A big problem has crept into the last two WoW extensions. The strength of our character is no longer measured by our equipment, buffs, talents or our ability, but by features that give us power for a short time.
This borrowed power (rental power) is now given to us with every patch and taken away again with the next update, in order to be replaced by a new, much better rental power. Below we illustrate why this is a problem and what the solution might be. For a better understanding, we first look at the extensions of WoW and look at when we were given which character power and taken away.
To understand how exactly our characters have changed over the years, we need to take a look at the origin. In Classic, all objects can be enchanted except for a necklace and jewelry. Legendary items are available in the form of a two-handed mace and a one-handed sword. Priests and hunters are given their own epic weapons that stand out from the rest of the equipment. Classes that can carry rods also have the option of getting a legendary two-handed rod.
In Vanilla WoW this was reserved for less than 0.1 percent of the players. The legendary items usually had to be earned through a difficult and / or lengthy quest line and were given to a single player in the raid. To get this legendary item, the player had to rely on the help of his raid. In addition to enchantments, consumables, normal buffs from other classes, as well as world buffs and loot from instanced areas, characters also draw their power from set items that unlock a number of other effects or bonuses.
The Burning Crusade
In the first expansion of World of Warcraft (buy now for € 32.95) we also learned for the first time what happens to our hard-worked equipment at the start of a new expansion – it will be replaced almost immediately. Some players were able to go into the first little raid Karazhan with a few parts of their T-3 set and some special items. For all others, however, any item from Classic was exchanged from level 66 at the latest.
Otto normal player was surprised to find that the first quest reward at level 61 was worlds better than what he had been proudly carrying for the past few months. Even the bearers of Thunderfury, Sulfuras, and even Atiesh realized right at the start of the expansion that the weapon they envied many had to give way to a blue item with a higher item level. This phenomenon should therefore repeat itself with each upcoming expansion. Otherwise, much power was not taken from the players in TBC, they even received power. More rows were added to the old talent trees, enchantment options remained almost the same, fighting frenzy and heroism were implemented and thanks to the jewel grinder, players were able to equip themselves with gems for the first time.
Only world buffs and little things like jujus and some elixirs were dropped. Towards the end of the expansion, warriors and villains were able to equip themselves with Azzinoth's strong war glaciers, and hunters had the chance of a legendary bow. Similar to Atiesh, but only saw a fraction of the hardcore raiders.
Wrath of the Lich King
In Wrath of the Lich King, too, some players defeated the first Raid Naxxramas with the Tier 6 or Tier 6.5 set from the previous expansion, but even legendary blades such as the Azzinoth Glaive were countered during the level phase exchanged much more powerful weapons. But by now they had got used to it. In addition to new talents and gems, players in WotLK were given the opportunity to change some of their skills through glyphs for the first time.
While some of them were only really useful in certain situations, a few of them had a real impact on the character's playing style. Towards the end of the expansion, melee classes and hunters had the opportunity to collect a new value called armor penetration, which gave them a significant surge in damage from a certain value. Warriors, paladins and death knights rejoiced in a legendary two-handed ax that had to be earned through a long quest line in the Icecrown Citadel. Healers also received a legendary weapon from the previous content with the Val'anyr one-handed mace, but it was nowhere near as powerful as the Shadowgram two-handed ax.
For the first time, players got help during the last big raid. For example, the Icecrown Citadel was weakened by five percent every month, as players received five percent more health every four weeks and caused five percent more damage and healing. This buff rose to 30 percent.
The third expansion of WoW was to be a first milestone in the history of character power and was under the motto "Mucking out the unimportant". With the previous two addons, more and more skills and talents were added, which slowly but surely caused the action bar of some players to overflow. For the first time, the developers made a clear cut. Not as many skills were deleted per se, but instead tailored to the current playing style. For example, shadow priests were left with their main healing abilities from the Holy and Discipline Spec, but otherwise all other healing spells for the priest's DpS play were removed.
The talent tree was also cleaned up. Instead of the eleven rows and 71 talent points, there were only seven rows and 51 points at the end. Here, too, the "boring" passive talents were mucked out. The values were further cleaned up: Obsolete stats such as resistors were removed for the first time and a new value called Mastery was added, which increased the power that was adapted to the respective spec.
In the same breath, shoulder enchantments were removed from the game. Items with rather unwanted values could be partially converted into other values with the new forging feature. Regarding Legendarys, the villain was once again in the spotlight, who at the end of the expansion could easily get his pair of orange Pikser. In the content before it were the damage-causing magic classes, which were the Legendary Staff over a longer quest series in the Firelands Dragon's Fury, Tarecgosa's Rest secured.
Talent trees through the ages
The active and passive skills that you unlock through the talent tree are a big factor when it comes to the strength of your character. In Classic, you were able to divide your total of 51 talent points into three different ways of playing, each with seven rows. At the end of the tree there was always a special ability that defined the spec and made it worthwhile to work your way through the talent tree until the end.
