In Patch 5.3: Escalation, players fight back against the aggressive reign of Garrosh Hellscream, once proud War Chief of the Horde. His crimes are many and his allies are dwindling, but he still holds the Horde capital city of Orgrimmar and retains full command of a vast army of loyal Kor’kron elite soldiers, fed by reinforced supply lines running throughout the Barrens.
Toppling the tyrant will not be easy.
To prepare you for this monumental struggle, the Blizzard Insider discussed the content in Escalation with Game Director Tom Chilton.
Blizzard Insider: Before we dive into the details of Patch 5.3, can you tell us about how the previous patch, 5.2: Rise of the Thunder King, has gone?
Tom Chilton: Overall we’re very happy with how the Thunder King raid turned out. I think it ranks among our best ever as far as size, scope, and overall quality of raid mechanics goes. Lei Shen in particular stood out as a great final encounter for the raid, on par with Yogg-Saron or Ragnaros. One of the more experimental aspects of the Thunder King patch that we’re especially happy with is the Determination buff, which gives all Raid Finder group members a 5% boost whenever they wipe. Raid Finder groups tend to have players of all skill levels, so this change has really helped these groups hold together and learn the mechanics of more difficult encounters, which overall has made Raid Finder groups a more viable option for progression.
Blizzard Insider: How does Escalation fit into the larger story arc for Mists of Pandaria®?
Tom Chilton: Patch 5.3 tells the story of what’s been happening on the Kalimdor home front while the continent of Pandaria was being explored across the South Seas. As the name implies, the core conflict revolves around Garrosh Hellscream and his escalating war efforts. Of course, the Alliance opposes Garrosh—for obvious reasons—but now even large factions of the Horde have turned on Garrosh as well. They’ve grown tired of his constant warmongering, and so Vol’jin leads the Darkspear trolls in open rebellion against their former war chief. Garrosh seems to be universally despised, so now players on both sides of the Horde and Alliance will soon get a chance to take a swing at him.
Blizzard Insider: Can you talk about the new features being added with Escalation? What features are you most looking forward to seeing players dig into?
Tom Chilton: The new Scenarios constitute the backbone of the Escalation patch, and we think players are going to have a lot of fun with these. Another big change will be the new events in the Barrens. The main supply lines that feed Garrosh’s war machine in Orgrimmar run throughout the Barrens, so players must win victories there first before they’ll be able to take on Garrosh directly. From the design side, we want to use the Barrens events to experiment with end-game open world content in new ways and try to get away from some of the more repetitive aspects of daily questing. As a result, we shaped the events as a series of dynamic events, rather than a straightforward progression of daily quests. We hope this ends up feeling much more fluid and freeform than previous end-game quests, with players of both the Alliance and Horde rampaging around, raiding Garrosh’s supply lines and spoiling his war efforts. Plus, just having the Horde and Alliance together in the Barrens at the same time will open up a lot of opportunities for world PVP.
Blizzard Insider:Can you talk a little about the changes to PvP combat? In what ways do the mechanics of PvP evolve in Escalation?
Tom Chilton: One of the biggest evolutions in PvP stems from the changes to the Resilience system. Mechanically speaking, Resilience stays much the same as before, but most of it has been removed from gear, and instead players are getting a much higher innate level of Resilience. Gear still matters in PvP, and certain gems and enchants will retain bonuses to Resilience, but the overall survivability difference between players with different sets of gear is narrower after patch 5.3. This means player skill plays a larger role in determining the outcome of a PvP battle than before. Plus, the Resilience change has the secondary benefit of allowing PvE players to cross over more easily into PvP, since they won’t have to first collect a separate set of Resilience gear in order to survive.
Blizzard Insider: How about new PvP content?
Tom Chilton: On the PvP content side, we’re also adding a new Battleground and a new Arena with Patch 5.3. The Battleground is called Deepwind Gorge and it features a “gold grab” mechanic, where both factions race to collect a certain threshold of gold for their side. Players can get gold in two ways, either gradually over time by holding key strategic points around the mining operations, or they can steal a gold cart from the other team’s base and drag it back to their own base. So Deepwind Gorge essentially combines classic “king of the hill” with “capture the flag” PvP mechanics. The new Arena is called the Tigers’ Peak, and it experiments with the concept of “high ground” in an interesting new way. The Arena geometry includes several raised pillars, the tops of which are ringed with fences. These fences do not block line of site or ranged attacks, but they will catch any player who gets knocked back into them, thus enabling ranged players to hold the high ground and snipe or land heals from on high a bit more easily than they could otherwise with normal un-railed pillars.
Blizzard Insider: Can you go into details on the new Scenarios in Patch 5.3? Has the design philosophy of Scenarios changed much since they were first introduced at the beginning of Mists of Pandaria?
Tom Chilton: One thing we thought that Scenarios lacked after the launch of Mists of Pandaria was a sense of possible failure. Don’t get me wrong, they were always meant to be quick, fun, bite-sized pieces of content, but I think we can offer more of a challenge to players who are ready for it. So we’re introducing Heroic versions of several existing Scenarios, plus all the new Scenarios coming with Patch 5.3. Unlike most normal Scenarios, the Heroic versions will only be available if you’re already in a premade group with two other players. Since the difficulty will be ramped up, we wanted to be able to tune the Heroic Scenarios around a group of players who know each other and are used to playing together. Plus, since it’s easier to build a group when you only need two other players, rather than the usual five, we figured Scenarios are a good place to experiment with requiring premade groups again.
Blizzard Insider: Let’s talk loot. What kinds of items can players expect to find?
Tom Chilton: Players can definitely expect the usual Item Level upgrades. In addition, we’re also tweaking the loot system so players have option to choose which spec they wish to receive gear for bonus rolls, Raid Finder loot, Heroic Scenarios, and Mists of Pandaria quests. This means, for example, you can collect gear for your tank spec while you’re DPS-ing, or vice versa, which makes it easier to collect different sets of gear for your off-spec. In addition, on the art side, we’re also reintroducing the old world Dungeon Tier 2 armor sets back into the game as rewards for the revamped Barrens content. This enables new players to collect some of the older gear sets for Transmogrification without having to go back and farm the old world dungeons
Blizzard Insider: Anything else you’d like to share before you go?
Tom Chilton: Yeah, one more thing—another cool feature we’re adding with 5.3 is the ability to see other players’ Pet Battles, so you can conduct Pet Battles with an audience now. Other than that, we just wanted to say thanks again to our all of our play testers who’ve played through the 5.3 content on the Public Test Realm—your time and contributions are always much appreciated.