How I’d Improve: Island Expeditions

World of Warcraft’s latest expansion introduced a new feature: Island Expeditions. With the expeditions, we were supposed to hunt for a very precious material, the Azerite, in a random, instanced setting. There would be different islands that change each time and we would race against an AI party selected from a pool. Each party would have their strategy and tactics and would have improved AI, not suspectible to tank&spank.

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Azerite Elementals, Azerite Goo and adventurers run into an island…

I was very interested in this feature. Unfortunately, it proved disappointing on many aspects. In this article, I’ll try to explain my point of view with some bullet points on what I did and didn’t like and add my two cents on how to improve it.

What I Liked

What I Didn’t Like

  • Parties just hang out in the docks
  • Different type of island monsters/races doesn’t mean much: You attack them more or less the same way.
  • AI strategy doesn’t seem to differ too much and they keep running into losing fights
  • Island differences doesn’t really mean much.
  • All above combined: The experience is dry
  • Azerite isn’t so crucial to grind for casual players, nor feels rewarding
  • Azerite is crucial to hardcores (and that system is also faulty, I’ll get to that) and they are forced to grind the weekly reward
  • The rewards are super random: If the list is indeed that large, then the chance to get something you like is also super small and you have no chance to change it

All in all, I expected Island Expeditions to be an upgraded scenario: PvE content that isn’t as restrictive as dungeon and fun to complete. Instead it turned out to be a new withered training: A chore that I don’t wanna do despite cool stuff I can earn.

How I would Improve It

Gameplay Meta

I’d introduce Mythic+ with the whole package on M+ dungeons: leaderboards and gear rewards or better and item-guaranteed caches (more on rewards section)

The affixes can affect the island (similar to dungeon affixes) or the AI teams. For the AI teams you could go generic things (more hp, longer lasting CC, immune to interrupts etc) or you could make it player-like: They got upgrades from the raids and have higher stats, they changed their build so they have a few different passive or actives, they prepared well so they have flasks and well fed bonuses always etc.

Teams

Activity and Presence

There is now a weekly island invasion WQ: The opposing side has invaded one of the islands and you are to take one of the teams (randomly chosen or you can choose one from the docks) to stop the invasion. It’s basically an Island Expedition where you get to spend some time with your teams.

Alternatively, when new islands are added, you have to unlock them by trying to invade the island with one of the teams.

Alternatively, they are somehow included in a WQ or quest that you see more of them.

Maybe there is a quest that shows how some of the teams formed.

Reactive AI

Teams get an reactive AI with some functionality to prevent one-direction results and predictable games by changing their tactics. Some examples:

  • When team x is defeated in combat, they get a buff ‘Super Concentrated’ for 10 minutes that increase their stats and improve their game play substantially.
  • When team x is defeated in combat, they get a debuff ‘Raging’ and they get a lower stats and their behavior is all over the place. However, if defeated again, they avoid the player team as much as possible and get a 100% azerite collection bonus.
  • Team x starts the game with a ‘Confident’ buff that increase their stats and each time one of them dies, they lose a percentage of the bonus.
  • Each time team x is defeated, they get an increase of their stats.
  • When players kill the healer in team x, in the next fight they’ll focus on the player who did the most damage to the healer.
  • A couple teams may be super predictable while others may have some flexibility (so they employ a tactic or reaction chosen from a few options) while a couple may be super unpredictable (their pool of reactions is much higher)

Strategy

Each team selects a strategy at the start. For the player part there may be a couple ways to do it but let’s focus on AI for now.

The strategy grants a bonus that increases throughout the game that usually directs the AI team’s actions (unless they are very unpredictable.) Some examples:

  • Defense bonus: More damage reduced in time
  • Attack bonus: More damage done in time
  • Misc bonuses: Each tier gives you a different perk such as not granting azerite on death or near instant node gathering

The bonuses may simply increase in time or with total azerite gathered. It probably shouldn’t be per team (ie not with your team’s total azerite) as it would cause snowball.

It could be that there is a final tier that gives a super strong bonus such as 100% crit rate or regenerating 1% of your health a second or so. Or not. But the point is, you get increased bonuses so it makes sense to double down on them and you can take different paths depending on your strategy.

Also, players may want to scout the enemy team early to know their bonus to prevent being in a tough spot when the bonuses are substantial and counter them as necessary.

Rewards

Now rewards gold and bind on account reputation tokens.

Each island and AI team has their own subset of rewards.

If war effort is ongoing, there is also a chance to get craft ingredients.

When you finish an M+, you get a cache. The content depends on the island, the AI team, level of M and affix, the pool of contents and rates for the cache changes.

It’s also possible that you always get a cache or a bag and at lower (ie non M+) difficulty it only includes Azerite, gold and boa tokens (rates and amounts changing with difficulty)

There is now a Lootmaster NPC at the docks. This person sells loot bags that you can buy with doubloons. The higher M+ you finish, the better boxes you will find. The bags could be categorized by type (pet bag) or just a simple bag. It could be up for sale at any time or a couple weekly quests similar to how you could trade pickpocket currency for gold in Legion. Some items could be up for sale all the time. Items for sale could also rotate. Similar to BMAH (except you buy stuff directly)

Conclusion

With some or all of the changes, the gameplay of Island Expeditions would be more variable and the rewards better organized with some control for players as well.

I hope Blizzard will listen to their customers and make changes accordingly, as they always do.

Written by

Gamer, gaming industry wanderer, development and design enthusiast. Current WIP: TBD

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