Man, that sucked.
Battle for Azeroth, World of Warcraft’s seventh expansion pack, is winding down. While the last planned content patch, 8.3:Visions of N’zoth, is barely a month old, the expansion is effectively done content-wise for all intents and purposes—it is time to look back into it and give it closure.
As I said in my Legion wrap up back in 2018: “Battle for Azeroth is shrouded in controversy, from its rather weak plot so far, to even more questionable gameplay changes, whether or not it’ll all pay off for the best remains to be seen.” A year and a half later I can say, from the perspective of someone who’s played this game on and off since 2006, that the expansion was a two year long absolute and unmitigated disaster, not just for the ever dwindling playerbase, but for the game’s future as well.
I’ve had my fair share of gripes with World of Warcraft in the past, the game and I have had a love-hate relationship throughout the years (as most of its players have), yet, for the first time in my long WoW career, I find myself in a position where I can no longer recommend this game to anyone else in any capacity, at least not in its current state.
Battle for Azeroth was but another chapter in tale of the ongoing corporate hubris of Activision-Blizzard, a poem to their revenue spreadsheets, and a fine example of utter mismanagement and disconnect between the development team and the players. It sought the pursuit of a model that I’ve seen in some games lately, which seeks to maximize the amount of quasi-mandatory gameplay time players need to invest in order to reap the ingame rewards and character progression systems, often at the expense of the user’s overall entertainment, which ultimately leads to a burnt out and exhausted playerbase—as was the case with many of my friends and acquaintances, myself included.
In other words, and if you want a tl;dr: I strongly suggest you avoid World of Warcraft in its current state. I know the MMO market doesn’t have too many options right now, but if I were you I’d seek greener pastures elsewhere—or try out different game genres. The next expansion, Shadowlands, might change things up, but given the sparse amount of information revealed about it so far, I cannot pass judgement on it.
Of all the expansions released before it, BfA is the one that I clocked the least amount of time played, and the one that I was the least enthusiast about. Barely two and a half months into the expansion and I found myself saying “man, screw this.”
I briefly returned to it during December of 2019 to participate in the 15th anniversary event, caught up with some of the added content since I quit, and gave the latest patch a brief shot.
The actual state of the game rapidly reminded me of why I quit in 2018 in the first place.
From its initial announcement, Battle for Azeroth’s premise was met with a mixed reception. Blizzard hailed it as a down to earth return to the eternal conflict between the Alliance and the Horde that’d put the WAR back in Warcraft—a expansion premise that isn’t original, since Mists of Pandaria did it eight years ago, and it did it better, in my opinion.
At the climax of Legion, Sargeras, Lord of the burning legion, plunged his massive sized sword into the planet Azeroth itself, wounding the planet—literally; Azerite, the very blood of the planet’s world soul, began to pour around the world. The discovery of this newfound source of power set the stage for a new conflict. One thing led to another, and a tree full of Night Elves was burnt (good riddance) and the Undead capital was self nuked with a deadly plague.
And thus the Fourth War had begun.
From a story and plot perspective, Battle for Azeroth feels like it was created by stitching together two (maybe three) unfinished expansions into one. The flaunted faction war never quite escalated beyond the initial “bang” of the expansion’s launch events, and it takes a backseat halfway through it in order to focus a new intermediate threat, which ultimately set in motion the real threat of the expansion: N’zoth and the Black Empire.
The end result was a hodge-podge disjointed mess of a narrative that, along with the absolute disaster that was the gearing and itemization systems throughout the game, the mandatory grinds required, and the retrograde combat and class changes introduced gave us quite the mess of an experience.
Plotlines that led to nowhere and had no real impact to the main story narrative can be found left and right, the game throws so much at you in this expansion, without proper cohesion. As it stands, most (if not all) of the unresolved issues and main villains of Warcraft’s repertoire have been dealt with: Azshara and N’zoth were two big villains that the fans had been looking forward for nearly a decade—and they got swiftly dealt with in a rather unceremoniously way.
For a MMO that can safely boast and gloat about their underlying technology and server infrastructure, delivering story content ingame through cutscenes and through gameplay is where they’ve always fell flat. The ingame cutscenes, such as the one in the above picture, look very awful and cheaply made.
