Thoughts on 4.3 – Transmogging, Casual PVE, Darkmoon Faire and More

Apple Cider pew pews Mannaroth in Well of Eternity.

It’s been a week, WoW fans. A week and we’ve already gotten our teeth deep into 4.3. I have been enjoying myself, especially now that I can enjoy a patch that offers me gear, dungeons and not have to worry about raiding much on top of that. This is my first new content patch where I haven’t been raiding since Burning Crusade started. It is a weird feeling, to be honest. Thanks to the efforts of my social-but-very-enthusiastic guild, we’ve been working on retro raids for transmogging gear, achievements and even stepping foot in Firelands to get me siphoned essences to finish my legendary*.

Overall, I’ve been having fun and have a lot of thoughts to what 4.3 has offered us thus far.

My priest stands in T6 gear at the character screen.

Transmogrification

I have always relished the idea of transmogrification. Even though I never played any MMORPGs prior to WoW, where such things as vanity layers or costume layers existed, I have been deep in my  heart a fashion nerd and roleplayer. I like having appropriate clothes for the occasion, especially since my real life self is a little too self-conscious and destitute for such things. My earliest memories of gear on my mage was that they “all matched” and being chided gently by guildies that I needed gear that was better than what I had on, rather than just all was the same color. (You can’t take my Mistscape Wizard Hat of the Owl AWAY FROM ME!)

However, when given the world of armor to play with, I found myself falling a little short on ideas (No gnome jokes, please.) Everyone else had must-have sets and creative uses of color, style and theme. With the exception of my priest, even my RP character concepts didn’t lend themselves to “iconic” gear for their personality. I had reams of gear in the bank saved because of how it looked and memories it held, but I’m still not sold on most things to wear. It has been fun to play with and to disguise horrible gear in the case of my shaman, who had a lot of trollroic armor. So while transmogging is quite possibly the best thing to happen to WoW in a long time, I feel so disappointed that I’m not taking advantage of it as whole-heartedly as everyone, even if I am the perfect person to do so. I will endeavor a little harder to come up with pretty sets, but I am glad that Blizzard implemented the feature anyways.

5 Man Dungeons – End Time, Well of Eternity and Hour of Twilight

In a word: exciting (and I get to be TALL!)

While I feel that some of the trio are less exciting than others, when taken all together, they are a very nice mixture of new boss mechanics, immersive storytelling and gameplay. The very obvious standout is Well of Eternity, which I have a feeling was supposed to be part of the rumoured War of the Ancients raid. It feels so complete and filled to the brim with interesting things that it feels almost a little out of place with the other two dungeons, which are still laid out around Wyrmrest on familiar ground. They also aren’t nearly as punishing as heroics have been immediately upon release, unlike in the past. Sure, I’ve seen a few PUG groups wipe on Tyrande, but nothing like the hours of frustration from trying to learn Ozruk.

Most of the dungeons feel fun and invigorating for a couple of reasons, I believe. First – less trash and it is more pragmatic and directed. In End Time, you basically make a big ring to clear out the boss area, or push forward to where the boss is, not long twisty hallways to get to a small room. It feels like a progression, not a crawl. Secondly, there’s a better mixture of mechanics designed to mess with ranged vs. melee, healers versus tanks, and some that just require smart use of mechanics that can be done by most group compositions. Not every fight requires heroism, not every fight requires 3 ranged. Most people have decent interrupts now and while some have been given longer cooldowns, most of the casts that need to be interrupted are on timers that don’t feel impossible to catch. There’s lots of stuff to not stand in, but it isn’t a 360-degree chain cleave, nor tons of puddles out at ranged while the melee gets to whack on the boss. Everyone feels responsible for their own mortality in some ways. Third, newness in both the fight mechanics and scenery. There’s things here we haven’t played with before – such as the hourglass feature on Murozond. It is commonly remarked as the most fun boss fight so far out of the three dungeons just because of it. I have even brought people back to life using it and I find that a little liberating, especially to people who are newer healers and feel pressured to keep everyone alive.

