Today we finished the Challenge Mode feature of World of Warcraft. WOW has been around for an awfully long time now and its quality ebbs and flows. Some of the ideas are pretty darn good (Challenge Modes) and some are absolutely terrible (Legendary Cloak Quest). It leaves the review of the game as a whole incredibly difficult but each individual piece of it can be more easily targeted and pieced apart.
Challenge mode isn’t perfect, not by any stretch of the imagination, but as a first pass of a new idea its done quite well. The basic premise is that you must complete each of the heroic dungeons in Mists of Panadaria with depreciated gear, super powerful baddies, and a very very strict timer. We are talking about a single mistake and you might be done. These mistakes don’t even need to be your own either, the game itself can goof and you are proper fucked. That’s where we’ll start actually.
CM requires that the game be perfectly balanced, no latency, and that all the AI act properly. But this is just not the state that WOW is in, it isn’t the state it was at a launch, and likely won’t be the state it’ll be in on its dying days sometime long in the future. WOW is always under development and a lot of the changes fix a few problems while adding dozens more. It’s a massive game and this is to be expected. However when you sometimes have 5-10 seconds of mistake leeway a mob seeing through a wall, getting stuck in a wall, teleporting, or even becoming immortal is just not acceptable. I, for instance, had my Misdirection suddenly stop working. It just stayed greyed out forever. Sure you can fix this (by dying twice, once to turn the button on and a second time to reset the skill or by resetting your game) this shouldn’t happen in the first place.
Because of this you’ll have some of your CMs that are going swimmingly fall apart in the last minute of a 12-20 minute event. That’s upwards of a half hour of your life lost because of a bug with the game itself. This sort of problem could be avoided with the simple addition of a checkpoint system. Our team’s progress on each CM was relatively constant, if we did section A quickly we did it quickly each time. This meant that we had to parrot the same actions, over and over, because of a single part that was sticking us. Having the checkpoint system save both your position (at certain places, probably after bosses) and at the exact time that was on the clock at that point means that people progress better and those errors in game design end up not having a huge impact.
Additionally having it reset completely if the party disbands will incentivize people to stick together and tough it out. I was lucky because our group was pretty baller, everyone was nice and we took failure with relative ease. But if you were in a group with PVP players you are likely to get railed because of the lack of a checkpoint system. Now that isn’t to say this whole thing is a bust, as I’ve already spoiled I think that the progression you get in CM is smooth enough to not be terrible. It’s not like the legendary cloak quest which was so bad it should have gotten someone reprimanded at the company.
No this is something to build on. With some small improvements this could become one of the coolest additions in the game, possibly ever. It teaches people the importance of invisibility potions, DPS rotations, crowd control, damage mitigation, and basically everything else that makes an MMO more than just a click fest. It becomes something genuinely interesting and engaging. At no point is there incentive in CM to be a complete cockbag, which is rare in the world of…well Warcraft. Often it feels like the developers were trying to cater to the darkest sides of humanity with decisions that necessitate being an asshole, the fact that that is completely absent here is lovely.
The difficulty curve of the Challenge modes is awfully peculiar. Some of them a marginally adequate team will get on the very first try, others are so incredibly hard that a single sneeze could be the difference between success and cataclysmic failure. I feel like there were perhaps 2-3 teams (or 2-3 people) working on this project. It has a feel about it that suggests to me it wasn’t all done by the same collective hive mind. That’s fine, but it also means that someone on the team was a bit more of a masochist. A few of the dungeons got awfully stressful and not in the good way.
Another problem is the finicky nature of the reset system. If you reset and some people are outside of the dungeon for any reason (like dying) they will not reset and their potions will still be on cool down. Are you a class that has a pet? Well go eat a rock because you are going to have to resummon them every-single-time there is a reset. It’s frustrating and tedious. These problems aren’t enough to make the entire thing shit but they certainly put a little bit of shit on the otherwise lovely meal.
And I’m sure most people would consider a little bit of poop enough poop to ruin a meal. This however was a special exception for me, these problems weren’t enough to make it utterly worthless and quite the contrary I’m somewhat almost possibly fond of it. I won’t be even contemplating doing it again for a solid couple weeks, but it is not an experience that I regret.
Unlike the Legendary Cloak Quest, honestly, fuck that thing.
- What I liked.
- Well designed to not necessitate being an asshole to succeed.
- Helps you to learn your class better and even the mechanics of WOW itself.
- It actually feels good and progress is not at a snails pace.
- No damage to gear on death.
- What I disliked.
- Success can be limited by the games quality rather than your own skill.
- Some of the challenges are astoundingly easier with certain classes on your team, not really a fair ground for all classes.
- No checkpoints, leads to some really frustrating problems with the top negative in mind.
- Pets vanish after a CM reset.