In TBC there were nine rows per spec and 61 talent points. WotLK put it on again and gave you eleven rows for each style of play, in which you could allocate 71 talent points. This trend could not be continued, Blizzard thought, and gave the talent trees a facelift. With Cataclysm, they returned to seven rows and 51 talent points, only to create a whole new concept in Mists of Pandaria. In the 15s, 30s, 45s, 60s, 75s and 90s talent series (somewhat different for death knights) of a fixed spec, you could therefore choose one of three talents and vary them in quiet zones. A series has been added with WoD. This system has been preserved up to BfA and will probably be the norm in the upcoming expansion of Shadowlands.
Mists of Pandaria
If you ask players when their class was the most fun, the answer is often "in MoP". After Cataclysm, the developers worked out the right amount of skills for the respective specs that everyone should have. While the new talent tree took away a lot of choices for players, most builds of the old talent trees were mostly the same cookie-cutter builds. In other words, the same active and passive skills were always chosen.
In addition, head enchantments have been removed from the game once and for all. Instead of granting a special legendary item to only certain classes, Blizzard introduced the Legendary for everyone with the cloak of the Black Prince Furorion. Depending on the role (tank, healer or damage distributor), the cape triggered strong effects that, together with the back part, could be improved even during the course of MoP. Patch 5.4 implemented the Timeless Island, where strong elite opponents could be found.
To be able to defeat them, a whole series of very powerful buffs were placed on the island, among other things by consumables and shrines. MoP adhered to the system of justice and bravery points that had existed since TBC and added another currency with amulets of luck, with which PvE items could initially be upgraded by four and later by eight item levels. Towards the end of the expansion, it was even possible to upgrade his PvE items twice by eight item levels, which again simplified the last raid battle for Orgrimmar.
Warlords of Draenor
WoD naturally made the legendary cloak beyond level 90 practically unusable and was the first experience for the majority of the community with what we call "rental power" in this article. Much sadder was the lack of game content, but what had become of the classes. After holding on to many skills in Cataclysm and adding new skills in addition to new talents in MoP, the action bar of many classes was admittedly so full that sales of mice with eight or more keys felt to have increased significantly.
However, the developers put the hedge trimmer too hard, which led to many classes playing quite similarly. The only positive thing was that with "Pruning" the community could add a new word to their English vocabulary. As if that weren't enough, removing the forging took away an opportunity to improve his character, and glyphs no longer played a role in the player's rotation. The parchments of the inscription expert were unfortunately only cosmetic. Similar to MoP, we were accompanied by a legendary ring for everyone. But you can already imagine what happened to it in the next expansion.
The "pruning" did not end in Legion, but in return we received the legendary weapons, which had their own talent tree with an interesting active and many passive skills, which made the gameplay much more attractive. Weapon enchantments had to give way for the first time (except for the death knight). In addition, each class had the option of wearing one and later two legendarys. These changed the style of play further and provided a lot of character power.
90 percent of the character's power was now defined by the artifact weapon and (with luck) the Legendarys collected – the epitome of "rental power". Blizzard proved right from the start of the expansion that they had little experience with such systems. The artifact weapons had interesting bonuses, but the really good effects that made the spec and made it valuable for his group should be locked behind a months-long grind.
When you received one of the many Legendarys was hidden behind a hidden progress bar – and initially not communicated by the developers. According to the developers, the chance of a legendary item increased later through activities in PvE and PvP. The motto was "just play more, at some point you will be lucky." Many did not get their matching legendary until the end of the expansion, when a resource was introduced for which one could specifically purchase legendary items. The effect of the legendary items remained with us until the next expansion, but our artifact weapons were robbed of all perks – for the benefit of Azeroth.
The loss of Legion character power
Meanwhile, a good picture can be drawn of how much power our character has been deprived of through the various expansions. Above all, these many cuts to our character are the reason why players have long preferred the classic version of the game:
- Less talent
- Hardly any enchantments
- Fewer jewels and no metasocket
- No world / zone buffs
- Maximum one strengthening elixir / bottle and one potion per fight
- Up to ten fewer active skills
- No meaningful glyphs
- No effects of legendary items
- No perks about the artifact weapon • No zone-specific buffs
- No item level upgrades
- Professions hardly play a role in character power
It is normal that not every feature of every expansion can be adopted, otherwise the game would be overloaded with features and activities. However, the changes made to the seven expansions show how more and more character adjustments have been removed from the game and how the game styles have degenerated. Instead, the strength of a character is defined purely through a single feature. However, this feature is only active for one extension until the next development by the developer decides how valuable your character is in the current content. What happens when this feature is not so well received can be seen in Battle for Azeroth.
Battle for Azeroth
While the features of Legion were only reason to think about the problem of rental power, the course of BfA has now become a reason to ring the alarm bells. Because with the current expansion we have got four rental power mechanics, which we will all lose again at the start of Shadowlands.
Since the first features of the expansion did not work as the developers had imagined, new systems had to be conjured up from the hat. But more on that in a moment. First of all, the Titan Forged system was removed with BfA Patch 8.3, but the master looter was also removed from the game. From the one random factor (titan forged system) a new random generator was introduced with the personal loot.
