Impressions of the Cataclysm (PVE) – Month 1

So below is an initial review of Cataclysm in my opinion.  In this part I am only going to focus on the PVE environment.  I have not yet spent enough time playing around with PVP in the new expansion to really have an opinion.

General: OK
Itemization: Good

We knew what was coming for weeks before Cataclysm launched.  Since the 4.0 patch on the live servers we have had to deal with and experiment with the new gear stat spread.  For the most part it looked all right at level 80.  Then when Cataclysm went live and we were replacing our 264 epics with 308 blues by level 82 we started to actually see the how and why of the new stat itemization.  Additionally we started to truly see the conversion of gear such that even for plate wearers the only difference between Tanking and DPS plate were the secondary stats.

I have to say that all in all I think the gear stat changes were very successful.  Now if you have a slot that is sub par iLvl wise you may be able to get by with a higher level secondary role peice of gear.  This only really works if the main attributes on both sets of gear are the same.  So Elemental/Resto Shaman, Balance/Resto Druid, Shadow/Disc or Holy Priest and the Prot/DPS Paladins and Warriors.

Because of this stat overlap and multipurpose of some slots that share Mastery and a second stat that works for all roles this has made Itemization so much better than before.

On the negative side however for the reputation vendors there was a bit of fail.  Some classes and specs were completely screwed over by these changes and the choices of gear available on the vendors.  Caster Shamans and Druids got the short end of the stick here because their gear is much more specialized in comparison to other class/roles that wear the same type of armor.  This was exasperated by the 5% buff given to a primary stat if you had all of your main type of gear equipped.  Previously Caster Shaman and Druids would at least be able to sub-optimally gear up by going with leather and or cloth respectively.

Crafting: Good & Poor

I love crafting.  Crafting in most games are one of the systems that I dive into head first.  It has always seemed like the neglected orphan in WoW and unfortunately that has not changed.  In hand and hand with crafting systems in most games the internal economy is also represented.  It is with this interaction that Blizzard Epically Failed this expansion.

Major Fail

  • Chaos Orbs
  • Dreamcloth
  • Itemization of Patterns – There should not have been overlap between crafted epics and the craftable epics.

Lesser Fail

  • Transmute: Truegold
  • Transmute: Living Essence
  • Transmute: Pyrium Bar

For the Major Fails I list, they are a major fail because 2 of them should not be Bind on Pickup.  To facilitate the market and make Crafting Profitable all resources used in any pattern need to be trade-able or auction-able.  So those that like to dungeon can and those that like to craft can, but those that like to craft and hate heroics, like myself can actually craft items for our guilds without having to run Heroic dungeons until we want to quit the bloody game.  I was  damn near chain running heroics on my warrior Tanking and or DPSing to get the Orbs to create tanking plate for our initial raid tanks.  This annoyed the hell out of me.  By this time I would rather have 2 or 3 85s but instead I have to run painful damn heroics to help out my guild.  I don’t blame my guild for this I blame the creators of the stupid fucking mechanics that force this requirement.

For the 3rd Major Fail item it came about due to conversations with Lissanna.  I looked at Balance and or Resto druid gear slot overlaps for crafted and reputation reward epic 359 pieces of gear.  As I initially focused on my warrior for tanking and blacksmithing I did not see too many problems.  Now that I have had some more time to analyze other classes/specs and professions I am left wondering sometimes what the hell were the devs smoking in some cases.  If I get to it I will dive into why this is important in another blog post, I don’t want to completely side track this post with that rant and explanation of my POV IMO.

I know Blizzard only did this to slow down the propagation of gear.  This is a bullshit reason and therefor created a bunch of bullshit mechanics/limitations.  World first kills are a joke.  The true world first kills occur on the PTR/Beta servers and not the live.  Everything on live is just a zerg rush of those that participated in the PTR/Beta cycle where the real deciding factor is whose servers are up first.  Until Blizzard finally hires 80-120 raid testers who do nothing but test encounters every which way possible on every class such that boss attempts are released live with no PTR cycle then and only then will World First kills mean anything.

The good part where the previous several paragraphs touched some on the fail has to be with the pattern vendors for most professions other than Jewel Crafting.  The metal, leather and other resource traders for rare patterns is a real improvement over the previous methods for gating patterns.  I hope to never see another pattern drop only from raid instances.  Crafting should and needs to be its own alternative way of progression and even such that all items used and produced from the profession is trade-able on the AH.  The then lets those that have hoarded gold spend it on gear if they so choose, who really cares.

Travel: Poor

I have beaten this horse a few times already but one more time for good measure.  For example last night 1/6/11, the eastern kingdoms node on Elune went down for a few minutes, myself and everyone in guild got disconnected with the world server down message.  At the character select screen I am looking and seeing all of my 80+ characters are logged out in Stormwind.  Yay no alts to log into now with the continent down.

Why are all my alts in Stormwind?

Well same reason everyone else’s alts are all in Stormwind, because that is where the portals to the new content are located.

I and others have been saying for ages that we need portals between all of the capitol cities to allow the player base to spread out.  Additionally we also need additional portal hubs be created for the new content as well at other capitols.  Given the level of  forethought that has gone into planning of travel in past expansions and the current one I am not going to hold my breath on this one, we have had Lag-arath, Lag-arand and now alliance side Lag-wind where previously when there was only 1 AH we had Lag-forge.  Anyone see a trend here?  When you only have 1 of something per faction you create a nexus of lag because if it is something everyone wants access to then everyone will make it so they have to put in the least amount of effort to access said nexus.  There are many that would be willing to relocate somewhere else if it what was wanted was available elsewhere.

Why Blizzard can not learn from the past concerning this is truly a WTF.