Additionally, there’s lots of nice new gear to be had in the dungeons and gotten with a minimum of fuss. You clear all three dungeons in roughly an hour and a half and due to less trash and less ridiculous bosses, it never feels like a slog. I’ve already managed to VP cap my mage and shaman for the week, which will make quick work of gearing up the other 85s I never play (due to heroics being boring as hell.) My only bone of contention is how limited the loot tables are for each item slot in your armor class. There’s not a lot of leeway for you if you only gear yourself via heroics, but I think that’s because of…

Looking For Raid

Now featuring Yor’sahj the Unpuggable!

Admittedly, my experiences so far with the Looking For Raid feature have been small. Last night, a small group of 8 or so guildies and I dropped ourselves into LFR (one of them as the main tank). We breezed through every boss (including said Yor’sahj) with nary a death or a wipe (until we lost a couple of people to the ice wall on Hagara) and finished in an hour and a half. This stands in stark contrast to some of my boyfriend’s exploits via the finder, which include every group wiping to Yor’sahj, but I digress. LFR seems like a reasonably good idea. It gives people the ability to legitimately see raid fights in a smaller, more forgiving environment, as well as collect gear and valor points. As my friend the main tank put it, “It is like pugging a heroic but with 24 other people.” I think that he had the right of it as well; while there may be more people, the atmosphere is roughly the same. Most people are quiet participants, there are occasionally boisterous and unhelpful ones and overall the experiences can vary. But it seemed to us last night that if you mix in a little bit of your own social group, that it can go quite smoothly and make it very fun to participate. One of us got two very good loot drops and I got to test my hand at raid healing without the stress of trying to learn Firelands fights or freak out that no one was directing assignments. Granted, I think our positive turn at the LFR was mostly due to a lucky bit of competency out of the raid (the other tank, most of the healers, DPS knowing how to target swap), but I think overall, this has the potential to ease people into raiding or give people end-game choices. I know some people who have long maintained that PUGging and casual raiding has ruined WoW, but I think my ability to have fun last night is more important than their opinions on the matter.

The Darkmoon Faire

Finally, after testing it extensively on the PTR, the faire is here. So far it is exactly what it promised to be – fun dailies, lots of vanity items like mounts and pets to acquire, as well as added mysteries and bonuses that you can gain while doing PVP and dungeons. Ticket generation seems a lot slower than I’d like for a week-per-month event, but as Rickiep00h from Something Awful posited:

If it were permanently open, it would be Molten Front 2. Enjoyable at first, but ultimately another annoying grind.

It’s a compelling point, and not just because of the fact that Molten Front fails in all the ways that DMF succeeds – the rewards are not meaningful to progression in quite the same way that MF put them at the time, especially to casual players. However, they are meaningful to people as much as they want to make them. People who enjoy vanity rewards or transmogging sets for gear make them purposeful and have value, those who do not enjoy them do not have to participate. It helps both alts and mains in different ways – one way is via trade skill points (imagine getting 5 points once a month to get you around a tricky spot between 285-300) and one is money and loot. This means you have different goals and reasons to bring more than one toon to the Faire, unlike doing the same dailies for the same thing in the Front. It also lays out the path of tasks very concretely and without much effort – the quests are short, fun, and require very little exertion in terms of killing mobs, even the Grisly Trophies quest. It doesn’t consistently open more and more dailies to keep you occupied, like in a hallway full of infinitely opening doors that lead to nowhere. DMF is a return to a lot of the old fun seen in earlier quest design and development before Titan was a thing – anyone remember Isle of Quel’danas? Sure, not quite the same carrot-on-a-stick there but I can feel a familiar tingle of the fun. The Faire seems to hold fast to the idea that it is a magical, mysterious and slightly sinister fair in the woods. Molten Front gave us an illusion of choice and individuality and left us with nothing but a bad taste in our mouth.

So in short, get out there and fish yourself up a Sea Pony. I got both it and my rare fish achievement in the same hour. Many more are reporting the same thing with the Steelscale Crushfish, so get yourself closer to Salty!

*Art courtesy of Aly Flock.

Darkmoon Faire on PTR – Carnies, Cannons and Cannibals

View overlooking the Faire.

