Although I’ve been more or less binge-playing the latest World of Warcraft expansion, Battle for Azeroth, for the past three weeks, it doesn’t mean that I don’t take issue with some of its core design choices.
Like many, I was concerned about the departure from the ability-heavy (both active and passive) artifact weapon from Legion, but was ever-hopeful that the new Azerite armor system would be up to the task to, at least, attempt to fill that void. While the system appears to offer a wide variety of choices to each class on the surface, there is a lot of filler in the mix. For example, take a look at the current single-target sims generated for the Arms Warrior Azerite abilities via Blood Mallet. You don’t have to intimately understand the concept behind the simulations; all you need to know is that the higher the number is for a given trait, the better. Now, do you see the drastic difference between, say, the top two traits and the bottom two? We’re talking a night and day difference here, to the point that it is a bit sad how it ever got this out of hand in the first place.
At max level, why on earth would I ever not choose the first couple of traits and ignore the other 38 in any single target situation? And you might be thinking “the difference can’t be that bad”, but it is. Even at the casual level, choosing a sub-optimal Azerite trait will hinder the overall performance in any group-based content. Now, I can understand there being a difference between optimal AoE and single-target traits, but having 30+ traits borderline useless in any scenario is outright dumb. “Alright then, hot rod, how do you propose to fix this problem?” That is not the most straightforward thing to tackle, unfortunately, but it can be done nonetheless.
The easy suggestion would be to suggest a balance across the board, and that is certainly one way to go about it. But the fact remains that there are several dozen traits available to each class, and most of them are only mildly engaging at best. While the artifact weapon in Legion had its share of uninteresting traits, it also had some spec-changing abilities as well. I would say that the Azerite traits are 90% passive, in contrast to its grandfather system. And sadly, the few “active” Azerite abilities have a high chance of not being optimal for your class in the first place. It is because of these things that I feel like the best initial action is to trim the fat from the Azerite trait pool. There is simply no reason to have so many traits if A) they are useless and B) they are uninteresting. Having a smaller selection of more engaging traits will be a lot more enticing to the average consumer in my opinion. While I don’t necessarily see Blizzard axing a bunch of traits now, I don’t foresee them reworking all of them from the ground up either (as to make them more interesting overall).
If you don’t think any of this is a big deal, here is why you should care. The gear treadmill is an integral part of World of Warcraft, and getting an item level armor upgrades with awful traits just feels terrible. Just last night I secured a 370 piece of Azerite gear (+40 item levels from my current armor), but the traits are some of the worst for Arms Warrior. Although it is still probably an upgrade for me, the fact that I’m massively downgrading my Azerite traits in the process does not feel good whatsoever. And sure, you can seek out specific drops from specific sources in order to capitalize on optimal Azerite traits. But what happens when Blizzard adjusts clearly out-of-line traits, forcing you to collect new Azerite armor all over again? Again, this issue would not exist if there was even a sliver of parity between the top and bottom tiers of traits. Simply put, the Azerite system is poorly designed and in serious need of a rework of sorts. I had heard mixed things regarding the system as a whole from beta testers, but did not realize the severity of the problem until I experienced it for myself. My only hope is that the developers take these common criticisms and do something about it before people start walking in droves.