Mechanic Balance: Ok

I say OK and not Good or Great because while everyone in about the same level of gear can achieve the about the same numbers with proper itemization and skill there are now holes in the character/class/spec balance that are a bit annoying.  In Wrath everything was a DPS race and the classes were not really all equal which caused some hysterics on various forums.  Now we have Cataclysm and there are many changes but most players are doing about the same damage in the same level of gear so it is all good from that perspective.

However the game is not about being a DPS race anymore so while DPS being about equal is good it means nothing in a world of interrupts and control being required.  I say required with the standard caveat as how the fight should be executed not overpowered when enough gear is amassed.

There are several class/spec combinations that need some sort of Crowd Control ability or some sort of reasonable cooldown interrupt ability.  I say reasonable as in 8-20 second range not the 45 second to 2 minute range.  Due to these interactions you now need to be aware of the group make up and you just can’t grab a group and run.  However the LFG tool does not make these considerations either which is another dimension of Fail and why the community is in an uproar about the “difficulty” of heroics.

This comes down to a convergence/divergence of ability issue, however with the LFG tool I will argue that if the LFG thinks the group is able to complete the instance with reasonable gear then Blizzard should damn well make sure that it is a reasonable possibility.  I say reasonable as in a 50% chance not the .01% such that it is still possible but unlikely.

PVE: Good for now
Leveling Content: Great

Out of all of the leveling content I have seen so far I have to say that it is all good.  I am impressed with how cohesive they had made the content in the new starting zone for the Worgen and all of the new 80-85 leveling content.  The only slightly negative thing I can say would be dealing with one quest in Vash’ir.  There is a quest “Art of Attraction” where you need to capture an attraction pheromone.  The quest then talks a lot about the fish that are used in the the follow up quest.   It took a few attempts at the quest before I realized it was the red cloud I needed not the fish.  I chalk this up to being in too much of a rush but it was the only one that really gave me pause the entire time from 80-85 on my Warrior.

Dungeons Normal: Good

I say good only because they are reasonably well balanced based on entry level dungeon gear that is available from questing.  Most fights only really have 1 mechanic to look out for and most are of an adequate length that they don’t feel too long or too short.  Stone Core and BRC push this a little bit otherwise all around good.  I would call the entry level dungeons great if either you did not really need to get a lot of quest gear to be viable or if the crafting system was actually robust enough to get a full set of gear say around iLvl 325-333.  Currently the gear is sporadic and a “tanking” set for example from crafting ranges from 289-333 in iLvl.  Alternatively if the gear for dungeons were acquired from quests that were not part of a long nested question chain that would also be appreciated.  Don’t get me wrong I really liked the Twilight highlands quest story lines but wanting a 325 blue from a quest that happened to be 20-25 quests after the point I was already at was a bit of a pain in the ass.

Dungeons Heroic: Bad

Where to begin?…

Remove the good from Normal dungeons and take the bad and turn it to 11 would describe the initial “Heroic” experience.  I don’t know what Blizzards problem is but they need to stop dumping content out that caters to the top or bottom 2.5-5%.  Even at best they are catering to 10% of the player base.  I really think for WoW they need to go back to the drawing board and look at building “dynamic” scalable content.  I used “dynamic” with quotations because I am not looking for infinite scalability but at least a few more options that roflmao easy to smash your face in difficult/annoying.  I also say annoying because some of the mechanics in heroics this time around are not difficult they are just stupidly harsh.  The worst part about it some of the effects that kill you are impossible to truly see where you are safe or not and others that are a joke have clear outlines.  This then does not test skill it really just tests luck based on latency and if you happen to be a class that has something usable on the mechanic.

There is one instance that exemplifies the level of stupid difficulty best for this set of content would be Heroic Stone Core.  The starting Stone Worm and the 3rd Boss both have really stupid mechanics.

For the first boss if you are not already moving chances are depending upon latency if the “dust line cloud” spawn on you, you die.  The boundary of dust is not clear enough to know whether you are safe or not and most times due to latency the timing is so fast that you don’t really have any time to react unless you were already moving, hopefully in the correct direction.

For the third boss his AoE centered on him attack is also stupid because you don’t know where you are safe or die and there is not even a diminishing return on damage based on distance it is a binary you are safe or you take so much damage it is almost an assured 1 shot.  Ya that really measures “skill”.    Furthermore another lame ass mechanic is the whole need to place a DoT on the boss or else you are paralyzed and most likely one shotted.  Especially if you don’t have a healer or dps that can cleanse magic.  I say this is lame and shows more short sightedness for the LFG and other systems on Blizzards part because some DoTs don’t count like a hunter’s sting and some classes don’t really have DoTs unless they spec for them, mages now that fireball no longer has a DoT component.

Every boss when it is on the drawing board should have a run through against every class and spec.  If a class/spec does not have a justifiable way to handle the issue alone then it needs to be reconsidered or have additional methods of dealing with it added.  Survival cool-downs do not count if it will most likely occur more than 1 time per period of the cool-down on the survival ability.

Raids:

I have not gotten into any raids as of yet.  Looking into the fight mechanics of the entry level raid content I have my concerns.  I think that with none of the initial bosses being an straight out Tank and Spank fight gear check is a bit worrisome.  I am not saying the boss could have not extra mechanics like Patchwerk but something early on saying you need this much gear/dps/tank/heal to attempt to go past this point would be a good thing.

Summary

I know in some places I get a bit  preachy or rant for a while but in conclusion I think Cataclysm was a well needed reset to the game overall.  There are always places that will need work or could have used a few extra days/weeks here or there to improve them and being the gamers that we all are that really get into the game.   We will game our way around these issues.

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