In my last post, I explained my lack of motivation, partly due to raiding woes, and a couple of people took issue with a throwaway comment I made about Dragon Soul Normal Mode being undertuned.
It was pointed out to me that while my raid team steamrolled through Dragon Soul Normal Mode and complained about how easy it was, I should bear in mind that not everyone had the benefit of full Firelands Heroic gear to speed them along.
It’s actually a fair point and one that I’d like to respond to and expand upon. Yes, the majority of our raid team being in full 391 gear meant that we overgeared the early bosses and thus managed to outheal and nuke through fights that would otherwise have given us trouble. Doing these fights in 378 gear would have definitely made this harder for us.
The thing is… that’s not my point really. Having done the fights with my alts, with people in a mix of 378 and 397 gear, I know for a fact that past Morchok, it’s well tuned in terms of boss damage output and DPS / Healing requirements. However, what I feel is missing is anything new or complicated. All the bosses have nothing new to show us and are all extremely straightforward. I don’t believe that any of those bosses take much learning or have anything difficult to overcome.
Even if you’re new to raiding and haven’t done much up until Dragon Soul, there simply isn’t much new to learn about the fights, there isn’t much to keep you wiping until you get to Ultraxion, which is just a gear check – can your raid put out 27k per person and outheal the damage in a tank and spank fight? If not, farm the first four bosses until it can.
Can you kill Ultraxion? If so, then proceed to the next bosses. Dragon Soul is undertuned in terms of mechanics. Most of those bosses would benefit from having a few more mechanics thrown in or having existing mechanics made more difficult (I’m looking at you, Hagara Ice Phase).
It very much feels to me that Dragon Soul is an afterthought of a raid instance, something Blizzard put together very fast because they wanted to commit their resources elsewhere, namely Mists of Pandaria.
I guess what it seems like to me is that Blizzard have decided that Cataclysm has been a failure and just want to move on.
At the end of WotLK, Blizzard listened to a very vocal minority – people who contended that content should be challenging, difficult and grindy, like it was in Vanilla and TBC. So, that’s how Cataclysm was built. Heroics were released that were far tougher than WotLK, required CC, smart pulling and people generally knowing how to play their class.
Raids were harder and completely unPuGgable, killing the thriving community of players that had arisen during WotLK who were either unguilded, ‘casual’ or just unable to cut it in raiding guilds.
Blizzard were happy with this model and continued with it, through the troll heroics of Patch 4.1 and Firelands. Additionally, as part of this model, Blizzard nerfed the Tier 11 Normal Modes, opening them up to people who had so far not been able to access them, allowing them to be PuG’d. There was a plan in place and it was a good one – content is released, guilds have a few months to clear the content on Normal Mode before it’s nerfed for everyone to experience, while Hard Modes are left untouched – after all, chances are your guild’s still progressing on them and if you’re doing Hard Modes, it’s for the challenge factor.
Now, sure, Firelands difficulty was tuned to be somewhat less difficult than Tier 11 as Blizzard realised that the difficulty tuning of Tier 11 wasn’t great but nonetheless, it was still challenging enough once you got to the Heroic level.
The vast majority of competent guilds could get to 6/7 in Firelands with time and effort though they’d hit a wall at Heroic Ragnaros, which is, by all accounts, the hardest encounter Blizzard have ever implemented in the game – originally, Phase 4 required pixel perfect movement from all raid members and this can become soul-crushing and guild breaking.
However, But by around the halfway mark of Patch 4.2, something was brutally clear: Blizzard were haemorrhaging subscribers. My guess is that Blizzard decided at that point that listening to the vocal minority, while delivering a tougher game, had not been good for business. The vast majority of players were cancelling their subscriptions because they had nothing to do in the game or that raiding was inaccessible to them. At that point, I believe that Blizzard decided that Cataclysm was a failure and that it was best to try and return the game to how it was in WotLK – content accessible to everyone with heroics designed to be cleared with 20 – 30 minutes and not 1 – 2 hours.
I believe that originally Blizzard intended to Nerf Firelands Normal Modes but leave Heroic Modes untouched, like they did with Tier 11. However, with the loss of subscribers and the struggle that most guilds were having with fielding lineups for Firelands, Blizzard nerfed Firelands across the board, their opening salvo in having the game become more accessible.
Cataclysm is a failure and Blizzard decided it’s best not to sink too much in the way of resources into creating Dragon Soul, the last raid of a failed expansion.
And while I’m not particularly enthused about the fact that Mists of Pandaria will return to the model of WotLK, in terms of 5 Man Heroics (fast, easier heroics, meant to finished within 20 – 30 minutes and no, I don’t believe that ‘challenge’ modes are the answer – I want difficult 5 man content just because it’s hard, not because you have to stress yourself by nuking through it as fast as possible) and the raiding model (experience all the fights in LFR on day 1 and continue to burn yourself out by raiding the content twice a week, just to stay competitive), I am hoping that Tier 14 will be solid, imaginative and epic. After all, following through on my theory outlined above, if Blizzard are committing so many resources to MoP, surely it’s going to be great? ;)