Artifact and Artifiction

We’ve barely started on our journey through this Warcraft expansion, but I’ve already developed a love / hate relationship with the artifacts.

 

The artifacts have class AND spec specific stories tied to them. Love it.

The artifacts give us something to build on throughout the expansion. Leveling them, expanding capabilities, becoming more powerful over time. Growing as we grow. Love it.

The artifacts give us new challenges to figure out and collect to unlock colors and styles. Love it.

The artifacts replace our weapons for the entire expansion. Hate it.

Sorry, it is what it is.

At this point I’ve done the artifact quests for the Frost Mage, Marksmanship Hunter, Guardian (tank) Druid, Outlaw Rogue and Retribution Paladin.

I loved them all. Each and every one was so much fun! I honestly don’t want to play through leveling so much as see ‘what awesome new and exclusive story will THIS share with me?’

Aside from the unique stories, the other thing I love is how each artifact spec story requires you to use various class specific abilities. In some cases, abilities I’ve never bothered having on my bar before because, hey, didn’t do anything to bosses in raids so why bother, amiright?

I’m not going to spoil any of the specifics, but let’s just say that there were a few times when I found myself at a loss until I remembered that the class or spec could do something.

The worst was definitely a challenge that I found impossible to overcome, until I remembered that Mages could, you know, Spellsteal. Once I tried that and stole a boss buff, OMG I felt like such a ditz.

I really like the way each one is designed to make you use abilities. I don’t know, but I’d imagine new players to a class that applied a level 100 token would experience it as a good training ground for the basics.

Frustrating as hell maybe, but then again maybe not.

The one class and spec I was least familiar with was the Outlaw Rogue. I mean shoot, they didn’t even exist before, so how COULD I be familiar with them?

And yet that was one of the easiest for me to complete, possibly because the spec was so new to me that I went through every ability, every optional Talent and figured out rotations and proc triggers before I went in. So I had it fresh in mind that I could Bribe humanoid NPCs. Protip; again, LOVED IT in the artifact mission.

But I hate the way artifacts clash with ALL of my transmogs.

It’s the one thing I wish were implemented differently.

Every character that has an artifact weapon has it transmogged to something else. Even my Druid has the fist weapons transmogged to better fit my favorite appearance like so;

bbb-legionmog

Not one single character uses the default artifact appearance.

I’m sure in time someone will unlock one of the alternate weapon appearances to something I like, but so far not yet.

But there is one artifact that takes it a different way, and I wish it were the standard.

Shocker, it’s the Druid.

The Druid artifact doesn’t just have a weapon appearance; it replaces your default form too.

And it’s marvelous.

bearform_bliss

This is so wonderful. He looks magnificent.

And, just like the other artifacts, there are different colors and appearances you can unlock!

This is the direction I wish all the other artifacts had gone. Not as a weapon, a trinket we carry, but as something that changes our appearance at a fundamental level to reflect the changes taking place from our choices and increasing growth.

If the artifacts changed every character appearance in terms of skin color, adding horns or other minor superficial modifications, applied glows or similar weapon enchant style effects, maybe added thorns and vines growing from or winding around/under skin, mecha skins, ice/faceted skin or fel/red/purple flames, hell you know exactly what I mean, right?

If that was done for all artifacts, then every player would have a truly innate difference in appearance from the artifact that implied how powerful YOU were becoming, a change that would still allow all transmog items including weapons to matter.

It’s the only thing about artifacts that I personally don’t like. I mean sure, the weapons themselves are badass, Ashbringer and Doomhammer, right? How can that not feel iconic and epic and engaging.

But I feel like if I’m the new wielder of Ashbringer, I have a responsibility to walk around, you know, wielding Ashbringer. Or the Doomhammer.

I don’t want to. I especially don’t want to be one of a dozen wielders of the Ashbringer in a raid.

It’s so cliche but it’s true, straight from Syndrome, once everyone wields Ashbringer, nobody does. Not really. They’re just cheap Holodeck replicas.

There can only ever be one real Ashbringer, and the five of us in this raid are just swinging a memory.

It recalls something I saw in the recent Marvel Secret Wars event, and was reflected again in Fantastic Four with the Council of Reeds. There were multiple Infinity Gauntlets, and maybe the intention was to up the feeling of godlike power but instead for me felt like it made Infinity Gauntlets a dime a dozen trinket. Having more than one cheapened the hell out of the impact.

It’s something that, again, helps limit my desire to hit max level. The single player artifact stories and questing are wonderful, but the suspension of disbelief gets stretched as more Ashbringers join an end game raid.

Druids have it going on. Artifact transmog doesn’t matter because your gear has never been displayed in forms, but now we do get a transmog. It’s called choosing various artifact themes and colors so your form feels a little more different, even beyond our normal hair color choices.

Can you imagine playing a Gnome mage that had as just one choice an artifact appearance that made you look like a mechagnome for mechanical Hunters? Or a leper Gnome for Warlocks?

Or a Dwarven Elemental Shaman that could have the stone Dwarf form appearance all the time, or fire or water for that matter?

I have one hope.

