Why I stopped running World of Warcraft’s Horrific Visions
I was so excited for Horrific Visions when Blizzard first unveiled them. The idea of challenging solo content has always appealed to me. Ever since I earned Rhok’delar on my first main character back in vanilla, I’ve loved fully mastering everything a class has to offer and applying that expertise to achieve a solo goal. Showing off that sweet, hard-to-earn loot is one of the true joys of MMOs.
(Quick joke: How do you know someone played in vanilla? Don’t worry — they’ll tell you.)
When the Mage Tower launched, I was all in. I didn’t just want to clear it on my main. I leveled alts at a blistering pace for the first time ever playing WoW. I wanted to beat the Mage Tower bosses with as many specs as possible. In the end, with somewhat limited play time, I beat it with 14 different specs. The Mage Tower remains one of my favorite things that Blizzard has ever done. It wasn’t perfect, but it delivered a fun challenge and great rewards — some of the best weapons models that Blizzard artists have ever created.
I write all this to say, I’m not opposed to difficult challenges in WoW. Far from it.
So I thought I would love Horrific Visions. When the patch launched, I resubbed to WoW after a break for the birth of my son. I was looking forward to leveling my cloak and optimizing my main to make sure I could tackle the Visions head on.
I tried them. I did well. I cleared extra areas before I even had to in order to level the cloak. The end bosses were way easier than the Mage Tower’s, but I knew they got much harder as you cleared more before pulling them.
Then I realized a couple of weeks had gone by and I hadn’t logged in to my main. I had chosen instead to do the Alliance-side War Campaign and unlock the Alliance-side Allied Races — even though I pretty much never play Alliance.
So I took a step back and thought about why, and I realized I just didn’t like running Visions. At all. I didn’t want to get better at them. I didn’t want to learn all the different secrets and mechanics.
Blizzard had given me a Mage Tower on steroids. I wanted to love it. But I don’t. There are four major reasons why.
The Sanity gauge is too anxiety provoking
I’m normally very calm under pressure. I was a raid leader for several years and I’m good at keeping my composure in stressful game situations. The Sanity gauge, though? That thing wrecks me. Maybe I’m scarred from those water levels in Sonic games as a kid, but something about a timer ticking down to my death makes me extremely anxious.
I don’t generally enjoy speed-run timed content in MMOs. I think this type of content belongs to offline games. The Strat-45 run gave me nightmares, even though I cleared it after only a few tries. It’s why I don’t do Mythic+. Needing five people all to have no interruptions to their connection or in their lives for extended periods of time just adds extra stress to an already stressful situation. I know that Mythic+ needs that timer in order to rank people, but I really wish it wasn’t there, because it means everyone running the dungeon focuses on it. I much prefer the Burning Crusade-era Heroic dungeons that were difficult but un-timed.
I loved the Mage Tower because (for most) you could focus on survival and managing mechanics. The challenge wasn’t in doing it fast; it was in doing it right. The Sanity gauge forces you to take risks to optimize your clear time. It’s great for watching streamers, but it’s not the way I like to play WoW. I enjoy a more paced and methodical challenge.
I think overall WoW suffers from having too much of its difficult content focused on speed. We already have Mythic+ to test how fast we can clear content (obviously it takes a lot of precision too at higher key levels). Did we need another major facet of the endgame to be based around rushing? I really hope the Torghast tower in Shadowlands is more about survival and tactics than speed clearing.
Some mechanics are just too annoying
The last Horrific Vision that I did had me getting bounced around by fire while I was searching for teleporting tentacles to kill so I could get out of combat and restore my Sanity gauge. I think part of me in that moment said, “This isn’t even remotely fun. This is just annoying.”
The Rhok’delar quest line had some annoying mechanics too, as did the Mage Tower. The difference was, once I beat that challenge, it was over. I didn’t have to endure that mechanic again.
For the Visions, if I keep doing them, I’m going to be in that exact same situation, bouncing around chasing tentacles, time and time again. Because of that, I think Blizzard should have given extra care to creating obstacles that are a good challenge without such a high potential for frustration (especially those that are potentially nausea inducing).
I know there are better ways of handling these mechanics than the way I did them, and perhaps they will get less annoying as I master beating them, but for now I don’t have the motivation to reach that point. Blizzard has said they’re looking at lowering the difficulty of the Stormwind version. Maybe that will mean reviewing some of the more annoying mechanics, but so far it remains as is.
Too much time investment is required
I get where Blizzard’s coming from: They wanted Visions to be the main endgame activity for players in 8.3, so it has to stay interesting and worthwhile for as long as possible. Maybe they succeeded too well at this.
It’s daunting to consider how much time investment is required each week. Because it’s not just the time to run the Visions themselves, which itself is not exactly a breeze if you’re getting close to a full clear. And it’s not just the time to earn the currency in order to run them from the two invasion zones. It’s also all the time spent grinding neck levels and upgrading Essences for any given character. (You also need good gear, of course, but that’s always been true in WoW. It’s a fair and expected requirement.)
For anyone who hasn’t stayed current with their characters, who maybe switched mains twice (like I did), who put off upgrading a particular Essence, you are gimped. And if you didn’t succeed at upgrading your cloak in the early weeks, you are even more gimped. (Editor’s note: While it doesn’t eliminate this particular point, the announcement of account-wide Essences helps lower the hurdle a bit here.)
It’s true that you don’t need to min/max like a world-first raider to succeed. However, the psychological factor at play is that every time you fail, you’ll wonder if you could have made it if you’d just upgraded that one Essence.
The Mage Tower wasn’t always available, but when it was you could try it as many times as you wanted to. It cost currency with each try, but that currency was easy to obtain. Visions, on the other hand, are time-gated in several different ways, particularly with your overall ability to progress.
There is no firm end point
If you beat a Mage Tower boss, you got the weapon transmog and you were done. You could move on to the next spec. With Visions, there’s nothing like that. You upgrade your cloak, which lets you run more Visions, for more upgrades. Along the way, you earn other rewards, but without much of a guarantee aside from a few like the backpack.
The rewards from Visions are actually pretty great, but most of them are RNG drops, either during the run or in the chests that follow it. This greatly lessens my desire to farm the rewards, knowing I might never get what I want at all.
At the end of the day, my game time is limited, so I don’t want to run content that isn’t fun to me to begin with. The idea of running that content several times per week for the next six months or more is unappealing at best.
I guess you could say you’re “done” (if you’re not a raider) once you get the Through the Depths achievement and the Black Serpent of N’Zoth reward. That is the ultimate way to show off your mastery of Horrific Visions. I’m sure there are plenty of people who are just in love with Visions as I was with the Rhok’delar quest or the Mage Tower. They will get their serpents. I probably will not.
Of course, if you’re on a raid team, you don’t have much of a choice — the rewards from Visions are pretty important for progression. I’m not currently raiding, so I have the luxury of saying no. I do wonder how many people aren’t raiding or are reluctant to start raiding simply because they don’t want to run Visions.
In the end, I’m disappointed, and I’m not sure if it’s with myself or with the game designers. Perhaps both. I enjoy solo challenges, but this one isn’t for me. I’m looking forward to Shadowlands, and my hopes for WoW now rest with that future expansion. In the meantime, I’ll be unlocking Alliance stuff … for some reason.
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