I understand, and applaud Blizzard’s attempts to add more fidelity to the story content of the expansion via the use of ingame cutscenes and a ramp up in voicework throughout the questing experience—it’s just never been their forte.
This expansion saw some amazing CGI cinematics in terms of technical prowess and visual quality. The staff behind them should take a bow, but the story that those cinematics portrayed is well, not that good. This is a recurring problem with this expansion, its full of things that look good but end up missing the mark.
One trend that I’ve always disliked about this franchise is that many of its story developments and events that could greatly enrich the ingame narratives (especially those that occur in between expansion content) are delivered outside the game, via supplemental books, novels, and other forms of literally works. Had these stories be incorporated in the game, and have the players form part of it (or heck, at least some sort of condensed recap) then they could’ve greatly improved upon one of WoW’s weakest areas: the storytelling.
If you’re clueless as to why X character is suddenly looking like that, and why are they showing up in the first place, even though you’ve played the expansion from launch day then I don’t blame you, because the answer is often locked behind the pages of a novel.
It would be very remiss of me if I didn’t mention Warbringers, these trio of animated shorts were each focused on one pivotal female character.
“Daughter of the Sea”, which was centered on Jaina Proudmoore, was in my opinion, the best of the trio by a long shot. From the sea shanty of the same name to the art, it was absolutely superb, and it stands as one of the best things that came out of this troubled expansion.
Of trolls and sailors
Most of the Fourth War’s conflict takes place in the island continents of Zandalar and Kul Tiras. As a matter of fact, your faction determines where you will quest and level up at, the opposite continent is only unlocked for you once you go through the rite of passage of attaining the expansion’s level 120 cap so you can do your endgame chores.
Following the steps of Legion, you have the ability to “Choose your own adventure” and decide which of the 3 corresponding zones you want to tackle first—and last.
The two landmasses are visually appealing and unique, at the same time (within the context of WoW’s visual identity), they’re very different from one another.
Beyond the borders of the Dazar’alor, the seat of power of the Zandalar Empire lies a savage land, wild, and unruly. The waning power of the famed troll empire can be seen all throughout these erstwhile tamed lands.
Dinosaurs, snake people, swamps riddled with blood magic, arid sands. These lands have some appealing landscapes. The Loa, beings that the Troll worship, play a pivotal role through the three Zandalar zones.
On the alliance side of things you’ll find Kul Tiras, a nation of renowned human sailors. Borealis looks and feels like a properly scaled human city, grander than Stormwind itself, which can be attributed to the fact that there’s a 10+ year technical difference in their design.
Unlike the vertically designed Dazar’alor, Borealis is a horizontal city. The Alliance and Horde capitals for this expansion are radically different from one another, one thing they share in common is the existence and importance of their respective maritime ports.
I cannot speak or comment about the stories of the Alliance’s side of things, as I am a longtime Horde player. They look good—but they’re clunky to navigate until you unlock the ability to fly through them and negate the terrain.
Of gnomes and fish
Patch 8.2, the halfway point of the expansion, introduced two zones: Mechagon and Naz’jatar. Both areas followed the ‘sandbox’ design of areas such as the fondly remembered Timeless Isle and the Broken Shore, Mechagon moreso than Naz’jatar.
Now, I’m gonna be completely honest here, I don’t like gnomes, I can’t stand the faux quirky humor that they’re portrayed with, I simply don’t like Gnomes. That being said, Mechagon tried some interesting and non-linear activities that you could partake in, sadly, they do get old pretty fast, and end up devolving into nothing but an additional list of chores that you must go through if you wan’t to catch up.
Naz’jatar as well, while it’s less ‘sandboxy’ than Mechagon, it’s not without its fair share of content, content that you desperately want to get over with in order to deal with the timegated rewards that the activities offer, which are quasi mandatory to unlock a certain source of power, but more on that later.
Alright, so what went wrong?
I’ve tackled a lil over the story visual aspects, and zones of the expansion, at this point perhaps you may be thinking that they weren’t that bad (they weren’t that bad, to be honest), which then leads to the question: What went so wrong then?
