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Reflecting on WoW’s Patch 8.1 Gameplay and Design

Patch 8.1 for WoW dropped on Tuesday. This is the first major patch for the Battle for Azeroth expansion. Let's cut right to the chase. People are generally unhappy with the direction of this expansion.

There are a plethora of reasons, but some of the big ones are:

  • Azerite traits are not created equal, therefore providing one 'best' way to gear
  • Obtaining the Azerite armor you want is RNG
  • Uldir (the first raid) is boring
  • There isn't a reason to log in every day
  • Island expeditions ended up being worthless

More...

Battle for Azeroth Sure Beats Legion for Me

Personally, I think this expansion is off to a better start than Legion. 

My three big gripes about Legion were:

  1. M+ didn't provide gear that was anywhere near raids because of set items meaning that no matter how hard I wantd to push M+ I was never going to be geared as well.
  2. Legendary items were so class-defining and RNG that if you didn't have one you were screwed.
  3. AP was so limiting (early to mid expansion) that alts and alternate specs weren't possible.

BFA fixed my three main issues.

M+ gear provides me with gear that is practically on-par with raids, sans a few raid-only buffs and a trait or two only accessible from raid gear. This is solved for me by obtaining these items from other gearing events.

Legendary items are gone, thus removing one of the 100% RNG annoyances.

AP is immensely easier to obtain. I have three characters with a necklace over level 30. I have one of my classes geared very well for three specs. 

Everywhere I turn there are options for obtaining gear and doing the content that I enjoy -- mainly Mythic+ dungeons.

Buying Gear with Currency is Back

I have long maintained my love for the Justice point system. I loved in WotLK how doing almost anything yielded these points. If you didn't get gear, you got points. If you did something you got points. Playing the game earned you points. These points could then be spent to obtain the gear that you weren't lucky enough to see drop, or otherwise help you avoid being screwed by bad luck.

As established already, RNG has been a bit of a pita in BFA so far because if you don't get the traits you want then the piece of practically worthless.

In 8.1 Blizzard introduced Titan Residuum which is a form of currency. I was incredibly eager for this system to be just like justice points -- until I realized it wasn't like that at all.

TR can only be obtained by scrapping azerite gear (340+) and from your weekly M+ chest (increases the higher the key).

There's a catch, though. Azerite gear can now only be obtained from raids, a weekly chest, emissary caches, and specific event rewards. Azerite gear never came from dungeons, and it is no longer available in the weekly chest. I think that's stupid on both fronts.

Scrapping Azerite gear provides the following points:

Item Level

TR When Scrapped

Pre-8.1 armor & under 340

0

340

1

355

3

370

12

385

35

400

115

415

365

M+ Weekly Residuum (Community Estimated)
+10 - 60 ​
+11 - 64
+12 - 68
+13 - 72
+14 - 76
+15 - 80 ​
+16 - 83
+17 - 86
+18 - 89
+19 - 92
+20 - 95 ​
+21 - 97
+22 - 99
+23 - 101
+24 - 103
+25 - 105
+26 - 106
+27 - 107
+28 - 108
+29 - 109
+30 - 110

Okay, so what about the costs? Brace yourself.

Azerite iLvl

Price

Random 355 (why bother?)

15 

Random 370

50

Random 385

165

Specific 385

675

Random 400

Coming Soon (Jan 22)

Random 415

Coming Soon (Jan 22)

Specific 415

Coming Soon (Jan 22)

Buying anything under 385 is a waste. Today alone I had three opportunities for a 370 Azerite armor piece. Don't waste your points.

The tier that really starts to matter is 385, and targeting anything specific right now is 675 points.  January 22 will bring a rise in ilvl from everything, so spending points now is probably a stupid idea anyway, but even if you wanted to spend points you're looking at impossible odds. Getting 675 TR will be achieved by the <1% elite who are already at 385 best-in-slot gear anyway. 

The costs are WAY too high for how much TR is obtained. Blizzard needs to adjust these numbers, otherwise this system hasn't solved a single problem. Obtaining gear you want is still left to RNG and going to take a month to get anything. I suppose the only person this saved was the guy who never got a single Azerite piece from a weekly chest (I was able to get ONE piece on three characters since BFA released). 

BFA's Story

I just finished the newest line of quests to the BFA story. Unfortunately they were 'meh', but they're building up to a story I'm going to enjoy. These were the quests to set up the story. The story thus far in BFA has been great -- way better than Legion, though anything is better than space goats.

