It’s hard for any World of Warcraft player, right now, to not be aware of the massive backlash unleashed in the WoW community following the launch of Battle for Azeroth, but what went wrong? Did Blizzard mess up or is it just a bunch of entitled players posting angry comments on the main forum and reddit because the expansion did not live up to their expectations? Well, let’s look at some of the main features and complaints.
Let’s start with “Declare your allegiance” which is at the top of Blizzard’s official Battle for Azeroth page. This refers to the faction war between the Horde and Alliance. True this element got off to a rather explosive, some would say controversial, start with the burning of the world tree. However, having played both the Horde and Alliance side across the Alpha, Beta and retail, I’ve found little content and storyline which really made me feel, in the process of levelling from 110 to 120, I was at war with the other faction.
Both factions have their own island and their own zones and the “War Campaign” really is little more than a few short forays to the other faction’s Island which usually results in a line of quests of kill so many mobs, collect so many items, or kill special mob. Sound familiar? The fact that they are labelled as Alliance farmers or Alliance ammunition or an Alliance special mob doesn’t really give the feeling of being at war and the storyline, backing up both faction’s campaigns isn’t special or strong enough to fill that void. I can’t say that the storyline of the expansion is bad. There are people who say they like the storyline but, for me, after the strong writing and storyline of Legion, Battle for Azeroth, just feels lacking.
Next listed on the official page is the new island expedition feature which allows groups of three people to battle against a group of AI controlled opponents each battling to secure the most resources on maps. Again, there has been a lot of complaints raised with this feature from lacklustre rewards to uninteresting maps and a lack of challenge posed by the AI team. Many players have complained that this feature just isn’t worth doing, being neither enjoyable nor rewarding. Other that the tutorial, I’ve not taken part in any of these. What was displayed in the tutorial didn’t grip me, in anyway. It wasn’t interesting and wasn’t exciting. I’m not saying that my playing of the tutorial is enough for me to review this feature. However, if I read the blurb on the back of a book and I’m not moved to read the book then that is still a failure.
Next on the list is the new “Warfronts” feature. Again, there have been a lot of complaints, with some saying that the warfronts favour Horde over Alliance, due to the unequal populations of the factions, allowing Horde players to attain armour upgrades faster than the Alliance. There have also been complaints regarding the rewards. This time, that the rewards are too good for the effort involved and that the gear attained through the warfronts make the rewards of running Mythic dungeons, a much harder venture, obsolete. There are also complaints that the Warfronts are too easy and that it encourages players to AFK, away from keyboard, and let their team mates complete it for them. This, on its own, isn’t a new issue. Players AFKing has been a constant battle in PvP battlegrounds, as well, for as long as I can remember.
Next is azerite armour and the Heart of Azeroth. These are the features introduced to replace the much loved artifact weapons from Legion, which were retired in the final Legion patch. Much of the outcry seems to be linked to this feature and having played two characters from 110 -120, I can relate. I found azerite armour to be restrictive, underpowered and uninspiring.
The idea is that you collect azerite as you level and complete world quests which powers up your necklace, given at the start of the expansion, the Heart of Azeroth. As your necklace powers up, you can unlock more abilities and traits on the pieces of azerite armour you collect, by completing quest chains, doing dungeons or completing world quests. The issue is that to swap to a new piece of armour you must sacrifice any unlocks on the previous piece, instead of the artifact weapons in which the unlocks stacked. This leads to a loss as well as a gain, and in many situations the loss proves to be bigger than the gain, as the new piece might have worse abilities or traits or might need a much higher level of necklace to fully unlock, leaving the new piece a power loss instead of an upgrade. This makes the collecting of the new armour a painful and unrewarding process. The traits available on the azerite gear are selected at random, leaving the players at the mercy of RNG twice. Once for if the piece of gear will drop in the first place and then again as to which traits/ abilities are included. Most drops and pickups just turn out to be bank tab/ bag fillers or vendor trash. All this leaves gearing up a character in Battle for Azeroth feeling a real chore, rather than a joy.
