WoW! Thoughts! — On The Legendary Ring Quest

Thoughts on how attempting to innovate gameplay can go too far and make the game something it is not.

It’s been long enough since I first delved into Blackrock Foundry that I’ve finally collected my nine hundred Elemental Runestones and composed my three Elemental Tablets to present to Khadgar. In doing so, I have now hit the part of the Legendary Quest that ensures only the persistent will get their ring.

In Mists of Pandaria there were several chokepoints along the path to earning your cloak. While the collection quests are only daunting in that they require weeks of raiding (even more daunting if only raiding LFR), there were other tasks that would challenge players in various ways. The battle in the Thunder Forge, the combat in Silvershard Mines, or especially the fight against Wrathion all forced players to complete tasks that may not be part of their normal playstyle. Anyone who stared down all of these obstacles and came away victorious deserved their cloak. It would seem Blizzard appreciated this process and is repeating it in Warlords.

There may still be a challenging fight before this is done, but for now, the leg of the quest garnering the most complaints is the Inside Job quest with Garona. After releasing(?) Garona from Gul’dan’s mind control, Khadgar sends the player and the assassin to retrieve information from an Iron Horde stronghold. While we have jumped headfirst into enemy territory before and survived, this time, the focus of the mission is on stealth. Garona can cloak the player and herself as they advance through the encampment, and she even has an Assassinate ability that will instantly kill a given enemy every thirty seconds. However, the stealth is weak and easily broken should a guard spy you in their line of sight. The guard will then begin to sound an alarm, which, once it goes off, triggers Khadgar to summon the player out of the base and away from danger before becoming overwhelmed and defeated.

While this is an intriguing quest unlike most other quests in Warcraft, that rarity is also its greatest problem. Players have little experience hiding in stealth and staying out of an enemy’s field of vision. Even rogue stealth by default will allow you to walk in front of any enemy with no repercussions, as long as there is no contact. Prior quests, such as navigating the patrols and mobs with Taoshi while unlocking the final area of Thunder Isle conformed to the standard expectation of stealth – enemies could not see the player as long as he or she remained inside Toashi’s stealth-bubble, with the exception of clearly marked sentries that could penetrate stealth. The game was all about learning the patterns of the guards, and the penalty for failure was minimal. The reward was also minimal, in that it opened the final section of the island, which was required only for questing purposes and not part of anything grander like obtaining the legendary cloak.

Instead, the weak stealth and alerting of guards in Inside Job feels more reminiscent of Metal Gear Solid or even Hotline: Miami. Those are games where you need to be cognizant of where guards are looking and who is near, and whether or not you can dispatch them before they can call for support. Those games also have controls designed around those tasks regularly. WoW‘s controls allow for movement in general, but the stealth mini-game is overlayed upon them.  Players can move as normal, and they are given Garona’s assassinate to use in addition to their normal kit, but the functionality is clunky.  WoW‘s version of stealth is a spell that is cast and not the actual act of avoiding guards.  Players have enjoyed World of Warcraft for over ten years, and even for rogues, that enjoyment has not required them to sneak behind guards to avoid detection.  It is exciting for the developers to attempt to offer a new experience, but that experience should still resemble the base game we are logging in to play.  Garona’s quest stretches the concept of what a Warcraft quest can feature, but it seems to stretch too far.

Consequently, the mechanical clunkiness has encouraged players to negotiate the puzzle in unintended ways. Losing Garona by logging out has been one way for rogues and other characters with a (better) stealth to use it to proceed. Also, grouping with another player on another realm forces the mobs in your instance to despawn, allowing players to walk right up through the gate and gather their intel with no risk. It is disappointing that some players would resort to this, but not surprising given the level of frustration this quest can engender.

The problem with difficult quests is that players will only attempt the quest so long as it is slightly out of their reach. If a player is presented with a seemingly impossible obstacle, they will simply ignore it as no amount of effort will guarantee success. But when a reward is just beyond their current efforts, they will keep straining to earn it.   The caveat is that as a player tries and fails, the perception of that barrier being impossible increases. For the most part, Blizzard does a good job tuning the difficulty of their tasks, but in this case, especially when compared with the glitches that allow players to skip the challenge, the difficulty may be too much. However, at this point it would be disappointing for Blizzard to retune the quest. Many players have persevered and completed it, and attempting to reduce the difficulty would cheapen their accomplishment.

It is a fine line to walk in game development between a challenging yet fun experience, and a frustrating and difficult experience. Legendary quests are supposed to be Legendary, and there is value in over-tuning the curve in these types of situations. However, when the challenge can easily be nullified, the entire enterprise is a waste. I’ll keep escorting Garona through the Iron Hode encampment. I just don’t know if I’ll think it was worth it when I finish.

WoW! Blurbs!

After taking these FIXES out of the microwave, let them sit for one minute, because they will be HOT.

Blizzard put up a preview of the Tanaan Jungle zone.  There better be Fel Reavers!!!

Blizzard put up a preview of the Bonus Event system and the Adventure Guide.  It seems that the WoW! Thoughts! event only happens every other weekend, of late.

WoW subscribers are down to 7.1 million.  This game is as doomed as Draenor when facing a Legion invasion!


Nick Zielenkievicz
Nick Zielenkievicz
Nick Zielenkievicz

Senior Producer

Host of WoW! Talk! and The Tauren & The Goblin. Sometimes known as the Video Games Public Defender. Wants to play more Destiny and Marvel Heroes but WoW is all-consuming. Decent F2P Hearthstone player. Sad that he lost the Wii that had Wrecking Crew on it. Would be happy if the only game ever made was M.U.L.E. Gragtharr on Skywall-US. Garresque on Ravencrest-US.

The Latest from Mash