Each time there is an announcement of a new World of Warcraft expansion, a chorus rises how certain enhancements simply turn the experience into “easy mode”, and how hardened gamers like us simply cannot stand to see the game “dumbed down”. Naturally, an equally noisy chorus rises, proclaiming the injustice of having to hold off on flying until level cap yet again.
For every expansion, there has been some artificially imposed way to restrict flying. For Burning Crusade, it was a learned skill (makes sense). In Wrath, all my mounts apparently had the shakes, and couldn’t handle the cold weather until I bribed some guy with a ridiculous amount of gold (um, okay?). In Cataclysm, we had to pay the Department of Flying Creatures and Contraptions a modest fee, because otherwise our battle-hardened mounts would not follow our most basic commands. In Mists of Pandaria, we simply needed to grease the palms of some locals.
This is a mechanical restriction that makes no sense, and in the most jarring fashion reminds us that this is a game. Here is a mechanic we now simply switch from “0” to “1”, and off we go. Truth be told, if it were up to me, Blizzard would do away with flying completely. There are other – and arguably better – ways to address this issue of getting around. I will get to those in a moment.
When my shaman was but a young Orcling, exploring the world was a wonderous experience. I wanted to discover Azeroth, really discover it, and I would never have fallen in love with this game as much had I not traveled everywhere on foot. Behind every corner lurked a new secret, a new wonder, or a painful death. Ogres were more imposing, forests and mountains more awe-inspiring when seen from the proper perspective. Flying literally trivializes this content, especially on older systems where distance and altitude turns everything into grey mush.
Yes, ground travel slows the games down, because it puts us players in real danger. The question is, do you want to experience the new areas and its inhabitants, or do you want to reach level cap as quickly as possible so you can complain about the repetitive chores of dailies and dull end game content? Personally, I prefer the journey, not the destination. There are great stories to be told, and Blizzard is one of the best when it comes to storytelling. Power-leveling coupled with flying makes players miss out on so much content.
Is flying actually essential? No, it isn’t. Would it enhance the game if it was taken away? I believe so. If flying really was all about convenience, I’d rather pass, because it’s but a manual task. When I fly longer stretches, it’s fly, click on map, fly, click on map, and so on. Using a flight path is much easier: the game goes on auto-pilot, and I can get a drink. The only downside: some flight paths are downright wonky.
Granted, the above is an exaggerated example, but if flight paths could be more direct and flight speed increased by just a bit, I would gladly give up all my flying mounts. Do you want convenience? Give me three Hearthstones with three separate destinations and no cool-downs, and faster and more direct flight paths. Give me fast travel as implemented in the Elder Scrolls game. That, my friends, is convenience. Flying mounts are fake epic, that do a disservice to the game experience.
Do you want another reason? We all complain at some point that expansions drag on for too long. Take away flying, and new zones would be much easier, much more efficient to built – and that means a faster release schedule. Do I care that I can fly over that forest? No. Do I care that the forest is filled with mobs, treasure and adventure? Yes.
We want faster leveling, easier professions, shorter rep grinds, quicker ways to earn Valor points, simpler ways to get around. In short, when Warcraft is approach that way, it becomes a conversation of how the game can become more convenient – not how it can become more immersive, fun, and engaging. Flying by itself doesn’t make the game more fun, but accommodating flying requires resources that could be deployed otherwise to craft a better story.
Take my flying. Take it for good. Give me a fun game to play.