One faithful day, I was sitting at my desk writing about how EA is taking advantage of their players when there was a knock at the door. I got up to find my ex, World of Warcraft, at the door.
“Hi Craig,” she smiled, “I just came to tell you about my new expansion Battle for Azeroth. Sounds exciting right? Why don’t you pre-order it, renew your subscription, and play with me. You can work to unlock the Highmountain Taurens and Nightborne with me?”
“Ummm…” I stumbled, “I am kinda busy right now. Playing some small indie games. Maybe if you come back after the expansion is out, I might have more free time to play with you.”
“Ok,” she said sounding disappointed, “I’ll just sit right here and remind you about it with ads all over the internet!!!”
A little desperate, I thought, as I closed the door. My history with World of Warcraft is checkered at best. I met her in high school and she came with me to college. I probably spent too much time with her in college. Constantly teased with thoughts of dethroning the famed Lich King, World of Warcraft, always kept me at the end of her rope. Constantly tempting me as long as I kept up the grind. She just loved to see me grind out quests, dungeons, reputation, and professions. It was a bit of her fetish. I’d get home from class and she is there tempting me. Just one more dungeon. Just one more set of daily quests. Even when I had important exams, she would just sit there with a sad look on her face as I tried to study.
She soon came to me with a new expansion, Cataclysm, boasting a massive evil dragon to slay. She even thought it would be funny to have that dragon randomly kill me while I was out questing. Cute, I thought. I soon entered what I called “the MMO down spiral.” She convinced me to join a raiding guild (phase one of the MMO down spiral). Soon, I was spending less time playing with friends and more time preparing for raids. Then, one day I had an epiphany: despite being one of the best healers in my raid guild, I wasn’t having fun anymore (phase two of the MMO down spiral). I joined a friends and family guild and tried to hold together a raid group (phase three). I tired with all my might to make it work. We went back and did raids I had already completed in an attempt to catch everyone up, but it never worked out. While everyone gave a solid effort, it was too relaxed to make the progress I was hoping for. I was burning out and fast. As I sat on my bed trying to figure out what to do, World of Warcraft only could offer one piece of advice: leave and join a raiding guild. She wanted me to repeat the cycle. She wanted the grind to continue. She was intoxicated by it. Like an alcoholic discovering his disease, I knew I had to quit cold turkey. I left World of Warcraft and never looked back.
A few years later, I started talking to World of Warcraft’s mother, Warcraft 3. She reminded me of all the things I loved about World of Warcraft: the world-building, characters, the lore, and the story. I soon realized I didn’t appreciate World of Warcraft for all of those things. With my only goal of being the best healer on the server, I didn’t realize I was missing all the small details. I soon began to miss her. I decide to pick up her novels like World of Warcraft: Arthas: Rise of the Lich King and World of Warcraft: War Crimes. I was arrested by the stories, the characters, and the worlds. I became obsessed with Warcraft lore. Then one day, like any other bad ex, she came crawling back.
I opened my door to see World of Warcraft standing there with a playful grin.
“Hey you,” she smiled, “I heard you have been reading my books.”
“I have,” I said trying to determine what she wanted, “am I not allowed to do some causal reading?”
“You can read whatever you want.” she said cheekily, “I heard you have become a big fan of Illidan Stormrage.”
“I just don’t think he got the story he deserved. He only wanted to save his people and by making a difficult choice, he was painted as the villain. Tragic isn’t it.”
“I quite agree,” she stated, “Let me make it up to you. Let me amend Illidan’s story. The Legion can return and Illidan can be their only hope of defeating them. He needs followers… I could let you play as one.”
The offer was so tempting. I gathered up some friends together in an attempt to get the band back together. We soon began to aid Illidan and the Horde in the fight against the Legion. My friends and I were given someone iconic weapons ranging from Doomhammer, to Ashbringer and the Twinblade of the Deceiver. Weapons that have so much history behind them, given to us because we are the heroes of the story. Along with that, we could customize the weapons based on achievements we had met. World of Warcraft even created what was called mythic dungeons, designed to be almost as challenging as the raids, but only needing five people. An awesome way to provide content to groups lacking numbers, which the band certainly was. While my relationship with World of Warcraft felt fresher than it had even been, the romance wasn’t destined to last. She soon turned back to her old grinding fetishes. Continually asked me to grind for artifact power to amplify our weapons power. The magic faded and I walked away from the relationship.
Now she continually knocks on my door, giving me small bits of the story trying to excite me. One day, she knocked door exciting yelling Sylvanas burned down Teldrassil, a home to the Night Elves.
“Sounds like your making Sylvanas into a second Garrosh,” I said with a disappointed tone.
“SHE NOT LIKE GARROSH,” she snapped back.
“Garrosh attacked Theramore,” I said with an air of smugness, “Sylvanas is attacking Teldrassil. Sounds pretty similar.”
