It’s been almost two weeks since Blizzard released World of Warcraft’s newest expansion, Battle for Azeroth. And while the reception has been mostly positive, there’s one thing that players are almost universally unhappy with: Azerite Armor.
Shortly after the expansion launched, criticisms of Azerite Armor started to emerge. The first complaint was that the armor, which is only available in the head, shoulder and chest gear slots, required players to grind a resource called Azerite Power, or AP, to unlock its traits — upgrades that alter abilities in helpful ways. Blizzard quickly patched this out to make it slightly easier to unlock the first tier of upgrades, though it certainly didn’t remove the grind completely.
Now that more players have access to the armors’ traits, it has became clear that there is a larger problem with the system as a whole. While there are dozens of possible traits available to each class, and at least seven for each piece of armor, all of the best ones are generic. Rather than feeling like important additions to the way a class plays, these traits simply give players a slightly higher chance to do more damage, without changing anything about how they play.
Even worse: The choice of which Azerite trait to take, because pieces can have upwards of 10 different traits to choose from, is nearly impossible without the help of the internet. While using simulation sites to figure out which piece of gear will do the most damage has long been a hallmark of World of Warcraft, in past expansions, you could more or less do the math yourself, as long as you knew which stats were best for your character. But with Azerite traits, it becomes nearly impossible to tell the difference between a 20-percent chance to do 20,000 damage, or a 30-percent chance to gain 400 of a certain stat.
World of Warcraft’s never been immune to these kinds of issues. Throughout the last WoW expansion, Legion, players complained about some of the gear systems. Instead of getting weapons as loot like you did in previous expansions and again in Battle for Azeroth, Legion introduced something called an Artifact weapon. These were different famous weapon from Warcraft Lore, one for each spec in the game, that just so happened to be ready for you to use.
The weapon was upgraded via grinding activities to unlock Artifact Power (AP) — a system that is now used to upgrade our Azerite Armor in Battle for Azeroth. The other system like this in Legion was for legendary items. These were incredibly powerful items that altered a spell in a certain way that gave it a more powerful effect, often completely changing the way you used it in the game. But the way you unlocked these legendary items was entirely random; anything that could drop loot had a chance to give you one, and which one you got was simply up to chance.
For most World of Warcraft fans, these systems were too random or too reliant on grinding out things like dungeons or world quests to be fun. You had to get enough AP to fully upgrade your weapon or you couldn’t keep up with stronger players. And if you happened to land the wrong legendary, you were suddenly, objectively weaker than the luckier players around you.
In response, Blizzard simplified the two systems and combined them into Azerite Armor. The problem is, Blizzard learned all of the wrong lessons from Legion’s flaws. When fans said that the systems themselves were too complicated, Blizzard seemed to think that meant the effects that the legendary items and the Artifact weapon had on the game were too complicated — not the way you earned them. This directly led to Azerite Armor’s biggest problem: It’s boring. Rather than changing the way you play your class, Azerite traits just mean that sometimes when you push a button, your attack does more damage than other times, and when that happens isn’t even up to you.
The good news for Blizzard, and for fans, is that there’s a way to fix this. Blizzard just needs to make the traits more meaningful and less arbitrary, and the legendary effects from Legion are the perfect blueprint of where to start.
Sure, not every legendary effect that was in the game during Legion would make it over to the Azerite Armor, and many of the effects wouldn’t fit well into the new expansion. But the effects changed the way classes played and the way players were once able to use abilities, which is a far cry from the mostly meaningless Azerite traits.
The problem with Legion’s legendary system wasn’t that the effects were too meaningful; it’s that the pieces themselves were too hard to get and too random. Thankfully, in Battle for Azeroth, Blizzard hands out Azerite Armor like candy, making the chance that you get the piece you want extremely high. And even if you don’t, you can now see exactly which bosses can drop which piece of Azerite Armor, allowing you to fight that boss specifically in the hopes of getting the armor you want.
With more reliable ways for players to get the pieces of gear that they want, rather than Legion’s random system, Blizzard is free to let these pieces of armor truly change the way classes play. By adding in gameplay-altering, legendary weapon-style traits instead of the boring and passive ones that are currently in Azerite Armor, Blizzard could give players new options on how to play their classes and add back in some of the more personal choices that were removed with Battle for Azeroth’s launch.