A new post up this morning at WoW Insider struck me as being damn timely.
The article, written by Josh Meyers and titled “Has the early Cataclysm gearing model failed?”, takes a look at the intent of early Cataclysm leveling, of gating content by iLevel, and then touches on whether it has held up or not this late in the expansion.
It’s a good article, one I found especially timely since I am actively working right now (well, when I’m not at work-work) to do everything I can to subvert that very gearing model he describes.
You play the game and get a character to level 85, and what do you want to do?
You want to go do the fun stuff.
For those that want to PvP, there are fairly new craftable PvP blue items, full armor sets as well as jewelcrafting rings and necklaces to get you started.
Clearly, the powers-that-be realized that the PvP arms race would make it painful to get stuck right in. So they added new gear as a stepping stone.
Because in PvP, there is no ‘working your way up the difficulty ladder’, no ‘easing into it’. When you zone into a BG, it’s gametime, baby and you’d better bring your ‘A’ game or find out what it looks like in first person to be teabagged by a Moonkin’s big feathery butt. Everyone else is in their best earned gear, and whether god or grunt, it’s everybody for themselves. No artificial gating of content, it’s just you, your computer, and the cold, harsh reality of survival of the fittest.
Been this way several expansions now for PvP, clearly they like how it’s working for them. Well, Burning Crusade brought PvP blues bought at the rep vendors, so it’s only been two expansions now with the crafteds. My bad. But they saw how the BC model worked, and changed it up the next time.
On the PvE side… by this late in the game, I don’t care how cool the starter heroic instances started out, everyone is sick of them as a gearing necessity.
Is it great to be able to level by running instances? Yes. Is it great to be able to do instance quests? Yes. Is it awesome that as you level and have fun in even the normal instances, you get Justice Points towards end game gear? Hells yes, sweet incentive.
Is it cool to do them and see the story and learn to play an unfamiliar class or role in the end game group content?
But I challenge anyone to say that they find it FUN to have to run the expansion starter instances in heroic mode at level 85 on every new character to grind the gear upgrades and Justice Points needed to unlock higher iLevel content.
And I won’t even go into how much sheer joy is to be had in considering having to grind rep to get epic shoulder enchants or gear on your fifth character, even with Tabards.
So, we try and subvert it, to a greater or lesser degree. Are we to be blamed for trying to bypass the system as intended?
Or, and I’m just throwing this out idea there, is subverting the original gearing process exactly what Blizzard expects us to do, and is precisely WHY we have things like the new high-level BoE epics from the new heroic instances dropping like snowflakes in winter?
Crafted epic items, auction house BoEs, new heroic instance quest rewards, the Thrall and Aggra Elemental Bonds questline that gives a nice cloak, etc.
Is being subversive simply the game working as intended?
I think so.
Look at the facts.
I’ve played the game the way it was meant to be played on three characters now, my druid, warrior and hunter. Leveled, geared, got crafting skills, reputation grinds, all that stuff.
I am damn glad to have done it, too. For example, I am proud to have a character maxed in every rep, plus exalted with my guild.
When I have new characters come up now, I don’t have to worry about head enchants because I’ve got one character with max reputation on all factions, and that character can buy the enchant and mail it over.
For weapons, I can gather ore, transmute Truegold, gather or buy Orbs, and use my epic Blacksmithing patterns from rep to make some iLevel 365 weapons… or buy cheap Beermug maces, BoE epic drops from the new instances, etc.
I can craft rings, necklaces and armor that, while intended for PvP, is good enough to get into new content and get the job done, but just crappy enough for PvE that I’m going to want to get rid of it as soon as bloody possible.
I even have BoE gear of incredible power that I can earn on my max level characters through Valor Points, to feed down to my new alts.
But what if I don’t have max level characters to feed my new alts, characters all decked out and done with the content?
Working as intended. If you don’t already have all the content done and maxed on anyone… Blizzard wants you to get out there and do it all, at least once.
In my opinion, the only truly glaring weakness right now is that the epic level shoulder enchants purchasable from rep with Therazane is not bound to account, and the ease of getting that rep has not been reduced the way the Sons of Hodir were towards the end of the expansion.
I’ve been preparing my Rogue for max level, because I truly do not want to do a single original heroic, not a one. I want to ding 85, equip gear, and step into a 4.3 Dragon Soul heroic.
To that end, I’ve been seeing how far I can game the system on my Combat Rogue, and how cheaply.
Slow main hand weapon, fast offhand are the Combat preferences.
A Tremendous Tankard O’ Terror goes for about 800 gold on my server, so I bought one. Oops, Cassie had 8 in her bags, and I actually had one I forgot about in my Hunter’s bank. Stupid of me not to check, but point made.
For an offhand, my blacksmith crafted the Brainsplinter, using all personally farmed/transmuted mats. Done.
For a thrown weapon, maybe due to lack of demand the Thorns of the Dying Day are going for a mere 300 gold. Done again.
Sure I’m going to want to upgrade as soon as I can… but these aren’t pure crap, either. These are all weapons that, in terms of stats, would have been great before 4.3 shipped.
For armor… well, there is the obvious.
My max level characters have taken a week off from upgrading their own gear with Valor Points to donate the Bracers of Manifold Pockets and the Rooftop Griptoes. If I was wealthy, I could have easily bought them instead, they get advertised in Trade Chat as Valor boots or bracers, your choice, 5000g or 6000g golod all the time, YMMV on your server.
Still, I wanted to go as cheap as I could as far as I could.
As I said before, once I reach level 85, I’ll be able to do the Thrall and Aggra quest chain, Elemental Bonds, to get the iLevel 365 cloak, Mantle of Doubt. I could simply craft the new iLevel 377 PvP leatherworking cloak Vicious Fur Cloak, but I’d vastly prefer lower iLevel but more PvE oriented gear.
There are 17 item slots to fill, and already 6 are at 365 or better at level 85, plus one quest chain I like to do anyway.
I then did dip into my own pockets, and bought one item I’ve been repeatedly tempted by at the auction house. I got the Nightblind Cinch belt for 7000 gold. Maybe they saw me coming, but an upgrade THAT huge means future Valor Points don’t go to a belt, they go to things like necklaces, rings and trinkets. I’m willing to pay it, and be glad.
The rest of the slots ALL have iLevel 377 PvP items that can be crafted with leatherworking and jewelcrafting if I wanted to, but let’s go one step further.
What about the Molten Front?
Yes, yes, I know. Craft some PvP stuff and go have fun, get upgrades in one day that outstrips what you’ll earn after 45 days of Molten Front dailies.
There are still two things to keep in mind.
First, after only three days you can unlock the Molten Front area, and purchase Matoclaw’s Band from Zen’Vorka.
Second… my Rogue is a skinner, and the spider area is a skinner’s paradise. I’m going to want that anyway, so why not at least look at what I get after those three days, right?
Where I’m going with all this, is really that it’s too damn easy to craft or otherwise acquire high level items to bypass the starter heroics for it to have somehow slipped past Blizzard’s attention that we can do it.
No, I think it’s working as intended, and I like the fact that I don’t have to just equip PvP gear to beat the iLevel restrictions, I can go for lower level gear but with better overall stats if I so choose. And I DO so choose.
As I said before, I just think there are a couple areas that could be finished up, like the Therazane rep shoulder enchants being made Bind on Account.
What do you think? Is this all some cunningly designed master plan to give us lots of options and choices, or is it a failure of the Blizzard gearing model?