It was another boring Sunday yesterday, so when I heard that the new Darkmoon Faire had hit the public test realms, I scampered over and updated. Let me tell you – when Blizzard announced that they were revamping what was a fairly pitiful, forgotten “world event” that people only went to turn in decks and occasionally get their fortune read, perhaps engage in some world PVP, I was over the moon. I love fairs in real life, and the chance to port that feeling into World of Warcraft excites me.

This time around, the fair isn’t plopped next to Elwynn Forest, Shattrath or Thunder Bluff, but on an island shrouded in dark smoke far away. However, Darkmoon Faire NPCs make it very easy to get there. They will teleport you from capital cities to that month’s fair portal (not 100% sure about this), located in one of the spots where the actual fair had been before. The portal then takes you to the Darkmoon Isle.

Loading screen for the new Darkmoon Faire.

When I got there, I was not prepared for all the sights and sounds! There were NPCs scurrying all over, players trying games and lots of debris and supplies piled everywhere. It definitely felt like I was at a real fairgrounds.

Games

The fair has a lot of games of chance that act as dailies. Games tickets are purchased from NPCs at the start of the fair and don’t have a limit. The dailies have a certain objective to complete. However, given how they are structured (using a special vehicle UI, have timers), they often require multiple tries to complete the quest. This means that buying multiple tickets is a must. I went through at least 8 tickets just trying to get the Whack-A-Gnoll game right. (Go for the Hogger gnolls, they count for more!) Completing the quest objective or game mechanic in a exemplary way is how you get the individual game achievements. For example, if you got dropped into the target for the Cannon Shooting, you got an achievement. It was fun trying to do the games as fast and perfectly as possible, even though a lot of them required multiple tickets to learn. None of them felt like a slog though – even with the vehicle UI. This is no Jousting v.2! And like any carnival game, there was a certain element of “being rigged.”

One of the interesting mechanics that Blizzard decided to drop into the games portion of the fair was this “GET OUT” zone around the large space each game had. It meant that if you felt like running across the game area for any of the games (save for the Shoot-Out game), you would get teleported out and stunned momentarily, much like when you entered the various Shattrath faction areas when you weren’t supposed to be there. It kept most of the game fields clear so you could see what you were tossing rings at, whacking, etc. The only place that didn’t have it’s own dedicated area and anti-grief field was the Shoot-Out game. It was three small targets in a typical vendor tent and had no way of keeping all the idiots on the PTR back from standing on the tent or inside the tent on their giant mounts. The point of the game is to shoot whatever target is being highlighted and to win, you had to basically shoot blind. I made a suggestion to the PTR forums that they give this game its own space and bubble; there’s no reason that people should not have fun playing it because people just want to make stuff hard to see.

The games themselves include: a whack-a-gnoll game, human cannonball, shooting gallery, tonk challenge, and ring toss on a turtle.

Quests and the Darkmoon Faire Guide

Along with the gaming dailies, there’s also profession quests and quests that allow you to gain items from PVE or PVP content. The quests that you get are determined by what professions you have – I had quests for cooking, first aid, archeology, herbalism and alchemy. Some of the quests require you to go fetch items from inns or general crafting vendors back in the capital cities, but with city portals on the fair’s docks, it is a quick snap to go and come back. And the quests are fun! I was running around, picking flowers, bandaging up injured carnies, and mixing up fizzy drinks. (Why can’t we include brewing with alchemy, please?!)

As you can see, it awards  you five skill points, a token (for using at the games), and a prize ticket – the prize tickets are obtained from the quests and games and can be put towards many of the vanity items that are sold at the fair.

The other quest is called Test Your Strength and charges you, Darkmoon Faire Guide in hand, to kill 250 mobs or players that give you experience, reputation or honor.

