Blizzard Explains WoW: Battle for Azeroth Mob Scaling & Player Power; Difference Due to Dynamic Zones


Leveling speed, stat squishes and Battle for Azeroth mob scaling are hot topics in World of Warcraft’s seventh expansion, and the game’s director, Ion Hazzikostas, has now provided a clear explanation on how the latter works.

End-game, high-geared players from a previous expansion have always had a rather easy time progressing through the new expansion’s quests and zones, and this isn’t different in early Battle For Azeroth zones and quests. However, due to the game’s new dynamic zones, things will start to get harder around the level 117 range.

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“The way the outdoor world functions in Battle for Azeroth is exactly how Legion worked, in virtually every regard’, the game director said during a recent Q&A session. “But looking farther back, an endgame-geared character from the prior expansion having a harder and harder time killing things as they level is how WoW has worked since its very first expansion, The Burning Crusade. As you move into new content, you face progressively stronger foes. If you aren’t replacing your gear as you level because you’re already overgeared for your level, then in relative terms you're going to feel weaker against same-level enemies.”

"Specifically, level 110 enemies are tuned to be a fair fight for someone who just quested through Legion and hit 110 wearing items along the way (average item level of, say, 160 or so). That's essential, or fresh 110s moving into Battle for Azeroth content would run into a frustrating brick wall of difficulty. But it means that if you are level 110 wearing Argus gear and legendaries (average item level of, say, 230 or even higher), you’re massively overpowered in relative terms. Easily twice as strong as someone who just quested through Legion and did nothing else. And that’s nothing new - that's power progression, and the reward for the time spent on Argus and elsewhere strengthening your character."

Hazzikostas continued, "But moving on, level 117 enemies are tuned to be a fair fight for someone who is wearing quest rewards from level 117 quests. The same player above in Argus gear will only recently have started to find upgrades from quests, and is actually now wearing nearly the exact same gear as the player who leveled straight through without doing Legion endgame content. This is exactly how it worked 4 years ago when someone wearing Siege of Orgrimmar gear was wrecking level 90 enemies in Frostfire or Shadowmoon at 90, and then started to have a tough time against level 97 mobs in Spires of Arak at level 97. Higher-level enemies are tougher."

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"Again, nothing new. The only difference is that, since Legion, one Antorus-geared player may have started in Tiragarde Sound and steamrolled it at 110, before running into resistance in Drustvar at 117, while another Antorus-geared player may have started in Drustvar and had an easy time at 110, only to find tougher enemies at 117 in Tiragarde, depending on the order in which they each chose to tackle the zones. It admittedly can feel awkward to return to a specific dungeon or a specific area and find that the enemies there have effectively grown stronger while you were away, but that is what enables flexibility in zone choice when leveling, and makes the entire world relevant at max level, a core part of what made Legion's outdoor world experience successful."

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"The pre-Legion design, applied to Battle for Azeroth Horde content, might have gone like this: Zuldazar and Atal’dazar could be 110-114 content, Vol’dun and Temple of Sethraliss 113-117, and Nazmir and Underrot 116-120. That would likely have felt better in terms of rationalizing increasing world difficulty as you level, but it would have come at the expense of a more linear leveling experience, after which those zones would be largely irrelevant at endgame. We feel that the upsides of having the outdoor world continue to be relevant, and be a place where we can tell ongoing War Campaign stories and stage other content, for the months to come, are worth that increased awkwardness while leveling."

"Finally, looking at the max-level experience, players are already objectively much stronger than they were at 110 in Legion. We’re starting to see random pickup groups going back and doing Mythic Antorus with ilvl ~330 level 120 characters, for achievements and transmog, and an ilvl 330 PUG kills Mythic Argus the Unmaker in about 5 minutes. Top raid guilds were doing it in ~9 minutes at 110 just a few weeks ago. There's no special scaling or legacy buff involved: People are simply stronger now than they were a month ago, when fighting the same old foes."

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"At max level, everything you do to upgrade your gear and the power of your Heart of Azeroth will make your experience playing the game relatively easier. We’ve seen no data whatsoever to support claims that a fresh 120 has an easier time with any content, outdoors or otherwise, than one who has improved their gear through doing dungeons and world quests and the like. A player in ilvl 330 gear is killing world quest foes more than 40% faster than someone who just hit 120 at ilvl 280, while having a much larger health pool (and, again, enemy damage output isn't scaling up at all). That relative strength will continue to increase over the weeks to come with every additional bit of gear and additional Azerite powers acquired."

"Philosophically, we completely agree that progression is an essential part of an RPG experience. Rewards need to mean something, and their impact needs to be felt when playing the game. To the extent that we compromise that value in some places, it's never done lightly, and is always in service of a what we view as a greater benefit elsewhere (in this case, the ability to choose a non-linear path through zones while leveling, and having the entirety of the new world remaining relevant at 120, instead of just small pieces of it)."

Battle for Azeroth is available now for PC.