Being 6.2 is the last raid tier of the expansion that means catch up time. It has been a design pattern of blizzards to add some sort of way to catch up to the last raid even if you just hit max level that day. In wrath there were three new dungeons, same with cataclysm. Mists introduced the timeless island as a way to play catch up and warlords took the timeless island idea a little further in tanaan, which I refer to as T2 because that is what it is, the second, updated, version of timeless island.
It is easy to say many loved the wrath and cataclysm catch up system and I would be lying if I said I did not think it was the best way to do it. You had three new dungeons to show some new story, something we don't seem to get with the new catch up design. Those three new dungeons also dropped relevant gear to help get yourself ready for the last raid of the expansion. But there was also another piece of the puzzle that mists and warlords is missing, a glaring omission if you ask me, and that was valor gear.
Blizzard has decided to move away from the system of earning your gear by working for it and moved more toward a completely luck based random number generator system of gearing which is an article all of its own, so I can not really compare the excellent design of wrath and cataclysms catch up system with the mists and warlords system because warlords would lose, but I can compare it to the mists catch up system.
First I will say that mists catch up system was very alt friendly. Amazingly alt friendly. I believe for us to discuss if warlords system is alt friendly we need to spend a moment exploring where this catch up system came from and that is the timeless island. Being this is a direct descendant of timeless island we could be led to believe it would take the good from the T1 version and use it and adapt the bad from the T1 version and make it better.
T1 allowed alts, even fresh off the boat 90s, to land and start collecting gear, with some luck, from treasures all around the area. The first area you stepped into had mostly non-aggressive mobs that would not attack you with a few, well spaced out, elite mobs that were of minor threat but could be a challenge for a fresh 90. They were completely avoidable however, if you did not wish to engage in battle.
In short, you eased your way on to the timeless island. You were introduced to it in a way where you were capable of starting to catch up as you first got there. As you explored further you would meet increasingly harder mobs, denser packs, and even some challenges, all the way up to the other side of the broken bridge where the hardest challenges were. In effect this allowed the timeless island to have content for anyone of all gear and skill levels. In terms of design, it was perfect and I have sang the praises of this design at least a dozen times in this very blog because T1 was designed well to have something for everyone. From the raid geared player all the way down to the fresh 90 that did not really know how to play their class well, the timeless island offered something for everyone.
There was also the fact that all the gear tokens that dropped were BoA which meant if you had a main, or a few higher geared characters, you could easily collect a bunch of pieces and send them all to your alt. This would mean when your alt hit the island it did not even need to go through the gearing process, it already had all the catch up gear. The alts ended up being there for burdens of eternity only, the pieces that could be used to upgrade that 496 gear to 535.
This brings us to the one part of the timeless island catch up system I did not like. The burdens of eternity had two huge problems with them. One being they were soulbound, unlike the main pieces and the second was that they were a complete gamble. You did not know what stats you would get. Everyone that ever used a burden of eternity on a piece of gear and it ended up only having one secondary stat on it and that secondary stat just happened to be your worst secondary stat can tell you that sucked, huge. Even more so being the burdens were not exactly chump change, they were expensive for an alt at 50K coins.
So we mentioned the good, and the bad, from the timeless island. It was well scaled for everyone, easy to get catch up gear initially (496) but a little on the stressful side when it came to getting the better gear (535) later on.
Now to how warlords improved on this model. I do hope you noticed the tone of my writing on the word improved.
First things first. Lets start with what warlords got right on T2.
The new burdens of eternity are the empowered apexis fragments. These fragments, unlike their predecessor, are indeed BoA and can be purchased with your main and sent to an alt. Also unlike the burden that came before it these items could be used on a piece of gear once it has already been made. No more wasting an upgrade on a piece of gear that is useless. If you do not want a piece of gear with only one stat on it and that stat is your worst, don't use the fragment on it, simple as that.
So warlords did learn from mists. The two worst things about T1s catch up system were addressed and made better. Ladies and gentlemen, this is what progress looks like. Unfortunately, this is also where progress ended.
While this addressed the one thing in T1 that I found lacking, the upper end of gearing up alts, it is the lower end of gearing up alts that I feel has suffered a fair deal with T2.
Unlike T1 where you just went there and started to get the base gear, this time around the base gear became multiple gated by the random number generator. First you had to be lucky enough to get the gear token drops, then you needed to get lucky enough that they are for the slots you needed, and then you needed to get lucky enough that they had stats on them that were decent for you. All that and the bonus that if you get lucky a forth time on one piece it might even end up as a 675 instead of a 650. That is a lot of luck required to gear someone if you ask me.
This, while not a step forward, is not really a killer. A piece of 650 gear even with the wrong stats on it is still better than a piece of 590 gear you had while questing even if the 590 had perfect stats and the 650 did not. So while this situation is not perfect it is also not completely horrible.
The prices on buying gear pieces are also much better this time around. 20K for an empowered apexis fragment is a hell of a lot more reasonable than 50K coins for a burden. And slot pieces for 5K and a weapon piece for 10K are not really all that bad either.
