What took you so long Blizzard?
Let’s be clear on this. I think Cataclysm has brought in many changes for the worse – the guild reputation system is kind of silly and actively encourages bad social etiquette in a game largely build on its social aspect. I thought the idea of making raids and heroic dungeons more “hardcore” was silly – the reason WoW took off wasn’t because the game was more difficult, but more open and forgiving. Heroic modes in raids should be there for the truly hardcore crowd, but they shouldn’t impose their narrow viewpoint on all others. And as much as I enjoyed the new zones, they didn’t have the same joie de vivre that Outland had, nor the epic scale of Northrend.
Hour of Twilight rectifies some of that, but not all.
For a start, the three new instances come with loot on par with Firelands, which makes it easier for those of us who skipped Firelands in its entirety to get back into the swing of things. The instances are also – shock of all horrors – actually FUN! They’re not super epic hardcore insane-a-thons that take an hour – they take 20 minutes, plus an extra 5-10 minutes for the queue timers if you’re randomly seeking. The brisk narrative, the heady focus on lore and the swift pace make them a joy, not a chore, to experience. This is what dungeons SHOULD have been from the start of Cataclysm. There’s no real getting away from that.
I could argue that Hour of Twilight does too much to tie up loose ends – I lament that the final conclusion to the Infinite Dragonflight is so brief, and done in such a lackadaisical manner, but it’s a great fight if we’re being honest here. It swiftly ties up that loose strand of the Archbishop’s defection, again a wonderful fight but you get the sense it should have been perhaps a bit more raid-y.
Also I think the Looking For Raid tool, designed to give raid loot on a par with heroics for those struggling to patch in gaps in their gear, is utterly awful. It brings out the absolute worst in people, where anonymity and server divides create deep-rooted tensions and vulgar insults that really stress how far the social aspect of the game has been abandoned by those playing it. Considering it doesn’t actually add anything more than an easy-mode raid to learn fights, I think it’s a luxury that the game could do without. It doesn’t make raiding any easier – or fun.
But all told, Dragon Soul is a very nice raid and a worthy ending. Deathwing is an epic fight split across two very interesting encounters, and a lot of fun where it counts. It’s a worthy and satisfying end to a creature that has been painfully notable by his influence in the expansion – aside the burning thing and the actual Cataclysm, he hasn’t been as central as The Lich King was, who was there mocking and taunting at every turn.
On the whole, Hour of Twilight is a very nice and satisfying end to the Cataclysm expansion – sure, it could have done more. Arguably, should have done more. But it’s brought in character armour customisation so finally people look like individuals, and is bringing a lot of focus back onto the Ethereals, who look set to be a more prominent addition to Mists of Pandaria. It’s brought in plenty of new armours, the new Darkmoon Faire (which is awesome) and a whole new focus on dungeons with a narrative, rather than being simply a string of boss fights.
It’s getting the focus right. It’s getting the design right. It’s not perfect, but compared to the last patch – it’s a massive improvement, and does at least bring hope that the team now working on World of Warcraft is getting its act together.
Although I stress again… “What took you so long Blizzard?”