world’s most popular MMORPG.
”In Battle for Azeroth, you literally grew weaker as you leveled from level 110 to 120”
Scaling, lack of new abilities, and meaningful post-level-cap progression have utterly destroyed the sense of progress in the World of Warcraft, and in Battle for Azeroth and Legion, it is has been more apparent than ever due to scaling. In Battle for Azeroth, you literally grew weaker as you leveled from level 110 to 120. This is due to scaling and the concept of ”rental abilities” that Blizzard introduced in Legion, abilities which we have for one expansion, and then loose the next.
Rental abilities through systems such as Artifacts and now Azerite armor is a concept designed to make sure that we don’t end up with every class having hundreds of skills, which is a legitimate concern on Blizzard’s part. However, removing new and cool abilities without adding anything in return is not the right way to go about fixing this issue.
As it stands right now, you do not get a single new thing past level 100, no skills, no talents, no nothing. This is one of the modern World of Warcraft’s big tragedies, in my opinion. Imagine that we used to get new abilities and talents with every new expansion to go along with the new level cap. I know, sounds crazy.
On top of not learning any new abilities or skills, you also further hurt the sense of progression with templates and scaling in both PVE and PVP content that makes sure that players don’t get too powerful. Just in case someone felt like they were actually progressing.
Related: Top MMO Gaming Mice.
4. World of Warcraft is no longer an RPG
World of Warcraft has traded the fulfillment and depth of a role-playing game for instant gratification and convenience, and it is all done in the name of accessibility.
Now you might be thinking; accessibility, that sounds like a good thing, right?
Sure, it is good to have a game that anyone can play and try out. However, having a game that is made accessible to the point where you have to remove anything that adds depth to the game and streamline everything, then you have a problem.
Your Journey is pre-determined by Blizzard
It might be hard to imagine now if you started playing in recent times, but World of Warcraft used to be an actual role-playing game back in the day. The game had choices in the sense that you had a ton of optional content to do and could choose your own path instead of just one streamlined route that everyone takes. It used to have meaningful progression with interesting gearing with interesting stats instead of an item level. You used to be able to stand out from the crowd in various ways. You could be really skilled at your profession. You could be that rogue with maxed out lock picking. You could be that guy with a legendary you could only obtain through hard work and dedication.
Instead, we now have a game where every single reward is reasonably easy to get for any player in the game. It is streamlined to the point where there is basically no difference between you and all the other players of the same class. You will all go through the same quests, reach exalted with the same reputations, ride the same mounts, and defeat the same bosses.
It seems that Blizzard is terrified of players getting lost or being left out, which they deal with my making sure that everyone is more or less the same. Character expression and meaningful progression have not been a thing for years in World of Warcraft. It disappeared when Blizzard started to control how the players experienced the game. Blizzard wants so badly to monitor and control the player experience in Azeroth right now that players can’t find their own way.
It is hard to list all the things that World of Warcraft used to have that made it an MMORPG, but I honestly think it comes down to removing player’s ability to carve out their own path and express themselves. Either through meaningful professions, hard-earned reputations, impactful choices, or just unique rewards in general.
3. Leveling & The Open World
Leveling is an essential part of any role-playing game as it provides you with a meaningful sense of progression and makes you invested in your character.
So it’s a good thing we have established that World of Warcraft is no longer an RPG, seeing as it has one of the worst and most pointless leveling experiences out of any popular MMO on the market.
A brand new player can open his very first World of Warcraft account and make it from level 1 to 120 without once experiencing anything close to danger unless they mistakenly pull five or more enemies. In the effort of removing anything inconvenient from the game, Blizzard removed the concept of risk from the world, which is a huge problem both while leveling and at the max level.
I am not saying that leveling needs to be slower than it is currently, but it sure needs to be harder. When you don’t have to learn your spells, worry about your health, or even watch the screen while leveling, it is no wonder people are bored to death while leveling in World of Warcraft.
I think Blizzard needs to squish the levels and severely buff the damage of all creatures throughout Azeroth. Give people a reason to pay attention to the game and perhaps even motivate them to improve and learn their abilities.
The world feels a lot bigger and more alive when there is a real danger when you venture out into it.
2. Classes, flavor spells & Pruning
Classes in the modern World of Warcraft certainly have more interesting rotations than they used to back in the glory days of Vanilla and The Burning Crusade, yet they feel more bareboned than ever before.
