I have adored World of Warcraft for years. I was bought the World of Warcraft Battle Chest back when it included only the base game and The Burning Crusade. This was not that long before Wrath of the Lich King released, and it was safe to say I was awful at the game (I was not even in secondary school, so it is justified).
My first character was a Blood Elf Paladin named Krackness, who is still hanging around on my server, nearly at the Warlords of Draenor level cap. I have spent hundreds of hours playing the game on many characters, and hundreds of pounds in the process. I would be a liar if I was to say I had enjoyed every moment of that gameplay, but I think I value all those moments, at least to some extent, and I certainly value the great memories they forged.
The question as to why I stopped playing Warcraft lies in a problem it has had for a long time. It is the end-game, the ability to replay, and the capacity the world has to keep feeding you with interesting activities. When you begin to realise you are spending £8.99 (or £9.99, as it is now) every month to repeat the same set of twenty daily quests to slowly grind reputation, then every so often doing a heroic dungeon or a raid quarter, you start to wonder what you are doing with your life. Gaming, after all, is a very idle activity, whatever you are playing. Broadly, you are not actually accomplishing anything vastly magnificent in the real world. This means that the game has to create the illusion that you are, and the end-game of Warcraft can find this difficult.
Don't get me wrong, the levelling process itself has rarely been dull. I enjoyed Cataclysm, and even Pandaria despite all odds (Draenor less so, it got a bit same-y). I enjoyed completing quests and going in dungeons with stroppy strangers who think themselves superior. Yet, when the achievement that you have reached the level cap pops up, you are jubilant for but a couple of hours before you realise that you are back to grinding, except this time the grind is far slower and less satisfying. It is tolerable, if you have an active guild to talk to, or TV to watch in the background, but games should not be merely tolerated, they should be enjoyed and loved.
Hence, my concern over Legion arises. It retails at a cool £29.99, plus the £9.99 monthly payment, which, combined, is the same as a non-subscription triple-A game from EA or Ubisoft. When I am likely to be spending more than this, due to the subscription model, I want a really immersive, even addictive, experience - preferably one that lasts a good while. In my now superior ability to play World of Warcraft, compared to my 2008 self, I can shoot my character up to the level cap in a week or two. Then I have two weeks of grinding gear and repeating the process with some other characters a little. By this point, I am sick of the game and that £39.98 I have just spent for a month's play now feels a little soured.
Yet, despite all this, I did once love the game, and I then see IGN say:
Legion shows World of Warcraft finding its footing again and asserting its relevance after more than a decade.
On reading this kind of opinion, I do then begin to wonder whether my criticism is a narrative I have constructed to keep myself away from the game, or whether I have just had bad experiences after a few lacklustre expansions. Then I see Rock, Paper, Shotgun review the expansion and say:
...campaign-wise, this is the best expansion Blizzard has ever made.
Then I wonder whether it really is worth investing that money after all. My past experiences and these reviews must count for something?
I believe that what this has to come down to is whether I have the time and money to spend playing World of Warcraft again. I don't believe I do. I wish I did, since Legion does undeniably look good, and my love affair with Warcraft, and my Death Knight, Thaal, will likely go on until the game's servers send their final bytes of data to players in, what is hopefully, a good few years.
I understand that I have not really looked at specific and exciting improvements Blizzard have added to the game, but that is not why I would go back anyway. I have long maintained that even with the most detailed gameplay, a well-written story and photo-realistic graphics, a game can be truly awful. Therefore, why mention mechanics at all, when I already know Blizzard has nailed the atmosphere of Warcraft, and review sites are saying that this is their best ever expansion? My apologies, Blizzard, I love your game, or rather I loved it once, but until I can dedicate the time you want me to, my long-standing account will have to remain frozen.