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.
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.
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.
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.
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.