Well, here we are again. What was it that made this time around full of win-or-fail sauce?
Honestly, I'll start with the sights and sounds, because I loved them. There was a lot to take in, and it had more personality than any expansion so far. The artists at Blizzard know how to knock it out of the park. Despite the setbacks of a generic concept (lost continent closely resembling China) and such a meager amount of new fiction to work with, they were absolutely killing it. The music was gorgeous, on par with contemporary cinema if not better. To be frank, probably better than most could appreciate. At its worst, the music was chorus and keyboard filler, at its best, think Morricone (The Good, The Bad, And The Ugly). The models and graphics were vibrant and expressive, the best to date. Impressive feats of architecture lie waiting around every corner, and were fun to explore too! The world felt livelier, shit happened everywhere without loads of phasing. The only drawback was that it was slightly too terrestrial.Trees, mountains, rivers...we get it! Beautiful, but perhaps too much greenery. Epic landscapes, nonetheless. The story started out slowly and clumsily enough, but at least managed to build momentum until the end. For what it was -a necessary intermission from the series (how do you up the intensity after a planet-destroying internet monster? you don't...)- I think it played out really successfully as an aside-story.
All that being said, the gameplay design was fucking horrible. "Flexibility" was the only successful idea of the batch, and should have been added years ago in LFR's place (I hope they expand on it!). Scenarios are the biggest cop-out to date. They're literally nothing more than an excuse to reuse resources and force people to wait in line to do every single fucking aspect of the game. In terms of system mechanics, Mr. Ghostcrawler is sapping every last drop of creativity out of the game in order to make it easier for him to balance. Balance? Best to date! Fun? Oh, HELL NO! I'm sure he views players as his interval-ratio-reinforcement psychology experiment that rewards only Blizzard's investors. I am convinced that if he had more control, the game would be stripped down to its wireframes so that he could more easily see the correlation between his design decisions and sub-losses. I'm not going to comment on individual instances, they all seemed to hit their stride. All were pretty enjoyable and none were phenomenal; tho' there probably should have been more. No comment on the pet stuff either. It was a nice way to attract new people, for sure.
I would rate this expansion somewhere in the vast gulf of quality that separated WotLK and Cataclysm. 3/5.
Excellent art. Cool characters. Some nice instances. Too little story. Stale play.
And perhaps a testament that Blizzard is willing to learn from some of their mistakes...
...if not all of them.
What's your take?