In the latest content patch for Battle for Azeroth, World of Warcraft has removed Titanforging for a short while, replacing it with a chance for corrupted items and the way people are hunting down loot has reminded me of a system that isn’t even that far back in WoW’s history: the legendary items of Legion.
Titan what now?
Getting loot in a dungeon or a raid or out in the world is exciting. Of course, doing the content for long enough, like for players who do regular raiding or dungeon runs, can lead to the loot being less exciting if it is all the same. So WoW added a system where items can upgrade. At first, this was just a socket in the item, where you can slap a gem in for some extra stats, or a tertiary stat could get added to the item, giving you extra speed or life leech. It made for doing content regularly still rewarding possible upgrades to your gear.
Then the chance of an item increasing in power level above what normally drops arrived. A small increase would classify as a Warforged item, while a Titanforged drop could rival what you would get on another difficulty. It made things exciting and while you would curse your luck as your friends got Titanforged versions of all the best gear and you had plain versions, at least you could still compete with their healing or damage outputs.
Now for the next while, Titanforging is gone, replaced with a new system. Items can still get tertiary stats or a socket, but the ilvl of the item won’t change. Instead, you can get Corrupted items, showing how N’Zoth’s attack on the Titan facilities is preventing this from happening. These items have a range of effects, from increasing a stat every now and then to blasting enemies in front of you based on your attack power or a percentage of your health. And here is the rub. Some of these effects are minor, and you won’t even be able to tell that a player is benefitting from it because their damage might improve a few percent compared to the previous raid. But other abilities are so good that they can make up 15% or more of a player’s total DPS in a boss fight, their numbers grossly different from the last run, or someone with similar item level. Tanks start doing more DPS than some of the actual DPSers and while the tanks might be chuffed with that, the DPS probably aren’t.
Here is the rub though. Just like the Legendary items of Legion, you can’t target a specific corruption effect (for a long, long time at least). Besides for a few weapons with guaranteed corruption effect – which are pretty limited by class and spec – there is no way to target a specific corruption, unless you happen to watch the Auction House. So you either get an item with the corruption you want, or you don’t and watch everyone else have fun with their new toys. On top of that, each corruption has a level of strength, from 1 to 3, so you might finally get the one you want, but the weakest version of it. Or perhaps you want the weakest one because you can’t afford to have high corruption in a fight, but you get the rank 3 version.
Back to the fishing
Now players are doing what they used to do in Legion: running content that has no items of any worth to them, hoping to get something with corruption on it, like a ring. Turns out the better corruption effects on a 415 ilevel ring are better than some 445 rings. (So much for that ilevel matters more philosophy hey?) Anything without corruption on it is binned because it is too weak to be of use to the players doing this.
So Blizzard has created (or recreated!) a system where a new range of power types have been introduced (like legendaries) that can greatly alter damage output, that can’t be targetted and while it is much fun for the person that has them, those without are feeling left out in the cold.
It feels strange that Blizzard has introduced something that makes drastic changes to gameplay or damage output again a single expansion later and has fallen into the same pitfalls as before. If there were ways to target specific corruptions (level of strength too), or move a corruption from one item onto another, or steep an item in corruption or ANY other type of system besides relying on RNG would definitely have some pitfalls, but would feel better than watching some players wondering what the point is of improving their Legendary cloaks when they don’t need any corruption resistance, because they don’t have any corrupted items.
Another problem rears its head thanks to how our only proper source of corruption resistance, the cloak, has a time gate on its progression. Those bigger corruptions might be great when your cloak is stronger, but for now, you need to make a tough choice. The choice is either to leave the item in your bag to hopefully use one day or clear the corruption off of it. Why not let us seal the corruption, to unleash it again later if we wanted to? Sure, you can make it expensive to get back, but now players are left with piles of items that they might use, because cleansing is permanent, and permanent choices are few and far between in MMOs, making them pretty daunting, if not outright scary. What if you cleanse something and it gets a buff, or your favourite one gets nerfed?
Corruption feels like fun when you are on the one side of the table, and like a complete chore/ cheat/ lack of fun if you are on the other side, and that isn’t good game design.
And before anyone asks if I am writing this because I am salty because I have no corruption items, I am a tank running Twilight Devastation, meaning I have big blasts of damage based on my max HP, which makes for ludicrous damage on large mob packs.