Friday, December 2, 2011

Patch 4.3: Dragon Soul - First Impressions

So, Legacy took their first look at the new raid that we're presumably going to be spending the majority of our playing time in for the next eight to twelve months. I've got many thoughts on the instance. Blizzard did a lot of things here, some of them they did well, some things they did poorly, and some things seem to be ugly, but they work.

Let's start with the criticisms:

The big elephant in the room is the tuning. I can't speak for heroic modes yet, which is where my focus tends to go, but normal mode seems to be drastically undertuned. We walking in on our first night and one shot Morchak, one shot Yor'sahj, three shot Zon'ozz, one shot Hagara, three shot Ultraxion, and took three pulls on Blackhorn before running out of time. Seven wipes on the first six bosses. We wiped more than that on normal Halfus, normal Magmaw, and normal Shannox each. The instance feels like its on a level with the post nerf cataclysm raid instances in terms of difficulty, and closer to Raid Finder difficulty than it is to the pre nerf instances. I don't think this is a great move.

I fear that this will produce one of two scenarios when the transition to heroic comes up for most guilds in the coming months. Either heroic difficulty is akin to heroic difficulty in post nerf firelands, where it's six joke bosses and one brick wall, or its going to be like ToC, where 85% of guilds cleared the instance on normal, and less than 25% of guilds could take the next step in logical progression and defeat heroic Beasts of Northrend. Neither of these scenarios produce healthy tiers of raiding. T12 and T9 are pretty much universally reviled.

On lighter criticisms, the trash before Ultraxion is annoying, and the cinematic before Spine of Deathwing causes some annoyances, if someone cancels the cinematic early, the fight starts, which can be a problem if your tank, or all your healers are still watching Blizz recreate Point Break.

But all is not fail and anguish! Blizzard did some things well here:

I think that the instance itself is very well designed. I enjoy the multiple stages that it employs, and travel throughout the instance is quick and easy. Going across diferent thematic zones is very engaging, going from the war in Dragonblight, to the Eye of Eternity, to the Skies of Northrend, to the Maelstrom keeps the instance from falling prey to the orange on orange on brown malaise of Firelands.

Aside from the endless drake waves before Ultraxion, which I think is a decent concept, it's just twice as long as it needs to be, the trash in Dragon Soul is well done. It doesn't have the endless fields of trash we saw in Firelands. The trash is engaging, often informative about the boss it guards, and not excessively painful to two heal. I always thought it odd when the trash was routinely harder to heal than the bosses were.

All in all, I don't feel this instance is Blizzard's best work, and I think it would be a mistake to leave us here for an extended duration, it is a refreshing change of pace from Firelands.

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