‘WoW’ Relapse Diaries Part 3: Tired of Monkeying Around

Joab Gilroy
Games Blizzard
Games Blizzard PC Gaming

In the Relapse Diaries, we chronicle our adventures in collapsing and taking up WoW again to romp around Battle for Azeroth. You can find the first entry here, and the second here.

I’ve made it to level 120.

Either I have the timing of Fred Astaire, or Blizzard are brilliant geniuses. Whichever is true, the fact remains — I finished the Zandalar main quest line and dinged to level 120 at exactly the same time. I literally hit 120 by turning the quest in.

It was an extremely satisfying way to cap off the journey.

The Jungle VIP

What was less satisfying was the actual ending of the questline. Something happened; the game bugged out when I beat the last boss, the servers crashed, and when I got back in (30 minutes of downtime later) I was standing in front of King Rastakhan having defeated the evil.

Because I was invested, I watched how it unfolded on Youtube instead. That’s never the ideal way to get resolution to the last 20 hours of questing, but I really wanted to know what I missed, and there’s no reverting to a previous save in an MMO.

Spoiler Warning – The End of the Zandalari Quest Line

I was not thrilled by what I saw. The final boss fight against Ma’da Renkala is — I think — supposed to involve both you and King Rastakhan doing battle with this blood priestess. I don’t actually remember encountering her before this moment.

Anyway, King Rastakhan never bothered to help when I fought her, so it was a really satisfying fight — she spits out blood orbs in a bullet hell style sequence that can really kick your ass, and she’s got enough health to make it a proper challenge. I think if Rastakhan had actually helped, it would have been a less satisfying fight — like when you summon someone in Dark Souls.

The problem I have is that I don’t know who Ma’da Renkala is? When I fought her, I confused her with Grand Ma’da Ateena, the final boss in the Nazmir questline — they are not the same person. Renkala isn’t even a Grand Ma’da, despite the threat she poses.

It’s a common feeling in Battle for Azeroth. It feels underbaked. Not enough care and attention have been paid across the board. I’ve previously complained about that feeling of having skipped a few issues of the comic book , but after completing the core quests I no longer feel the fault lies with me. Battle for Azeroth suffers from inconsistent story-telling throughout.

I’ve Reached The Top And Had To Stop

Having reached 120, the real game can begin — or so the common thinking on the subject of MMOs goes. The end-game is where it’s at, right? Hell, the way World of Warcraft works these days, there’s very little to incentivise you to do anything except main-path quests until you reach level 120.

Except having played at 120 for some time now, I think I’m probably done with the game.

It’s just not for me. World of Warcraft is a social game. Hell, it’s the social game, the granddaddy of the concept. Others that have come after it are mere shadows, after-images of what once was. And I’m playing it basically alone — all my friends who are playing are on different servers, playing at different times and supporting the wrong faction.

A spooky house in a dark plain with dead trees.
To fulfill the will and earn your inheritance, you must spend a single night... here!

Like so many of those games which came after it, without the social aspect, World of Warcraft isn’t that satisfying to play.

More and more game developers are tapping into the idea that games are better in co-op. You see it all the time — the ability to play together is a critical element in loads of games these days.

Except having played at 120 for some time now, I think I’m probably done with the game.

Otherwise sub-par games become rip-roaring adventures when a co-op mode is added. No Man’s Sky is absolutely a grand improvement on its woeful launch experience, but it’s still not inherently compelling. You do the same thing on every new planet. Scan monsters, farm materials, fight some pirates, move on.

With co-op play, however, No Man’s Sky is a hilarious experience. You can shoot a friend and watch them freak out. You can build a base together, towering into the sky like Jacob’s Ladder. You can scan monsters, farm materials, fight some pirates, and move on together. It’s still a bad game, featuring the bare minimum you’d expect from a survival sim (plus spaceships!) but it’s a lot of fun in co-op.

World of Warcraft is largely the same. Not the part about it being a bad game — WoW‘s ability to facilitate social adventure is an amazing thing. But without that social element, it’s not very compelling.

The above bug that ruined the ending of a major questline was just one aspect of it. As I mentioned, I don’t think the storytelling in Battle for Azeroth has been all that good — it’s disjointed and it relies very heavily on Sorkin-esque walk-and-talks as I mentioned last week. The idea of travelling from point to point, collecting a dozen of something and then turning in a quest is time-honored WoW, but it’s pretty played out.

The entrance to a hall in a rocky mountain.
Does that fountain have a beard made of water?

Break it Down Boys

World Quests are a good indication that Blizzard knows this is the case — instead of visiting a quest-giver, completing a task and then returning, World Quests trigger when you’re close by — but even they feel like busy work. The dreaded less-than-100-percent-drop-rate quests return with World Quests, forcing you to kill more than the 12 monsters required to reach completion.

You can complete these World Quests on either of the two new islands, although you’ll probably want to do them in the region you didn’t quest to 120 on. For me, this meant heading to Kul Tiras.

