DISCLAIMER: Despite the publish date, a lot of this depends on my observation and short research done after playing a couple Warfronts. I had written a lot of it earlier (or at least took notes) but left it as a draft. I picked it up just week. So I may have misunderstood things or some may have already been changed. Take it with a pinch of seaforium.
Another system added in Battle For Azeroth is the Warfronts. Horde and Alliance have always fought for resources, presented in the PvP Battlegrounds. Warfront would be another active engagement, but this time presented in PvE where 20 people groups play a scenario .
Similar to Island Expeditions, I was very much interested in this feature and I had fun in the few matches but I think there is a lot of room for improvement. I’ll start with my list again:
Things I Liked
- The feel of building a base and expanding.
- Being an active part of war, from harvesting to recruitment and battle itself
- Units having different abilities and nostalgia
- Good rewards
- All of Horde banding together for the war effort
- The concept of changing-hands cycle
Things I Didn’t Like
- While you have a choice of where to capture, it feels linear and you capture everything.
- Looks like you can’t lose.
- Resource use and tempo is awkward and they are completely irrelevant at some point
- You don’t really feel like a hero from WC3 with 20 people and loads of NPCs
- Recruiting units doesn’t mean much
How I’d Improve It
Let’s start with the overall feel of the game.
- Difficulty: Make the enemy stronger overall
- Enemy Army: The enemy also produces soldier types depending on what areas they own, but also depending on enemy commander. Each Warfront has more than one potential commander. Each commander has staple trait(s) but also random one(s). A commander will have favorite units or strategies and the traits will color the final results, making each battle unique. For example, an alliance commander may favor melee units. This is the commander’s staple trait. A random trait may be “Indecisive” where the commander keeps switching what units are recruited. Another could be “Focused” where the commander puts most resources on defending/attacking a single point. It could be up to players to discover which traits are up or they could be telegraphed via voice lines (e.g Indecisive — “Well, mages are fragile anyway. Let’s see how you fare against archers!” Focused — “You will never take the lumber mill!”)
- Buffs: There are stacking buffs on each side. Each stack grants some stats. he stacks are increased when a unit’s on an area they hold, making defenders stronger. Also, the less areas the NPC team has, the more stacks they have, regardless of location. So while the PC team gains advantages as they cover more ground, the defenders get fiercer.
- Auras: NPC teams have “Commander units” that have auras. For PC side, players carry a similar aura. The first part of this aura works as an extra stack to the buff mentioned above, meaning units around commanders are stronger. However, commander NPCs also have secondary affects. Players can also spend resources to acquire items that grant these secondary affects. e.g. one could add a regeneration effect to the buff while another could add an increased dodge chance (also making resources relevant later, stronger items could cost more as well.)
- Enemy Assaults: The enemy makes direct and surprise attacks. Direct attacks are units marching in with commanders leading troops. Surprise attacks are when a bunch of NPCs appear out of place to attack. They should have some restrictions to prevent annoyance to a degree that kills the fun. Maybe it depends on enemy commander (so a ranger commander could pull more surprise attacks) or maybe there are numeral limits such as once per game or once per each zone that you lose.
- Zone Buffs: Each zone has some use. This can be unlocking a unit type, unlocking extra defenses, extra soldiers, extra respawn points, flight points etc.
So a match could look like this:
- Players notice it’s the commander that uses mages.
- Players decide to take the mage-counter unit zone first. The enemy has a minimal amount of buff stacks at this point. But they have all the zones, so they have certain advantages and the player resources are limited.
- Players take the point and recruit some mage counters and march on another zone, leaving a couple people on defense.
- Players take the next point and proceed to the following. However, the mid zone suffers from a surprise attack so some players return and keep defending.
- From then on, they mostly watch for surprise attacks and keep the push. While they get advantages via zones, the enemies get tougher and tougher, so taking points become harder in that sense.
Outside overall strategy, what you do in the game can also use some changes.
- Unit Recruitment: There is a rock-paper-scissor-ish relation between units and if the enemy uses a certain type of unit more, you should recruit their counter and avoid recruiting something that counters them. Also, recruiting can give you a body guard but what it really does is spawn units.
- Unit Spawns: What and how many units recruited depend on the team and zones acquired. Each player in party has a “vote”. If everyone just recruits grunts, you will literally see only grunts as your army. If half the team recruits grunts and half recruits troll axethrowers… you get half half. The absolute number increases with the zones. So at first, maybe you have 20 soldiers to attack with you. After a zone, you get 10 more. After a zone that has a trait to give extra supply, you get 20 more, for a total of 50. The ratio depends on the choice from players. If a player never recruits anyone, they aren’t included in the ratio calculation. Your choice is represented in your body guard. So if you recruit an axe thrower, you “vote” for recruiting axe throwers. Depending on how many votes there are for a particular unit vs how many votes total, the ratios are decided. For example, let’s say 10 units for recruited by players. 3 Grunts, 4 axe throwers, 2 shaman and 1 wizard. If the PC has a 50 supply limit, they will have 15 grunts, 20 axe throwers, 10 shaman and 5 wizards. If someone loses their shaman, but another one recruits a wizard, then the rates will be 5 wizards and 10 shaman.
- Gathering: In addition to gathering resources themselves, players can “encourage” workers to gather for them. This will be a mini game similar to the starter quest in Durotar (and other places) to whack sleeping workers to get a sizeable sum. Basically, if you want quick resources, you gather them yourself. If you want more but not urgently, you gather them via this method. Only one character can do this at at time, so you can’t do it as a team at the start, get good resources and never need them.
My suggestions do not end with the gameplay. There are things outside a match to change as well.
- Rewards: For this, I won’t say much but kindly ask you to check my Island Expedition suggestion. I mean, you already get items from Warfront but you could also earn “coins”, or simply get reputation and get paragon boxes etc. Blizzard wanted themed sets, so it’s a good place to have a lot of Alliance/Horde/Location themed items; which is already what they are doing anyway partially. Each warfront and commander could have their own reward sets as well, so there is reason to try again in future through rotation.
- Difficulty&Affixes:Similar to above. WF could have difficulties like Mythic, M+ and the affixes from M+. In this case, difficulty could increase not only stats of NPCs, but also the power of buffs and auras. Maybe Mythic could have special commander units. There could be affixes that give an additional aura to commanders, negate Player auras if there is an enemy commander etc. There is a lot of flexibility here and these ideas could be distributed between commanders’ staple traits, random traits, affixs and difficulty levels.
- Achievements: Goes without saying. Now with all the different additions, you could do things like “Defeat Commander X with only mage units” or “Defeat Commander Y without any melee units in M” or “Purchase every aura item once” etc
I don’t necessarily think everything here should be added, but I think with changes like these, WF would have more depth, more replay value and despite changes, keep a simple style of play. And for a pvp mode, it could be *very* compelling.