“The way the outdoor world functions in Battle for Azeroth is exactly how Legion worked, in virtually every regard.”
Every time a major new expansion for Blizzard’s MMO World of Warcraft rolls around, the game’s community becomes even more active than it usually is. For the most part, they’re discussing the merits and demerits of whatever new piece of content they’re playing through, and a lot of the times, that includes the topic of mob scaling- which is also the issue with Battle for Azeroth, the latest in the game’s long line of expansions.
Apparently, according to game director Ion Hazzikostas, mob scaling in Battle for Azeroth works the way it did in Legion as well, and, in fact, the way it has worked since the days of The Burning Crusade, which was World of Warcraft’s first ever expansion. “The way the outdoor world functions in Battle for Azeroth is exactly how Legion worked, in virtually every regard,” Hazzikostas said during a live Q&A. “But looking farther back, an endgame-geared character from the prior expansion having a harder and harder time killing things as they level is how WoW has worked since its very first expansion, The Burning Crusade. As you move into new content, you face progressively stronger foes.”
He then went on to explain that someone who’s moving into Azeroth off of Legion with a level 110 build with high level items, earlier enemies in the former are designed to be fairer fights, but that difficulty then keeps ramping up to require higher levels in order to maintain a proper curve. “Level 110 enemies are tuned to be a fair fight for someone who just quested through Legion and hit 110 wearing items along the way (average item level of, say, 160 or so),” he said. “That’s essential, or fresh 110s moving into Battle for Azeroth content would run into a frustrating brick wall of difficulty. But it means that if you are level 110 wearing Argus gear and legendaries (average item level of, say, 230 or even higher), you’re massively overpowered in relative terms. Easily twice as strong as someone who just quested through Legion and did nothing else. And that’s nothing new – that’s power progression.”
“But moving on, level 117 enemies are tuned to be a fair fight for someone who is wearing quest rewards from level 117 quests,” he continued. “The same player above in Argus gear will only recently have started to find upgrades from quests, and is actually now wearing nearly the exact same gear as the player who leveled straight through without doing Legion endgame content. This is exactly how it worked 4 years ago when someone wearing Siege of Orgrimmar gear was wrecking level 90 enemies in Frostfire or Shadowmoon at 90, and then started to have a tough time against level 97 mobs in Spires of Arak at level 97. Higher-level enemies are tougher.”
The question, then, might be this- why didn’t Blizzard choose to go with the design they’d employed prior to Legion, which was also applied to Battle for Azeroth’s horde content? Well, essentially, Hazzikostas explains that that would have come at the cost of having a much more linear level progression, where earlier areas would essentially become irrelevant during endgame content. “That would likely have felt better in terms of rationalizing increasing world difficulty as you level,” he said, “but it would have come at the expense of a more linear leveling experience, after which those zones would be largely irrelevant at endgame. We feel that the upsides of having the outdoor world continue to be relevant, and be a place where we can tell ongoing War Campaign stories and stage other content, for the months to come, are worth that increased awkwardness while leveling.”
Whether or not this satisfies fans remains to be seen, though chances are that those who’ve felt scaling remains an issue with World of Warcraft expansions will likely continue to think so. In our own review, we mentioned level scaling as one of the problems in Battle for Azeroth. Regardless, just like most (if not all) would have predicted, the expansion has been wildly successful, selling 3.4 million units within its first day, and overtaking Legion as the fastest selling World of Warcraft expansion.