The final listing is the new zones, new dungeons and new level cap. On one of these, I do have good things to say about which are about the new zones. Most of which look great and are fun to explore. I love the moody, brooding look of the Nazmir swamps and the gothic witch and undead overrun zone of Drustvar. In this expansion, the one team you really can’t fault is the environment team, who have really pulled out all the stops to make dynamic and interesting zones, each of which have their own look and characters.
Pity about the levelling experience. The quests this expansion are some of the most repetitive and unimaginative in a long time with back to back kill X mobs, collect X items, kill this special mob and click on X items. There are a few zones which feel less blighted with this lack of quest variety. I found Drustvar to be one of the better ones and Zuldazar on the Horde side. However, unless you run a lot of dungeons, warfronts or island expeditions, you’ll need to complete all the main questlines in every zone of your faction and most of the secondary questlines to hit 120. You can’t really avoid the bad zones, only delay them. The other faction’s zones won’t unlock until you hit 120.
With the new dungeons, I didn’t find them terrible or great just good enough. There are many complaints on the forums about there being too many trash mobs. I didn’t find this an issue while levelling, but I can see it becoming an issue when running the dungeons on the varying mythic difficulties, as the mobs will have progressively higher health and deal more damage, making it a slog.
The Allied races are another major feature of contention. I’m not going to go into this in this article, as I have covered this topic in my previous articles linked as follows:
I think what angers the community more than just the issues listed above, is the lack of responses from Blizzard and the development team. This feeling of being ignored started in the Alpha/ Beta testing phase, where me and a lot of other players fed back on many of the above issues, and yet nothing appeared to be done or even promised/ acknowledged by Blizzard and the development team, by the time the launch hit. There seems to be a growing rift between the players and the development team, where the players feedback “I don’t like this feature” and the development team seem to think “Well, we know what is coming and you will like it” which doesn’t seem to be panning out for them.
I, myself, have emailed numerous articles of feedback to Bizzard’s PR team, on behalf of the Sci-fi Fantasy Network, and have received only one single “No comment” in response. This does make me wonder that if Blizzard are not even willing to engage with reviewers and the media, what chance there is for players to have their voice heard and responded to? The fact is that most of the bad feeling, among the player base, is related to this “just ignore their feedback, we know better,” attitude that the development team seems to have developed, recently. This is where the wedge has been driven in. Despite the recent AMA promising to improve player interaction and fix the issues raised, the players voices are still being ignored and no action has emerged, as the official replies to posts, even on the US forums, seem to have dried up completely.
So, do I think the problems are as dire and cataclysmic as made out on the forums? Perhaps not. There is an element of issues being blown up larger than they are, but most of these do have a real issue the core. The reason these issues are being shouted about as loudly as they are, is because of the feeling that the voices and feedback from the players are being ignored. Ignore someone who has something to say, and they will just shout it louder and lounder, until heard. A simple “We hear you and are working on a solution” or “We disagree and will be leaving it as is”, is all the community are asking for in response and to be kept informed on any fixes in the works, rather than being ignored and kept in the dark. Perhaps what is needed is a developer team blog updated at least once a week with information on fixes and features in progress, so the community know if their issue is being considered or just ignored.
BfA is certainly one of my least favourite expansions and doesn’t have the replay value or quality of Legion. However, I do feel that it can be salvaged, if the development team find a way to bridge the gap between themselves and the players. Do I feel that the expansion was rushed and released too soon? Yes. I think that if more time and attention was devoted to the feedback given, during the Alpha/ Beta phase, that this expansion would have launched in a better state. Blizzard need to learn how to acknowledge and act on player feedback or they risk alienating their remaining player base.
I don’t expect a response from Blizzard to this article. I will put it to them, anyway. Should I receive a response, I will let you all know.