Rate the Expansions

In the queue yesterday on BlizzardWatch somebody asked about how people would rank the expansions. I didn’t really go through and read any responses because I’m sure it got a bit vicious with the Cata and Warlords hate among other anti-comments. Anyway despite all the discourse I do think it’s a fascinating question. The answer is going to be different for everyone depending on when they started playing the game, and what it is about the game that they enjoy.

Personally for me I didn’t rank Vanilla-Wrath because I started playing at the tail-end of Wrath and I didn’t think I could really evaluate what I hadn’t experienced. My list went:

  1. Legion
  2. Cataclysm
  3. Mists of Pandaria
  4. Warlords of Draenor

Which would probably be odd for most people because it’s quite common that the expansion you went “all out on” e.g. when you raided, when you were in a guild, was when the game was at it’s peak for you etc. Yet that was Mists for me and I ranked it 3/4 and I’m going to blather on and say why now 🙂

A bit of history
When I started playing I quickly became obsessed with the achievement system and collecting things – I’m a completionist. I started off with a mage because that’s what my friend played who recruited me to the game. I was in Icecrown I think and nearly dying every pull as mobs were wailing on me (I’ve never been good at kiting). It was frustrating. I wanted to smash mobs in the face and so I rolled a protection paladin and the rest is history.

I didn’t reach max level on the pally until after Cata had launched. My mage was the first to level 85 (where it has pretty much stayed since, it’s level 87 now) but I’ve been paladin first always ever since. During Cata I started doing some previous tier “fun runs” with my recruiter friend. They told me to go heals, despite my love of hitting mobs in the face, and I did as I was told. I lacked confidence for tanking at the time but I built it up with dungeons etc. and when Mists launched I made the decision to never raid heal again. I swapped completely to prot, refused to get holy gear and that was that.

The first tier in Mists was tricky as we struggled to have enough people. We merged with another guild for Throne of Thunder which had good points and bad. Some friends were lost. They merged but then quit and I still wonder if that was my fault, if perhaps I hadn’t communicated enough and made the wrong call. Anyway, I tanked Throne of Thunder and Siege of Orgrimmar until they were cleared on regular. I burned out on Garrosh because I think it took 150 attempts or so before I got the kill and by then it was 3 hours a night 4x a week and it was too much.

I took a nine month break until Warlords launched. I got my pally to max level and I quit (for what I thought was for good) around patch 6.1. They had gutted my paladin’s self heals. I fully admit pallys were Gods in Mists but that was fun! Everything was too random and spiky and I didn’t enjoy it. Two and a half years later I resubbed for Legion. My pally was different again (and still lacking the self-heals I loved) but time blunts bitterness and even though bizarrely I still had muscle memory for my old buttons, I managed to move past it.

Yeah, so what are you trying to say?
I know, I know, I haven’t made sense so far. What I was trying to say is that in terms of my main – my beloved paladin – I loved the class from Cata onwards and that is important. That was when holy power was introduced which changed a lot of things. The protection spec doesn’t have holy power anymore and I still miss it. If I didn’t play Ret 95% of the time, I’d probably still be quite bitter now in Legion. Protection paladins were made perfect in Mists and blizz broke them.

It’s my belief that how someone feels about their main matters. Some people swap mains and that’s awesome. I’m an in-between person because I can swap alts and enjoy different classes variably but my paladin is forever my main. So that’s why I gave the “history of my main” because that is half of the equation.

The other half is playing the game and what that means to me.

The alt-game
As I said I’m a completionist. I want to experience all aspects of the game which means having an alt of every class. With Legion blizz granted my biggest wish with the class hall quests but even before that different classes mattered.

There’s professions – 11 of them. Six characters are needed to be able to max them all. Beyond that there’s the various legendaries which are class-locked. Some I can get on my pally e.g. Thunderfury or Shadowmourne, but I just got Fangs of the Father on my rogue and there are others like the legendary bow from Sunwell, the glaives from Black Temple, the Dragonwrath staff from Firelands etc.