“Well looks like your going to have to play Battle for Azeroth to find out,” she teased. She had me. She knew that I couldn’t pass a good story, and Sylvanas attacking Teldrassil was the most interesting the story had been in a while. Despite my hatred for expansions built around the Horde and the Alliance fighting, I had to give it a try.
“Ok World of Warcraft, what do you got for me,” I said with genuine excitement. She tasked me with defending the Undercity from an invading Alliance force. With aid from a magical flying ship piloted by Jaina Proudmoore, we are over run until Sylvanas begins to raise the dead soldiers. Before I was able to come up with my personal theory of Sylvanas being controlled by some form of the Lich King, we escape the Undercity with poisonous gas engulfing the city.
“Exciting, what’s next?” I asked.
“I am going to need your artifact weapons back,” she said softly.
“Well, not this second, but you’re not going to be powering up your weapons. You be powering up this neck piece.”
She presented a rather plain looking neck piece. Make a big song and dance over it.
“Couldn’t we just power up our weapons instead?”
“What?” she asked, “you don’t like the new neck piece?”
“It is nice,” I stumbled to say, “but carrying around the TWINBLADES OF THE DECEIVER is much cooler than this ‘Heart of Azeroth’. These weapons are iconic surely they would never be matched by any other weapon.”
“But Craig,” she cried, “I wanted to smooth out the power curve. Also, I made a whole bunch of new axes and fist weapons for you to use. It would be a waste if you ran around with old expansion gear.”
“I am sure none of these weapons will match,” I whispered.
“What did you say?” she asked.
“Good,” she replied, “Now off to Zandalari.”
After a daring rescue of a Zandalari princess and prophet, we were shipped off to the legendary city to help battle the old God, G’huun attempting to take over the city. At first, I found Zandalari a bit unsettling. It had Aztec structures, trolls with Jamaican accents, and a culture reassembling Marvel’s Wakanda. It seemed to artificially stitched together. I shortly put it all the side as I jumped off the top of the highest pyramid and glided down to the first set of quests. It wasn’t before long before I was racing through the story missions. Being a demon hunter I was a bit of a border collie, dashing around, gathering up enemies only for me to AOE them down with Eye Beams, Death Sweeps and Blade Dances. It was exhilarating. While I did enjoy learning how bad the old God corruption was, breaking up with missions to set up bases to help the war which continued to loom in the background, didn’t let the quests in Zandalari get old.
After helping the Zandalari king regain control over his empire, I was praised as the hero of the Horde, and told the war effort must continue. We made way to Kul’tiras, the island that the Alliance had made a base at in order to convince their people of joining the Alliance. We take out a Kul’tiras captain in order to gain more information on the Alliance, but just before we bring her to life as an undead Forsaken, the leader of the war efforts Nathanos Brigthcaller stops me. Says I, the Champion of the Horde, the demon hunter who gained the trust of the Zandalari, are not trustworthy enough to see what happens next. I turn to World of Warcraft to see the twisted smile on her face. This only means one thing: time to grind World quests.
Annoyed, I set out to quickly gain the reputation I needed to press forward with the story. So goes the adventure of the world’s most efficient sheepdog, I thought. I quickly gather up three minions only for them to grind me into paste real fast. I turn to World of Warcraft to see her giggling up a storm.
“What did you think you can wipe through these world quest as fast as the leveling quest,” she asked?
“Yea,” I said patience growing thin, “I was having fun herding these monsters around.”
“Well,” she said sly, “if you blitz through all the content you won’t have things to do months down the road.”
With a stunned look on my face, I slowly painfully fought each individual enemy one at a time. A few minutes later, I completed the quest only to get a drop of experience when I required an ocean of experience. The steep grind hit me like I just ran into a wall.
I turned to World of Warcraft and yelled, “YOU'RE LOCKING STORY MISSIONS BEHIND THE GRIND!”
“Of course,” she said with lust in her eyes, “how else will I keep you on the treadmill.”
At that moment, the rage left me as I realized that maybe World of Warcraft and I were just not meant to be. Like many relationships, they are just not meant to last all your lifetime. At that moment, World of Warcraft transformed from the beautiful girl she was to the box of the newest expansion, and I was at peace.
While I have small fanboy nitpicks over Battle for Azeroth, it is genuinely very similar to Legion expansion, and that is perfectly fine. The questing, the dungeons, and the raiding, it is still all as good as it has ever been, and if that is what you are looking for you could certainly do a lot worse. For me, I am not looking for something to chew up my time. The more I play Battle for Azeroth, the more I realize I play game that marriage of gameplay and story. While Battle for Azeroth does do that, I don’t want it to drip fed over months, I want it over a couple days to a week. I have loved watching characters like Bwonsamdi scheme in the background and Jaina finally have the weight of her guilt lifted off her, but in all honesty, it is not you, World of Warcraft, it is me. I will always appreciate the time we had together and continue reading your novels, but it is time to go our separate ways. I do hope that girl does find someone who loves her for who she is. I sure she will.