I resubscribed :D
I thought I’d offer my UNBIASED impressions. I think I left the game a few months after the Cataclysm expansion, so it’s been quite a few years. The patch with the new zone scaling went live a few days ago, I heard a few good things, a few bad things, so I decided to try anyway.
The first thing is that everything was smooth. Logging back in the account and subscribing again, all fast and hassle free, and I suppose now I have all the content for free up to and including Dreanor. The GREATEST thing is that I thought I had to go through a long download of around 40Gb of stuff, instead it’s the opposite. The game is ready to go and launch after downloading just after a few hundreds MBs. Then it would just stream whatever content you need. So from the decision to play again to being actually in game only took literally five minutes or so. That’s quite awesome (although they patched the game a few hours later and it broke that option. I had to delete the whole thing again to be able to get back into the game. It’s quite silly.)
…Then I spent hours to reconfigure everything. There are a few new graphic options but most of everything is pretty much identical to where I left it. I went seeking all the UI mods I used to have, even if I always had a lightweight approach. I basically only had Titan panel, something to manage quick bars, Lightheaded, Tomtom, Atlas and stuff like that. Some of that stuff is now superfluous because for example all the dungeon maps are already in the game, along with their loot, so goes Atlas and company. Stuff like Carbonite and Lightheaded for questing, and Tomtom, isn’t really needed because the quests now show directly on the map where you have to go, and it’s also faster just to look up stuff on some wiki.
But there’s still a lot to remember and reconfigure. I really spent hours before even moving from the same spot. As I logged in I had to remember the name of the server. All my characters are there but the names are mostly gone and replaced by random characters. It seems Blizzard decided to free old names, it’s actually a good decision. You are asked to set a new name after you log in, and all my old names were still available, so that’s good. Another thing is that with the graphical update to the player models I was looking for an option to tweak things again, but there isn’t one. You can visit a barber shop in the capitals and change there, though. The new models once covered in armor are identical to the old ones. In general it’s more a side step than an improvement anyway.
The game’s look still holds up. They extended the rendering range for the zones, so it all looks expansive and more epic than usual. It’s kind of impressive how everything looks GIANT, and it’s kind of an unique feeling as more games focus on detail and get into smaller and smaller environments, usually. Yet it all also feels VERY EMPTY. A little building here and there, otherwise it’s a large expanse of terrain with a few monsters scattered around, especially the old zones. But it still has its personality and impressive skylines, and when you get to a town or a city it’s really staggering.
There’s a huge dragon over Stormwind.
I tried searching around for new ways of transportation. I spawned in Outland and wanted to go back to Northrend, so I was wondering if they had patched some new fast way to move around. It doesn’t seem so. I used a heartstone to Ironforge, took a gryphon to Stormwind and then a boat to Northrend, but overall it was quite a fast process. Having a flying mount changes things quite radically. In Stormwind you fly right up and then directly where you need to be. I think I got a flying mount only days before I actually unsubscribed, so it felt quite new and awesome.
Questing with a flying mount is totally different because of how fast you move between places. I can definitely see why they disabled it for new expansions.
Oh, and what a mess they made with the classes. Instead of having access to all skills as before, now you are locked in one of three sub classes available. You can switch, but only out of combat. I don’t really like how they made everything dumb, but I can see the logic and there are good aspects about it. Being able to switch means you can shift between “roles”, without being locked into one permanently, and at the same time it also means that instead of all abilities at once, you now have a more manageable subset. Some skills have been moved to talents. It still looks like a mess where they try to retain some specialization while at the same time giving the flexibility, but the result is that they achieved some mediocre middle ground where the difference and personalization is pretty much irrelevant and everything plays mostly the same.
I had some problems trying to figure out what I’m supposed to do with those skills. I tried a mage and a warrior. The thing is that I’m already way overpowered compared to common (and level scaled) mobs, so I don’t really know how to play and they die in instants anyway. But it’s still tricky to figure out how you are SUPPOSED to play. I always played an “arms” warrior, charge, mortal strike, and execute are still there. I grabbed overpower and rend from talents because I’m too used to them. But there aren’t anymore stance switching, they got turned into some kind of buff I never remember to use. There are a few “instants” that I guess you are supposed to hit whenever they crop up. And a couple of abilities to hit more than one target. One is a ranged attack I guess meant to be used instead of charge when you want to “pull”, so it’s situational. And then there’s a leap attack that I’m not sure if it’s supposed to replace charge. But since it requires to manually click on the location it’s just too annoying to use. So in the end it’s: charge -> mortal strike -> overpower when it pops up -> rend if there’s time, otherwise keep mortal striking until execute comes up. And when you move to a new target there’s victory rush that is quite nice as it also offers back some health.
