The “new” Alterac Valley sucks. It sucks Giant Eggs. It doesn’t suck because the Horde win or lose or because the Alliance have that spiffy bridge – or because of any of the myriad of exploits that pop up on one side of the other. No, in this long time players opinion it sucks because it just doesn’t matter any more.
I hit exalted with Frostwolf on my first character a good long time ago. Back when games could literally take hours to play and where you *had* to pull out all the stops, gathering the meat and blood of your enemies, killing rams, upgrading your forces and summoning Lok’ to have any chance of breaking the Alliance turtle around Dun Baldar. There was an epic flavor to AV back in those days – the rush from graveyard to graveyard, the exultation at seeing Balinda go down and the Alliance towers in flames. There was the urgency to gather your shaman and summon the elemental, the need for fleet cheetah form druids that knew how to kite the Alliance druids when they tried to summon their tree. It was a dirty, cold, blood filled battleground where everyone had a place. Even protection warriors had part to play, stepping forward with honor as we began to pull Marshalls and eventually big Van’ himself.
AV back then was HUGE, intense, vital and marvelously flawed, and I loved it.
Strangely enough, it was the the PvE element and its intermixing with the PvP that I enjoyed the most. It was like world PvP almost – a small raid wheeling in around Stonehearth, fighting the Lieutenants and warding off assaults by Alliance players. I always felt that of all the battlegrounds, AV was the one that truly had the most to offer players looking for challenge on multiple levels. Sure it wasn’t as quick or as accessible as WSG or AB, but it wasn’t supposed to be. This was where the *real* war was. You had to be at the pinnacle of your characters leveling career to even gain entry and the reputation rewards were some of the most sought after.
Yes – games took too long. Yes AFK’ers and fisher-folk were rampant. But I loved it still.
I’ve lived through and appreciated most of the changes that have occurred since the death of the old PvP honor grind. After the great NPC nerf, AV became more of a race and the game seemed to benefit from a more rapid pace vs. the protracted battles of old. Sure you could still get into some stinkers from time to time, but at its heart, there were still Marshalls and Warmasters to worry about. Wandering Lieutenants to kill and the Captains of each faction, waiting in their respective halls. From time to time as the Alliance started getting better at AV (or their turtles more determined) – we actually had to pull out frosty Lok’ to finish games – or worse – we had to worry for our own general as Alliance zergs were making it into our village, burning our towers and capping our relief hut.
Win or lose though – the game retained much of its epic heart if not so much its epic length.
Then 2.3 came along and Blizzard claims that the battleground is now better than ever. Better at what? It’s fast – or at least the few games I’ve seen since the change have been. Strategy is slightly different as defense is more important and you can no longer simply throw bodies at a problem until one side cracks. The reinforcement aspect of the game is a good one I’ll grant and it makes players think differently about what they attack, who they attack with – and who’s healing. But that’s all. The battlespace seems a vast empty place now. Not only are the mobs that guard the towers and graveyards nerfed beyond all belief, but the Lieutenants are gone and the once hazard filled expanse between Dun Baldar and Frostwolf now a small empty place.
Sure you might say – you play Horde, it’s easy for you to miss the old AV – seeing as how you never used to *lose* back then. Maybe that’s true – but I’ve spent more than my fair share of time in the valley on Alliance toons as well. I’ve hit exalted on a night elf druid and won only a single game through the entire ordeal. I know about the valley – I know from both sides.
And still – I miss the old AV.
With my latest character, Skychaser now in the 50’s – I know that there is a fair amount of AV left for me to do before I enter Outlands. But unlike before, where the valley represented a true destination and a valid place to camp and grind honor and reputation, I don’t think Sky’ will last any longer than the time required to gather enough tokens for his Frostwolf Howler.
Time will tell and perhaps the new AV will grow on me more as I spend more time there. But at the heart of it all, I miss my old PvE opponents the most. There was nothing quite like tanking Captain Galvanger from start to finish for the first time when my old Alliance guild took control of the raid and actually nearly won the game. Nor will I forget the mishappen shapes of the Horde constructs at Iceblood, the massive furball of each force meeting at that forward chokepoint and the desperate fight on both sides to win through. Some say that after 2.3, PvP has finally come to the valley – but in my opinion, it was always right there. Mixed and spiced with an epic (if perhaps sometimes too epic) PvE element that gave the battleground character.
Time will tell of course and the truth will be told in future patches.