Has World of Warcraft’s Mission Table system outlived its usefulness?
In November of 2014, Warlords of Draenor introduced us to a new aspect of World of Warcraft: the Mission Table. This was a feature that, at the time, I found fun. You could have 20 active followers, or upgrade the barracks and have 25, which I did on nearly every character. And in WOD, I had a lot of alts. It was possible to have 299 followers, and I never collected them all on a character, but for a while that was a dream of mine. There was a lot to collect from missions, too, including gold, other currencies, legendary quest items, gear, a few toys, and a mount.
And once the feature was added, Blizzard could only build on it and improve, right?
No! Because while we were still in Warlords, Blizzard added the Shipyard with a mission table of its own outside our garrisons. Unlike the our Mission Table followers, our ships could be destroyed and the crew was lost. Rewards were worse. You could wait days for a mission to complete, not receive the heirloom ring you wanted as a reward, and then not see that reward again for weeks.
But that’s okay, that’s okay. WOD started off strong with the Mission Table, then petered out. We were heading into Legion, one of the game’s best expansions. The mission table carried over, and surely Blizzard learned lessons and improved upon it… maybe.
While the Mission Table has evolved over the years, it hasn’t always been for the better. And in Shadowlands, it feels like the Mission Table concept is just limping along.
The Mission Table was a moneymaker in Legion
The Legion Mission Table was pretty good — way better than the Shipyard! But at first I didn’t understand why I had so few followers. I had to do the Class Order Hall Campaign to find the first five, and some side quests or bonus achievements to find another three.
Only eight followers? And they were the same for everyone of the same class? Though we got three more over the course of the expansion, I wondered where my other 200+ to choose from went. Also, Missions became a required portion of the Class Order Hall Campaign, much to the frustration of players who didn’t care for the system. Worse, some of these missions took days, acting as time sinks, that stopped players from progressing instead of playing the speed they wanted to play at. In Legion, the Mission Table was a little less fun.
With that said, once your followers were leveled up and you could easily complete missions, they were a lucrative source of gold and artifact power. These rewards scaled up based on the mission’s item level, so simply logging in, checking missions, logging out, and all of your alts do the same become an excellent source of gold the likes of which we haven’t seen since. There were plenty of other nice rewards — Blood of Sargeras, toys, pets, and even transmog.
At this point, it was not that the mission table was fun, but it made gold and didn’t take a lot out of the game. If that’s the role it wanted to play, ok, it could remain. And with that, we threw it onto a boat and brought it with us to Battle for Azeroth.
The Mission Table lost its shine in Battle for Azeroth
The war between the Horde and the Alliance really did spread across Azeroth’s two main continents, and not just in the isolated islands BFA focused on. Battles raged throughout the kingdoms… at least on the Mission Table.
Night Elves that survived the burning of Teldrassil tried to go to Azuremist Isles for safety, but the Horde attacked. The Barrens were in turmoil as the Alliance stormed the Crossroads to disrupt the path between Orgrimmar and Thunder Bluff, as they laid siege to the Gates of Mulgore, as they rearmed Fort Triumph to attack Desolation Hold. On the Eastern Kingdoms, the Alliance conquered Tirisfal and the Plaugeland, and kept control over Gilneas. They pushed Forsaken forces into Silverpine Forest, and the 7th Legion sieged Shadowfang Keep as apothecaries developed a new plague. Alliance Paladins retook Southshore and sought to purify it while the Horde tried to stop them.
This all feels like the kind of Alliance/Horde battle over the lands of Azeroth a lot of players would care about, but it all played out in the text in the missions that most players didn’t read. I didn’t read it, but it was far more interesting than some of the story we got in the playable game — and more interesting than the rewards from the missions themselves. While in Legion, running missions was enough to keep your character living in luxury, in BFA mission gold was so low that missions were hardly worth doing.