WoW’s developer team is adamant on reinventing the wheel with each expansion; to keep things fresh and provide new gameplay experiences and systems is part of their design ethos.
As well intended as this is, it doesn’t quite always hit the mark, in the case of Battle for Azeroth well, let’s just say that the mark was missed, completely.
If you look back at 2016’s Legion expansion, you can retroactively make the case that the plethora of changes and systems introduced can be considered as a soft-reboot of the gameplay loop.
From new rng layers tacked to the itemization and loot, to the new sources of endgame content and rewards, Legion sure shook things up. The formula was good but not perfect, with much room for improvement, yet successful nonetheless, it left Blizzard with a solid foundation for years to come.
With this new foundation, Blizzard sought to create a semi-endless gearing gameplay loop akin to those found in aRPG games such as Diablo or Path of Exile, perhaps with the goal of keeping players engaged and playing for as much time as possible. In their newfound and ill-fated quest to break the mantra of “Best in Slot”, which began with Legion, they created everything that has caused them so many headaches over the past years of the game’s development.
They had but one simple job: Take the Legion formula, trim what’s was not needed, polish or streamline the edges, reduce some of the exorbitant randomness of itemization and the time-gated nature of the endgame power treadmill, among other goals. That should’ve made for a healthier gameplay loop in the long run that could’ve greatly improved the game in the long run.
Instead, they doubled down on some of the worst aspects of the Legion formula. The development team focused on fixing what they perceived was broken in the worst possible way, their erroneous solutions to Legion’s feedback simply made the game worse.
What the game needed (and what I personally wanted) was a “Legion 2.0” in terms of gameplay loop, or perhaps a Legion “1.5” if a proper evolution was too much to ask for a Small Indie Company™ such as Blizzard. What we got with Battle for Azeroth was a painful Legion 0.5, a full step back.
I’m not alone in that sentiment, as there was an overwhelming amount of feedback during the expansion’s beta that warned of this and many other issues, but Blizzard had a deadline to fulfill, and there was no time to go back to the drawing board and redo things from the ground up.
And that’s where the problems began, with the awful Azerite system.
The Heart of Azeroth & Azerite Gear
The big main feature of the expansion happened to be its worst.
Legion introduced a new system called Artifact Weapons, powerful items with their own treadmill progression that, coupled with the class and gameplay changes, is what made 7.x WoW’s classes feel complete.
Their removal was never a surprise, as Artifacts were intended to be a Legion-only feature. However, removing the traits and abilities that these weapons granted to the game’s classes left a huge gap in character progression and power, as every class had been tweaked around the traits and power gains of those artifact weapons.
Thus, Blizzard replaced this feature with a new feature that’s thematically aligned with BfA’s narrative: The Heart of Azeroth and Azerite Gear.
The Heart of Azeroth takes the necklace slot of your character’s gear, and you equp it from day 1, much like the Artifact Weapons it replaced. Instead of having to level it separately per class specialization, the necklace was a single, unified grind, this was a welcomed change, but the headache itself was the other half of the system: The Azerite Gear.
All Helmets, Shoulders, and Chest pieces in the expansion were part of this new feature. Azerite Gear was meant to give flexibility and choice for players when choosing their traits, unlike Legion’s Artifact Weapons, where you had to carefully choose your upgrade path at the start of the expansion but by the end you’d just fill the whole board.
The idea was simple: Choose your own bonuses out of the gear’s available selection; some armor pieces came with unique perk choices depending on the place it dropped. Seasoned gamers know that there’s no such thing as choice, there’s a meta, and if you don’t adhere to it you’re not only hindering yourself, but your team as well.
In MMOs the illusion of choice is a tacit fact. You can have two, three, five, ten, fifty available choices, but there’s always going to be a meta one that makes the rest irrelevant, Azerite Gear was no exception.
There was another issue, each and every of these Azerite perk tiers required your Heart of Azeroth to be at a certain level for it to be unlocked, with pieces from harder sources requiring higher levels. Having obtained an Azerite Gear from a difficult raid boss, only to find out that you can’t use its bonuses because you didn’t grind your Heart of Azeroth level hard enough—thus making it so that your ‘weaker’ piece outperformed your new piece until you spent hours of your life grinding to unlock the new piece’s traits was a very common problem during the first weeks of the expansion.
