Tobold's Blog
Monday, November 17, 2008
Wrath of the Lich King - The easy expansion?

You might have heard about the world's biggest WoW-braggard getting to level 79 in 13 hours, before being banned for exploiting. Or the guy who then reached level 80 in Wrath of the Lich King in a legit way, in 27 hours. That all was to be expected, after similar stuff happened in The Burning Crusade. But what came as more of a surprise was Nihilum going together with another hardcore raiding guild, forming TwentyFifthNovember, and clearing Naxxramas on heroic difficulty after only 65 hours and 30 minutes. Now their raid progress will have to wait for Blizzard to patch in the harder raid dungeons.

On a more personal level, I noticed that the non-raid PvE content is much easier now too. My level 70 warrior soloed level 77 mobs. My priest made it to level 73 this weekend, and was playing catch-up with his loot: I had already done several dungeons with guild groups that were up to 4 levels too high for us, and carried around several pieces of loot where the level-restriction prevented me from wearing it. I still need one more level before I can wield the staff I found in Drak'Tharon Keep.

So, is Wrath of the Lich King the easy expansion? It certainly seems so right now. But is it too easy? I don't think so. The dungeon runs I did were certainly challenging, with the 5-man bosses having far more "raid-boss-like" abilities, combat in multiple phases, and skill checks. And of course the people I played with were experienced raiders, and wearing TBC epic gear. These dungeons would have been a lot less easy wearing greens.

Naxxramas is only the first raid dungeon. It *should* be easy, even on heroic, so not-Nihilum guilds have a decent shot at it in both 10-man and 25-man mode. The harder stuff will be patched in later. Sorry, TwentyFifthNovember, Blizzard can't design difficulty just for you, they have to design around the majority of players. If that means that raiding isn't just for the elite few any more, but accessible to a much wider audience, so much the better. Well done, Blizzard!
Nihilum/SK's complaint that it's too easy would be far more persuasive if they hadn't spent the last six months practicing the instance. This isn't vanilla, where people went into the dungeons cold and had to learn from scratch. The individuals responsible for these world firsts have done all of the encounters involved several times before.

TwentyFifthNovember already had Naxxramas on farm. This was just the first time that it counted for anything.
Technically, they haven't beaten all the content. One of the bosses can be done multiple ways. Doing it on the hardest setting is an Achievement which awards a special mount.

Similar philosophy as the ZA Bear run.

Once they do that, we can say that NihiliumSK has beaten all the challenges in Wrath. Of course, I don't anticipate that it will take them much longer.
I'm not worried about Naxx being cleared by TwentyFifthNovember. I'm sure most people, myself included, won't see raid content cleared until the next raid instance is introduced.

But I am approaching it from a personal level as well, like your warrior soloing 77 mobs. First instance I went in was Nexus, straight after installing the expansion. Full lvl70 group. Granted, we outgear the instance, we all had T5/6 level gear. But the post 3.0 "pull multiple mobs and aoe them down" tactic still worked for us. I don't even know exactly some of the bosses do, because the tank, who'd seen it before, told us to "just nuke it down" and it worked pretty well.

It's still a little early for me to be worried that it's too easy, but I would be disappointed if we could aoe the trash down in level 80 instances, even in non-heroics.
I like the current level of required skill for raiding. I moved to another server to play with friends who never got to Raid. They never saw Kara until three weeks before WotLK came out.

My goal is to keep them motivated and organized while bringing new players into the fold so we can focus on the 10-man circuit. I should write out a business plan.

Beyond that, I'm making sure that I play through the quest chains that lead to the next instance. I've done Utgard and will be ready for Nexus soon. Hopefully I can wrangle the cats together for a run.
I agree with what you and particularly nachtmusik said. They didn't complete the content in x hours. They completed it in beta. Anyway, good luck to them - just stop whining about lack of content, guys. I'm much more of a slowbie and I'm rather glad the content has scaled down. It makes me more hopeful of enjoying this expansion more than I enjoyed BC.
Part of the problem here is that, in response to all the "gear reset" complaints in TBC, Blizzard lowered the gear increment this time, so that Northrend greens aren't as good as previous epics. The game has to be designed so that people in green gear can eventually get into it, so that makes content easy for those wearing high-end epics.