So why do I think that 6.2 is not alt friendly for gearing up those fresh 100s or those alts that never left their garrison? The entry quest line and the areas on T2 are what kill it for me.
Remember how I said that T1 eased the player in? There was that safe zone you landed in with few hostile mobs, easy to kill mobs, and then some slightly harder elites that you could easily pull one at a time without the risk of getting overwhelmed or avoid completely if you so wished to? Well, T2 seems to have forgotten the idea of gradual progression in a zone like T1 had.
To even get to T2 you need to do a quest line that could be very hard for those that are under geared or under skilled. I've had a lot of people tell me they have had problems with it. I've heard stories of people that died multiple times while doing it. And this is just the lead in to even get to the area that is the catch up zone. I think people needed a catch up zone to do the quest that leads them to the catch up zone.
Mind you I have done it on six characters thus far and had no problems. Two hunters, a priest, a druid, a rogue and a paladin. But I also have a lot of experience at the game and I know what my characters are capable of and usually, but not always, I am pretty damn good with not pulling mobs I did not intend to..
While I pulled like a mad man with my hunters and tanks I took it one mob at a time with my rogue and my priest. I never died, but I can absolutely 100% understand how people could and would never make fun of someone that did. It is completely reasonable to get overwhelmed there if you are not careful.
This is a huge difference from T1 where people were eased into it. It is completely different from T1 where you could walk into it with a fresh max level character that has no gear and you have little skill with and still slowly make your way through. Nope, not even close. Your freshly dinged character is going to get slaughtered here if you are not very careful, and dare I say it, if you are not very skilled at playing it. I do not see someone at a 580 item level having an easy time here, even more so if they are new to the class or do not know it well.
So you need to be geared to get to a zone that is intended to gear you up. That is strike one against T2 on why I think it is not very good for gearing alts. Strike two is once you actually get there.
Once you actually get there you need to go through another little story line process that is not as hard as the one you just did at the iron docks, but still could cause some problems of its own. At least if the pile of bodies I see near that one machine we need to blow up each time I go there tells me anything. While on my hunter being trailed by 12 mobs up to it, it was a matter of turning with an MD and barrage, if an under geared alt or a fresh 100 makes that train of mobs they end up being one of the many skeletons I see laying there on the ground each time I pass through. Once again showing the mists way of just landing and going it much more alt friendly than the warlords version.
Mistake number three that makes it a bit harder for alts, although not impossible by any means, is the zone itself. It is not that it is larger than T1 that makes it worse, if anything that should have made it better. It is that the areas all feel the same, from the close ones to the far ones. There is no deviation in difficulty.
Back to T1 where there were multiple areas with different difficulties. Some areas seemed better designed for ranged while others for melee. Some zones were super easy, some where slightly harder. Some you could never over pull in and others you could easily over pull by accident. There was most definitely a feel that the further you went into the zone the harder it got. T2 has no feeling like that, none of the sort.
Every single area feels the same. The orcs in fel forge which is close to our base are the same difficulty as the arakkoa area and the iron front area which are both pretty far away. There is no ease you in feeling like there was in T1. There is no "this place is for weaker characters" that people could go to complete their quests.
How many people farmed their epoch stones in the easy area killing turtles and cranes because that is all they could do as they were easier? No option like that here, sorry. Everything on T2 is scaled the same. Even the elite areas are the same as the normal area. Sure the stuff takes longer to die as they are elite, but the demons of the throne are no harder than the orcs of fel forge in terms of difficulty. They are just elite so they live longer and their abilities hit harder, but they are still the same. There is no scaled difficulty here, it is one difficulty. This is not very alt friendly. Where is their ease in area?
So the bottom line is that yes, 6.2 is actually alt friendly for gearing. Even if the base pieces are not as good as they were in T1 being they were BoA there but having the higher gear as BoA unlike T1, which is awesome, actually makes it a toss up, almost even. So yes, gearing an alt can be much easier. The one problem I see is that getting into it with an alt is much much harder than it was on T1 where you could just walk in and get a started gearing up. This design seems to require you to have some gear to begin with so you can get more. It is almost as if it were designed with the player being 670 to begin with. Which when you are getting 650 gear really does not seemed balanced at all.
Over all I would say the gearing up portion for alts is awesome this time around in a way. Even more so being the prices on the upgrades are reasonable in terms of the apexis they require unlike the original apexis gear which was insanely over priced. But the scaling is a complete failure. Where is the easy access for the fresh 100 in 580 gear? There is none.
So if your alt already has some gear to begin with gearing up in 6.2 is a winner. But if they don't have gear or if you are not very good at playing that class or the alt is a fresh 100, gearing up in 6.2 sucks. It was poorly designed for the people that needed it the most. As that is the angle I should be looking at it from, then I have to say, even if I think I like the gearing system of 6.2, the over all system for gearing alts in T2 is very poor as it failed the people that needed it most.
Next up, the time sink of 6.2, who has the time?