Let’s not waste any time and jump right into the action, because today I hope to be able to finish the long series about dungeon instances.
Today we’ll cover the rewards beyond dungeon quests and boss drops that were introduced with TBC and are still in the game today, with some modifications to the original model.
In a way, back in WoW classic, dungeons were their own reward. Their length and size, the lore surrounding them and the challenge were a big motivation and the quest rewards and usually very powerful boss loot were the icing on the cake. But it seems that wasn’t quite enough…
With the TBC heroics, Blizzard introduced an additional reward in the form of tokens that dropped off the end boss.
I really liked the concept for various reasons but I quickly began to dislike it. Why did I like the concept?
The tokens were very hard earned. You got one off each boss in a heroic instance and these dungeons were far from a walk in the park, so farming them wasn’t trivial, especially during the earlier days of the expansion. You could exchange these tokens for epic items from a vendor, which was a nice touch as it made it possible to get an item upgrade every now and then, even if you had very bad luck on the random boss drops.
I also liked the itemization. Badge items were the same level as the epic drops from the end bosses which themselves were slightly below the loot you’d get from the starting raid, Karazhan. This made perfect sense, as heroics were supposed to be the stepping stone for raids.
The acquisition rate was also okay. Items cost between 15 and 100 tokens and getting an item often took several days of doing heroic dungeons. In addition, you could only finish a heroic dungeon once per day.
But then the Shattered Sun Offensive content patch got released and suddenly the situation changed. For raiders the whole concept still was solid. You also earned badges by killing raid bosses and the new vendor items were of a much higher item level to accomodate for the better boss loot in the high tier raid instances. However, the gearing curve for dungeons and early raids suddenly got completely destroyed.
Before aforementioned patch you got iLvl 110 rewards from the heroic dungeon bosses and token vendors, while Karazhan bosses dropped iLvl115 loot. This was introduced in Patch 2.1 and lasted until the end of Patch 2.2. With Patch 2.3, the new vendor items were iLvl128 (Serpentshrine Cavern or Tempest Keep loot level) and the 2.4 items were iLvl141 (almost on Black Temple level).
Now you suddenly got incredibly powerful items from relatively easy content, allowing players to skip huge parts of the content instead of gearing up through the different tiers.
It used to be dungeons > heroic dungeons > Karazhan/Gruul/Magtheridon > TK/SSC > BT > Sunwell
With patch 2.4 you could theoretically skip several raid tiers and get Black Temple-like gear by running heroics. With such good gear, the heroics quickly became easier and you’d end up getting items that outperformed loot from the TK/SSC raid instances from 5man heroics, which didn’t make any sense.
The reason why Blizzard implemented this? People wanted to have multiple characters in the endgame content but were fed up with going through all the different raid tiers, so they complained and Blizzard listened. Not only did this trivialize certain game content, it also made a lot of the epic raid instances obsolete. I remember skipping TK/SSC with my healing priest and going straight to Black Temple, because my gear was sufficient…and I just did heroics and raided the T4 instances. It was nice to see BT from the inside, but I always felt like I didn’t really deserve it. Getting iLvl141 gear from dungeons that dropped iLvl110 gear themselves felt like cheating to me and I didn’t like it one bit. Of course gearing alts with ease would be nice, but is that really better? If you want to raid the latest end game content you should be prepared to put some effort into it. I don’t think making entire raid instances irrelevant is a good alternative. In TBC it was “just” TK/SSC that suddenly got a lot less traffic. Sunwell was still insanely hard and required players to gear up through BT and Badge vendors.
But it only got worse.
In WotLK Blizzard made some weird changes. Each new raiding tier introduced a new set of badges, now called emblems. In the beginning the system worked, as you didn’t get to buy rewards with currency from dungeons that were significantly more powerful than the loot in those dungeons. However, with each new raiding tier and currency, all previous tier emblems were upgraded one level. You’d always stay one level behind the highest raiding tier, but you’d still get ridiculous items from the vendor for running trivial “heroic” dungeons. This also made raid instances irrelevant again. After a couple of months, nobody would raid Naxxramas anymore as it took too much time and the loot was far from the quality of that offered by emblem vendors. You’d also get a limited supply of the highest emblems towards the end of the expansion by doing daily heroic dungeon quests. This essentially resulted in players getting some of the most powerful items in the game, by finishing some of the easiest content in the whole expansion. I never liked that system and found it to be completely ridiculous and unjustified.
