Updated Wed, Nov 19, 2008 by Messiah
Similar to last weeks look at questing in the expansion for World of Warcraft: The Wrath of the Lich King, I wanted to discuss instances and the changes to them in the Beta. Blizzard promised big on instance when they discussed them at BlizzCon last year and again at the Worldwide Invitational this year. They talked about making more accessible instance, easier group requirements, more entertaining encounters and being less time intensive. Having now run the three starting instances several times and gotten a good feel for them, it's time to give a preliminary look at how Blizzard is doing at achieving their objectives.
Blizzard discussed the fact that they wanted instances, especially the early ones, to be very accessible to players at the right level range. They did not want people coming in for quests and finding the instance too difficult to work through with a group of the same level as the zone is for. So far this seems to be working out as the first three instances, which are meant for 69-71, 71-73, and 72-74 are pretty simple for level 70 raid geared players. This is what you should expect since raid gear over normal level 70 green and blue gear is about 3-4 levels worth of difference. In order of progression the first three instances are Utgarde Keep, The Nexus, and Azjol'Nerub.
Blizzard also discussed easier group requirements, stating that ideally a non-tank spec warrior, paladin, druid or death knight should be able to tank a non-heroic instance. This one I am not so sure about. I ran one instance with my hunter and a furry spec warrior tanking and while we were able to get through the instance, there were many aggro issues, and it was much harder than the runs where I tanked on a protection Paladin. We were able to complete the run though, which is what Blizzard wanted, so maybe it is a success. I would not suggest it though, if any player wants to tank they should really spec for it, even if it is just for the run. After all a respec is only 50 gold each way.
The second part of easier group requirements discussed was that CC would not be as critical. There does seem to be less CC requirements, however being a Paladin tank it is hard to tell, since I do not watch for CC as much. The groups and pulls though are fairly small, usually 2-3, and would seem to be able to be handled by any competent tank without to much issue. The very few 4-5 MOB pulls could be handled with a single CC player in the group. This is instead of the old very common 4-5 MOB pulls in BC instances.
The area I am most happy about and where I think Blizzard really learned from past experiences is timing and pacing. The timing on the instances was amazing. The first run through took a bit over an hour to learn, and then after that it could easily be done in 30-45 minutes! To me this is perfect. Also the pacing is almost perfect. The first two instance felt like it was pull-pull-pull-boss repeat. Obviously there were more than 3 pulls between bosses, but it felt like that was it, there was enough trash to establish a feel for the instance and to control pace, but not enough to make it feel dragged out. There were no really long dragging spots in either instance. The third instance, Azjol'Nerub, is very literally pull, boss, pull, boss, pull, boss, done.
The last issue that was discussed that I was concerned about was the boss fight mechanics and ensuring that the fights and the instances as a whole were entertaining. So far the bosses have combined various elements from the past with enough minor twists to be challenging and entertaining. While they are slightly more complicated than old level-up instances, they are also aimed at players that have managed to get through all the old content and therefore know how to fight a boss. A+ for the fights that I have seen so far. I especially like the Arch Magus fight in the Nexus.
So far I have really enjoyed the new instances. They provide enough of the same old instance experience but with a few new tweaks. I especially like the new lesser time requirement and the very good pacing so far. The instances run as well as the best BC instances, yet feel slightly smoother. Once you consider that they also have better story line tie ins, and that the group requirements are less than before, I believe many more players will chose to level inside of instance than did in the first expansion.
I can not wait to get into and experience the rest of the new instances if they are anything like these first ones. So far they have been quick 1 hour or less, well paced, entertaining romps with a few fellow adventurers that provided great experience (5ish bubbles unrested). To me this is almost ideal.
The Messiah has had his say, what’s yours? Do you like the changes? Think they water down instances? Want more?
Email me at: Byron Mudry - (Messiah@TenTonHammer.com) or post in our forums (linked below).
Disclaimer: The opinions, beliefs and viewpoints expressed are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the opinions, beliefs and viewpoints of the Ten Ton Hammer network or staff.