I Forgot To Shower While Playing Battle For Azeroth
Beef-stick wrappers, two-ply paper towels, and a sticky beer can with fruit flies dancing on the rim. These were my high ilvl items while raiding Uldir in World of Warcraft: Battle for Azeroth. What a long disgusting trip it’s been. In the aftermath I feel squalid, having lived as a scavenger at the outskirts of civilization trying to remember what it is to think with a frontal lobe. But that was then, this is now. I’m happy to report bathing is once again part of my routine. And now that I’ve kicked the junk it’s time for reflection. To ask these baggy eyes staring back, “What was that?”
Let’s start with the practical bad. Why not? People love to cheer for a noose around the titan’s neck.
In many respects BFA is a C- effort. The blood clots are well known: a deflated armoring system, lazy and repetitive world quests, and island expeditions that make swashbuckling adventure feel like a “Selling is Service: Work Training Video.” Warfronts, the expansion’s chief selling point, are stagnant enough to mate with your monitor and breed malaria. Common consensus declares that Blizzard screwed up. And the billion dollar conglomerate seems to kind-of get that—or they will when subscriptions drop.
Seems I’m waving a bright red flag printed with “Do Not Play.” What kept me going?
Here comes the age-old answer: Friendship.
Yes, yes I can hear your groans: the proud disdain that cringes at the merest hint of platitude. Well, you can eat shit. Because MMORPGs are rarely about the game. Instead, gameplay is a medium for socializing. Think of a river. The channel—the mud and dirt that’s been pushed out by time—is World of Warcraft, and the flowing water is relationships. If done right water carves the channel ever more deeply until it’s flourishing with life. Unfortunately, MMORPGs typically turn into the Ganges.
But before garbage-clogged the shore with two-penny junk BFA was all we talked about, even though it’s largely a solo experience. We were swimming in the same gravity well, enjoying the planet with the delight of Sagan.
So, on to the good.
Tidy zones invited exploration and comparison. Fleshed out enough and different enough to earn their identities. We laughed at the brain-dead leveling and wished for brain-death picking up hyena-droppings. And the world shivers with cosmic horrors; its portents of the unknown that keep you wondering what comes next.
The dungeons rallied our enthusiasm. They’re carefully designed. With distinct themes, like Waycrest Manor’s spooky horror house or Shrine of the Storm’s calls to Cthulhu. And the music... Somehow WoW is one of the only MMOs with a charming soundtrack. Probably because Blizzard can afford it without showering all their capital on a Hans Zimmer-like orchestrator.
Most interesting? Blizzard’s advanced AI. Probably the only noteworthy aspect of island expeditions. The possibilities! It’s an underappreciated feature that deserves its own article armchairing possibilities.
But the most entertaining part of the experience was, again, our conversation. We debated what was wrong and what was right. The missed opportunities. What could be done to patch the mess, and what the hell were they thinking with these turtle quests? Both the good and the bad bound us. The problem was that with each crack the amateur-hour clock struck ever more loudly. What started as music turned into white noise.
That doesn’t mean I hate BFA now. Nor, is Vanilla teasing me with 3 AM text message like a desperate ex. In fact, I’m impressed Blizzard still plans to release Legacy, after all the gloating I’ve done, but I’m not bashing BFA in favor of the old-school cutthroat grind. Two different games. Two different times. Three different thoughts.
All it is, is I’m burnt. The flame wanes. And right now beating every Mega Man title smells sweeter than the corridors of a Mythic 10+ dungeon. But I’m happy to be burned because it’s left a scar. And scars tell stories.
Despite the pop culture perversion of nostalgia the sensation of a longing for the past has a proper place. As a means to reinvigorate shared bonds. In a year some spark will ignite the summer of 2018 when we checked out of life and into the World of Warcraft one more time.