The danger of feature overload
What happens when a feature that increases our character power, is practically not yet active or is implemented incorrectly, shows the level phase of BfA. With each level you become weaker than stronger and from level 116 onwards the effects of the Legion Legendarys are no longer applicable. The artifact weapon was then exchanged for the next best quest reward at the latest or even much earlier for the account-linked weapon.
The weapon can at least be improved with a variety of enchantments. Except for azerite items and the necklace, weapons and other items also had the chance to have a base. Azerite items were compensation for set items, but getting an azerite item did not mean that you automatically received an upgrade. First of all, the right perks had to be available, of which there were fixed traits that you absolutely wanted to have in combination with other perks.
With Patch 8.2, the essences were introduced that, in addition to Azerite items and the level of the associated heart of Azeroth, were the second power source for our character. Essences had to be laboriously earned over weeks, which made it difficult for twinks. Similar to Legion, a system was introduced far too late to make it easier to maintain this power source. With the legendary cloak and corruption effects, Patch 8.3 currently provides two features that decisively determine how strong our hero is.
All four power sources (azerite items, essences, legendary cloak and corruption effects) are snatched from our characters with the launch of Shadowlands. Our hero from Azeroth is left powerless with his few skills and a simplified cookie cutter talent tree. We would not be surprised if Azeroth's heart deteriorates into a normal necklace. Removing all of these power sources is like taking a soldier's hand grenade, firearm, protective gear, and communication. The soldier must trust that he will find better equipment in the next battle.
Does Blizzard always have to reinvent the wheel?
The trend since Legion shows that Blizzard's developers in the field of character progression are focused on designing a new feature in each expansion, which is responsible for the majority of our character power. In the long run, this is not only harmful for twinks and returnees, but also means fewer and fewer players can take part in current game events.
After all, why should you collect equipment if it is worthless a few months later and the twink hardly has the opportunity to get to the same equipment level? Every time, the developers take the trouble and hope that the next big feature will be well received, instead of continuously developing a system. The legion artifact weapons could certainly have been modified so that they could have played a role in BfA. Weapon drops are usually the most annoying for many classes if they don't want to drop. Either the motto at Blizzard is "New is always better" or you are afraid of the bad press if you can't advertise with a brand new feature?
What is the solution to the rental power problem?
With all the whining, of course, we also want to try to find a solution to the problem. We thought a lot about it and looked at why other MMOs like SWTOR, FFXIV or Guild Wars in this form have no problem with rental power.
After careful consideration, the developers would not even have to think outside the box, but simply look at why so many players wanted Classic back. Classic also has its quirks and there is basically no class balance. But that doesn't matter. The joy of playing comes from the fact that the original version of WoW is not yet overloaded with features, but above all has a meaningful character progression. It may sound trivial nowadays for a retail player – and maybe also for the developers – but the most meaningful way of character progression and bypassing rental power is the focus on equipment.
Most of the power has to be generated from items again. Those who receive their desired item in Classic will be happy for a long time. Of course, in Classic a lot fewer items drop and there are often loot dramas. However, objects are not completely devalued by a new animal or feature, in BfA this has happened with every major patch. The focus must again be on the loot itself and not hidden behind a senseless grind. And hey, if certain items don't want to drop, then we have another crazy idea: meaningful character progression over occupational items.
The view of Shadowlands – a good approach with quirks
With Shadowlands, our characters will start in their raw form. When typing these lines, we don't know what exactly happens to corruption effects and the legendary cloak. At least we get back some "iconic" skills for the respective class. However, these are just something like auras of the paladin, poisons for the villain or arcane explosion in all three magician specs. So we will continue to suffer from "pruning", but the pacts will give us a special ability. depending on which of the four Pact groups we choose.
This will throw a ticking time bomb into the Shadowlands right at the start of the expansion. It is almost impossible that all four skills will be balanced. In addition, additional cosmetic items depend on the ability, which can be unlocked for these fractions. Some will have to decide whether to rely on aesthetics or prefer the strength of each skill. Very ambitious players will probably play one or more classes, each with one of the pact skills.
And God forbid if the skills need to be adjusted later in the expansion. Then we have a similar scenario as in the middle of Legion. At that time, the developers promised not to change the perks of the artifact weapons, which resulted in players putting all their artifact power into a single weapon. When one of the other two weapons suddenly turned out to be better after a balance adjustment, the shouting was great. The grief over the pacts seems preprogrammed, but at least the forge of dominance and the associated legendary look promising.
Forge of dominance as a template for future features?
You can put together your do-it-yourself legends at the same smithy that Arthas' iconic Blade of Frostgram was made on. This follows the example of the legendary cloak from Mists of Pandaria. Not much is known about the details of the feature. Once you've received a certain material, you can create a legendary item for any armor slot.
Later, it should be possible to create several Legendarys in this way. What effect the item grants you is up to you. You have to imagine it like the punch cards that you insert into Mechagon's jewelry. It is unlikely that this feature could also accompany us in the upcoming extensions. At least, similar to the Legendarys of other extensions, you will be able to accept it if it is canceled in the end. While this is not the solution to the entire rental power problem, it is better than implementing a new borrowed power source with every patch.
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