By the time BFA rolled around, I felt it would have been better to remove the Mission Table. It wasn’t fun anymore, it didn’t provide interesting rewards, and it just obfuscated what could have been interesting stories. Followers were no longer fun — everyone of the same faction had the same followers, with no variation, losing the “gotta catch ’em all” element that I loved about the WOD Mission Table.
The Command Table in Shadowlands hasn’t added anything
I was somewhat interested when I first heard about the new Mission…. Adventure… Command Table in Shadowlands. When Blizzard first said we would see each mission play out in an autobattler, I had a different image in my mind. I thought it would resemble a dungeon, with a group of five followers that resembled player characters standing there, casting spells and swinging swords. It felt like it would bring my followers to life, and when it was just 2D portraits sliding back and forth it was something of a disappointment. And much like the fights themselves, the fight logs are dull, dry texts. These Missions also aren’t integrated into the story, the campaign, or anything else.
And I didn’t realize that I was going to need an addon just to see mission information and understand fight mechanics. Until Shadowlands, I never used addons for the Mission Table. I just put my followers on the board and looked at the percentage to see my chances of success. Where did the percentages go? Into addons, apparently.
What’s worse is that resources that let you run the new Command Table missions aren’t just used for the Command Table: you need Anima to run every mission, and Anima is hard to come by. For previous Mission Tables, Garrison, Order, and War Resources were overflowing after a bit and I could start missions without caring about how much I had. With Anima, I can’t just run every adventure for 200 or 300 gold because the amount of time to earn the Anima to do the mission isn’t worth it. I have to really want that reward to be willing to spend Anima on it.
And the Shadowlands rewards just aren’t worth it. The gear is equivalent to World Quest gear, and then there are four pets and four mounts — but they’re identical among all Covenants, and as long as you obtain these on one character, you don’t have to do missions on any other. If you really want those rewards, it’s best to do the Mission Table on a Necrolord, because their Champions are just more capable.
The Mission Table is more complicated than it’s ever been, with fewer rewards and very little excitement.
So has the Mission Table outlived its time?
There are two parts to the Command Table that I enjoy, which I wish Blizzard would embrace and expand on.
First, I still enjoy collecting Followers — I mean Champions, since that’s what they’re called now. It made Torghast last a little longer as I finished off my collections. They aren’t very diverse within each Covenant, but they’re still the best collection of followers we’ve had since Legion. I’d like to do more with them and see them do more, such as being back in a bodyguard role, but they’re only here for the Command table.
Second, I like to have something simple to do in the game. Sometimes it’s nice to log in, click some things, and log out with the feeling you’ve accomplished something even though you didn’t have much time to invest. It’s nice. Sometimes when a task will take thirty minutes or an hour, I don’t have that time and so I don’t log in at all. Throughout its life, the Mission Table has filled this role. It was like the garrison chores of WOD. I could log in before work, check missions, mine and herb, and log out, on multiple toons, in under twenty minutes. It gave me reason to play, even when I didn’t have time to commit. It’s one reason why phone app games are so popular.
But Blizzard doesn’t seem to want to commit to a game like that — and if so, it may be better to remove the Mission Table completely. There’s no reason to have it if Blizzard won’t make it a rewarding or enjoyable experience.
And for two expansions now, Blizzard has hardly made the Mission Table worthwhile. The value of the rewards need to exceed the opportunity cost of getting them. Something inventive needs to up the up the fun, like a 3D chess auto battler would have. And Anima needs to be more plentiful if we’re using it as a Command Table resource, because it’s hard to justify spending Anima on missions. There are plenty of things Blizzard could do to improve the Command Table, but it remains as it is.
But really, the Mission Table should have stayed in Draenor as a Warlords-only feature. That expansion had its issues, but the Mission Table was new and exciting and fun in a way it isn’t anymore. The Mission Table has been limping along expansion after expansion now, and it feels like something that should have been removed at least last expansion, if not sooner.
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