From the moment the expansion launched, the development team had to play a cat and mouse game of trying to patch the Azerite mess up while continuing forward with the expansion’s content updates. They had launched with a broken and very annoying system that was in many ways inferior to what the game had introduced in the previous expansion.
The system received much-needed improvements with patch 8.1, but it was still inherently flawed by design. Azerite Gear was effectively soft-discarded (but not removed) halfway through the expansion.
Azerite Gear never felt half as good as Artifact Weapons, which granted your character a new ability and powerful passive traits, Azerite Gear would indirectly create other problems in the game. Selecting a piece’s traits would ‘lock’ them in, if you ever changed your mind, or wanted to try a different trait, you’d have to go reset it via an NPC, and each time it’d cost more.
For players that played a second (or third) class specialization, this meant that you now found yourself requiring to maintain one set of Azerite Gear per spec; if you really wanted to min-max then you’d carry one for multi-target, and one for single target, prolonging the amount of time that you need to invest in the game’s loot.
The removal of Tier sets
This is a problem that in my personal opinion, was never a problem to begin with and thus didn’t needed fixing.
One of the main appeals of raiding in World of Warcraft throughout its entire existence has been the Class Tier sets, armors that are tailored to an specific class, with matching visual identity, that granted set bonuses once you had equipped enough of them.
Blizzard, in their infinite wisdom, decided that after 13 years of having Tier sets these had become a problem. Maybe it was a design choice due to Mythic + dungeons, maybe it was the whole Azerite Gear system, or maybe it was something else.
The loss of class visual identity was a concern that was rapidly raised by the community as soon as the announcement was made, as collecting these sets is a passtime for many.
Blizzard justified the decision by saying that the Azerite Gear perks would fill the gap, and that not having to design class sets for each raid tier (a task multiplied by the fact that they had to fit each race, and the design of the ‘prestige’ Mythic/Gladiator variant) would translate into armor sets thematically based around the raid zone that would look much better as a result.
Basically, they just wanted to reduce costs and development time. Truth be told, not all armor sets looked bad, there’s a few notable mentions here and there, it’s just that these never made up for loss of the staple class armor identity that came with tier sets.
Tier sets had evolved for the better throughout the years, as you no longer needed to collect one for each fo your class’ specializations (the set bonuses would automatically adjust whenever you switched specs, as well as the main stat for certain classes). In previous content patches you’d definitely wanted to obtain at least 4 out of 5 set pieces, which would work for all three of your class’ specializations. Without Tier Sets and with Azerite Gear on the mix, you now need to obtain three Azerite Gears per specialization, up to a total of nine (twelve in the case of druids).
Weaker classes and the slower combat tempo
This is the first expansion in the game’s 15 year history that made it so that players would get significantly weaker as they leveled up from Legion. While there are narrative reasons for this decision, it just translates into a lesser experience for players, no one wants to level up and feel weaker throughout the leveling experience of any game.
The loss of Artifact Weapons meant the loss of the abilities that came with them, although some of the classes did kept them through talents and whatnot. In addition to that, patch 8.0 severely gutted some classes, and generally toned down the flow of battle. Many abilities and cooldowns now incur the global cooldown, secondary stats (and their impact in the game) was toned down significantly.
All of the changes simply made it so that almost every of the game’s twelve classes feel outright boring to play as.
Titanforging & the random, endless treadmill
The main problem that Legion introduced—made worse in Battle for Azeroth.
Getting an item should be a cause of celebration and relief, but not only must you deal with the regular rng of the loot lottery, you must pray that the stars aligns and you get the right amount of titanforging on it, and a socket to boot—maybe a tertiary stat even.
Being at the mercy of extra layers of rng on your item drops is acceptable in aRPG games, not in an MMO with weekly loot lockouts—alas, WoW’s dev team was so adamant in disrupting the tried and true gear treadmill with all these extra layers of randomness attached to it that they ended up harming the entirely of the game instead.