Wrapping Up / Summary

BFA does a lot right for me. I really love M+ because it provides an individual challenge to perform that I can't find in my raid group -- I feel like if the raid fails its never because of something I did. In a M+ I have individual accountability, and I love that I can get gear and rewards based on that challenge -- though they could be a lot better.

I actually like the dungeons and content itself, but I dislike the raids.

Itemization has won me over with the lack of set items and legendaries, but they continue to fail with Azerite gear. The currency system took a sucky luck system and replaced it with a sucky grind.

I like that they are continuing to add ways to get gear because gear allows me to progress to the next challenge. Weird, right? I don't want the gear because I want cooler gear, I want the gear because I'm stuck at M+ key level I can't surpass without more stats. I have plateaued. 

Here's hoping the January 22 content brings changes to keep me going until the next big wave of story and content I already know I want to see in 8.1.5. 

  • Jay P says:

    Keen, does zero comments on this post reflect the popularity of the latest WOW expansion among your readers. I quit 2 months in. Your solo friendly post had 11 comments. Just an observation.

    • Keen says:

      People have always shown more interest in the theorycrafting and design-centric posts, but that’s also because they’re more conversational than me stating my opinion about a game. When I talk broadly about what I want to see in a game it causes people to think about what they want, and they comment.

  • Caldazar says:

    WoW is probably kinda fine at this moment, objectively. But it is also so samey to legion that a lot of people are bored.

    My friends and me still log to do a m+ or 4 a week, but thats it. I’m bored with it at the moment, but I can’t say any individual mechanic annoys me more than it did in legion. Azurite and artefacts are both frustrating and irritating.

    • Keen says:

      I wish I had a group that wanted to run consistent M+ and push ourselves to higher keys. I also enjoy the normal and heroic raids (will never be a Mythic raider). Something about BFA is different than how Legion felt, because Legion was so bad I couldn’t continue after clearing normal Nighthold.

  • diltz says:

    the problem with BFA is it’s just a game… yeah it can be fun, but it just doesn’t capture the feeling of being in a new and exciting world like vanilla WoW. it’s too focused on the rewards and everything is too easy (unless you make it artificially harder for yourself), it’s fun as a jump in and out dungeon runner, but not exactly fun as an MMO.

    • Keen says:

      At this point it’s a rinse and repeat game, pretty much like Battlefield, Call of Duty, every new Diablo or PoE season, etc. There’s little “MMORPG’ left here.

  • audioshaman says:

    I admit I stopped playing WoW for about a month. BfA just hasn’t grabbed me. I have come back to check out 8.1 though and have been doing a few things. Leveling Alliance Allied Races is ridiculously easy with the leveling/War Mode changes. My main issues with the expansion are:

    1) Class design. My biggest gripe. Pretty much every spec I play is worse in BfA than it was in Legion. I’m not just talking about numbers, I’m talking about it how feels to play, the flavour, the fun. I just don’t enjoy the classes as much anymore. They could have left classes identical to Legion and I’d be so much happier.

    2) Not a fan of the Heart of Azeroth/Azerite system at all. For me it is a 100% downgrade from Legion’s artifacts. It’s both confusing and boring. As someone who doesn’t do too much “hardcore” content I never felt too spec limited by AP in Legion – I played all 4 Druids specs right from the beginning.

    3) The flagship features of Warfronts and Island Expeditions are boring.

    4) Too much RNG everywhere. Opening your weekly chest to get something that you didn’t want should never, ever happen.

    5) The story. I don’t see how you can prefer it to Legion. It’s just awful, in my opinion. There are some individual side stories on Kul Tiras and Zandalar that are cool, but the overarching Alliance vs Horde story is terrible. Sylvanas, Nathanos, the whole thing. The Horde is evil and the Alliance are wimps who get beat down. It’s classic Blizzard writing at its worst.

    • Keen says:

      There’s no accounting for taste. Some things will appeal to people that others find appalling.

      1. agree
      2. I don’t agree because I struggled to find the time to AP up all my specs. In BFA, the AP applies to all my specs.
      3. Agreed
      4. Agreed, though I’m glad we’re not also dealing with RNG of legendaries and set items.
      5. I hated the burning legion stuff, but I don’t mind some of what’s going on with the story in BFA (some of it is dumb, sure).

    • Gringar says:

      Oh God I have to agree on the story bit. The same old Alliance vs Horde has gotten so stale. Yes yes I know that’s the roots of Warcraft but I feel like the story has progressed to so much more than just that. Every time the story returns to Alliance vs Horde just to please the masses, it feels so forced. The writing definitely suffers because of it.

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