Back down the rabbit hole

September 16, 2016 by Tim

So, yeah… I’m playing WoW again.

After raiding hardcore through Wrath, I burned out hard at the start of Cataclysm. The first few bosses of the first raid, and I just wasn’t feeling it anymore. I left the game and I didn’t look back until much, much later.

Right around the Warlords launched, my wife and I got one of those “come play again free for seven days!” desperation emails. We were curious, so we installed, patched, and jumped into what was at that point the Pandaria content. We played a bit over the course of that week, taking our level 85’s to level 89 before finally looking at eachother and saying “meh.” The game just didn’t grab us. It wasn’t sticky.

So I watched from a distance as thousands flocked back to WoW for Warlords, and then just as quickly fled what appeared to be a rapidly sinking ship.

When Legion was about to launch, I felt that itch again. I was certain it was going to be another case of “Nostalgia tugging at heartstrings, jump back in, oh right I remember why I left” but… it hasn’t been that at all. The game is… sticky again. I feel at home, I feel excited, I feel interested in sticking around. I want to log in and play every evening. Something they did here has re-captured some of the magic I used to feel in WoW. I am both pleased and legitimately surprised.

There have been a lot of quality of life changes in Legion to just make the playing experience far more enjoyable. MOB tagging is now based on faction, instead of an individual bases. Need to kill wolves for a quest? It doesn’t matter if another Alliance member is already attacking one, you can help out and you both get loot and credit. If a member of the opposite faction has tagged something, you’re out of luck, but this system creates a feeling of community when out in the world. It’s okay to help out/join in people you aren’t grouped with. No one is getting stressed/pissy over “mob stealing.” It’s just more fun this way.

And in the same, Legion’s world is littered with treasure chest and special events that add excitement to exploring that the game never previously offered (outside of the exploration achievement.)

Instead of lonely, single-person garrisons, we now have class halls. An entire hub dedicated to your class that you can upgrade and operate from, but is also populated with dozens of others players of the same class. It’s social, not isolating like garrisons were.

Let’s not even start on the world quests, a revelation of “Oh, this is how dailies always should have been” proportions.

But I think one of the biggest changes for me has been how I’ve approached the game this time around. Years ago, before I was a father and I had oodles of time to spend however I wished, I would rush through questing zones as quickly as possible. I would open the quest dialogue only long enough to click accept, and then use the tracker to narrow in on the objective to complete. It was a speed run.

Oh sure, there were times, like when rolling a new character, when I said to myself “Okay, this time I’m going to relax, read the quest text and get into the story.” And that lasted all of maybe a dozen quests before I felt the pressure to keep up with who I was grouped with, or just plain wanting to plow through things as quickly as possible.

Yet for some reason, this time around, as a father of two, with a ton of projects on my plate, and maybe an hour or two in the evening to play WoW, now I find myself stopping to smell the roses. I’m reading all of the quest text, which in turns gives the cutscenes meaning, and the gives world developments some weight, and I’m finding myself invested in the lore of this most recent invasion by the Burning Legion.

It helps that Blizzard is taking some serious storytelling steps with this expansion, killing some major characters and changing some things that give the invasion some major impact. It doesn’t feel like a “bad guy of the week” scenario where everything will be back to normal afterwards. It feels like a legitimate threat we have to worry about.

And ultimately? Allowing myself to take it slow, and absorb the reasons why I need to collect fifteen or that or kill ten of that, has greatly boosted my enjoyment of the game this time around. I know for some people this is not a revalation, and others are likely saying “I tried that, didn’t care, just wanted to kill stuff for cool gear.” And that’s fine. But for me, something clicked this time around.

I don’t know if it’s just because I’m older, or I that having kids has taught me a great deal of patience, or perhaps I’ve just played so many MMOs at this point in my life that I know beyond a shadow of a doubt that there is nothing to be gained by rushing to the level cap day one. That no matter what, we all hit the end of the current content and sit around waiting for the next wave, so why take your time and enjoy the ride along the way. Whatever it is, I do not feel this pressure to be “first to the finish line” while playing WoW right now. I think it has made a world of difference in how I’m able to process this game and work it into an otherwise fairly busy life.

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