Just glancing at the guides it looks a lot more complicate than that but: for normal questing that’s already overpowered, and just by reading the skill descriptions you really have an hard time figuring out how they are actually meant to be used. I guess it falls into the “simple to use but hard to master”. The wizard I had was lower level but even weirder because for example you cannot pull anymore with frost to slow the mobs because if you use fire then all direct frost skills are unavailable. And all fire skills all look pretty much direct attacks, like having the same skill in slightly different variation. While I can kill stuff easily, I have no idea how they are supposed to be juggled.
I also had a problem I tried to figure out for quite a while, but completely failed (though I have a suspicion): at first I thought they removed all ranged weapons on my warrior maybe to be replaced by that skill that hurls the weapon. But then I noticed I still had my gun in one of the bags, it’s just… that I can’t seem to find a way to use it. As far as I remember there was some special slot for range weapons? And there was definitely a special button to fire the thing. The button isn’t anymore in the skills page, so there must be some different way. I can equip the gun by replacing the main weapon, but I cannot shoot, and when attacking the character doesn’t even pull the gun from his back. That’s weird.
Beside all this minor stuff, the bottom line is that the game is essentially the same as when I left. Figuring out the new class design is a bit of a challenge, some stuff has been oversimplified, the stats page is almost empty, but overall it seems you can swap between all the subclasses and even setting separate talents for each (I think?). So for example you don’t have to choose anymore between a tank warrior or DPS, you can swap as required. That’s a very good change and one I was trying to suggest a billion years ago (I could easily dig a thread on this same forum). And separating the skills into the three sub classes in order to reduce the total number available is also a good thing overall.
The new zone scaling is neat and it can actually work. The idea is that, for example, Northrend content now completely overlaps with Outland, same for Cataclysm and Pandaria. But that’s not all. If before you’d follow a linear “progression” through the sub-zones of Northrend, now all this stuff scales anyway. There’s still some minimum threshold level to pass, but my level 73 warrior can fly to every zone and so effectively accessing all content non-linearly. If I want to fly right to Icecrown and skip all the previous zones, I can. I’m not sure how this might mess quest lines that are more structured, but it really gives a sense of freedom. Even if the monsters are not a challenge, the “feel” is RIGHT AGAIN. The monsters are at the level they are supposed to be and quests scale nicely as well in reward, so you don’t feel like wasting your time just because you are curious and want to complete a quest. REWARDS SCALE, not just the level of the monster, this is quite a big thing.
The aspect that works better than I thought is that yes, you still level way too fast to live within a zone as before, but the whole structure of the game shifted. It was completely BROKEN before, now it’s just different. Now you can pick a zone that you want to focus on and properly level there while the content is scaled, and since you level quickly that means you cannot explore all of Northrend or Pandaria or whatever with a single character, but you can still stick to a chunk of content and enjoy it, leaving the rest for alts.
So, essentially they broke the story/content into chunks that you can explore through different alts. If before you couldn’t follow a single quest line and inner zone lore because you’d have outlevelled everything, now instead you can focus and when you are done you can jump to another completely different piece. It’s a pretty decent compromise in the end.
Vanilla WoW: (works) you’d step into Westfall and quest there from level 10 to 15+, then move to Duskwood.
Post-Cataclysm: (completely broken) you’d step into Westfall only to outlevel it 10 minutes later, so without enjoying any content and being forced to haul ass to the next zone only to repeat the process.
Post-7.3.5: (works) you can step anytime into Westwall and fully enjoy the content. Maybe you’d level from 10 to 30, instead of 10 to 15 as vanilla, but the stuff is fun again. And if you skip entirely Duskwood maybe you will explore it with a new character instead.
What was broken was fixed. We still lost something valuable because the overall journey can’t be recovered, the way you’d linearly progress from one zone to the other, the way the last quest would send you to the next zone and the way you’d see the character’s “life” move and grow as a meaningful journey through the world. That’s all gone. But at least it’s not anymore also BROKEN.
I repeat that quests rewards scale. This is the aspect not considered that made me reevaluate all the stuff I wrote above. Not only the money you get from the quest is now appropriate for your level, but also if given a piece of equipment this piece isn’t anymore “static” as before. It scales with your level, so you keep getting quite nice rewards. It means that all the mechanical aspects related to the questing are now repaired. Monsters scale, money and equipment scale, everything is relevant once again.
(And making a dynamic item scaling across the whole game is way, way more complex than adjusting the leveling curve that was discussed above. So they did pull off a lot more.)
You can pick up any quest in any place now and properly enjoy it, without feeling like wasting time because all the monsters are grey and the quest reward gives you two silver coins and a piece of equipment 15 levels under yours. It’s quite a huge game changer.
This completely revolutionizes dungeons across the WHOLE game.
1- All loot in dungeons ALSO scales and isn’t static as it was before.
2- You don’t roll for items anymore. The server picks up who’s gonna get an item, then offers an item scaled to your level, and made for your class AND current spec (although it means that if you want a DPS item you’d need to play into a DPS spec, it’s not very flexible).