Monday, February 12, 2007
Aldor vs. Scryers
Outland, the new World of Warcraft continent introduced in the Burning Crusade expansion, has only one major city: Shattrath. Two warring factions live in this city, the Aldor and the Scryers. You can gain reputation with either faction, but whenever you gain faction with one of them, you lose even more with the other. Thus you have to decide which side you want to go for if you want to attain the faction reputation rewards, which include gear, "inscriptions" (a kind of enchants), and crafting recipes. Woot, choice!
So you look at the comparative faction rewards tables at WoWWiki or read the guide at Tentonhammer to decide which faction would be better for your character. But after much deliberation you will find that your choice doesn’t really matter, the rewards are pretty much equivalent. For example both factions give an inscription for healers that gives a bonus to healing and mana regeneration. One faction has a slightly higher healing bonus and lower regeneration; the other faction has a slightly higher mana regeneration and lower healing bonus. In jewelcrafting recipes one faction gives a +spell damage gem recipe, the other a +spell critical gem recipe, which ends up doing nearly the same thing.
Do you know how I ended up deciding for one of the factions? I noticed that the only inns in Shattrath are with the two factions, so every time you hearthstone back to the city you arrive either on the Aldor or the Scryers rise, chosing preferably the one of "your" faction. The rises are connected to the remainder of the city with lifts. But the Scryers rise is lower than the Aldor rise, and if you jump down the Scryers lift at full health you won’t die, while jumping down the Aldor lift shaft will kill you. So I went for the Scryers' faction, because it saves me a few seconds of waiting for the lift every time I go there. This is how trivial your choice is.
Having a further look around Outland I noticed how sickeningly symmetrical it is. The Alliance and Horde have the exact same number of outposts and flying points in every zone. Even the quests are often symmetrical. For example behind Thrallmar, the Horde outpost in Hellfire Peninsula, there is a mine filled with demon miners and succubi. Behind Honor Hold, the Alliance outpost in the same zone, there is a mine filled with, you guessed it, demon miners and succubi. I happened to have both a Horde and an Alliance level 60 priest at the start of the Burning Crusade; now I find that there is no reason whatsoever to play the Alliance priest, it will just be the same as playing the Horde priest.
Symmetry is the major feature of the Burning Crusade: Horde gets paladins, Alliance gets shamans. Horde gets pretty elves, Alliance gets monstrous looking Draenei from outer space. In the Caverns of Time both factions rescue Thrall. The Horde quests have you rescue and help exactly the same way as Alliance quests, there are fewer quests that have you do “evil” things in Outland than in the old world. The notion that Horde is evil is becoming increasingly ridiculous. Choosing a side is not a moral or gameplay choice, it is as trivial as choosing to play red or blue in a board game.
Making the game more symmetrical, making Horde more similar to Alliance, and Scryers the same as Aldor, is an obvious reaction from Blizzard to the previous population imbalances between Alliance and Horde (which unfortunately still remain as an artifact from the past). But instead of making factions different but equally good, they went for the much simpler solution of making them nearly the same. But that also removes all real choice, and that is a very bad thing.