I have been thinking about the release of Wrath, and trying to put my finger on why it seems so different to me than the release of BC. I think I’ve finally hit on one part of it.
I remember when BC was released. One of my friends was a powerleveler – moving from 60 toward 70 very quickly. At one point when he was around level 65 or 66 I asked him about his experience so far. He went on and on about the Coilfang Reservoir instances, the amazing beauty of Zangarmarsh and Nagrand and how much he was looking forward to running all of the Auchindoun instances.
At that time, he never mentioned Karazhan, or Serpentshrine Caverns, or Gruul’s Lair even as a goal or something to look forward to.
Of course, that is just one anecdote, but that’s the way I recall Burning Crusade’s release. I remember it as excitement about leveling, and looking forward to all of the new instances. At the time, the idea of “instance hubs” was new – three instances plus a raid zone at Coilfang, four instances at Auchindoun, three and a raid zone at Tempest Keep. (Blackrock Mountain was something like that in original WoW, but not exactly.) So, in my remembrance, the instances were the “stars” of the BC release.
In Wrath, no one talks much about the instances. Everyone is focused on the level cap and Naxx. In fact, I’ve heard so little about the leveling instances, I had to go look them up just to write this post. I couldn’t name more than four off the top of my head.
Burning Crusade had…
- Hellfire Ramparts
- Blood Furnace
- Slave Pens
- Mana Tombs
- Auchenai Crypts
- Sethekk Halls
all before reaching level 70. Then once you got to level 70, you had
- Shadow Labyrinth
- Shattered Halls
before you started raiding. That’s twelve 5-man instances you could run before you ever did a heroic or a ten-man raid. In BC, your progress through the game was almost measured by the instances you had done.
In comparison, Wrath has
- Utgarde Keep
- the Nexus
- Ahn’kahet: the Old Kingdom
- Drak’tharon Keep
- Violet Hold
- Halls of Stone
then when you hit 80 you get
- CoT: the Culling of Stratholme
- Utgarde Pinnacle
- The Oculus
- Halls of Lightning
That’s eight leveling instances for 5-man groups, and then another four for level 80 groups before you start heroics and raiding. Its the same number of instances, but not the same amount of attention.
Instances are part of the story, not a challenge of themselves
I suspect its because of Blizzard’s new approach toward making raiding accessible. In BC a lot of guilds went in with the knowledge that raids were a possibility somewhere in the future. Instances were the immediate challenge – tuned to be a good test when done at the appropriate level. Most importantly – instances were an expected part of your preparation for raiding.
I remember wiping repeatedly on the last boss in Ramparts when we didn’t have resist gear on our tank. I recall the last boss of Mana-Tombs being really tough the first few times in. I know we spent at least five hours in Shadow Labyrinth our first attempt in there.
In Wrath the instances seem almost like extended quests. They are designed to be fast – no five hour SL runs this time around. They are not terribly challenging, from the accounts I have heard.
In BC, Instances were preparation for raiding
For those who raided in BC, imagine if someone asked to raid with you, and then admitted that he had never run a single instance in Outland. You’d have questioned him and told him to go run some heroics to get gear.
In Wrath, the qualification to raid seems like it will be to have a functioning keyboard and a pulse. That’s not the requirement to be a good raider, but the barriers to raiding have largely been torn down. They have been removed so effectively that toons are powerleveling to 80 still wearing their level 70 gear and jumping right into successful Naxx runs. That would never have happened in BC. This process has completely devalued the instances. You don’t need them for gear, you don’t need them to “learn” to raid. What purpose do they serve, other than XP and sightseeing?
The gear jump was not steep, so you instance gear is not needed
In BC the initial gear reset made almost all pre-BC gear obsolete by level 62. That meant that you were forced to get new sets of gear every few levels. You ran Hellfire instances to get BC gear for the Coilfang runs. You ran Coilfang instances to get gear that would be good for Auchindoun instances. There were must-do quest lines that gave great upgrades.
This also led to instance grinding. Some of the boss drops were so good that players would run the dungeons over and over to get their drop.
In Wrath, Blizzard made the gear jump much, much smaller. For those who had tier-level gear from BC, you aren’t going to get many upgrades until level 75-ish. That removes a lot of the incentive to run instances. With no boss drops to look forward to, you can run them once just to see them and then move on. No instance grinds, either. Just sightseeing.
Right now I think that the majority of the player base is still in the level 72-74 range, and still running Utgarde Keep, Nexus, and Azjol-Nerub. Those are the instances I mainly see people asking about in the chat channels. I am hoping that later instances will be interesting enough to cause some “buzz” so there is a desire to run them.