Niche Abilities were awesome
Pretty much all niche, flavorful spells have been removed, and the spells on your bar, for the most part, are abilities you use regularly. Call me an old fart, but I think there was a lot of value to old school niche abilities such as the ”Ritual of Doom”, ”Divine Intervention” and simpler ones such as the old ”Exorcism” and ”Eyes of the Beast”. You might have rarely used any of them, but when you ended up in that niche situation where your specific class could suddenly shine, it was an excellent feeling. Like being a Paladin in Stratholme and suddenly have an extra set of abilities or being a druid in a dungeon with a lot of beasts. It only really gave the game a lot more class identity, and you really felt like a paladin when you were purging Stratholme of the undead with your unique abilities.
Pruning & Talents
On top of having next to no unique flavor spells anymore, we also have to accept that we lose abilities left and right, and this has been worse in Battle for Azeroth than ever before. Blizzard seems to love this new idea of ”rental abilities” that see us gaining some new ability or effect that somewhat changes our class and then remove and replace it every expansion. But why? I get that we cannot have hundreds of skills each and that pruning is a necessary evil now and again, but why on earth do we choose to remove awesome spells like ”Pheonix Flame” and ”Wake of Ashes” instead of some more forgettable and boring abilities.
One of the worst parts of the pruning and butchering of classes this expansion is how much better your class feels when we have our three Player-versus-player talents activated.
I don’t think it’s ever a good idea to separate PVE and PVP content like that because it makes the content with fewer abilities(PVE) feel a lot less fun when you transition over from PVP.
I think adding the PVP talents as an additional set of skills you unlock at level 120 would help a lot with some of the significant class design problems of Battle for Azeroth.
Oh, and while you are at it Blizzard, could you add some talents to level 110 and 120? Thanks.
1. You Cannot Lose Anymore
”The world feels a lot bigger if there is unbeaten content out there”
Jeff Kaplan, Blizzcon 2005 Dungeon & Raids Panel
In Blizzard’s pursuit of making World of Warcraft more accessible than Tic Tac Toe, they have created a gaming experience in which the player cannot fail. Not only is the world and creatures incredibly forgiving, but most of the instanced content is designed to be won without exception.
Raid Finder, Warfronts, Island Expeditions, group quests, and world bosses, all designed to be guaranteed wins for everyone, no matter how much they screw it up. Warfronts being the most recent addition to the free win content in World of Warcraft. A feature that could have been incredible and that got a lot of people excited for Battle for Azeroth ended up as one of the most hated in recent years.
What is the point when you literally cannot lose?
I am aware that mythic raiding has never been harder and that high-rated PVP is as competitive as ever, but my point here is that the only way to be challenged in World of Warcraft is if you go out of your way to be so.
Challenge will never come looking for you; you have to seek it out yourself. Something which is directly in conflict with human nature as we will always take the path of least resistance.
Challenge is no longer a part of the baseline World of Warcraft experience. Which when you pair with the reward structure being so skewed in favor of casual content, most people don’t see a reason to seek out these challenges, at least not until the catch-up systems make sure they outgear them to the point that they are no longer challenging.
A game should be designed to be winnable, not won in advance.
Honestly, I cannot say it better than Blizzards’ very own Jeff Kaplan back in 2005 at the Blizzcon Raid and Dungeon design panel. I highly recommend everyone watch these 16 minutes of sheer glory from Jeff Kaplan on how the endgame in World of Warcraft should be structured:
The Bottom-line Problem With World of Warcraft
The game is more accessible than ever but appealing to fewer players than ever before.
World of Warcraft has been made childproof to the point where just about anyone can pick it up and succeed without ever experiencing defeat.
It doesn’t matter how big and beautiful the world looks if it is entirely void of content and danger.
It is incredibly apparent that the game is designed for the Blizzard shareholders and not the gamers. Filling the game with short-term instant gratification and accessibility might attract a wider audience at first, but very few tend to stick around.
When you design a game to be entirely beatable by someone who plays a few times a month, is it any wonder that people who play regularly don’t have anything to do?
On paper, there is more to do than ever before in the World of Warcraft. Infinite mythic keystones, World Quests, four raiding difficulties, Warfronts, Island Expeditions, and more. Yet, it feels like there is less to do than ever before because none of those things feels worth doing due to a skewed reward and progression structure.
There is something very wrong with the World of Warcraft, and honestly, it’s a lot more than I could list here, but I think all the issues come down to the same core problem; Blizzard’s pursuit of making the game more accessible than a massively-multiplayer-online role-playing game ever should be.