I have fallen back in love with WoW this week. Part of it is that I stumbled into a nice little group of folks in my guild with whom I can run instances and get into trouble, and of course the arrival of Patch 4.3 helped a lot. It has not escaped my attention that the patch that returns Azeroth to a state more resembling the oh-so-casual Wrath of the Lich King expansion is the one that has everyone talking and playing. Is returning to Wrath’s difficulty level the answer to Blizzard’s subscription problems?
To be fair, the three new heroics are not pushovers. They are short, have interesting mechanics, and are easy to die in if you’re not paying attention. Healing some of these fights is a little intense right now, but the risk seems even with the reward. It reminds me a lot of the three “lore” heroics that came into the game with Icecrown Citadel. They are a happy medium between the early ICC heroics, which were so boring I would come up with gimmicks to amuse myself like only running backwards or wearing costume clothes, and early Cataclysm heroics which were very tough and in many cases very long.
That’s not to say that there shouldn’t be long, arduous heroics available (I really feel for non-raiders who want challenging content), but it’s nice to have some that are short, fun, and will kill you if you slack off too much.
My guild doesn’t raid until Saturday, so I haven’t had a chance to see Dragon Soul on normal mode yet but judging by the results of others it seems to be going back to ToC levels of difficulty. Average raiding guilds are killing 4+ bosses on their first night in the place. The Looking for Raid finder is even easier: I walked in on Wednesday night and one-shot the first three bosses and wiping once on the last one.
I think the difficulty (or lack thereof!) in the LFR is fine. That is what it’s for, and I think it’ll be a great way to level alts. Additionally, average raiding guilds will benefit greatly from having their members check out a fight in LFR before doing it on a guild run as well. However, I think once again Blizz has fallen into the WotLK problem of alienating their middle of the road guilds. It seems like most will have cleared normal Dragon Soul in a month. An average raid guild can kill roughly half of hard modes in any given instance, which means that yet again most guilds will have maybe 4 bosses to reasonably work on for the next six months. I’m glad recruiting in that situation is no longer my problem.
I’ve been doing a lot of reflecting on my time as a raiding guild leader in WoW, and in retrospect I think the biggest mistake I personally made was falling into the trap of heroic raids. The Cats were never about being top 10 or better than our fellow players, but were mainly concerned with just seeing the content. Instead of agreeing with the Blizzard that heroic raids were progression, I think focusing on achievements would have fit better with our “be prepared, but not too serious” ethos. Run normals, do heroics if we want, but make achievements our “progression”.
Given the option between normal modes that are pushovers and hardmodes that are overtuned recycled content, I feel like an achievement-oriented raiding guild would be the best way for a mid-level group to navigate between the two.