BfA: The first month

It’s week 4 of Battle for Azeroth, and the meat of the expansion kicks off this reset!

This week we see the opening of:

  • Raids
  • Mythic+
  • World Bosses
  • Warfronts
  • BfA PvP Season 1

So how have I been finding the pre-raid expansion experience at 120?

Well…so far it’s ok. Not great, but not awful either. Put it like this, it’s no Mists of Pandaria, but it’s no Warlords either. Could it still fall into the pattern of a good expansion followed by a bad one that’s been prevalent since Wrath?

  • Wrath: Good
  • Cataclysm: Bad
  • Mists of Pandaria: Good
  • Warlords of Draenor: Bad
  • Legion: Good
  • Battle for Azeroth: ????

Well, quite possibly, especially given some of the expansion’s early issues so far…

Of Azerite and Traits

As regular victims readers of my Twitter feed will attest, my biggest gripe so far is Azerite, and the gear it powers. Azerite as a grind feels much more uninteresting, uninvolved and unrewarding than Artifact Power before it. AP in Legion in the early expansion saw us getting rewarded with new traits, abilities and power increases on a regular basis, but here we can level up our Heart of Azeroth up to 3 times and see no gain of any sort in terms of traits.

Azerite, and particularly how the traits on Azerite Gear work isn’t anywhere near as rewarding as Legion’s Artifact Weapons (not to mention the utter lack of any new appearances to collect, given it’s a neck piece, is a huge loss). With the majority of the available traits feeling very passive and not giving much to the player in terms of added or modified gameplay value, it can in fact, feel confusing and potentially punishing…

As you can see, even a straight side-grade ensures I lost a trait in my slot for that piece. It’s even more confusing as pointed out in my first tweet, because if I have 2 pieces of gear:

1 piece at 330 with 2 traits unlocked vs
Another piece at 340 with 1 trait (or none!) unlocked

Depending on the traits I’m giving up that may in fact be a downgrade! Some of the BM traits are miles ahead of the majority of the rest, and in one case I had to give up my BiS trait for a 15 iLevel upgrade with a worse trait.

But I had to sim that to know for sure, because of the value of the trait I gave up. So as mentioned, Watcher’s often vaunted mantra of “if it’s higher item level we want you to just be able to equip it there and then” is scuttled less than a month into the expansion if players have to sim every gear drop outside of the obvious cases first.

And the situation becomes even worse with epic (340+) gear, which comes with 4 trait rings!

Add to that the fact that the much advertised Island Expeditions, BfA’s new gimmick meant to be on a par with the introduction of Mythic Dungeons, fell completely flat: Bland, directionless and uninteresting they feel like a very empty experience.

I imagine once I get my Alliance Hunter exalted with her 7th Legion reputation, I will not likely step foot back inside one the remainder of the expansion until it comes to alts. Much like Heroic Dungeons, a lot of work put in by the Devs for a not very long-lived active lifespan (less than a few weeks at the expansion’s launch, or for alts).

Worries

I’m hopeful the expansion picks up, but I’m just worried that at the very beginning of the expansion, the first things the Devs have to throw at us are very early rep grinds to Exalted (for Dark Iron & Mag’har Orcs, which are now available), farming Azerite for gear with traits that don’t have much impact on gameplay, and dungeons filled to the brim with so much trash that kiting without pulling additional packs is nigh impossible.

If this is how Blizzard design dungeons from the ground up with Mythic+ and the Mythic Dungeon Invitational tournament in mind… yeesh.

I’m also feeling down due to the fact that raids open this reset and I’m not going to be jumping in immediately for the first time since Wrath. I’m dreading falling behind on the gear curve, and having increasing difficulties getting pug raid groups, m+ groups for higher m+ keystones etc as the expansion progresses. I’m resorting to gearing via Warfronts, LFR (eurgh), World Bosses and whatever m+ runs I am lucky enough to get running as a Huntard.

Recruiting and keeping people on Argent Dawn is proving to be a challenge, not least due to the hostility some RP purists feel towards guilds advertising via Trade Chat that aren’t RP guilds. I thought AD was better than this, but all it takes is a few bad apples…

The positives?

Well, I’ve enjoyed taming the new pets available on both continents with my Hunter. I’m enjoying numbers (health and damage) being immediately sensible and comprehensible again, and Dark Iron Dwarves look pretty cool.

I’m still enjoying the Kul Tiran population and environments, and the fact that we have proper Brits doing English voices, particularly that aren’t Received Pronunciation, and Brother Pike’s voice actor is from Northern Ireland, and got to keep his accent too! Finally, representation for my nation in a game that isn’t either a “Terrorist” or “Freedom Fighter”.

And er, that’s largely it at the moment. I’m hoping the expansion experience as a whole improves with time, but at the moment I’m starting to feel that there are some fundamental issues with the launch content and systems that may continue to have repercussions further on down the line.

I’m also looking forward to more lore updates, particularly with regards to N’Zoth and Azshara. But after taking on and defeating a universal threat like the Burning Legion? Anything else is potentially gonna feel like a comedown…

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