So Mists of Pandaria went live last night, I gather? This is the first WoW expansion where I haven’t been even remotely interested. For every previous expansion I’d beta-tested, prepared exhaustively, pre-ordered, and blogged extensively about the whole experience. For MoP, I watched over Kris’s shoulder while he did ten minutes of questing in the beta, and that was enough to satisfy my curiosity.
It’s an odd feeling. I don’t miss WoW, but I miss missing WoW, if that makes sense. I played WoW to the exclusion of every other game for nearly six years, and for another year unenthusiastically. For those first six years, though, WoW captivated me; I had a lot of spare time on my hands for health reasons, and I poured much of it into WoW. And as a result, I felt I’d “mastered” WoW; I felt completely at home in the game. I wasn’t a hardcore raider because I preferred my more laid-back raiding guild, but I knew the mechanics of my class inside-out, I knew the lore behind the content, and I had all the advantages that six years of enthusiastic play will give. I had all the little convenience doodads to port hither and yon, I had all the obscure and useful crafting recipes, I’d maxed out almost every faction, and I knew all the shortcuts – the hidden questgivers, the fastest way to a given location, the best way to level to 40, whatever.
And then along comes Deathwing and everything changes. All of a sudden Azeroth isn’t familiar any more; I no longer know it like the back of my hand. Everything up to level 60 is different; content I knew and loved has just disappeared – replaced in some cases, gone forever in others. I don’t feel at home any more. It’s like coming back to the town where you grew up to find that the streets are all there but every building has been replaced. 1 There’s no sense of history in wandering around these zones any more; no nostalgia or fond memories, because everything I did has been wiped away.
But the game was still similar enough that I have no desire to spend another six years reacquainting myself with all the little ins and outs; it wasn’t new enough to make that fun again. I’ve levelled my squillion alts, and the game’s not fresh enough any more to warrant levelling another squillion.
And then you add the final factor: the homogenisation. To be fair, this was a trend that began in WotLK; tidying up the messy, asymmetric old content to make it all shiny and ‘balanced’ – but WotLK only applied the principle to its own content, whereas Cata went back and swept everything away with its shiny new broom. Everything’s neat and tidy and organised – and as a result it feels planned to within an inch of its life, orderly and symmetrical and completely inorganic and uninteresting. It might be more balanced, it might be smoother for a new player, but I prefer crunchy and interesting to smooth any day.
So I’ve come to the conclusion that I don’t think Mists of Pandaria is for me. I’m not interested in the direction in which Blizzard is taking the game, and Cataclysm swept away my nostalgia, familiarity and comfort. Really, Cataclysm made it easy for me to leave WoW, because it cut the cords holding me there. So I moved on, and I’m not sure I can ever go back again. I’m sure at some point in the next year I’ll succumb to a moment of weakness and pick up Mists of Pandaria for a while, when there’s nothing else to play and nostalgia is particularly strong, but I don’t think the Azeroth I miss exists now, and this new Azeroth isn’t home any more.
Whatever happens, I’ll still miss missing WoW, and I’ll be happy for the people who can still love WoW the way I used to.
- And the trees all look identical, and are made of plastic. Whoops, was that cynical? ↩