Just like in Legion, it broke the natural gear treadmill, and more often than once you’d find yourself still progressing through bosses that dropped loot bellow your item level. Thankfully, this has been discarded at last, but not before the damage was done.
Island Expeditions & Warfronts
Island Expeditions were a return of the 3-man scenarios feature that Mists of Pandaria introduced but with a new twist. The goal was simple enough: Collect enough Azerite before the enemy team beats you to it.
The island themselves rotate on a weekly basis, and certain elements contained therein would change as well, which, in a game filled with lists upon lists of weekly chores to go though, felt somewhat refreshing.
These scenarios are filled to the brim with all sorts of special doodads and interactions that, while interesting to check through during the first days of the expansion, became utterly useless towards the end, as the goal is to maximize the time:azerite ratio on these instances. Nowadays you’d just make huge pulls, burn everything down, and fill your weekly quota.
Had expeditions been designed with a bigger emphasis on the word expedition, requiring puzzle solving and all sorts of non-combat victory conditions I would’ve liked them more. Instead, they’re nothing but a chore you go through to raise your Azerite Neck levels and that’s it. Sure, there’s some cosmetic rewards to look for, but eh.
Credit where credit is due, these scenarios served as a testbed for more responsive and intuitive enemy AI, let’s hope that Blizzard further expands on this concept in the future.
Warfronts were an even greater disappointment in my opinion. They were sold as epic large-scale scenarios with emphasis on strategy and player cooperation. They ended up being just a glorified theme park ride where its virtually impossible to lose.
You wait your faction’s turn (these rotate on a calendar), you jump in, fight some AI enemies, get some resources, defeat a boss, and pray that you get a decent piece of loot at the end. Then you wait a couple weeks and you get to do it all over again.
While multiple Warfronts were promised, only two were released. Sure, they also come with a Heroic difficulty, but it’s just another chore to go through in your monthly list of things to do.
The band-aid tacked on system that was heralded as the solution to all of the game’s problems that BfA caused, and another endgame progression system slapped on top of your Heart of Azeroth and Azerite Gear.
There’s plenty of room for customization (but you’d want to use the best combination for your class anyways), and you get an extra button to press here and there (to make up for the loss of your Artifact Weapon ability). Essences are obtained through several activities: PvE open world, dungeons, raids, PvP content, et al.
Conceptually, it sounds good, but forcing players to engage in activities that may not be their cup of tea, in order to be able to participate in the activities that they do enjoy while not being detrimental to their team/friends in terms of performance is a bad design choice.
Regardless, this system’s greatest flaw is that its extremely time-gated by design. If you were to start playing right now it will take weeks before you rank up your desired essences to optimal levels, and as with everything else in this game, the illusion of choice is a cruel lie.
Blizzard’s solution to Titanforge’s extreme randomness is…a system with even more randomness attached to it.
It sounded too good to be true, Titanforge was gone, and this new system would take its place. Items would have a random chance to come with one of the nineteen corruption effects, which range from passive stat boosts to proc abilities that would spice things up.
You can’t just deck yourself with corrupted gear, as these come with a corruption rating that at certain thresholds, will begin to afflict your character with negative effects. Said negative effects can be lessened with essences that reduce your corruption rating, and a new legendary cloak that grants you corruption resistance, which you can upgrade via yet another timegated system.
The fact that this system is even more random than titanforged feels more of an eff you from Blizzard than a solution to the problem itself. There’s also another problem, some of these effects are vastly superior to the rest, and by vast I mean vast. Making a huge amount of your performance be dependent on how lucky have you been with your corrupted loot isn’t good game design.
How broken are some of these effects? See for yourself.
Let’s an example, John and Billy are friends, they’re both mages in the same guild.
John generally tends to be better at playing than Billy, and he’s got the statistics to prove it. John and Billy both kill a boss and each receive a pair of Gloves of The Uncharismatic Ion.
Here’s the catch: John received the regular version without corruption while Billy got a corrupted one with rank 3 of the best corruption effect. Now Billy does 30-40% more damage than John simply because he was luckier than John and not because he’s suddenly the better player, even though they both received the same item—technically.