But what is the Faire Guide for? Apparently the guide is an item you keep in your bags (obtained from the Darkmoon Faire Information NPC at the fairgrounds), and helps you “discover” artifacts when you are out questing, doing raids/dungeons, or PVPing. Anyone of any level can use it as well. The actual blog post about it on WoW’s front page explained it better:

The Darkmoon Faire Field Guide

It’s your passport to riches, my friend. Y’see, we need a few things — just some junk, nothing valuable to a big hero like you. We call ‘em Darkmoon Artifacts, and there’s all different kinds to be found all over Azeroth. The Darkmoon Field Guide helps you discover artifacts while you’re explorin’ dungeons, slayin’ monsters, and fightin’ in Battlegrounds. Without a guide, you’d never notice ‘em, and it’ll help keep you focused on the stuff we want. Whether you just reached level 10, or you’ve crushed the biggest baddies in the land, we need somethin’ from nearly everybody. You won’t have to go too far out of your way to get ‘em and each month you’ll get a new opportunity to seek out an Artifact for us. What do you get out of the deal? Don’t you worry, you’ll get your cut. When you bring a Darkmoon Artifact back to us, you’ll get valuable experience (it builds character, you know!), earn a better reputation, and possibly earn precious Darkmoon Faire Prize Tickets too!

The field guide will help you unlock several artifact-based achievements by discovering all nine artifacts, so make sure to carry with you at all times.

Vanity Items – Mounts, Pets, Heirlooms and Much More

The prize tickets I mentioned before are the main currency for the rewards you get at the faire – and there are quite a lot. I found 3-4 vendors just selling cute things that would be of interest to anyone. One contained mostly pets that you can purchase at the fair (along with another balloon vendor), and one contained mounts, including the datamined Dancing Bear.

There were also two armor vendors; one sold the heirlooms that are still purchasable with both Argent Tourney tokens as well as Justice Points, and another sold the Dungeon Tier 1 set revival gear that people can use to skin their regular armor with via transmogging. I of course had to try the Magister armor on my goblin:

I try on the Magister's armor.

Don’t I look cute? It is funny but I had most of that set and trashed it once I got Tier 1 and 2. Mostly because I thought it looked very ugly and garish. Funny how nostalgia changes things! It looks right now that an upper bound of the tickets you can get in a full week of Darkmoon Faire dailies and quests is 175, meaning that you can purchase 2 pets, or one mount, or an assortment of your chosen dungeon set or heirlooms once a month.

Attractions

Peppered in-between the quests and various vendors are a few things that make the faire feel more than just a hub for dailies. It feels very alive and swims with things for you to see or do to your heart’s content.

  • Level 90 Elite Tauren Chieftain concert that plays on a special stage at the top of the hour.
  • Krolin the Dancing Bear
  • Deathmatch Arena – while the island is a sanctuary by design, there is a giant Gadgetzan-style arena cage where participants can jump in and bloody eachother.
  • Sayge’s Fortunes – gives you a buff!
  • Food Cafes
  • Pony and Ram Rides
  • Petting Zoo
  • Pavilions – under construction currently but should contain something later on.
  • Sandbox – pick one of your favorite tiger designs and get to riding!
  • Fire-eaters, Torch Tossers and Fireworks – lots of pyrotechnics on display here.
All of these things make you feel like you can wander for hours and relax while taking in the amusements and frivolities of the faire. My only wish is that one of the pavilion tents gets turned into a nickel-odeon where we can watch various cinematics! I tried out most of these attractions and even got pounded a pulp by 40 Alliance players that were sitting in a raid inside of the deathmatch cage. Ouch.
…Cannibals?
While out exploring the entirety of the island’s landmass (there’s a named cave on the map but it holds nothing as of yet), I heard a croaky voice hissing somehow in my ear.
“Come, my sweetling, come taste my delicious waresssssss….yesssss….”

I gulped and turned. Stinking of who-knows-what, I was face-to-face with a haggard gash of a smile containing moss-green teeth.

Beware Rona Greenteeth’s wares if you run into her. Sure, she may offer the most savory Troll tartare in all of Azeroth, but caution to those unaware adventurers who don’t know where the meat is coming from…

Jokes aside, I feel that Blizzard’s world event team has really been knocking it out of the park lately. Between the revamped Hallow’s End event and now what promises to be a bigger and better Darkmoon Faire, we are in for a real treat when 4.3 actually drops in a couple weeks. Prepare to put on your best dresses and plate and stomp down to the fairgrounds for an immersive, expansion and entertaining monthly event that has all sorts of achievements, prizes and acclaim for those who wish to seek it!

For full guides and videos on this event, check out WoWhead News, as well as Mat McCurley’s video guide over at WoW Insider.

For an intriguing look at Darkmoon’s creepy past, check out Mia’s Azeroth.