WoW Wednesday: What’s New in Season 4?

Ny’alotha awakens and with the rise of N’zoth comes Season 4 for Battle for Azeroth! As the last Old God begins to unfurl the lengths of his millennia spanning plans, champions of Azeroth gird themselves for a war for the fate of the world. With Season 4 officially beginning this week, we’ll be diving into everything that’s new with its release.

Ny’alotha, The Waking City

First and foremost is the release of Battle for Azeroth’s fourth and final major raid tier, Ny’alotha, The Waking City. With its newfound freedom, N’zoth has begun his long awaited siege on the waking world. Enroaching upon the Forge of Origination, Azeroth’s land-scouring reset button, and the Engine of Nakk-Shalak, its power source, it is only a matter of time before the Old God removes all hope. Desperate to end the threat before everything its lost, Magni Bronzebeard, the Speaker for Azeroth, and Wrathion the Black Prince prepare a desperate gambit. In order to destroy N’zoth forever, they must besiege his very seat of power and hope that the corruption does the hearts of its heroes…


Following the previous raid tier, Azshara’s Eternal Palace, Ny’alotha, The Waking City continues to follow a linear progression system in its boss encounters. While there are several ‘choice’ encounters that players can rotate through, each of the raid’s twelve boss encounters are mostly linear in their progression.

Following previous concepts from the final raids of Mists of Pandaria, Warlords of Draenor and Legion, Ny’alotha features an immense host of cosmetic rewards including one that will only be available until the Shadowlands pre-patch. Rewarded for defeating N’zoth on Heroic and Mythic difficulties only, the Uncorrupted Voidwing will close a loop with the Black Prince that remains unanswered. With the corruption of Twilight Dragons and their servitude to the Old Gods, what future does the doomed flight have in Azeroth?

New essences will also abound for players venturing into The Waking City. Similar to the Aqueous Reliquaries of the Eternal Palace, Encrypted Ny’alotha Texts can be combined to form the raid’s Heart of Azeroth Essence. These Texts will only drop from five bosses, including The Prophet Skitra. Like previous raid-progression systems the amount of Texts you can collect per week will increase with higher difficulties. Mythic will reward the most week-to-week.

Looking for Raid Wing 1 and Mythic Difficulty will open the week after your region’s particular launch of Season 3. Players are advised to complete the introduction storyline and gain the first few ranks of their new legendary cloak, Ashjra’kamas, Shroud of Resolve, before entering. You can read up on that and the Horrific Visions systems from our previous coverage.

Step Into the Arena!


Battle for Azeroth 
Season 4 brings a new and glamorous title to the mix, “Corrupted Gladiator.” With the rollover into the next season of Rated PvP, both personal and matchmaking ratings will normalize and return to zero. This means a fresh start for all players seeking to carve their name into the halls of conquerors.

Returning to Season 4 is the graduated Elite Gladiator System, rewarding players who advance their rating with progressive unlockables for your Elite Notorious Gladiator sets, as well as the seasonal tabard, enchantment, and cloak. Those looking to claim the Gladiator Title and the Corrupted Gladiator’s Proto-Drake must also win an additional 50 games in the Elite bracket (2400+). Those looking to claim the “Corrupted Gladiator” title must place in the top 0.1% of rankings in their region, as well as claim 150 victories in 3v3 Arenas during Season 3. The returning Gladiator’s Dreadflame enchantment appearance will still be attainable for those who hit 2100 rating in Season 4.

Returning to Season 4 are temporary seasonal “Elite Class” titles. These titles will be awarded to players who reach the Elite bracket. Several PvP exclusive Essences will continue to appear in Conquest Chests at week’s end, including Conflict and Strife. Others such as Blood of the Enemy can be unlocked through several PvP encounters. Like their PvE counterparts, these Essences have various ranks and may require improving your personal rating to unlock higher tiers.

