Completely New Night Elf Balance Druid Transmog

Since the Dragonflight expansion has some major differences from previous World of Warcraft expansions, I decided it was time for a major change in my main toon’s transmog.

Erik often has a conceptual approach to his mogs. Unlike him, I tend to start from a particular piece and build an outfit around it, or choose a color and go from there. This time it was more or less a combination of the two: I wanted to include the whimsical wings in Sprite Darter’s Flutterers—because why not—and chose the rest of the colors to highlight the shoulderpiece.

Dragonflight F Night Elf Druid Black Transmog

So, I chose the unassuming Black Swashbuckler’s Shirt and Black Tuxedo Pants. The Chestguard of Insidious Desire was also reasonably subdued. Gloves and belt were a little difficult, but Frostcarver Grips and Stygian Belt went well enough with the chestpiece. Conveniently, one of the options on Scythe of Elune had purple glow; that choice was easy. To round the set off, the helm, cloak, wrist, and boots are hidden. (Gosh, the ability to hide pieces is such a great change to the transmog system!)

Here’s the mog viewable in the Wowhead Dressing Room.

Image: World of Warcraft screencap

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Dragonflight: Our Thoughts So Far

Dragonflight, the newest World of Warcraft expansion, has been out three months now. Here are some initial opinions.

WoW Dragonflight Valdrakkar

Eppu’s thoughts

Let’s get the negatives out of the way first:

  • The world quest cycle seems too slow. Way too slow!
  • The climbing-related world quests seem to have inordinately many glitches. (I stopped doing them for quite a while, in fact.)

Positives:

  • Playing Horde and Alliance together outside of dungeons as well seems to have been enabled (at least for world quests) even before Dragonflight launched properly. Yay!
  • It’s so nice that the Horde don’t continue to embody only awful-looking designs. In the earlier expansions—speaking very roughly, of course—Alliance areas and characters looked normal and nice, whereas Horde ones were full of spikes and angst. In the past Blizzard has introduced nods in the direction of changing it (Blood Elves, Pandaren, Vulpera), but then they eventually slide back to the dark/awful-pretty/shiny divide (e.g. Maldraxxus and Revendreth vs. Bastion and Ardenweald in Shadowlands).
  • Dragonriding (which I’ve started to call gliding as opposed to flying with regular flying mounts) is fun!
  • The druid pink paw buff is back—hooray! I’ve so missed having Mark of the Wild.
  • Among the background sounds, there are chickadees! While they’re nothing I grew up with, they’re nevertheless similar enough to some childhood favorite birds that I appreciate having them. (As a rule, I also appreciate including actual northern biomes into any story. There’s little enough of the real north in mainstream media that isn’t ridiculously exaggerated—seriously, it sounds like people think we live on the planet Hoth from the Star Wars universe.)
  • I’d like to retain player choice with regard to dungeons: that, like Torghast, you can choose to faceroll or challenge yourself. However, I’d also like to get actual loot reliably, like a normal dungeon. (Haven’t been in one yet due to life getting in the way.)
  • Taking into account the story, environment and sound design, talents and professions plus the mechanics thereof, and the personal gaming experience (as nebulous as that can be), I’d say Dragonflight is the best WoW expansion so far.

Erik’s thoughts

I really only have one negative, so I’ll get it out of the way up front.

  • I didn’t like dragonriding at first. I really didn’t like dragonriding. I was physically cringing every time I had to do it. Figuring out how to turn off the screen-distorting effects at high speed made a big difference, though, and now I can use it just fine. I still don’t enjoy it, though. It’s useful if you’re starting somewhere high up and want to go somewhere far away and lower down (and you don’t care very much about where exactly you land) but otherwise I miss the reliability, pausability, and accuracy of regular flying. If we get regular flying later in the expansion, which I hope we do, I’m just going back to my old flying mounts and won’t touch dragonriding again.

Now, on to the positives.

