I’ve been quite critical of BfA for a few posts now, and I think it’s fair to discuss what has been improved.
It has been a very long time since there was a clear split between Alliance and Horde experiences. WoD had a slightly different story, but they shared everything but the starting zone. Cataclysm probably did the most here as it re-wrote most of the starting experience.
BfA has two completely separate leveling experiences both in story and in tone. While mechanically similar, it seems like 2 separate games that eventually meet up.
There are three bits here: the small moments, the patch arcs, and then the expansion arc. There are many small bits that work well, with excellent tone and pathos. Syp had mentioned just a couple. I really thought that the Drustvar stories were well executed as a whole. The Taelia quests in Tiragarde are really quite impressive, with just the right amount of humour and horror.
The patch arc is a bit more complicated in this case since it’s split between the War Effort and the Leader effort. War Effort as a story is so-so. Aside from the lead cinematic, there really isn’t a good reason for a lot of work to take place. Nor is there a very good reason why an island where we are overrun 200:1 doesn’t just wipe out the various bases we try to put in. The Leader effort though.. that’s something else. I haven’t seen the Horde version all the way through, but I’m 99% done the Alliance one (Boralus left). Watching the family split from the first landing, then the efforts to reconcile… that does hit a string.
There is no better looking expansion than BfA – full stop. The world building, the cut scenes, the music. Everything is super top notch. Even the armor sets match! Alliance gear feels very nautical, and it’s hard to look like a TBC clown. Possible but hard.
The main town also look amazing, and feel real. The dungeons have an amazing look and feel to them, just the right amount of structure. Waycrest Manor may be a pain in the butt maze from a design lens, but it’s hard to argue that it doesn’t feel like a haunted house.
The change to “per expansion skills” is a good one. No need to level 600 in a skill to get access to a new expansion. It makes the previous content even more irrelevant but that’s another topic. The change to rank increases is also quite good. Now everyone has rather easy access to Rank 2 skills, with Rank 3 coming from some minor level of effort – as compared to Legion.
Each profession also has a fair chunk of consumables too, meaning long-term relevance through the expansion. The complexity we used to have in the past has been removed (I’m so-so on that part) but the intuitiveness of it is nice to see.
I am curious as to how the Scrapper works long term.
I like the variety of them, and the monsters within. They each have a good pace, bosses that have somewhat interesting mechanics, and a fair slew of sub bosses within that make you pay attention on trash pulls. I would really like to see them stay relevant for the entirety of the expansion, as they are a truly fun activity.
One of the fun bits of Legion was learning how to optimize a given run. I’ve yet to meet the equivalent seagulls here, which is refreshing. But there are clearly optimal paths to take and experimentation is fun. I will say that there are a lot of knockback effects, so judicial “wall tanking” is a must in BfA.
It’s there, but much less demanding. Sure it sucks not having rank 17 to get all my 2nd skill slots on Azerite gear, but the diminishing returns remove the incentive to grind for AP. At no point am I actively hunting AP. And honestly, once I get the 2nd skill rank, there’s no real purpose to grind AP again. It does suffer from “plateau” syndrome where you feel weak, suddenly super strong, then weak again when you lose/gain/lose a skill due to a gear change. But that’s an Azerite gear issue, not the AP grind.
The RNG from legendaries is mostly gone. No more getting a single item that revamps the way you play your class, let alone your spec. The single item impact is gone. Azerite gear has replaced it, and rather than RNG, you can target specific item drops. There’s a perception of more control… but that only really applies once you’re in Heroic dungeons.
Dramatically simplified and really should only ever be used for reputation adventures. No more quality levels, no more specific pieces of gear, no more item levels. My bags are free!!! The interface is still horrible, but the mechanics are much improved.
The general theme of story/world building is better here than in Legion. It looks and feels better, for the most part. From the things listed, you can infer that there are many things that either have not changed (WQ diversity, some classes) or have gotten arguably worse (azerite gear, PvP, GCD combat, talents). Not everything will be improved, and if MoP has shown anything, later patches can do wonders to add/modify mechanics that need change.