You could get your dream corruption effect on the first week, or maybe on the twelfth, or if you’re desperate enough, you can buy it off someone if they’re selling a Bind on Equip piece with one of the godly corruption effects, the idea was so laughably bad executed that it’s insulting.
Corruption, not even once.
Forced commitment & the content dilemma
MMOs need to wrestle with a delicate balance with how long does it take to deliver content, and how much its delivered at a time. If you want people to keep paying that monthly sub fee then you need to provide them stuff to do, if there’s nothing to do they’ll leave.
When the game’s content is fun and engaging, you’ll see them come back or never leaving in the first place. Warlords of Draenor was an incomplete expansion that had barely any content to do, but what few content was delivered was worth doing, in my opinion. In the case of Battle for Azeroth, the content is there, it’s just not engaging or entertaining to partake in.
From the very first moment you reach the expansion’s level cap (120) the game begins to feel like it was designed on a corporate briefing room full of suits first and foremost, with barely any player feedback taken in consideration.
When your game forces players to play literally every single day, going through a ever growing list of weekly chores to go through (lest they will be behind the power treadmill required to progress) you’ll just burn most of them quickly, ending in cancelled subscriptions.
The most die-hard of Blizzard fanboys often say rationalize the expansion’s rocky launch with statements such as “Well, every bad xpac needs time to get on its feet, so most of the expansion’s tenure is spent fixing things.” A boot-licking rationalization in my opinion, to which I dare to ask “Have they tried not making it suck before launch in the first place?” After over a decade you’d think that they’d have this nailed down by now.
All of these forced commitment and timegated systems, Azerite, Essences, Corruption, that you need to go through in order to stay on the power curve—or as close as possible, and the massive time investment they all incur has to be multiplied for each and every alt character that you wish to play, or if you suddenly feel like switching to a different character.
Legion was a big culprit of being alt-unfriendly, but the problem has been greatly exacerbated by having to hunt the proper Azerite Gear, go through the time-gated Azerite Essences, and now the corruption gear/legendary cloak.
It simply is too much of a time investment required to play another character to be justifiable in any shape or form. But hey, they gotta make it so you stay subscribed for the longest amount of time, eh? I mean, it’s not like they suddenly began offering mounts to those that lock in a 6-month sub in order to look good on investors calls or anything.
Playing with borrowed power
All of these sources of power that I’ve mentioned, and all of the time invested on them will be for naught in a few months..
Gear resets are not the issue, as those happen with each new expansion. It’s the fact that the game expected you to invest all this time and effort in systems and upgrades that will be effectively thrown off the table with Shadowbring—I mean, Shadowlands is released.
Take a WoW character, any character, strip it of the power progression of BfA, and you’ll realize that it has nothing beyond what it already had when the expansion launched.
You’re simply borrowing (and grinding) this expansion’s seasonal power upgrades, at least in prior expansions there was some sort of power progression carried from the leveling, be it talent points or new abilities. Here you’ll get zilch, zero, nada.
Thanks for leveling the Heart of Azeroth, thanks for unlocking all of the Azerite Essences, and many thanks for upgrading your corruption resistance legendary cloak—I’ll be taking those now.
It sucks, it honestly does, even though it fits perfectly with Shadowlands‘ upcoming streamlining of the leveling process, which will only require you to go through one of the past seven expansions before being able to access the latest one. This upcoming leveling squish means that you can officially forget about this disastrous expansion and never bother with it ever again, even if you decide to start a new character from scratch.
Come think of it, yeah. Shadowlands‘ best feature is that it’ll make it so that you don’t have to deal with Battle for Azeroth ever again—wtf, I like Shadowlands now?
The other big feature of the expansion, new playable races! Well, not quite.
A whopping ten whole allied races were released with the expansion, four of which were early unlocks as a preorder bonus—with the word ‘unlock’ being very, very relative.
To unlock and be able to play as these races one must reach exalted reputation with a corresponding faction (again, timegates), go through a short quest, and voilá, you can make a new character with your brand new Allied Race, time to get to level 120 with it and do all of the timegated content you’ve already done with your main character.Of course, you could always pay for a race change, but doing so will not grant you the cosmetic armor that’s awarded via leveling an allied race all the way to 120.
