End of Expac Blues
I’m sure it was obvious from the tone and content of my last post, but I haven’t been enjoying myself in WoW since 4.3 was released. And while my feelings about the Dragon Soul raid have contributed to my general lack of excitement, I know that a lot of the reason I’ve backed away from WoW in the last month or so has been due to external factors – being busy with work and at home, spring/summer just naturally being a time when I often back away from WoW, and the deal that I made never to force myself to play when I’d rather be doing other things.
The end of an expansion cycle is rough. Content stays the same for months (or, in the case of WotLK, a year) while we only have the slightest idea of when the new expansion will finally give us something else to do. To keep interested in the past, I’ve usually found myself either leveling alts, gearing alts, or turning to the PvP grind. Now, I find myself at the end of Cataclysm with seven 85s who are all able to at least queue for the Hour of Twilight heroics, 2 level 70 twinks (one already at 70 and locked, the other a few short levels away), and no desire at all to use that tenth character slot at the moment. I think it’s the first time in my WoW memory that I’ve really found myself with nothing to do and no interest in creating new diversions for myself. I love working on alt gearing and PvPing, but even that has lost its charm for now. I find myself only logging on once or twice a week for my regular 10-man raid, and even that has been something of a struggle lately. We’re making decent progress through Dragon Soul heroics, but I can’t honestly say I’d even bother logging on for that were it not for how much I enjoy spending time with the other people in that raid group.
Instead, I’ve found myself trying out SWTOR in my spare time. Make no mistake – I have no misconceptions about SWTOR having greener pastures than WoW, though I am having a blast playing around with new content and in a new environment. SWTOR is a nice, comfy space for a WoW player who is used to the flow of WoW’s questing, class design, and UI. It hasn’t learned all the things it – and all new MMOs – should from WoW (kill spell ranks, for the love of all that’s holy!), but I’m enjoying the time I’m spending there as I bide my time before Mists. A large part of what I’m loving about SWTOR is that I’m playing alongside the boyfriend – something we haven’t found a lot of reason to do in WoW lately.
With the age of Raid Finder and LFD upon us, and with the ease and speed that we can level new alts, we haven’t really needed to do things together in-game for a while now. Outside of raiding and PvP, we pretty much went our own way once we logged in. Because everything in SWTOR is so new to us, because we actually need to help each other through some of the quest areas, and because we genuinely are interested in seeing how each of our character’s storylines pans out, we haven’t spent much time playing alone. It’s been so much fun to really discover the game together, and while the boyfriend is considerably less enamored with SWTOR than I am (the overall bugginess and quality of life issues are driving him crazy), we are both enjoying the way that this MMO really asks you to get inside the head of the character on your screen and think about who they are.
So thanks to this new distraction, I find my beta invite for Mists still sitting unused in my inbox and the client still patiently waiting to be downloaded from Blizzard’s server. There are a lot of things I’m excited to see in Mists – most notably the scenery in Pandaria – but I’m finding myself less than thrilled at the idea of logging on to the beta. I was in the first round of beta invites for Cataclysm and had a lot of fun with it, but I have a hard time looking forward to the Mists beta knowing just how many players fill up those servers at any given time. I can’t picture that being anything but frustrating, which isn’t how I’d like to spend the hours of the week I reserve for fun.
But my deeper concern than the size of the beta still rests with the overhaul we will see in Mists and this second expansion in a row that seems to reinvent the wheel. I wouldn’t argue for a moment that talent trees didn’t desperately need to be revisited, as I’ve written about before. But I also can’t shake the frustration that comes with knowing that – for better or worse – I’ll be re-learning the classes I play yet again. I suppose that’s another part of the attraction of SWTOR for me at the moment: while I may be a complete noob there, I am happily aware of my ignorance and I like that I’m slowly learning my way through my abilities and talents. That feeling is decidedly different from being someone who is used to playing at a high level of comprehension in WoW and feeling like the rug is about to be ripped out from under me … again.
So while I remain optimistic about Pandaria and have told myself that I’ll download the beta client and give it a shot this weekend, I can’t quite shake those same fears of change I explored last year when the new expansion was announced. I’m really worried that Mists is going to make or break my commitment to WoW, and for someone who has played continuously since BC and made a lot of very close friends along the way, that’s a pretty scary thought. I already find myself thinking that, for the first time since I subbed, I might as well cancel my subscription for a little while – and that thought has absolutely never occurred to me before.
Are any of you feeling the “end of expac blues?” What do you do to cure them? Do you advocate taking time off, and if so, what are the chances that you’ll return if you do decide to unsubscribe for a while?