Just as I saw the farm in Pandaria and hoped that someday we’d see what became Garrisons in Draenor as the tech was developed, so too do I hope that once we retire our artifacts at the beginning of the next expansion we will get a new, expanded artifact system where we ourselves become imbued with the artifact power system and that we DO get to have dozens of skins or glows effects to seek out, apply and play with.

It could happen. Right?

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Lurching through Legion

Welcome back my friends to a new blog post, my first about the new expansion in World of Warcraft. The Legion has returned, and Azeroth will burn through the changes.

sarcasticadh

It’s been a while, hasn’t it? Long enough so that the only folks that will read this are friends of mine, so we can be honest here, can’t we?

A new expansion is here, and playing the characters, leveling through the zones. It’s pretty great.

No, it’s more than that. The feelings I’ve had leveling through the zones has been like what I think Vanilla was like, but probably wasn’t. It’s that good.

And yet… and yet, I’m only level 105. I look at the computer at night, consider logging into WoW, and I watch Daredevil or Justice League Unlimited on Netflix instead.

So, what’s going on? How can I feel like it’s great and yet not get drawn into playing for hours without end, losing myself within the rich and varied stories of the new zones of the Broken Isles?

My wife is level 108 on her main. It’s nothing here or there, but it’s indicative that maybe part of it’s me.

She’s always loved the story of WoW, playing through the engaging stories of the zones.┬áBut she’ll play through the story, she’ll enjoy leveling up and seeing what there is to see… but once she reaches the part of the game where the grind begins, she takes the path I’ve always wished I had the maturity to follow. She walks away to something new.

Once she reaches max level on her Enhancement Shaman, I expect she’ll try some zones on her Hunter in the other faction for a while to taste the differences, and then be done with WoW for a while again.

Me, not so much. I typically burn through the leveling so I can begin the grind necessary to gear for heroics, for mythics, for raids, for the raids after that, for whatever.

This time, Cassandra opened her box and I saw the wonders within. I didn’t blame her; I feel wiser for the foreknowledge, but sadder that innocence is lost.

The history of expansions past whisper their tale of woe to me. This questing, this rich and fascinating story, this too shall pass. When it’s gone, what will be left to do?

What indeed, but the grinding we know so well.

I have played several of my characters through the initial artifact quests, and I love them all. So much fun, such wonderful storytelling craftsmanship. They’re wonderful, and I look forward to playing every single one of my many characters through each of the specs and enjoying the work that was put into them. The small touches, the love and care shown by the developers.

Never before do I feel like we’ve been showered with a game crafted with such love and appreciation for the history that has gone before. Legion’s stories and artifact quests feel like a love letter from the developers to the players that have been along for the ride.

It really is wonderful.

But looming over it all, shadowing my happiness and appreciation is the constant awareness that sometime soon, the quests that took years to create will all be done and the end game will begin. An end game of hastily thrown together raids and instances and fedex quests used to link them together in a semblance of a story.

I can already sense it dimly, felt but not seen as I listen to the comments and complaints from others more advanced than I in our guild, those that are focused on gearing for raids.

It’s all so familiar. The expansion is brilliantly crafted, but in the end game the years of story and quest crafting fall away, given over to a push for new raids and little else.

It’s all so much the same even though it’s different. I’m not even there yet, but that is what holds me back from committing to the game. It’s what causes me to heed the whispers and slow my pace.

Everything I see in guild chat brings me back to expansions past. I recall the excitement we all felt, the hope for a new beginning, the wonder of the new stories, the hope that this time, this end game the progression will be different.

But it never is. Is it? We hope it might be. This time, THIS time the end game raids that come after the initial leveling quests, THIS time they’ve invested the forethought in ensuring the culmination of two years of playing the expansion results in a payoff that provides a feeling of satisfaction.

This time, the heroics, the mythics, the gearing path, the calls for more friends to run those multiple instances, the chat about grinding those world quests… I can’t forget the other times, the many other times I’ve been there before. And it’s always the same.

The anticipation is better than the payoff. The grind is never, NEVER worth it.

Every moment of enjoyment I have in the game playing my Hunter and wondering at the rich story, the great adventures, the lore from different eras of WoW brought together in one place is overshadowed by my awareness that this too shall pass. That there are only so many quests to be found before the grind asserts itself as the default state of the game for the next two years.

And then I turn aside, and do something else.

This too shall pass… but please, not yet! Don’t let this feeling, these quests… don’t let them be over just yet.

Good feeling… won’t you stay with me, just a little longer.

Legion is wonderful. There isn’t a single thing I could point to and say, ‘This. I wish this were different.’

I can’t. It’s simply wonderful. To be blunt, I can’t think of better value I have ever had for my gaming dollar than purchasing Legion. I’m doing things differently than ever before, just to see what they’re like, and the more I try, the more I’m taken aback by how polished, how FUN everything is.

But the grind. The same end game routine. The reps, the gears, the instance runs. It’s all still out there.

Waiting.

And I can’t face it. Not just yet.

So let the questing, the leveling continue.

Please.

Just a little longer.