Plus there’s the classes themselves. Some I enjoy, some I don’t, but they are all different. Some are better at certain parts of the game than others. I’ve always intended to pvp more (so many achievements I don’t have) and I’d like to do that on my druid as it’s a stealth class with self-healing abilities which I think would be handy. My paladin is awesome (and the best class obviously hehe) but it’s not always the best class for the job and the ultimate aim is to have fun – not be frustrated.

That is the whole aim of the game really. It’s a game and it’s supposed to be FUN.

I have really bad anxiety and I find my tolerance even online is slipping. Warcraft might be an MMO but it’s nice to play solo if friends aren’t available. It’s also nice to feel like something was accomplished during the play session. Sure it’s the experience that matters but I don’t think anyone likes to feel as if they are just spinning their wheels.

With Legion there is so much to do I’ve barely scratched the surface. That’s why I rank it so highly, it’s such a deep expansion. I have the unique class quests, I have the world quests, there are the profession quests etc. There are all sorts of mini-games that I haven’t had chance to touch like Chromie’s scenario and there’s lots of things to collect.

I haven’t felt this sort of “limitless possibility” since Cata which is why that’s ranked #2. I know it gets a super bad rep because of the content-drought, and it also introduced LFR (which I hate) but it brought us transmog (best thing ever!) and to be honest I didn’t notice the so-called content-drought. I ran dungeons over and over and over and I liked it! The mix of dungeons and valor point gear was addictive.

It kinda went like this: “what class do I feel like playing today?” “hmm, I’m feeling the pull of the warlock” and so I’d run a dungeon or two and accumulate points. Then perhaps the next session when I played the warlock I’d have enough to buy a new piece of gear – incremental measurable progress. I got the good experience of playing the class, and I also felt like my time mattered.

That was what the game lost in Mists and continued to lack in Warlords. Everything was random, it was raid or … raid (or at least it felt like that) and so it lacked replayability. With Mists once I was done with raiding, I was done with the game until something else came along. With Warlords I wasn’t raiding so my main only had “alt access” and it was LFR or random stats and all those affixes and randomness and it was frustrating.

What’s with the gear talk?
I know, it’s super weird to talk about gear accumulation in an expansion where I haven’t cared one iota about it. The point is back in the day gear was the only real measurement of progress. Sure there was trying your luck at random mount drops, but getting another attempt checked off lacks satisfaction.

With Legion gear has decreased in importance because it’s not a barrier to playable content. I can take my alts to the scalable zones and do quests – enjoy the experience of playing and get something for my trouble. Back when playing meant dungeons, there was nothing in the dungeons as a reward, so the reward was currency for gear. Enjoy the playing within the dungeon and then get the points for the time spent.

I guess completing quests have replaced gear as the reward. I never thought I would say that because I loathed quests when I first started playing the game. I didn’t mind questing in Northrend so much but Outland and Vanilla Azeroth? I avoided as much as possible. Blizz have improved questing massively. I used to complain that it felt pointless (and said they should get story tips on how to make you feel important from swtor). Well I don’t know if blizz studied swtor but they have definitely done just that. Questing is 100x better. It’s pretty much all I do these days and I love it.

So classes
I feel like I’m just rambling and not making sense. I could probably boil this entire post down to #AlternativePlaystyles because that’s what it’s really about. Cata allowed people to play alts, Legion allows people to play so many aspects of the game – I love Legion – but Mists and Warlords narrowed everything to raiding hence the lower mark. My main did ok in Mists as I was raiding but the game as a whole suffered.

Cataclysm
– my kitty druid was my favourite alt. I actually considered making it my main for half a minute because it was that much fun. In 4.2 I think it was they nerfed the God-like “emergency tank” which sucked as I loved being able to save the day in dungeons. The dps was still good even though survivability had been crushed and I loved it all through the expansion.

– was it 4.3 that they fiddled with destro-locks significantly in preparation for Mists? I forget, but the warlock became awesome then. Good self-heals, good dps. This was probably my second favourite alt.

Mists of Pandaria
Got to be honest it’s pretty much identical to above except possibly the warlock overtook my druid to be my favourite alt for a short time.

