Petty Annoyances in World of Warcraft #1

Sometimes you just have to run away. Whether it is because a patrol or wandering mob has aggroed on to you during combat or down-time, that funny-looking monster turned out to an elite quest mob, or the respawn timer really hates you, discretion can be the better part of valour. There are two annoyances with running away, or 'retreating', as some of us like to call it.

First, if you're soloing in the middle of nowhere, it is possible that you have to run through the threat zones of many more mobs if you have any hope of shaking off the mob that considers you prey. This can result in all sorts of hilarity, as you pick up and drop a chain of mobs, many of them getting at least one attack as you frantically run past them, causing your health bar to diminish even lower than its already life-flashing-before-my-eyes-inducing level. It's not uncommon (at least, not uncommon enough) to end up half the zone map away from where you started to disengage from the first enemy.

Now, running half the map away to avoid being killed by a mob is inconvenient: it means you are far from where you were probably trying to complete a quest, and you will have to get back there, braving all the mobs along the way. It is also not terribly involving for the player. There is nothing to be gained directly from being able to 'dodge' threatening mobs, and running away is just a way to avoid dying so that the player can quickly get back to health and start playing the game again. The game should at least recognise when you've run a silly distance whilst perpetually in combat and play the Benny Hill tune.

Fighting in to a cave system poses similar problems, in that if you find you have to run away you are often faced with respawns back near the entrance. These will only be too happy to engage and kill you as you get close. Whether you make it out alive or not, this means you have to fight your way back in again to get to where you were.

The second problem is that as soon as your back is turned, the enemy has the chance to cast 'daze' on you. This wonderful effect puts a ring of stars above your head. Oh, and it slows your speed down to a crawl, stopping you from running. This means that even if you are of a class that has enemy-slowing effects and were quick-thinking enough to use them in order to escape, being dazed means the enemy can keep up with you, smacking you with its weapon all the time, and as long as you are trying to run away from them they continue to have the chance to daze you. To top off the fun, if you happen to be mounted, being dazed will also dismount you, so that your speed is reduced even more dramatically and you have no opportunity to mount again until you are out of combat.

This is really annoying, if only because the player does not have the advantage of dazing opponents himself. Unless the player either is a ranged DPS class, or both has some effect that can slow or stop them running and is able to use it without it being resisted or wearing off too soon, the mob will always have a chance of forcing the player to chase them. Being hit in the back by the PC has no chance to cause the mob to be dazed. As there are plenty of enemies that run away when close to death, and they can often wander near enough to other mobs such that they get reinforcements, this can cause problems. If the mob successfully gets reinforcements, it can often turn the tide of battle and prompt the player to run away himself.

And therein lies the problem, as the above two issues are linked. Running away is difficult to do, because you can run in to other mobs, and turning your back can cause you to be dazed. But when other mobs run away, there is no danger of being dazed and slowed down to face a quicker death, and running in to other mobs actually benefits them. This creates a situation that is quite unfair to the player.

A player shouldn't be invincible, even if he is meant to be a hero, and dying is a time-standing tradition in computer games. There should be the threat of death in the game, or it becomes less interesting. Considering the punishment for dying in World of Warcraft is a small cost of repairs to the equipment you're wearing and a corpse run, it's not really that inconvenient to die. Sure, a corpse run isn't much fun, it's not meant to be, but it's rarely difficult to get back to your body to resurrect, and the cost of repairs is nearly always covered by any adventuring done. Nevertheless, running away should still be an option.

The way that the game is set up, it can be far too difficult to get away from an opponent where you know you are likely to die. The imablanced options for the PCs and NPCs just heightens this frustration. Gaming can be challenging, but it should always try to be fun. Being killed because the designers made it purposely difficult to escape an encounter takes away some of the fun.

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