Here in Oklahoma it has been insanely hot and by Thursday it is supposed to be in temperatures over 107F. As a result, I have been actively trying to avoid leaving the comfort of air conditioning. This meant that this last weekend, I spent the vast majority of it logged into Argent Dawn in World of Warcraft. The game still has a pretty firm resurgent hold on me.
Am I Really Back?
Honestly at this point I am still not 100% sure if I am really back, but I have moved from seven days of free time to actually paying for the first month. I had planned on doing this anyway, just to make sure my friend got his mount, but I have to say I am already finding myself making plans for the future. Right now I have a stable of sub 85s, and I admit I am looking forward to leveling them.
I spent the largest portion of the weekend working on Exeter, my Paladin. This was actually my very first character in World of Warcraft, and I had grand ideals about playing it as a main. Due to not being able to keep up with my friends, and the failings of protection paladins early on in vanilla, this never quite panned out. But nonetheless the character has always had a special place for me.
When I last played the character over a year and a half ago, I had just started on Vashj’ir and decided to swap from Retribution as I played in Wrath, to full on protection. With some minimal ability swapping, I was able to pick up the character pretty quickly and continue on questing. I have to say the Cataclysm Tankadin is a blast to play. I have given paladins crap over the years, even on this blog, but the gameplay is extremely infectious.
Over the course of the weekend I finished Vashji’r, quested through Hyjal, mined my way across Deepholme and finally reached 85 while doing the first few quest chains of Uldum. I have no clue how many actual hours of play it took me, but with all the perks granted by a level 25 guild, it seemed like it just flew by. Instead of watching my xp bar I found myself just following along the quests, and before I knew it I had hit the cap.
While I have complained about “kill ten” quests before, I have come to realize that at the end of the day I really do prefer them. Having a traditional questing structure gives me a sense of purpose as I check things off my list. When I have played more open ended games, like Guild Wars 2, I have felt like everything I did lacked that same sense of purpose. As much as I had complained about the disconnected feeling of Cataclysm, the quest flow is pretty nice and has enough other kinds of quests to break the monotony of the kill tasks.
Grouping Should Be Fun
When I left WoW originally it changed my game play deeply. I went from being the center of each group as the main tank, to actively avoiding grouping all together. I had developed a phobia of being needed at all, since I had spent the previous seven years responsible for the happiness of so many others. I grouped when I absolutely had to, but the rest of the time I was off by myself and seemingly happy.
With the release of SWTOR, I gave grouping another try. However choosing to level as a dedicated duo, left me feeling chained to having to play whenever someone else was online. When it came time to run flashpoints, I just found them not as much fun as I remembered dungeons being. I think in part, I just didn’t like the design of the Star Wars hard modes. I don’t mind hard encounters, but I have always felt that they should be an endurance game, not twitch reflexes.
Many of the SWTOR hard mode flashpoints, just felt cheap and irrationally punishing. Colonel Daksh in Maelstrom Prison for example, goes into this phase where you have to avoid getting in line of sight of him. Essentially 2 or 3 times per fight, everyone in the group has to do an intricate dance avoiding being seen. If you are seen at all, it is essentially a one shot death. If you aren’t dpsing him fast enough, you also die from the incredibly short enrage timer. As we wiped over and over to one thing or another, the attempts just ceased to be enjoyable, and given time flashpoints were just something I completely avoided.
Remembering It Can Be
Thanks to the coaxing of my friend, coming back to WoW I have been grouping again. I eased into it by duoing some old raids, until I built back up my tanking ability to some extent. Once I got back into the swing of a heroic, including the “new to me” hour of twilight five mans, it felt like coming home. Unfortunately it seems like we can only muster full guild groups on Friday or Saturday nights. But those last few nights, have been some of the most enjoyable gameplay I have experienced in years.
Friday night we gathered up to work on various achievements, that each of us had outstanding. We knocked out a couple still remaining from the Icecrown five mans, and then moved on to the redesigned Zul’Gurub. ZG has always been one of my favorite places in Azeroth, and in vanilla I spent hour after hour there both tanking and healing it. When I heard they were removing the raid and making it a heroic, I was extremely disappointed. However, considering they went from a raid to a five man, they’ve done the zone justice. While none of the fights are exactly the same, they each feel very similar in nature and still have a very epic feeling to them.
In an hours time, we had knocked out every available Zul’Gurub achievement. While there really wasn’t much in the way of gear upgrades for anyone involved, we had a complete blast doing it. I am remembering the side of gaming I used to love so much, but the circumstance of having to be both guild and raid leader robbed me of. Running around with my friends taking down baddies, has re-awoken a piece of my inner child I thought was too jaded to ever feel this way again.
Well Rested Return
One of friends, mused that I just needed some time away from the game to get my perspective. I think that honestly might be the case. Too much frustration had built up, over too many things not directly related to gameplay. Coming back now, I have a new pair of rose colored lenses and my buffer of bullshit has been emptied out. I never thought it would be WoW I was returning to however. I really thought with my recent return to Rift, that it would be the one that held my attention. As much crap as we have all said about “pandas and pokemon”, I think the upcoming expansion will breathe some life back into the game. I just hope that my return, others will be willing to give it a fresh start as well.