– I enjoyed the aesthetic of Windwalker monks and the roll ability and whoosh/slam movement was good. I wanted to like the class more than I did. I tried Brewmaster and it was ok but not great, but Mistweaver was downright awful. Everybody died if I attempted to heal, it was embarrassing.

– hard to remember but I think out of the 11 classes there were then, 8 of them got to max level (Level 90).

Legion
Skipped Warlords because “everything sucked, the end” isn’t exactly constructive. Plus it’s also not really true as so many of my alts went untouched as I got completely disenchanted with the game on my main. Since then out of the 11 classes that need levelling (Demon Hunters get to 100 from the starting scenario) I have 9 at level 100 or higher which brings us up to date.

Up until I resubbed for Legion I loathed my rogue. I have no real clue how it got to be level 82/83 (it’s hard to remember) but I resolved to level it up for the class quests and I utterly fell in love. Rogues are now awesome. The same can’t be said for warlocks because they now suck and I don’t enjoy the class at all. Druids are fortunately still fantastic so that’s good.

Remember the mage? Well I decided to race-change it and level a new one, then use the 110 boost with BfA from level 60 so I get my professions levelled for me. Newsflash mages are fun again. Not main-level fun but definitely alt-level fun! The new class Demon Hunters seem ok but I haven’t played past the starting area yet so still something of a question-mark.

That question-mark extends to pretty much every class to be honest except Shaman which I have hated since day one and still loathe. That’s level 92, my lowest class, and I want to do the class hall quests but I don’t like playing it. Maybe one day it’ll do a rogue and become good but I would settle for tolerable to be honest. Although I could be being very unfair because of artifacts which (apparently) affect the tuning of some classes more than others. The warlock which I have abandoned in disgust after failing the initial class quests in Legion, that might actually be good if I got it to max level.

The problem is of course enjoying the class enough to get it to 110. Thus far my paladin and my druid are level 110. My rogue is level 104, everything else is level 100 (except the aforementioned shaman and mage).

So in summary
Not all classes are equal. Thus far I’ve established that at this point in time:
– ret paladins (and occasionally prot)
– kitty druids
– outlaw rogues
– fire mages
are all good fun. Which is why I’m levelling a goblin rogue Horde-side, and I’m planning on two Horde druids (as I can’t say no to the troll or zandalari troll forms). I’m also going to level a Lightforged paladin (the lore is too good to refuse) and a Nightborne horde mage.

Levelling is a good chunk of the game now. They’ve added level scaling to the whole game so I can skip zones I don’t enjoy (and skip Outland completely) and with the Cata revamp to Azeroth that removes all the questing that I disliked in the game when I joined. Hence why my opinion on levelling has done a 180.

I want to race change my priest to a Void Elf and level that up for the heritage armour. I haven’t played Priest since Mists (I specced disc back then) and so I have no clue what it will be like. It’s not the levelling that intimidates me this time, it’s the class itself. I established this way back with the endless dungeons in Cata. The content itself is only half the equation, I didn’t get bored of the same dungeons because the experience was different on the different classes. So the quests might be cool now but if the class sucks (like shamans do) then I’ll be in trouble.

Anyway I’m done with the rambling now. Basically it boils down to “let people play the game they want” which is why Legion and Cata win, and Mists and Warlords did not. Raiding isn’t all that. Making the game deeper is best. Like they add the pets to old content – I love that – give me a reason to go different places. Use existing assets, the game is huge and I don’t view it as a cheat because it’s more. Legion delivered a ton and I hope Battle will be the same.

I also hope Battle won’t wreck the four classes I’ve outlined as fun because that will put a spanner in my levelling plans. We shall see on that score. I’ll try not to borrow trouble and be nervous before it happens as it might not. Only time will tell.

1 thought on “Rate the Expansions

  1. Hi Samantha, I was reading through my blogroll and just wanted to say hello. I’m very glad that you are still writing.

    I completely resonate with the idea that not all classes are the same and a different class can completely change the way you experience the content, even if you’ve played it before. I love the shaman, but hate the rogue; I cannot wrap my head around playing a mage, but the warlock seems intuitive and satisfying. Different people, different mindsets, I guess.

    I also have a deep affinity for the paladin.

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