Sunday, March 24, 2013

Unnatural Progression

My guild has been working on Tier 14 so hard for so long – specifically Heart of Fear. We moved through Mogushan Palace at a pretty typical clip, without getting too terribly hung up on any one fight. We started the progression race late, since we as a team decided to take our time and enjoy leveling through the new content and experiencing the new lore. Once we started raid, we ran in to the usual rockiness at the beginning of a new expansion's raiding content. People switched mains, those who kept the same mains adjusted to new talents and spells, and adjusted to mana starvation. It was slow going at first, but we got a good head of steam and started rolling through well enough to keep us happy.

We cleared through Mogushan reasonably well and continued in to Heart of Fear. As I would expect, the second raid in the tier was harder than the first...however it was a much steeper increase in difficulty than I believe I encountered previously.

Now I've been raiding since Naxx in Wrath Of The Lich King, and have been on the front line of my guild's progression teams since Ulduar. I didn't experience raids as intended in either Vanilla or The Burning Crusade, so I can't use raids like the original Ahn'Qiraj or the Sunwell as a basis of comparison.

So. What was I saying? Oh right.

The sharp increase in difficulty between Mogushan and Heart was staggering. I'm uncertain changing up our normal progression strategy in T14 had an impact as well. We struggled in Heart of Fear. We bled for our first kill of Garalon. We bled for our first kill of Amber Shaper. We bled for our first kill of the Empress. It was so hard for us, in fact, that we didn't even finish Heart of Fear until last week. That's right, the week after T15 was released. Since Ulduar, we have always at least dabbled in the Heroic versions of the raids before starting the next tier. It was a real kick in the gut to have no “H” kills on GuildOx.

What boggles my mind even further is that in the same night that we downed the Empress for the first time, we waltzed in to the Terrace of Endless Springs and wiped the floor with the first three bosses. We did no in-depth stratigising for any of those fights. We wiped a total of four times on the first three bosses. Not four times each. Four total. How is it that we wiped somewhere in the range of one hundred times on Garalon before finally getting a kill – Garalon, not the final boss in Heart of Fear, but one of the middle ones – and then just glided through the first 75% of the next raid like it was no more than a heroic dungeon we hadn't stepped foot in.

I am by no means saying that the game has been oversimplified, or that Heart of Fear was overtuned. I'm neither an elitist nor a carebear. What I wonder about is how it is considered progression to move from a raid where the fights were so challenging that we sat and poured over logs, blogs, strategies, virtually anything we could get our hands on, to get a foot up and keep moving and once in the very next raid have that “Is that it?” moment.

It felt so unnatural to me. I anticipate moving from one raid to the next that the first boss will be easier than the final boss of the previous one, but from there I expect them to get harder. It felt like somewhere the designers sneezed when putting together the roadmap for T14 progression and accidentally put Heart before Terrace. Drag and drop error perhaps? I'm honestly baffled. I enjoy a good challenge and I don't beg for nerfs or reminisce about the good old days when fights were harder. I'm just not quite sure what the point of having Heart before Terrace was.

I can remember one other time that the road of progression felt as awkward as T14 did. Back in WOTLK, Ulduar was a solid challenge. We were working our tails off to get through Heroic Ulduar and enjoying every minute of it when they released Trial of the Champions. I felt then – and I still think – that TOC was filler, something that someone felt was necessary to fill the gap between Ulduar and Ice Crown Citadel. It didn't fit. It really wasn't all that challenging, especially considering fights like Mimiron. The only fight in TOC that proved any real challenge was the Faction Champions. Anub'Arak was appropriately challenging also, but overall the raid felt like a real dud, and didn't feel like it was a step up from Ulduar.

The biggest difference for T14 is that Terrace didn't feel like filler. It didn't feel like it was stuck in there unnecessarily. It didn't feel like an interlude between big chunks of lore to digest. It just felt out of place.

Did any of you feel the same way? How did you feel about the overall push through T14?

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