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Argus looks great. It hits you in that opening cinematic: all that broken landscape and hint of what was quite obviously a fabulous, sprawling world before the Legion got hold of things. Then, on the ground, comes a sense of genuine vastness and destruction. However, if you stray off the path of where Daily questing points you and attempt to explore, the real truth of phase technology becomes a hindrance. In fact, it goes so far as to make Argus appear only as a shell, simply a stage on which you have to wait for a timer to click over before life is introduced, plot added. I did a lot of exploring last night, and was genuinely saddened by what I found.

This is an illusion of a world being very much manipulated for effect.

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Vast areas of the zone are right now, simply empty. No mobs, absolutely no flavour or warmth, just sets waiting for the actors to be added, action directed. This construction assumes (correctly) that the majority of players won’t give a stuff about it: they’ll only turn up now on Reset Day to play what’s ‘new’ anyway. Nobody stays in the zone once it’s cleared of everything of value, ActiBlizz will have the numbers that state this. So, theoretically, there is no point in wasting time and effort in filling areas you don’t want players staying within. Just come back when we tell you to, okay? It also saves valuable time in design and implementation when the entire department is on a time budget.

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What this shows, at least in my mind, is that World Questing is being micromanaged at a previously unheard of level, with an almost total dependence on the phasing to open this  Zone at a pace precisely dictated by time-gated events. It means that, as an explorer, there’s only limited wonder at discovering something new hidden in the architecture or dropping off a mob. I can go take lovely screenies until my hard drive is full, but without the voice acting and indeed any real ‘flavour’ in these dead areas, exploring is pointless. In fact, doing so last night only exposed gaps in the set dressing: there are points where backgrounds become glaringly apparent as matte paintings and not living, breathing landscape. Argus is brilliant in scale and approach, but only if you don’t look too closely.

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I watched an established You Tuber kop some flack this week by suggesting that the second cinematic one is presented with in the opening quest sequence on Argus is hamstrung by some less than brilliant scripting. I not only have a measure of sympathy with that observation, but agreement that what is passing for plot is hardly stellar, and the much-anticipated ‘lore’ injection may take some time to have a real effect on players. There’s a ‘stay awhile and listen’ plot option on one NPC for instance that grants a pretty cringe-worthy exchange between three characters where the most significant topic of conversation is whose turn it is to buy the next round of drinks. I’m not expecting Oscar winning scriptwriting here, but narrative consistency has not yet materialised. I’d love to have back the person who wrote the Suramar quest chain, but part of me suspects that person may well have moved on to pastures new.

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7.3 is sold on visuals, and in that regard there is much to praise. However, if you look closer, it is apparent that this remains the patch in an Expansion where what most people care about is fast gearing, and little else. You therefore can’t blame ActiBlizz for only bothering with the stuff people obsess about, and using other means to distract the more vocal players away from staring too closely at what’s been presented. The real shame in all of this is that this is now what counts as the pinnacle of acceptable content: gearing, raiding, some puzzles for the Secrets Discord to get obsessed with… and for everybody else, just play your hour a night and be happy. After all, that’s what you wanted: simple, engaging game play on a timer, so you can plan accordingly. I was one of those people, and now truly grasp what happens when you ask for something that looks great on paper and then, when you get it, is nothing like what was expected.

In that regard, I only have myself to blame.

3 thoughts on “It Was the Ballad of This Year’s Model

  1. I think the (animated, mind you) painting background is actually really nice. It’s a much better visual effect than when the vision distance limit in my graphical settings reach its limit and everything grays out and gets cut off. I hate it when I see mountains being drawn in the distance. Plus that awful horizontal line when the (also painting of!) the dome of the sky ends. World of Warcraft is a cartoonish game and 2d painted backgrounds fits it nicely, even the semi-realistic intro cinematics for expansions are done like that albeit with more processing to further the illusion but if you look closely you’ll see the paint brushes…

    I also do not agree with the “unpopulated” places argument. Not that I found those, with how huge the zone is, even though I like poking around nooks and crannies. The only main difference IMHO would be that the content is staggered, which means that once you unlock all the WQ zones it will all be populated just as if it was like that from the start. Not that the old world doesn’t have its fair share of empty houses. Is exploring only exploring when I stray from the zones designated for WQs (and there’s already so many of them)? Or, to put it in other words, if I explore a zone where there are WQs am I not exploring? I am! The difference is the mindset, I’m not there for the WQ reward, I’m there to see what that place is about, take in the sights and atmosphere. And what the WQ is about.

    Now, about the writing, I also disagree, but in a specific way. I think the writing isn’t worse than Suramar, but only because Suramar was equally mediocre. Nor is the writing in previous expansions much better for me, with some small exceptions here and there, more in the way of ideas rather than realisations. I did like the 7.3 developments in the sense that at least there is some tension and something’s happening aside from yet another demon exclaiming “your world shall burn”. Listening to Lich King lines during encounters in Northrend levelling was equally embarrassing as listening to what the Burning Legion minions have to say now. If there were ever any gems they were well hidden (like the books in DK starting zone, or the hidden quest in Frostfire Ridge). It has always been World of Clichés.

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    • In fact I think it’s a very real possibility that the same people who worked on Suramar were working on Argus storyline.

      As far as the whole “drinks” thing, be aware that Alleria, Turalyon and Khadgar are the three heroes who worked together in the Warcraft 2: Beyond the Dark Portal expansion. They are reunited for the first time since then, as far as I am aware. It’s a nod to that, plus of course a famous quote of Deckard Cain from Diablo.

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  2. Pingback: 7.3 Early Impressions – An Empty, but Beautiful Stage – Kaylriene

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