Wearing less elite gear, even 5-man bosses are reasonably challenging. I've been in several casually equipped UK runs and not one has managed the last boss without a casualty. It may be easy if everyone has high end epics, but that boss's attacks hit pretty hard for a tank in green/blue mix.

This isn't necessarily a bad thing. After all, casuals are the majority of the player base, so making the game fun and challenging for them might be a better business decision than optimising for Nihilum, who will always beat anything you throw at them.
I agree with Tolbold "the voice of raiding reason" regarding difficulty.

Everyone else that has said the instances were easy starts off with "too easy" followed by "we were in t5/t6 gear".

I have done the first two instances with people in all greens and I can tell you they are not so easy, not at all. Certainly not the final bosses. People forget that the first wotlk instances are level 70-72 non heroic.

They *should* be easier than the level 70 heroics, otherwise fresh green geared 70s would not have a chance to do them. They should be slightly harder than the top normal mode BC instances (shadow labs, TK), no more. In my experience with the first two, this had been the case.
It's not that the content's easier, it's that the characters are much more powerful.

I was playing with my regular 4-man instancing group yesterday, who are still on BC content at level 64.

Firstly, we played through Underbog, a level 64 instance - which was trivially easy to the point of being boring. We were pulling two and three groups and having no trouble at all.

Then, we moved on to Auchenai Crypts, previously aimed at about lvl 66 - 67 groups. We cleared it with a single wipe on the end boss - fun, but not too hard.

Jokingly, we decided to try Sethekk Halls - normally about a level 69 or even 70 instance in BC times. We downed the first boss (lvl 69) before time meant we had to stop - but we were pretty confident we could clear the instance.

We've been seeing this pattern over and over - a well-organised level 64 group will have to go to 69-level content before it becomes a challenge.

I'm very interested to see how much of a speedbump we hit in Northrend.
Compare this to the reports from the cutting-edge raiding guilds after the launch of TBC: broken bosses, unlootable bosses, hilariously crappy drops, hopeless attunement schemes... Sounds like blizzard did a much better job this time around!
Yeah the gear turn around is not near as bad as it was in TBC. Im in a combo of T4 with a couple T5 trinkets, and the badge loot from the Isle vendor and so far only replaced a couple rings on my Feral Druid. We ran UK last night and blew through it the first time (everyone similarly geared as I am) ran it a second time and for some reason the last boss kicked are arse two times before we dropped him again. For the trash the pull and AoE works for epic geared people I think for someone in all greens it's definately going to be harder, and the last boss at least will cause issues I think. The whole run took less than an hour, I had fun felt like I was doing something and the experience rewarded for mobs seems to be increased. I was getting 1300-2600XP depending on the mob without a rested bonus. So it finally seems like instances are worth hitting again to level and not just get loot.

Another thing about these guys taking down Naxx, it wasn't just practicing in Beta, these encounters have been in the game for a while so the strategies needed are readily available.
Blizzard has found a nice little balance between making raids accessible, and giving the top guilds a challenge. There are special achievements for finishing a 10 man raid with only 8 people, and a 25 man raid with only 20 people. Add in things like the ZA timed event, and you can keep a broad cross-section of raiders happy.
Run 5 mans that are outside of your level range for a fun challenge. I did Gundrak with a 73-75 group (mobs are around 77) and it was insane amounts of fun. I can't remember having to use battle rez's and ankhs and bloodlusts just to get through 5 man content.

Also someone at Blizzard is finally paying attention and having 5 man bosses/trash use raid style mechanics. (Have to move out of fire/voids/green-stuff.)

As to Naxx being too hard/easy it is clearly designed to be an entry level raid. They said from the start that it would be so no surprises that the hardcore of the hardcore flew through it.
Checked this morning on WoWCensus. Taking only 70+ levels, the average level is around 74 - which has to include rerolls of course. Levels 74-75 are what you can achieve spending your time in solo quests and instances for the whole week end (I know, I am a healer, so I am slower than most classes).

