On rails pacing in WoW, a solution or a problem?

Over the long weekend I had my first chance to see the Cavern of Time area, and also run Durnholde Keep, the first of three instances available. Overall the Cavern of Time area is a nice, albeit strange change of pace from the usual WoW scenery. The little tour quest that explains what the Bronze Dragonflight is doing in the area was nice, and after sends you into Durnholde Keep to save Thrall.

The instance itself I really enjoyed, as it’s very different for a variety of reasons. First off is the fact that it’s not only an outdoor instance, it goes so far as to simulate an old Azeroth zone, Old Hillsbrad Foothills. This makes the instance seem more like a well scripted group quest than the traditional ‘in a cave to kill named mobs’ instance run. Nothing wrong with killing boss mobs in a cave now, but the change of pace was refreshing. Along with this are the actual events that happen in the instance, which again are different than the tradition instance stuff we have seen 1-70. The overall activity is an escort ‘quest’ involving protecting Thrall through a series of fights. The combination of the setting, the scripting, and being in an instance makes this particular escort sequence very unique and exciting, even looking beyond the fact that you are interacting with one of the most important characters in Warcraft lore.

It left me wondering why Blizzard has not implemented more instances in this very strict ‘on rails’ theme, with some central event determining the pace. Most instances are a point to point experience anyway, the only major difference being the fact that you don’t have to chase after a character, but are able to progress forward at your leisure. The advantage Durnholde Keep has is due to it’s very scripted nature, Blizzard knows exactly how long a successful instance run will take. This is huge in terms of player satisfaction, as the balance between too short and too long is very fine, yet total length is tough to predict due to the random nature of group makeup, gear, levels, etc. Having a scripted event determine the pace of the instance solves all this.

I’m curious to see how my opinion might change with the 2nd or 3rd run through the instance. Will the ‘newness’ of the event wear off and become annoying, or will the fact that the pacing is dead on continue to be a high point?

3 Responses to On rails pacing in WoW, a solution or a problem?

  1. Graktar says:

    Old Hillsbrad is a good instance . . . on normal. The relative shortness of the instance combined with the enforced pacing keeps it relatively exciting even after multiple play-throughs and you know exactly what’s coming.

    On heroic . . . it’s one of the worst instances in the game. My regular group eventually figured out how we could beat it, but by the time we did we no longer had any desire to try. The heroic version takes everything good about the normal version and throws it out the window. Much much harder mobs, patrols that summon more patrols, bosses that de-aggro the main tank and can one-shot most non-tank characters, turned it from a fun run into a mind-numbing grind. I’m sure with massive amounts of gear you can blow through it, but for average players it’s just not worth the trouble.

  2. syncaine says:

    This might be the raider in me talking, but I’m actually looking forward to heroics and the increased difficulty. As nice as it is to get a no wipe clear of an instance, sometimes I miss tweaking things or having to deal with a challenge. We will see how long that lasts if certain heroics are as frustrating as some people report.

  3. Topknot says:

    I can confirm that Old Hillsbrad on Heroic is just plain frustrating.

    The normal mode is great fun, heroic is an exercise in patience to the Nth degree :)

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