Tuesday, October 21, 2008
WoW Inscription Review
As you all should know by now, I love tradeskills in MMORPGs. So the new inscription craft in World of Warcraft was the most interesting part of patch 3.0.2 for me. After leveling it up to over 350, and learning all the recipes available from the trainer, plus a few others by research, these are my impressions of this new trade:
Inscription is a relatively simple trade, best combined with the herbalism gathering skill. You "mill" stacks of 5 herbs into pigments, turn the pigments into ink, and add some parchment to create mostly glyphs, plus a few other scrolls and off-hand items. You don't need any loot drop or crafted trade goods for inscription right now, just the herbs you can gather and parchments from an NPC vendor. This is spiced up a bit by "rare" pigments, but in reality these are more "uncommon" than rare, and aren't used for glyphs, which are the main product of the craft. They are great for skilling up, but the tarot cards and off-hand items you can make from them are mostly useless, and only the one rare pigment needed to make one type of vellums for enchanters is really useful. Sidenote: Inscription produces armor vellum and weapon vellum, which can be enchanted like armor or weapon, and results in a scroll of enchantment, which can be sold and applied by someone to his weapon or armor. If you already have an alchemist / herbalist, you might consider combining inscription with enchanting on another character. Other enchanters will have to buy the vellums on the AH. In any case this is a great improvement of the enchanting skill.
But as I said, the main product of inscription are glyphs, of which there are two types: Major glyphs and minor glyphs. Major glyphs modify one of your more essential spells or abilities. Many give a flat-out bonus, like 20% more effect to Ice/Frost Armor, or adding a heal effect to Power Word: Shield. Other major glyphs change the nature of a spell, like the glyph of Frostbolt giving 5% added damage, but removing the slow effect, which would be useful in a raid (where the slow doesn't work anyway), but bad for soloing. Minor glyphs are often mainly cosmetic. For example the glyph of the penguin turns people you polymorph into penguins instead of sheep. There are also minor glyphs that remove the material component of spells like levitate or slow fall, or that make your buffs cost 50% less mana. Characters get more and more slots for major and minor glyphs during their career; at level 70 they have space for 2 major and 3 minor, at level 80 they get another major, for a total of 3 and 3. The glyph page is a tab in your "spellbook" you open by pressing "P". To enter the glyphs in those slots, you need to stand near a "Lexicon of Power", which are placed next to the inscription trainers. Just ask a guard if you can't find them.
One great innovation hidden in the inscription profession is the way the recipes are learned. As far as I know, and only valid up to now, there are no loot drop recipes. Loot drop recipes ruined some other professions for me, because I can't go raiding with all of my characters, and grinding the same dungeon over and over for a 1% drop chance recipe doesn't appeal to me anyway. Up to now all the major glyph recipes are gained from the trainer. All the minor glyph recipes are gained by a completely new method: Research. You get a minor research recipe early in your career, with a 20-hour cooldown, using cheap materials. The recipe produces a random stat boost scroll, plus you learn a random minor glyph recipe. If I understood it right, the recipe you learn is completely random, and if you'd learn one you already have, the research "fails", yielding you nothing for that day. Getting all the minor glyph recipes together is going to take months, with no way to speed it up, except log on every day. Great lure to keep people logging in, and in my opinion a much, much better way to learn recipes than the loot drop or alchemy random discovery way.
So, should you learn inscription? The big question behind that is what other profession to give up to learn the new one. Frankly, I'd only do it you have a character where you are unhappy with his current profession. For example I learned inscription on my mage, dropping enchanting because I didn't have any of the good recipes anyway. It is true that I made a small fortune with inscription in the last days, but that was due to two factors: Everyone is buying his first glyphs, and I had enough herbs in stock to skill up and make glyphs. Herb prices on the auction house are crazy right now, so buying herbs to learn inscription would cost you thousands of gold. And I'm pretty certain that the prices for glyphs will stabilize at an affordable level. The main problem with inscription is that there will be little repeat custom. Most people will buy 3 minor and 3 major glyphs, install them, and forget about them. Only very few hardcore players will switch out glyphs on a regular basis, putting in "raid glyphs" or "PvP glyphs" for different modes of gameplay.
The main weakness of the inscription profession is that glyphs aren't terribly well balanced. Some glyphs simply don't sell at all, because others are just downright better. You can only put three major glyphs at level 80, and you'll want those to boost the spells and abilities you use the most. Even allowing for the possibility of different specs, and different play styles, that still leaves a good number of glyphs that simply don't make the cut. And I think Blizzard is aware of that, and is already talking about changing a lot of glyphs in the 3.0.3 patch, still coming out before Wrath of the Lich King. And then of course WotLK will allow us to skill up from 375 to 450, adding more recipes for glyphs. There are several rumors surrounding the future of inscription, like the self-only shoulder enchants replacing the previously planned bonus glyph slot. And some people speculate on glyph combos, which would activate if you put in certain combinations of glyphs. But I'd wait for Wrath of the Lich King to really come out before believing any of this, betas and rumors change all the time.
In summary, inscription is fun enough as profession. It appears to be especially suited as "crafting lite" for alts, for example Death Knights, as you don't need to visit specific dungeons to find the recipes (unless that changes with WotLK). Inscription will probably not be a huge money-maker once the initial excitement cools down, but it is useful enough, and low maintenance.