  • What beautiful environments! I have a hard time picking out a favorite zone, but Azure Span delights me every time I go there. Unlike Maldraxxus and Revendreth in Shadowlands or Drustvar in Battle for Azeroth, there’s nowhere in Dragonflight that I don’t enjoy spending time in.
  • I’m really enjoying the new talent system. It probably still needs some tweaking, but I like being able to make choices that really affect how I play my characters.
  • I hope that Blizzard continues on the path laid out in Dragonflight for Alliance-Horde relations. It is a relief to finally have an expansion where it just doesn’t feel like it matters what faction you play. Now if they would continue this to let Horde and Alliance characters communicate, group up, and play every part of the game together, that would be great.
  • This one is a little harder to define, but quests feels more meaningful this expansion. It feels as though we are addressing real problems, not cleaning up after someone else’s emotional tantrum, which describes too much of Shadowlands. I rarely get to the end of a questline in Dragonflight and think to myself: “This could all have been avoided if some people had just gotten around a table and talked to each other.”
  • I still don’t quite feel like I have a handle on the new crafting systems, and there are aspects that I don’t like (like having to be near a designated crafting table to make a lot of recipes), but I enjoy the fact that crafting is now more complicated, and I can specialize different characters in different aspects of the same profession.

Anything else come to mind that we didn’t think of? Please share in the comments!

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World of Warcraft Classic Is Not For Me

In these waning days of Shadowlands, with nothing much left to do except wait for Dragonflight to come out, I decided to dip my toe into World of Warcraft Classic. I started a Night Elf druid, since that’s what I play as a main in the current game. I didn’t get very far into the game before deciding that this is not for me.

I did enjoy the nostalgia. It brought back warm memories of days long past when I experienced Azeroth for the first time. But I also missed the many, many quality-of-life changes that have come to the game since then. Questgivers didn’t show on my minimap. I couldn’t mouse over a mob and tell if I needed to kill one of them or not. I couldn’t even track all my quests on the screen. The highlight of my evening was getting a six-slot bag drop off a random boar.

The nostalgia was also soured by facing the reality of 18-year-old graphics and zone design. My Night Elf was not a savage and wild descendant of an ancient race but a lumpy sack of potatoes with a mustache. Teldrassil felt like an abandoned strip mall, not a magical world tree.

I know that there are a lot of people who enjoy playing Classic, even those for whom it is the only version of the game they play, and I am deeply, genuinely happy for them. After dealing with years of stonewalling from Blizzard, I’m delighted that they got the game they wanted. It’s just not the game I want in 2022, and I know that now.

All of you Classic players, I salute you and I wish you the very best of adventures, but don’t expect to see me around any time soon.

Image: Screenshot from World of Warcraft Classic

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What We Hope Dragonflight Learns from Shadowlands

In less than a week we will say farewell to Shadowlands and move on to the next World of Warcraft expansion: Dragonflight. In anticipation, the two of us reflect on what we hope the new expansion learns from the successes and missteps of the old.

Erik: The biggest thing I hope Dragonlifght builds on from Shadowlands is Torghast, specifically the great flexibility the Torghast dungeons had in how many characters they were for and how difficult they were. Torghast was great for us to play together just the two of us or to do solo when we felt like it. The biggest weakness of Torghast was that it had no rewards beyond materials for legendary crafting. My dream is an expansion where every dungeon adjusts to any size group, from one to five (or even more) and scales its difficulty appropriately. What about you?

Eppu: Agreed! (This is literally the first thing I wrote down, too, when drafting my thoughts for this post.) While it’s fantastic to play through a dungeon that’s adapted to your gear level, getting no proper loot sucks.

The other big thing I hope for is convenient and comfortable flight. You had a few more thoughts about that, didn’t you?

Erik: Yeah, I’m excited that we get flying early in Dragonflight. While I haven’t minded the way Blizzard has handled flying in the past few expansions—starting out on the ground and earning flight by playing through the game on one character—I like the idea of flight being unlocked right out of the gate.

At the same time, I’m a little worried that we’re going to see a classic Blizzard overcorrection and they’re going to turn flight from a convenient method of getting around into some overdesigned, unfun “gameplay” like what happened to mission tables in Shadowlands. Are there any features from Shadowlands you’re hoping won’t make a return next expansion?

Eppu: One, and they already took care of that in the new crafting interfaces. I seriously hated the info box for the marks that you can add onto other crafted items. It was so fecking clunky; I’m really glad it’s gone!

I’d also love to see professions improved. These days whenever you have the mats to make something, your character has already leveled past it. You could always craft items for auctioning, of course, but I find additional management like that annoying. It’s not what I come to WoW for. The crafting orders sound like those who want to dink around with auctioning now will have that opportunity. It will remain to be seen whether the rest of us will have anything useful to craft. How about you?

Erik: I’m interested to see what’s going to happen with crafting, too. I’m right with you on that infernal info box on the crafting interface!