Some of these races are simply reskins of existing ones (Dark Iron Dwarves, Void Elves, among others), while others feel more unique. The two big ones: Zandalari Trolls and Kul Tiran Humans weren’t released until seven months after the expansion’s launch.
Don’t expect to start as one of these Allied Races right now, as unlocking them is more of a medium to long term project. If you’re like me, a diehard Horde player, don’t have any high level Alliance characters (or viceversa) and you suddenly want to unlock one of the opposing faction’s allied races then you have to level a regular race from scratch, go through the timegated reputation grinds to unlock them, so you can finally play as one of them.
Like with many things in this expansion, its just too much of a time investment. The latest patch introduced the final two allied races for the expansion and…well…
Oh, no no no no no no…
8.3 & The mishandling of the Black Empire
Of all the things Battle for Azeroth did bad, the absolutely disappointing way that they handled the Old God N’Zoth and the Black Empire is personally the worst.
The Lore behind the Void, the Lovecraft-inspired Old Gods, and the dark period of Azeroth known as the Black Empire is one of the things I’m most fascinated about in this franchise. The first volume of the Chronicle book series gave us a more thorough description of it.
As for the Old God N’Zoth The Corruptor, he was hyped for over a decade as a key figure that influenced much of the world’s actions from his prison beneath the darkest oceans of Azeroth.
Cataloged as the weakest of his now fallen brethren, N’Zoth was not about conquest through strenght, but rather, your mind. A creature of unspeakable horror that drove even the noblest of dragons to insanity.
For a being that was extensively hyped by Blizzard for ten years, you’d expect his appearance to be grandiose, to have lasting effects in the world or something—nah, that’d be too much to ask.
The last patch of Battle for Azeroth is all about him, he is the final boss of the expansion, the big bad guy of the most buggy and rushed patch in the history of WoW, all that hype fell flat when his boss encounter is one of the most lackluster ever. A boss that deals with insanity inducing whispers and horrors + the phasing technology that they developed for the game could’ve made for a very unique encounter, instead you just get a sanity bar that you manage through the fight, which is not even a new concept in the game.
His defeat cinematic is so bland and unoriginal that Blizzard unlisted it out of shame from their official YouTube channel.
The mythic version of this boss, which should’ve been the pinnacle of the expansion’s content, was not even properly tested by Blizzard, and as with most of 8.3’s content, was utterly buggy, to the point that it had to be despawned during the World First race.
They could’ve done so much more with the Black Empire, instead it’s limited to just two zones from prior expansions getting an “Old God” makeup and a raid zone.
End of the line
The failures are shortcomings of Battle for Azeroth are so ingrained into the game right now that their repercussions have spilled over the next expansion: Shadowlands.
As of the time of writing this, not much has been shown about Shadowlands, what little has been show makes it look like it’s just an expansion that’ll be focused on fixing the flaws of BfA, all of which could’ve been easily prevented had Blizzard listened to the extensive beta feedback that fell on deaf ears.
Feature-wise, Shadowlands doesn’t offer much to the table, and after having played every single iteration of WoW before I can safely say that it looks like the least enticing to players in terms of content, even more than BfA did back on its reveal.
I suppose that the BfA trainwreck may very well be the end of my long WoW career.
I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again. It’s very disheartening and sad to see a hobby you used to be passionate about (even if its just a video game) fall down so hard and collapse due to corporate hubris. Battle for Azeroth was more of an Activision product than the Blizzard of yore, that Blizzard that used to push out quality products is gone in all but name.
Blizzard hasn’t had a good year. The Blitzchung controversy, the disaster of Warcraft 3: Reforged, and a handful other mishaps, it’s all on them. Blizzard desperately needs a redemption arc, much like Capcom’s recent one, whether they deserve it or not is up for debate.
Perhaps we’ll see each other in Azeroth in the future, perhaps not.
We’ll see what the future brings for this franchise—please don’t let my lack of optimism stop you if you’re genuinely enjoying Warcraft in its current state, but don’t settle for the current disastrous state of the game, you as a WoW player deserve better.