Unlike Zandalar, which I felt had three strong focused areas, Kul Tiras seems a little more haphazard. Drustvar is a bit of a mish-mosh zone — 50% of its land-mass is mountains, splitting the haunted forest vibe directly down the middle and tonally spoiling the whole thing to me.

Tiragarde Sound is a better zone, restricting the snowy mountains to the outskirts. I really liked the seafaring aesthetic here, but the proximity to Boralus — the Alliance capital — makes it difficult to have a good time in.

A ship in dock among grassy hills and a river.
Navigating that narrow river in that giant boat takes impressive seamanship.

Stormsong Valley feels like your default Alliance area — lush green fields, blue skies, that sickly sweet scent of hope that clings to your clothes, the sort you can only wash out with gallons of Alliance blood. I spent most of my time here — navigation is easy, which is important when you’re hunting Alliance. It’s far enough away from Boralus to make World PVP viable too.

What’s Bothering Me

This actually leads me to the other problem I have with World of Warcraft. World PVP was what lured me back, and I feel like something is going wrong on the backend for it.

What I’ve seen happening, time and time again, is that a zone will rapidly fill with one side or the other until it reaches a critical point where the other faction no longer spawns in. It’s an auto-balancing problem of some sort.

Imagine a game of Battlefield V, one that starts with an empty server (save for your presence). You’re roaming around completing objectives, while other people join. There’s a bit of conflict, it’s fun. There’s 10 people in the server max, and it’s five a side for a while. All five of the players on your side cluster up, while the other team is spread out a bit. Then another ten people join, but they’re all put on your team. The other side has finally clustered together, but they’re getting rinsed by your team of 15. One of their players leaves, and another 45 join — all on your side. The server is now at its max player cap of 64 players, but there’s 60 on one side, and four on the other.

This happened a lot during my World Questing. It’s something I flagged in my first diary, and it persists even now — the World PVP seems to hit a critical mass point on one side or the other, and after it arrives there, the PVP is broken. I love ganking Alliance players, but not when it’s this lopsided.

Our character walks along a stone path in the grass.
You're never safe in Kul Tiras!

So I’m doing Battlegrounds instead, and it’s just not what I signed up for. Any group activity in World of Warcraft is like herding cats at the best of times, but constructed PVP might be the worst for it. Imagine a new BFV server — in this one, nobody plays the objective, and everyone treats the game like it’s team deathmatch. You don’t need to imagine — I guarantee you that is happening right now on BFV Open Beta servers around the world.

And the same thing is happening in WoW Battlegrounds, where players are roaming around aimlessly looking to gank, ignoring the objectives except as locations to find fights and then complaining when we lose.

I Made a Deal With You

The thing is, playing Battlegrounds isn’t what I signed up for anyway. It’s a completely different experience, even when teammates are PTFO (Playing The Freakin’ Objective). There’s something special about World PVP — the tension in knowing that at any time you might get jumped, or that you might find some Alliance player to jump is satisfying in a completely different way compared to the constructed PVP of Battegrounds.

The only upside I get out of Battlegrounds is that when I return, I’m reinstanced — which means if I’m lucky, I get to kick off in an empty zone with a relatively balanced amount of Horde and Alliance.

I’d wager that it must be pretty obvious by now that World of Warcraft isn’t going to offer me the experience I want, but I don’t think I was out of line in thinking that it might. If the World PVP situation was more reliable — if I could have epic random battles over meaningless pieces of territory — then my lack of friends wouldn’t be a problem.

I made plenty of single-serving friends while I roamed looking for Alliance chumps and much like solo matchmaking in other games, I honestly think it would be enough for me. PVP scaling for War Mode means skill generally trumps gear, which is wonderful. I’d still strive to gear up, because it’s part of the game. You can’t have a loot-focused MMO and then render gear completely meaningless, and World of Warcraft doesn’t.

A Tauren rides a mount.
Forever alone.

I’d be incentivised to play the game the ‘correct’ way because my preferred form of enjoyment would benefit from it. But I also wouldn’t feel like I was falling behind if I didn’t play it — and the fact that WoW accommodates for that is awesome.

But because that system hasn’t worked, and because bugs marred some elements of my levelling experience, World of Warcraft: Battle for Azeroth just doesn’t have what I need to stick with it.

I am, of course, just one person. And millions of people still get hours, days, weeks, months and years of enjoyment out of World of Warcraft. I honestly can’t fault them. There are so many reasons to get in, and if one of them sticks then you’re hooked. Collectors, Achievement Hunters, Raiders, Arena PVPers, Dungeon Masters, Role-Players and Fishers — I can empathise with all of them. It’s always epic when a game does what you need well enough to help you overlook any missteps, and World of Warcraft clearly does that.

But my primary enjoyment of World of Warcraft since hitting level 120 has been playing the Auction House again, jumping on rare bargains while I wait for Battlegrounds to pop, watching Youtube videos of others having fun in WoW instead. I quit WoW the last time I realised I was camping the Auction House instead of actually playing — it seems appropriate that I do the same now.

Joab Gilroy
Joab is a games critic from Australia with over 10 years of experience and a PUBG tragic.
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