I think you are right Tobold: what Blizzard has in mind is an easy entry level for 10/25 raids, and this is good news for the majority of the player base.

Nihilum/SK will have to get over it: that game is not for them any more. The fact that it is possible for 25 people in T6 to level up and clear the first raid instance in three days does not mean that the difficulty level should be set again to where it is difficult for THEM... but rather, achievable for us :)

Blizzard got it better with TBC than with original WoW: I think most raiding guilds saw Sunwell (even if that was at the end, in easy mode), whereas almost nobody had cleared Naxx/AQ40 (which is why Naxx reappears now)...

Also, there is a very interesting trend with achievements, where your "main" character takes real precedence over rerolls, and gives you a lot of other things to do at max level than raiding... probably Blizzard saw that however fast they could create new raids, some 100% dedicated guilds would clear the content as soon as it got out (unless they set up some kind of crazy Black Temple attunement chart again, which discourages everybody else in the player base).

I agree to Brohuld and nachtmusik. The hardcore raiders will probably be disappointed with this expansion. But everyone else... wait. We have been spoon fed T5/badge gear during TBC, even more so in the last few weeks after 3.0.2.

I cannot think of any good reason why the PvE environment needs to be that easy. Yes, even people that just hit 70 two-three days ago can do fine in Northrend. And what is even funnier, till level 74 a priest who just got 70 a day before could not find a real upgrade to his gear till he got a very nice staff in Drak'Tharon Keep.

The quests and zones are well designed and fun. There could be some more dungeons, but this might be part of the strategy to make people play together. But they are all very short and usually very easy.

I think they did a great job on making things more accessible, but the world needs more oldstyle badass Hoggers to be cool, not only farm status trashmobs.
I do think the 5 mans are too easy. At 71/2 we could do all the instances up to the level 78 (I forget the name of it, but had the snake boss first thing). Crow control? No need for it any of them. Wipes? None. BC that never happened, there were some slight challenges to regular instances but right now there's none at all.
And they hand out more AoE to Rogues and also plan to do so for Ferals. Because this game becomes a casual AoE grindfest. I have really SERIOUS doubts about the longevity and lasting value of WOTLK content. I will train a brain-dead monkey to do heroic instance farming for me or just stop playing for a while.
So long hardcore PvE raiders. (Including me)
I expect my guild to have all Wrath content down in the next 2 weeks max. Most of us hit 80 Tuesday 11/18/08 & ran some heroics. We did Aspects 10 man without killing adds last night & Naxx 10 man cleared Wednesday evening. I'm MT & before we did the 10 mans I had two T6 pieces, dungeon blues, & 1 heroic epic piece. LOL.

This game is now tailored to accommodate the Casual Player, and I'm PISSED. I want longevity in my MMO, something I can waste my time on for months. World of Warcraft is not this game AT ALL anymore.

*Is a Sad Panda*
I don't think that the game is geared just to the "casual player". I help run a guild of working adults that was well into Sunwell pre-nerf. We scheduled our first 25 man raid one month after release to give people plenty of time to level, and see the level 80 content before we start our normal raid schedule up.

If you think the zones are too easy, and you are a super leet "hard core" raider, then why have you only cleared 10 mans, and not the 25 man versions? If you want to blow through content, that's your problem. Personally, I think it's better to let people enjoy the journey. If all you are getting out of WoW is the "leet" raiding content, then you are frankly not getting your monies worth anyhow. They have added so many new things that are both fun and interesting.

Additionally, if you have just done "one heroic" you have clearly not started your faction grinds for helm enchants and upgrades. Nor have you started your Sons of Hodir faction line for your shoulder enchants, that "leet, ultra hardcore" raiders would want to assist with their swift progression.

Either take advantage of what the game has to offer in addition to the raid environment...which you've not come close to completing yet, or just stop complaining as you charge through everything and wait for the new content to emerge.

I was one of the first 80's on my server, and I am still enjoying 3 unfinished questing zones, heroics, the fantastic lore that Blizzard added to this expansion, and I'm looking forward to our first 10 man venture tonight.

Blizzard put the longevity in the game for you, you are just too ignorant to notice that it's there.
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