Is World of Warcraft taking a leaf out of Call of Duty's book all these years after that multiplayer shooting craze began? Blizzard has just announced plans for a fundamental overhaul to player-versus-player combat for expansion World of Warcraft: Legion, which arrives on or before 21st September 2016. The plans include changing completely how PVP will reward you for playing, as well as the surprise intention - for a game based so heavily around the concept of 'better gear' - of making everyone's statistics the same for battles, regardless of equipment (although there a few exceptions - see below).
No longer will you earn Honor and Conquest points as currency to buy things but earn Honor Points to increase your Honor Level, which unlocks a whole new Trait tree. And once you reach the maximum Honor Level of 50 - and here's where the Call of Duty comparison comes in - you can choose to Prestige, sacrificing your Honor Level and talents for an increased Prestige Level.
Why would you do that? Because Prestige equals bragging rights: a unique mount and pet, a new appearance for your Artifact (the new Legion levellable-weapons), a special badge, a special title and a special wearable faction pennant. The higher your Prestige, the better the rewards - a strong incentive for people to keep playing.
Honor Traits are usable in instanced PVP only, and the first is accessed at Honor Level 10 - you'll earn other things like gold and Artifact Power along the way. The examples of Honor Traits given on the Battle.net website were Tiger Palm for Windwalker Monks - "which lets them use Tiger Palm at range to dash toward and slow their target" - and Deep Roots for Druids, "which makes their Entangling Roots spell no longer break when the target is damaged".
Blizzard levelling the playingfield for PVP means nullifying the stats of your equipment (and deactivating set bonuses, enchants, Legendary bonuses and trinket effects) and giving you a pre-determined set of stats "configured for your specialisation". Artifact Powers, however, will remain active. "The only contribution your gear will make to your overall power is through a small modifier based on your average item level," said Blizzard. Your pre-determined PVP stats raise 0.1 per cent for every point your average item level increases. Whereas today a 25-item-level difference means a 25 per cent difference in power, when Legion comes out it will mean 2.5 per cent.
This development not only means more people have more of a chance in PVP, but also that there's "infinitely more control to make PVP-specific balance tweaks". "If one spec's Mastery is too strong in PvV, that's fine - we can just reduce the amount of Mastery they have," Blizzard said. "If a spec is too easy to kill, we can increase their Stamina. If a healer is having too much trouble keeping teammates alive, we can increase their Spellpower. In short, we can tune classes for PVP in a way that's exclusively focused on PVP." And that sounds like very good news.
The knock-on effect of this is Blizzard doing away with the idea of PVP-specific equipment, since it won't have any effect there. "So, in Legion, gear is gear, regardless of where you earned it," Blizzard said. Also, you will still be able to earn equipment from PVP in Legion but from Strongboxes given for completing Battlegrounds or Arenas.
PVP Seasons are being increased in frequency because of the new changes, and the way rewards are dished out will change - in the hope people won't flock to one faction, although Blizzard acknowledges that "racial balance is an important part of that".
Finally, there will be two new maps for the Arena: Black Rook Hold and one based around the forests of Val'sharah.
Long gone are the days my guildmate used set his alarm clock to coincide with Battlegrounds opening so that he could one day reach High Warlord and unlock the equipment that came with it - only to have the title degrade if he didn't keep his punishing schedule up. Ahh, memories.