At this time, Gladiator PvP sets from Seasons 1, 2 and 3 will be unavailable to purchase until a later date.

Marvelous Mythic+

With the start of a new season comes a plethora of adjustments for the Dungeon Delvers of Azeroth. Whereas there is no scaling adjustments akin to Season 3’s brutal changes, difficulty and health will increase more in line with what players are used to from previous seasons. Key depletion will, however, be far more intense, and failed dungeons have the potential to scale down by multiple ranks. A host of Mythic+ dungeon mechanics, including several found in King’s Rest and Freehold, are seeing nerfs due to the heavy and punishing damage they can rapidly deliver. The Quaking Affix has also received a massive change; no longer will players be able to damage themselves but the damage increase for their fellows has increased from 20% to 40%!


With N’zoth’s growing reach across Azeroth and the waking world, a new Mythic affix has been introduced as the Seasonal Affix: Awakened. Similar to last season’s affix, Beguiling, each Mythic 10 dungeon and higher will have a series of pylons scattered around the instance. Whenever these pylons are interacted with, you will be dragged into the dreaming world where a Lieutenant of N’zoth and his minions are contained. After they are defeated you can return to the waking world, allowing you to potentially skip large swaths of the dungeon! But beware: each Lieutenant left alive will join the final boss when you face them.

Additionally, the Season 2 affix, Bwonsamdi’s Bargain, will return on dungeons that are Mythic 9 or lower to encourage you to play depleted keys. Mechagon, 8.2’s megadungeon, also enters the Mythic+ rotation with its two major halves divided up. The Junkyard will feature the exterior portions of Mechagon and its first four bosses. The Workshop will feature all encounters inside Mechagon City itself, and is more boss heavy than it’s predecessor. Hard Mode will not be eligible for players engaging either wing in Mythic+.

Upgrading Gear Tables!

Alongside the opening of Ny’alotha, The Waking City, players will find new loot with increased item levels in their weekly activities. Baseline rewards in Normal, Heroic, Mythic and Mythic+ content have been increased by 30 item levels, putting them on par with previous raid tier rewards.

Gladiator PvP Gear now begins at item level 430 in both the Conquest Chest and regular rewards from Rated Player vs. Player activities. Like last season, players will be able to choose from at least four different rewards in their weekly Conquest Bar. On weeks when the gear rewarded is neither a piece of Azerite Gear, trinket or weapon, players will be able to choose between two different item slots of gear.

Emissary rewards for World Quests have likewise been increased and several items may re-roll or update their stats with the star of the Season. Throughout Season 4, gear may have the chance to become corrupted by N’zoth’s growing influence, and bring with it dangerous new rewards. These can be mitigated by venturing through Horrific Visions, which are vital to your progression in the new Season. You can read more about it here!

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WoW Wednesday: The Gatekeeping of the End Game

World of Warcraft is a deceptively easy game to pick up and play. Despite all of its issues in pacing and progression throughout the leveling experience just about every single class is intuitive enough in Battle for Azeroth to quickly grasp. I myself can personally attest to that fact; despite maining a Priest for most of BFA, I’ve recently made the transition to a Hunter alt that I’m enjoying and slowly polishing my skills with. While I’m certainly nowhere near ready to begin pushing the arena rating I want with it, I’m more than prepared to start hitting for the lower aspects of the ladders. However, even with more skilled characters players can often find themselves facing down particular situations in Warcraft that can slow if not bar their progress in the end-game entirely. Gatekeeping is a problem in WoW.

Now what is gatekeeping? Gatekeeping is a method identified as barring or controlling people from participating in or using certain things. In Warcraft this occurs primarily in two major streams of the endgame both in Mythic and Heroic raiding, but also predominantly in Rated Player vs. Player content.

Why does gatekeeping occur? For one simple reason: content is hard.


