This first month of re-subscription has been...odd. When I hit the payment button on a whim my main concern was whether I'd get any use out of the subscription at all. That's proved to be an unnecessary concern. I've played every day.
The quality and nature of that play, on the other hand, has been both enlightening and confounding. I've played no more, no longer, each day than I had already been playing on my free account but I've had less fun.
The pattern has been to log into WoW only after I've done all my dailies on all three GW2 accounts plus the Bloodfen dailies on the one that has Heart of Thorns enabled. (I still haven't allocated my half-price HoT to either of the others).
Even after I've done the dailies I tend to stay on in GW2, often running around in WvW at least until Mrs Bhagpuss calls it a night. There was also rather good new Current Event added with last Tuesday's update, although it stalled very quickly as we all waited for the NPC to move to a new location (which, apparently, she did yesterday!).
|This way, guys!|
There's also the mysterious cat thing, which I spent some time noodling at while speculating why someone might have been allocated time to add this apparently purposeless piece of fluff when supposedly time constraints at ANet are so rigorous on everything else. Either it's something to keep the interns occupied or someone is testing some mechanic, either for later in LS3 or for the mysterious second expansion, that would be my supposition. Enhanced housing, anyone?
Daybreak Games threw their spanner in the ring with a big update and free Level 95s for all, so that took up some more time. I also took advantage of their generous All Access sale to put my main account on twelve-months pre-paid for the first time ever. I have to decide today whether to do the same for Mrs Bhagpuss's account, which, ironically, we had just agreed to cancel, due to her not having logged in for four years.
With all that going on, nothing else has really gotten a look-in these last couple of weeks. I did find time to check whether I needed to migrate my Dragon Nest account in the face of the imminent transfer of Nexon's North American version. Fortunately it turns out mine's DN: Europe, which appears to be staying on Steam for the time being. I'm aware that I better get on and play some Dragon Nest soon, though, or there may not be any Dragon Nest left to play.
The upshot of all this activity is that for several weeks my entire paid-up membership activity in World of Warcraft has consisted of running demonic invasions and occasionally sorting my bags into the bank. Most evenings I give it about an hour. I managed a couple of slightly longer sessions over the weekends but how people like Stargrace have managed to stick at it for hour after hour, day after day to level up whole armies of characters defeats me.
|Aw, heck...where did everyone go?|
As time's gone on the structure of the invasions has become a lot clearer. They seem less chaotic because, well, they aren't. There's some randomization to create a small sense of variety but the same bosses and sub-bosses appear at each location every time and the phases and cadences within the phases are always the same.
My difficulty doesn't come from the repetition, something that all MMORPGs share as a core value. Nor does it come from the ridiculous number of seemingly unavoidable instant deaths (I had to repair to full twice in an hour last night) although the ability of some of the bosses to insta-kill without warning is intensely annoying.
No, my difficulty comes with the combat itself. It's bloody awful. I have never had any major complaints about WoW's combat in general. I have always found the solo, duo and single-group mechanics to be perfectly fine. On the evidence of what is now many hours of large-scale eventing, however, I have to say the in-event combat is the single worst MMO experience of its kind I have encountered anywhere.
There is no feedback worth the name, neither visual nor aural nor textual nor tactile. Everything floats.
I have no lag whatsoever and excellent ping. Technically nothing is standing in the way of a smooth, streamlined experience. What I don't have is any sense whatsoever that the character I'm controlling is involved in the action.
|Thanks, but I had a shower earlier.|
People talk an awful lot about "rotations" in WoW. I have it in mind to write about that in some depth but for now I'll just say that as far as these invasions go any "rotation" is entirely superflous. Meaningless. Worthless.
You don't need to be able to play your character to do Invasions. Perhaps there's something you might do to die less that requires player skill or class knowledge but other than that all you need to do is hit one button. Any button will do.
I hit all of them as they come off cooldown so as to have something to do but I am painfully aware that I would be better off tagging each boss once then withdrawing well out of range so I don't get insta-gibbed by some invisible AE. Still, stubbornly, I fight and more than occasionally die.
The other required skill is flocking. After each boss dies there's a moment's hiatus as everyone finds whatever button they hit to mount up and then the entire zerg takes to the skies. If you happen to be looking the wrong way or, calamity, still waiting at the graveyard, you're stuffed.
There's some arcane logic to the order in which the bosses are killed that, I'm sure, becomes second nature if you're grinding them for hours and days and weeks. It's beginning to seep into my consciousness now, just as it reaches the point when it will never, ever matter again. Meanwhile, if I miss my place in the flock it's five minutes of aimlessly flying around, looking and hoping. This is when I realize what a truly under-appreciated innovation Commander Tags were.
|You fellas carry on without me. I'm just going sit here and moonbathe for a while.|
In any other MMO the general channel would be buzzing thorough all these events. There would be banter and chatter and jokes - mostly very bad jokes but still... In WoW there is radio silence. People speak just often enough to let me know my chat channels aren't actually broken - maybe someone says something once every five or ten minutes. Oh, and there's a flurry of "INV" now and again, the most pared-down jargon for "Can I get an invite?" I've ever seen anywhere.
WoW has changed a lot since I last played back in the WotLK era. Then the problem with chat was the never-ending squall of noise, much of it very offensive. Now it seems no-one has anything to say at all, which adds to the strange, alienating "alone in a crowd" feel of these massive public events.
Coming from GW2, where every day is a series of large-scale events, I'm used to a constant surf of chatter as I play. I'm also used to feeling a solid, responsive, physical connection between my fingers on the keys and mouse and the actions of my character on the screen. Demonic Invasions in WoW have none of that.
What they do have is incredibly fast leveling and very useful loot. Just one of those two factors, as is well known, would have most MMO players sitting in an empty room pushing one button for hour after hour. At least the invasions are visually spectacular. There's always something to goggle at.
|Hey! I can almost tell what I'm doing here! Almost.|
In the end, though, after the novelty of seeing gigantic demons drop from the sky wore off, which took no more than a couple of sessions, it's all about the rewards. That's why I've stuck at it. I wanted to get my Hunter to 90. He was 69 when I started and now he's 92.
I've moved the target to 95 by Legion's launch A couple more sessions. The Warlock went from the high forties to 61, where he's going to stop. He got flying and that will do him for now. As for buying Legion, I think the odds are now better that I'll cancel my sub.
Or I might do neither. I might take another month and go and play the game normally. Level up some characters the old-fashioned way. See the broken world. Flying over those Cataclysm-shattered zones I see a lot of very interesting-looking landscapes worth exploring.
One thing I am sure about: WoW's engine is not made for these big open-world extravaganzas. The utter weightlessness of everything is enervating. I feel tired just thinking about it.
I've never raided in WoW. Do raids feel like this too? Maybe I'll do some LFR and see for myself.