With Cataclysm they got rid of the emblem mess. Players had stacked up to five different emblem types and needed to convert some down into lower forms if they wanted to buy certain items like heirlooms or fill slots that didn’t have items available for higher tier emblems. Two new forms of currency were introduced. Valor points and Justice points. They were introduced in the final content patch before the release of the Cataclysm expansion. This didn’t change the situation, it just got rid of the emblem shuffle. All items now were available through Justice points and the current end game tier level items were available through Valor points. If a new raid tier with new vendor items was released, the previous one would be available for Justice points. Valor points were harder to accumulate, unless you were raiding. But you could still get items on Icecrown Citadel raid level by doing 5 man heroics. It was great for people who joined late and still wanted to raid the latest endgame content and also great for players who wanted to gear their alts, but from a effort > reward standpoint it didn’t make any sense at all.
Skipping content was worse than ever. I reactivated my priest very late into the expansion, leveled her up and after hitting lvl85 I spent two days (not ingame playtime) to get from *ding85* to killing Deathwing in the LFR raids. All I did was run a few dungeons to be able to enter random heroic dungeons and grind those together with some battlegrounds. The new dungeon’s boss loot was also insanely powerful and so I skipped a ton of raid instances…and for what? Wouldn’t it have been more fun to actually play those other instances? What kind of game is this where skipping content is more fun than actually playing the content?
Now we’ve arrived at the Mists of Pandaria expansion, where Blizzard still sticks to the Justice/Valor system, with a slight twist.
Instead of having regular vendors offering items for points, you have faction vendors now. So you can’t just buy items from the currency you’ve already earned by running dungeons or killing bosses for them, no. You also have to do daily quests in order to raise your reputation and be able to purchase these items from the vendor. But the item levels are totally screwed up. Justice points items are below the level of items from heroic dungeons. But when a player would unlock these reputation items, they usually would already have heroic dungeon equipment, making the justice point items completely obsolete. Blizzard has lowered the reputation requirements since the start of the expansion, but it didn’t really make a difference.
Valor points are used to purchase epic quality items. The funny thing is: You even get valor points by doing simple solo daily quests! Not a whole lot, but since there’s a weekly cap for these points, you can now get raid level items, sometimes close to best-in-slot by doing trivial solo content! Often by doing quests not even involving killing stuff. In a way you can buy epic iLvl 489 items by plucking weeds from your farm. Of course that’s an exaggeration, but you get the point. It’s gotten completely out of hand.
And there’s more new currency in this expansion. By doing daily quests you get lesser charms of good fortune. Collect 90 and exchange them for 3 greater charms once per week. You can use these charms to get an extra roll for loot on raid bosses. Of course the whole currency isn’t balanced, you rarely get any extra loot (I’ve recieved one item in 4 weeks) and you make MUCH more lesser tokens than you’d ever need. I’ve currently got tokens for several weeks in advance with nothing to spend them on, but I keep earning more, because I have to do daily quests to unlock the items I want to buy from the valor points I’ve been collecting for a while now.
The valor cap is so low that you quickly run into it before it’s being reset. Now you’re doing daily quests, which offer valor points and charms as a reward, but you don’t get the first (due to the cap, the points just vanish) and you don’t need the second. But you still to these quests, because you need the reputation.
In my opinion this system doesn’t make the slightest sense anymore. This expansion doesn’t even have a gearing curve…it’s all over the place and feels clumsy. I don’t like getting highly powerful epic items for doing practically nothing. We’re only at the beginning of the expansion and the whole system is already more screwed up than it ever was during WotLK’s worst times. I’m eager to see what ridiculous new levels Blizzard will take this experiment during the next 1-2 years of Pandaria.
It’s getting late…I’ll wrap this series up tomorrow, promise. I’ll write a summary about the previous entries and finally get to my (short) summary of the dungeon system I’d like to see in the game.