My last post about WoW was talking about how it would not be the first MMORPG I would recommend to anyone, and that my recommendation would absolutely be that a newcomer to the genre should try FFXIV instead.
On the other hand, one thing WoW DOES definitely do better is that it makes playing a healer feel more like you’re playing a healer and less like you are playing a mediocre wizard who occasionally stops throwing out damage spells and casts a token heal spell before returning to damage.
Having a couple more weeks of WoW under my belt, I would like to postulate that WoW outdoes FFXIV in three other ways, all of which are fairly niche and none of which should really be construed as a particular endorsement of the game as a whole.
I’ll set two of them aside as possible future post topics, because what I want to talk about is the current state of PvP in WoW, which can be summed up as “hella fun” but I should probably write more words.
Again, keep in mind this is all from a healer perspective, and moreover from the point of view of a player who really enjoys a chaotic environment because PvP is the very definition of chaotic. There is a tremendous amount of damage and dehabilitation being thrown around, and at any given moment you generally are deciding which of two or three teammates should live and which should be sacrificed, with of course the added twist that your teammates generally have no idea where you are and may be running AWAY from you, to their deaths, rather than towards you so they can be healed.
This isn’t anything unique to the new expansion, however. What’s changed is the reward system.
Now, I am all for the idea that playing a healer is its own reward. There is a definite satisfaction in turning a losing situation into a winning one, or even just making it so that your teammates are spending longer alive, which is fun, and less time sitting at the graveyard waiting to respawn, which is not fun.
Healers: Fun Enablers.
That’s great and all, but let’s talk about the real reward, which is new gear for your characters that you can use to make the numbers bigger because bigger numbers are also fun. In WoW, the critical number is “iLvL” or “item level” which is a rough measurement of how powerful your character is.
The last time I was playing WoW regularly was during the “Legion” expansion, which was about four years ago. At the time, the way that PvP worked was that characters on each side had their stats and abilities adjusted to a PvP Template, meaning that someone who was brand new to PvP had a bit of a fighting chance against veterans. It took the Gear Factor out of PvP, which definitely has its merits.
On the other hand, since Gear wasn’t really a Thing, PvP didn’t often reward you with new armor. The way it worked was that, if you WON a PvP match, you would get a box of rewards that would occasionally include a random piece of gear. Losses didn’t give you this reward, so losing meant that you didn’t even have the chance of randomly getting some new armor and making your numbers bigger.
It also meant that the process of getting a complete matched set – because fashion is important – took AGES.
Shadowlands, on the other hand, has a system where you earn a special PvP currency every time your team scores a kill and another hunk of currency at the end of the match. You get about twice as much for a win, but even the losers walk away with something.
Unlike Legion, you can convert this PvP currency directly into gear. Not cosmetic gear, not PvP-specific gear, but stuff you can put on your character that makes them more effective in ALL content. The traditional WoW gear curve of getting random quest rewards, then doing regular dungeons (iLvl 158) until you can do heroic dungeons (iLvL 171) so you can get gear so you can do MYTHIC dungeons (iLvL 184+), so you can then be geared enough for raiding… you get to bypass that entirely, if you like.
So that’s what I did. With the exception of one piece of crafted armor that I needed to do some solo PvE to get the materials for, I geared my character entirely through the process of logging in, getting into one of WoW’s “Epic Battlegrounds”, and trying my best to kill the guys on Team Red while keeping the guys on Team Blue alive. This earned me a ton of PvP currency, which I used to kit myself out entirely in epic gear, and I eventually managed to put myself a set of gear at iLvL 185, which was more than enough to get me a raid spot for groups tackling the new raid zone.
Additionally, since the queue times for PvP are practically non-existent, there was no sitting around waiting to get a group for a dungeon to kill bosses that MIGHT drop upgrades. You can’t even queue for Mythics, so you have to go through a messy process of actually talking to other humans to do those.
So for basically the first time in the twenty+ years I have been wasting my life away in MMORPGs, I’m actually a little ahead of the curve.