In the Raiding scene Mythic (or Cutting Edge) raiding is the most mechanically difficult content in
World of Warcraft. A perfect example of the intensity raiders have to mitigate can be witnessed in the Gul’dan encounter in Mythic Nighthold from Legion. The encounter begins with Gul’dan’s fully powered-up state from previous difficulties at the beginning of the fight, further increasing already high damage numbers due to difficulty. Gul’dan then empowers himself to a further state over the course of the battle including a move that can instantly kill players during a phase transition at 66% health. After his defeat, the fight then continues with a unique encounter against a new boss enemy, with new abilities and difficult mechanics. All of this falls on top of increased boss health, enemy mobs spawning in, increased damage percentiles and people managing 20-man groups to pull off the encounter flawlessly.

It’s not hard to see why players involved in raiding want to settle for their best teams possible. This form of self-curation has existed since Vanilla Warcraft, where players could become both famous and infamous within their server community. Later during Wrath Gearscore became the mark that players measured each other’s skill level, as most classes were incredibly gear dependent to a certain extent. Up until Battle for Azeroth with the release of Raider.IO, item level became the big determining factor for player recruitment.

Rated Player Vs. Player content features similar issues across the board due to its reward systems and tiers. In Battle for Azeroth rewards are now gameplay oriented, however, throughout RPvP’s history impressive cosmetic rewards have been synonymous with elite status. Those rewards are tied directly to your Rating, a publicly viewable score that actively adjusts based on your performance. Your personal rating will go up and down as you win matches, increasing and decreasing at a higher rate depending on who you participate with. If you win games with players with a higher rating, yours will skyrocket. If you lose matches while playing with those who have a lower rating than yours, it will plummet.


As such, players naturally only want to compete and play with those of a similar rating and perceived skill level. Some will only want to play with particular, guaranteed proven compositions of classes. With RPvP rewards being restricted to the highest echelons of players, of course others only want to compete with the best of the best. At any moment you could find yourself on a losing streak and your rating could drop between fifty points or five-hundred points depending on your partners’ placement.


Thus comes an incumbent problem with these aspirations of the end-game. Whether you want to be the Gladiator or the killer of Mythic Jaina, players naturally only want to work with those on their skill level to minimize their wasted time. As such, the bar is set high to disqualify those without either the experience in completing lesser difficulties or the equipment and higher gear on their character. Some face fewer issues depending on their server population, some higher. Being based on an RP server, we have one super-sized PvP guild and as such I need to form pick-up-groups if I wish to progress in Rated Battlegrounds. A personal friend based on a PvP oriented realm faces a similar issue with only a handful of raiding guilds and none forming any additional teams.

As such, here’s where we find the problem with gatekeeping magnified. Is gatekeeping inherently wrong? Absolutely not. As a current player in the RPvP circuit, forced exclusivity has forced me to play better in compositions and learn as much as I can. Certainly, I just lost 20 rating with a bad team but now I can recognize the differences between a very good Rogue and a very bad one. Of course, my friend lost a night raiding a Mythic PuG and wiping on the first boss, but now they recognize what really doesn’t make a good raid leader. Failing is as good a teaching tool as playing beside higher-level competitors. Is it frustrating to want progression and effectively take three huge steps backwards? Absolutely.


So what is the solution to this issue, at least in the World of Warcraft? Surely its to get a team of your own together, and on the surface this is a good solution. However, for higher player content, such as Rated Battlegrounds and Mythic Raiding, this becomes innately more difficult. It’s a simple task to rally a few friends for Arenas, despite the fact that high-level rewards are now only afforded to top-tier 3v3 players. However, the often more expansive and broader gameplay is instead even more difficult to breach into due to sheer numbers. Cultivating a cohesive team in the long term is a task that most players simply do not have the time to engage with, nor the skillset to maintain.

 

So here’s my question to you: Gatekeeping seems to be a necessary part of culling the chaff from the wheat. But when that chaff is really some of the most eager and healthiest bushels of the plant, where do we as players have to go against our gut and give people a better chance?

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