As for things I hope don’t come back, the scarcity of anima was a theme in the lore of Shadowlands, but it also affected the gameplay of the expansion too much. I never explored even half of what the covenant sanctums had to offer just because I never had enough anima to do anything. World quests felt unrewarding for the level of time and effort they required. I hope we don’t have the same scarcity-based design in the next expansion.

But enough about the negative. What are you looking forward to the most in Dragonflight? Blizzard keeps blowing me away with the art design of their zones, and Shadowlands was the best yet. I can’t wait to see the art and design in an expansion focused on dragons and elemental powers.

Eppu: You’re right, the anima scarcity wasn’t satisfying at all—haven’t we done the grind for, what, 18 years now? It’s also true that the art has improved a lot since Draenor (if not Pandaria). But I’m not quite sure what you mean by best art design yet. Would you elaborate?

Erik: I think what I’m trying to get at is this: Each of the main zones of Shadowlands has a clear aesthetic that looks pretty simple at first: Bastion is peaceful fields and clear skies, Maldraxxus is carnage and gore; Ardenweald is a dreamy fairy forest; and Revendreth is crumbling gothic ruins. But the longer you spend in each zone, the more you discover. Bastion is less peaceful than it appears, but the dangers are hidden from sight like the forgotten memories of the Kyrian. The very land in Maldraxxus is made of skin and bone and hair, like the corpse of some gigantic creature. Ardenweald is full of swirls and circles, hinting at the cycle of death and rebirth that it serves. In Revendreth different stories about a corrupt elite and the gnawing discontent from below play out at the higher and lower levels of the of the zone. There is a tighter connection between story and design in Shadowlands than we have seen in most previous expansions. (I’d cite Drustvar from Battle for Azeroth as another excellent example.) I hope we see more of that in Dragonflight, zones that are not only beautiful to play through but where the art and the story inform one another so deeply.

Eppu: Yes! It would be great if the story and art supported each other. So far it’s impossible to say, but I’m cautiously optimistic. The expansions certainly have gotten better and better over the years. Incidentally, my all-time favorite is Battle for Azeroth. Do you have a favorite expansion?

Erik: Hard to say, but I think Legion. I enjoyed the class storylines, and we got a whole new kind of Tauren to play! But there are things I’ve loved in every expansion, and I look forward to finding out what those will be in Dragonflight.

Image: Screenshot from World of Warcraft

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Night Elf Balance Druid Transmog Tweak

My main WoW toon these days is my balance druid, so I was surprised to realize I’ve kept her transmog appearance broadly speaking the same for over three years (here she is in a January 2019 post). Time for a final tweak before the end of Shadowlands!

I still like her vest plus shoulder combo (Tribal Vest and Bonechewer Shoulderguards) combined with her purple hair, so when I found a matching weapon (Avowed Arcanist’s Staff) I decided to only fiddle with the rest of the outfit.

WoW Shadowlands Bastion Druid in Reds

For a change, the helmet, gloves and boots are off. Ghostclaw Leggings are one of my favorite designs from the earlier expansions, and the Mighty Girdle goes with them well. Oddly, the Shardhide Leather Bracers make the lower edge of the White Swashbuckler’s Shirt sleeves bulge, as if the shirt had puffy sleeves, so I decided to treat that as intentional.

Here’s the mog viewable in the Wowhead Dressing Room.

Image: World of Warcraft screencap

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One Month to Dragonflight!

Apologies in advance to all of our non-WoW-playing readers! The World of Warcraft: Dragonflight release is exactly one month away today, so in the weeks ahead we’re likely to talk more about the game than not.

WoW Dragonflight screenshot_garden Sm

Here’s the announcement video:

Dragonflight Announce Cinematic Trailer | World of Warcraft by World of Warcraft on YouTube

One of the most astounding things to me is that this expansion will fully enable flying, considering how fervent Blizzard’s opposition to giving PCs the ability to fly has been thus far. (Perhaps some of the old guard are out and a new guard is in?)

This week, since the patch, we have started diddling with the UI changes. The larger minimap for sure is nice, but otherwise I’ll just have to see which elements on screen I might want to move. I mean, I’ve tried a few configurations and re-adjusted them multiple times already, but it’ll take a little longer to figure out what really works. The talent trees will take even more time to get used to, and that’s fine.

At the moment I’m more excited about the crafting orders, however. I haven’t found professions very satisfying at all for many years now; it’s about time we get something new.

Soon! 🙂

Image: Dragonflight gardern screencap via Blizzard

Of Dice and Dragons talks about games and gaming.