Thursday, May 23, 2013

Mists of Pandaria: Patch 5.3 Review

Earlier this week, Blizzard Entertainment released, "Escalation," a minor patch similar to 5.1, and it has not come without controversy. Along with a new battleground, new scenarios, heroic versions of scenarios, more pets, and class tweaks, there was a massive alteration to PVP. There has always been a feud between PVP and PVE players. Over the past few days, it has heated up immensely.

The major debate in World of Warcraft at the moment is that within the latest patch resilience was made a 65% baseline stat for all level 90 characters. Resilience was taken off PVP gear, a drastic change from what players have experienced since The Burning Crusade. The attempt on Blizzard's part was to level the playing field in PVP instances, give a fresh 90 or a PVE'er a chance at survival when entering battlegrounds or arenas. In theory, it's a great idea, but where I think Blizzard faltered was the additional nerf to PVP Power, a stat highly sought after by players for its ability to bypass resilience.

In essence, the changes made PVE gear from current content as viable in PVP instances (i.e. arena, rated battlegrounds, and normal battlegrounds) as the highest tier of PVP gear. There's scaling, lowering the PVE gear to a cap of item level 496, yet that does nothing for folks like myself who casually PVP and tend to have mostly honor gear. I've tinkered a lot with my sets these past few days and I came to one conclusion: given the bonuses and scaling of my PVE set, I'm strongest in PVP instances mixing my honor gear, almost a full Malevolent set, and the scant Tyrannical pieces I possess with the best of my PVE set, notably my Throne of Thunder (ToT) tier pieces and a trinket. I use two pieces of Tyrannical and two pieces ToT tier for duel bonuses.

There's no doubt in my mind PVP is more intense, closer to being instanced PVP. The fights last longer; a lot of the games (and I've done a lot since the patch) tend to be closer. If I combat an opponent who's not accustomed to PVP but wanted to try it out in their PVE gear, I will faceroll them same as before the patch. If I run into someone with far more experience than myself, I will be facerolled. In that regard, nothing's changed.

PVP Power, while still a handy stat to have, is too weak. In world PVP, it's completely obsolete. If I were to go after a player in full Malevolent, maybe even full Tyrannical--it depends on their skill--in Pandaria while in my raid gear, chances are I'll be dancing around their corpse soon after; regardless of whether or not I succeed, I will have an advantage, same as a heroic raider would have over me. The same rules that apply in instanced PVP should be applied to the world. If that's not a possibility, world PVP is forever broken and will always favor the raider.

I truly believe Blizzard had the right idea in mind with baseline resilience, yet they took it too far when they nerfed PVP Power. By doing so, they negated everything PVP'ers had worked for over the past months. An easy fix, which they should probably consider relatively soon, is buffing PVP Power either back to its original strength or somewhere in between where it is now and where it used to be. I would think the latter would work best, for players would still survive longer in PVE gear, PVP gear would still be the best in slot for PVP by a larger margin, and it would give players an actual reason to PVP more and grind out their sets rather than running LFR, normal, or heroic raids for gear to PVP in.

Worth noting, there is a queue system for battlegrounds. A player must select a role, which has helped balance teams. Where the system gets tricky is when players decide to switch their roles or don't join in the role they queued for. It's helped even the odds so one team isn't stacked with healers while the other team goes without; it's still not perfect, nor do I think it will ever be. Blizzard can implement these features, but they can't make their players honest.

While the PVP changes were the biggest part of patch 5.3, "Escalation" arrived with new pets and changes to pet battles as well. On the day of its release, while waiting on queues, I completed an excruciating achievement called, "The Longest Day," which was named properly. I spent about 5 to 6 hours doing every daily pet battle quest from the old world to Pandaria. The hardest part was when I faced the Beasts of Fable. These beasts have a buff named, "Elite," and it reduces the damage the beast receive from players' pets by 50%; Dos-Ryga is a headache. After using twelve bandages, failing to make a dent in this challenging fish's health with my flying pets, I resorted to a roach's Apocalypse attack and two pets that could shield, heal, dodge, and survive for 15 rounds.

I'm not pleased with the changes Blizzard made to Miss and Dodge. I find my pets missing a lot more than prior to patch, including when I use attacks that are supposed to be 100% hit. My level 25 pets should not be missing level 12 pets. Like PVP, this system needs more work.

What I love the most about the patch's new pet battles is the inclusion of more drops off bosses in old raids. I went to Karazhan last night for the first time in years, and after several attempts, soloed Chess. I was even lucky enough to have the Netherspace Abyssal drop off Prince Malchezaar, meaning I'll never have to do Chess again. Being in Kara really brought back some memories of when I first started playing. It was very nostalgic for me, and I can't wait to do the same for Serpentshrine Cavern and Tempest Keep.

One aspect of patch 5.3 that stood out to me was the introduction of Heroic Scenarios. I have yet to finish them all, but the couple I did were fun. As required, I found a group from my server (they were guild members), and we went through them without the desire to beat timers for a bonus. Instead, we had a tank, healer, and me as DPS. We probably extended our stay longer than most compositions--I had fun, regardless. I didn't receive any upgrades, since the gear is for catch-up. The valor, however, is a lot, and I find it quicker, more enjoyable than LFR. It's a personal preference, something I know others, especially the dungeon fans, do not agree with.

Speaking of LFR, lesser charms are a cinch to obtain from mobs and pet battles. Thus, the weekly quest for Mogu Runes is easy, and I don't even have to do dailies to get my bonus rolls. A system was placed for bad luck streaks on bonus rolls. According to my guildies, it's helped. Also, players can queue as DPS yet choose to get gear for their offspec. There's no longer a reason to cheat the queue by joining as a healer for gear, then DPS'ing.

Lastly, there is a limited-time Barrens event. Vol'jin and his rebels are gearing up to assault Orgrimmar and take down Garrosh. To do so, he's willing to give Alliance a chance to help out. Though the story once again revolves around Horde and Alliance's quest chain is trivial, at best, I liked seeing Orc firing squads and such. The event itself, involving protecting caravans, finding overturned supply wagons, and killing Kor'kron Champions includes a weekly quest with rewards. These rewards are mostly for fresh 90s needing gear to reach ToT, yet I received a bag upgrade and a new pet. It's not a lasting event; it does, however, open doors for the future of Azeroth, if Blizzard decides to expand this feature or create a similar one later on.

All in all, I find "Escalation" has given me more to do in the game, and I can adjust to the PVP changes. It's a minor patch, so I wasn't expecting a mountain of content, just a few things to keep me occupied on top of 5.2's additions until, "The Siege of Orgrimmar." The changes were mere steps, some better than others, in a direction I would like to see WoW evolve, but the developers' work is nowhere near to done. Hopefully, they know this.

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