WoW Archivist: Four classic ideas Battle for Azeroth should bring back
To me, Legion was far more nostalgic than the transparently nostalgia-driven Warlords of Draenor. The story in Legion evoked many of Burning Crusade’s themes and indeed built directly on that story. Blizzard did more interesting things with their old RTS characters in Legion than they did in Warlords — while actually moving the story of WoW forward. And Legion also brought back some of the coolest parts of classic WoW, particularly in regard to class-based content. We had class quests, class mounts, solo class challenges, and class-specific weapons. Overall I thought the expansion was a fantastic blend of old and new ideas.
As a follow-up, Battle for Azeroth has a lot to live up to. Just as Wrath was an incredible sequel to Burning Crusade, I believe Blizzard could follow Legion with one of the greatest WoW expansions to date. A similar formula — combining old content ideas with new ones — could make Battle just as successful as Legion.
Here are four ideas from classic WoW that I’d love to see Blizzard bring back in Battle for Azeroth.
Ranged weapon/relic slots
In classic, every class except for Paladin, Druid, and Shaman had a ranged weapon slot. Warriors, Rogues, and Hunters could equip bows, crossbows, and rifles. Mages and Priests had wands. Warlocks had … magic rocks. Aside from Hunters, these weapons didn’t have much of a practical use. Protection Warriors used their ranged weapon to pull sometimes. But mostly, they were just cool.
It also meant these ranged weapons didn’t go to waste if a Hunter didn’t need them. Hunters could equip melee weapons, which of course led to the “every weapon is a Hunter weapon” meme. In classic, Hunters couldn’t use their ranged weapons when mobs got too close. I loved that feeling of drawing my axes so I could finish off a mob who got too cozy. Restoring these ranged slots would help with the loot situation with ranged weapons. It’d also allow Hunters to have a few melee options at their disposal. Based on the recent datamining, it seems like Blizzard wants to take Survival into the direction of a melee/ranged hybrid.
Late in classic WoW, Blizzard added the relic slot to Paladins, Druids, and Shaman, who often complained that the other classes had an extra source of stats. Death Knights also had a relic slot when they were first added to the game. At first, relics had bonuses to specific abilities, like our Artifact Weapon bonuses in Legion. Later, Blizzard changed all relics into “stat sticks.”
Bringing back ranged slots for the other classes would also allow Blizzard to bring back the relic slots for these classes. These ranged and relic items could also mean new transmog options. Giving relics a visual appearance, like the book that appears when Holy Paladins equip The Silver Hand, would be a welcome addition to the current set of transmog slots.
Weird set bonuses
Blizzard has said that Battle for Azeroth won’t have class-specific tier sets. I like this change, because it opens up other design space — and the possibility that Blizzard could do item sets in different ways. Later expansions have had a few item sets that weren’t tier sets, like the March of the Legion set, for example. But they’ve never been featured in the same way as classic. Weapon sets like Zul’Gurub’s fist weapon set (shown above) or the cloak/ring/weapon sets from Ahn’Qiraj added new twists to the item set idea.
I’d love to see Battle explore these ideas further. Imagine a set of trinkets, or a set that combines a melee weapon and a ranged weapon, or a bracers/gloves/shoulders set that provides a cool visual effect on your arms when you have all three equipped. Now that Blizzard is free of the burden of tier sets, they can really go wild in Battle.
Speaking as someone who hasn’t regularly participated in WoW PVP since Arenas and Resilience gear were added to the game, I miss the original version of Alterac Valley. Blizzard has tried to recreate longer, larger-scale battles like this several times now, from Wintergrasp to Ashran. I’ve tried them all, but they didn’t grab me like good old AV. Ashran was perhaps the closest in spirit to original AV, but it suffered from a number of flaws that aren’t worth going into here.
AV’s main appeal to me was that you never knew when it was going to end. One team could steamroll another early with a surprising surge. Or the battle could bog down into back and forth graveyard fights, finally broken by summoning your air support. Meanwhile, the map had both PVE and PVP objectives, ways to contribute that didn’t involve fighting players. These efforts culminated into summoning NPC units that gave you a massive temporary advantage.
When you joined AV, you weren’t just participating in a quick skirmish. This, more that anything ever in WoW, felt like a full-scale battle. Because the original AV could be won or lost only by taking out the commander, those battles had an incredible tension to them. Never before or since have I truly felt like the two factions were at war like I did there.
Battle for Azeroth, with its Horde vs. Alliance theme, would benefit from this type of realistic engagement. For this to work in a modern setting, the rewards for participating would have to be doled out by achieving smaller objectives within the battle, not just at the end, so players could still feel like joining a match is worthwhile. It remains to be seen if Battle‘s Warfronts will manage to recreate this feeling, or if Blizzard has something else in mind for this expansion that might recapture the original AV’s intensity and scale.
What better way to convey the idea of a world embroiled in all-out war than battles that take days instead of minutes?
Professions in combat
Back in Molten Core and other classic raids, I had a combat rez as a Hunter. Feign Death could be used to remove myself from combat, and then I could use Goblin Jumper Cables to revive an ally. I could also give myself a speed boost, charge at an enemy, or mind control a humanoid if I was willing to sacrifice some stats and armor. I wasn’t just a Hunter and never thought of myself as just a Hunter — I was a Hunter Engineer.
The profession added an extra layer of flavor to my character. He could do things in combat that many other Hunters couldn’t do. It was one more way to make my character unique. But instead of allowing every profession to do these amazing, unique things, Blizzard eventually gave most of these engineering tools to everyone.
Other professions also used to give combat bonuses. Some were boring, like the leg “enchants” for Tailors and Leatherworkers, or the shoulder inscriptions for Scribes. Others added flavorful bonuses that made sense. Skinners gained crit rating, Miners had some extra stamina. Eventually they all went away.
Blizzard made this change in part because serious raiders felt forced to switch professions based on whichever ones were powerful in combat at the time. Legion took away most of the things that made this such a hassle. You no longer have to grind a profession to max skill to gain its advantages. This expansion also introduced the ability to switch professions and retain all the recipes you learned from Legion if you switch back (for a hefty sum of gold). Blizzard could extend this system to all of a profession’s recipes.
I would argue for a return of the flavorful combat bonuses and abilities. Further, I think if Blizzard wants to make professions relevant and interesting again, every profession should get combat abilities as cool as the Engineering ones. Only Engineers should be able to use Engineering items.
Some raiders would probably still feel compelled to switch professions in this new system to min-max. But at least they wouldn’t have to lose the recipes from their former professions or grind up to max skill to benefit, if Blizzard retains the current Legion system. Meanwhile, other players could enjoy having these additional fun and helpful toys to use in battle.
Anything that makes your character feel more unique in battle is a huge bonus. We saw this with the design of specs in Legion. Battle for Azeroth or a future expansion could do the same for professions. Professions are easier to switch than a character’s race, and races give combat bonuses. Why not give them to professions again too?
Some of these ideas might be too pie-in-the-sky, but I think they’re worth exploring. WoW continues to evolve, but not everything that was abandoned should be forgotten. As game systems and technology improve, some ideas might be ripe for revisiting in a fresh context.
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