On WoW Insider, Matthew Rossi posted an article titled “And the Dungeons Keep on Shrinking.” In a nutshell, nothing captures the same epic scope of Blackrock Depths and Blackrock Spire. In the comments, there were people disagreeing with what Mr. Rossi had said regarding Blackrock Depths. Their main complaints were “it was too long” “it was too big” “it makes LFD a chore” and “it’s too easy to get lost.” Let’s address this shit, just because I’m bored. Also, I did a mock-up that would totally fix BRD.
A good tank is capable of leading her group through the entirety of Blackrock Depths in less than an hour. It’s a larger time investment than any other dungeon in LFD until reaching the current endgame content. There are also 20 bosses and not much trash between which makes BRD the best place to acquire more gear in less time compared to other dungeons. However, this large boss count is what people get caught up on, despite how few of them we actually need to kill in order to “finish” the instance.
For Detention Block, players just have to rush to High Interrogator Gerstahn. Between her and the start there are only 5-6 trash pulls. This instance can be cleared in less than 5 minutes; I suspect many players feel sore about this point because they’re waiting in the queue three times longer than it takes to clear the instance.
For Upper City, players simply have to take the mole machine to the Grim Guzzler. From there, the group just needs to kill 4 bosses. Even before the mole machine was added, groups only needed to kill one extra boss, and that was just to get through the Grim Guzzler; before the mole machine, groups would also need to clear ten extra packs of trash mobs.
Hour of Twilight is a much larger instance than Blackrock Depths, but the size of the former is mitigated by access to mounts and a reduced number of trash pulls and bosses. What makes Hour of Twilight take a mere 15-20 minutes to run instead of just under an hour is that Hour of Twilight is a lot of big, open spaces with a lot of running forward with a minimal amount of turning; to get from the instance portal to Asira Dawnslayer, the second boss of the instance, you only need to turn eight times (let’s just assume you’re making straight lines and only turning when you need to). To get from the instance portal to the Grim Guzzler in Blackrock Depths (assume you’re running on foot) you need to turn upwards of a dozen times, and you won’t even encounter one boss, let alone two! So in reality, the issue with Blackrock Depths isn’t that it’s too large, but rather that it is too compact and winding.
It’s not long, it’s not too big, there’s just a lot of stuff to do.
The only point that makes sense to me is that Detention Block and Upper City start at the same location which makes LFD a chore. It’s not immediately clear which boss you have to kill; you have to look at the levels of your party members and deduce your goal that way. In addition, the density of trash in certain areas makes it very easy for anyone single person in the party to wipe the group. Blackrock Depths is ostensibly the first dungeon players will encounter in LFD where they have to be mindful of where they are and what they’re doing if they want the group to succeed; and let’s face it, the average WoW player doesn’t care about anyone beside them when they’re running LFD.
By that same token, the only point that is completely lost on me are claims of how easy it is to get lost in Blackrock Depths. Blackrock Depths is notorious for collapsing groups due to tanks not knowing where to lead the group. It’s not easy to get lost and you don’t need a map and compass to find your way through the dungeon. That’s not the fault of the instance, that’s the fault of… well, everyone but the level designer.
See, before the Shadowforge Key was removed, players were stuck on a VERY linear track through the dungeon. There were a few places where the path branched off, such as Detention Block and the three bosses that inhabit it, but these were always either dead ends or looped back to where it started. So without the key, players would be forced to go in one direction all the way up to Bael’Gar, at which point they’d have to stop and go get the key… and getting the key required dying and doing a quest. After players have the key, they can move into the Upper City, where they will find they are on yet another linear track all the way up to Emperor Dagran Thaurissan.
However, with the removal of the Shadowforge Key and the addition of the Mole Machine, players can traverse the entirety of the dungeon. Without prior knowledge of where to go, this new generation of players could just as easily end up going backwards or the wrong way entirely. Again, this isn’t a problem of Blackrock Depths, but rather a problem with LFD and the various tweaks to make it easier to get around! So what’s Blizzard to do to fix these problems?
Fixing Blackrock Depths
Split the dungeon. It’s an unfortunate reality that if Blizzard wants to keep Blackrock Depths a relevant dungeon, they’ll have to split it apart. However, I propose that they don’t just split it apart, but split it and bar entry to the other half, and only for LFD. For players who wish to explore the dungeon as it was originally intended, and for the gateway to Molten Core and the Grim Guzzler, they have the option of going to Blackrock Mountain on foot and diving into the original instance.
Click to embiggen.
So, let’s start with the basics: Detention Block and Upper City. Blizzard should keep this dichotomy the same, but enforce the splits far more effectively. The revamped Detention Block leads players through the instance normally, as if they didn’t have the Shadowforge Key, all the way to Bael’Gar. Without the key, the Shadowforge Gate can’t be closed, thereby sealing off Detention Block’s access to the Grim Guzzler. The revamped Upper City starts the players off at the Shadowforge Gate and leads them through all the way up to the High Seat. Like before, some bosses are optional while others are mandatory.
For Detention Block, the path to High Interrogator Gerstahn can be polished. She’s meeting with the Twilight’s Hammer, right? So Blizzard should play that up, dress the corridor with elementium and Twilight’s Hammer banners. This change gives players a visual cue that there is something down that way while also differentiating it from the other similar-looking corridor surrounding the Hall of the Law, which in the revamp would be collapsed, thus removing both Lord Roccor and Houndmaster Grebmar as available bosses. The Hall of the Law itself is an arena event, but it is in desperate need of an overhaul to better accommodate the high lethality of the leveling player. I’m thinking reducing the downtime between waves would be best. From there onwards, everything remains the same as it is now, although some sections of the area may be closed off because they’re no longer needed, as is the case with the East Garrison and the Shrine of Thaurissan.
The revamped Upper City would begin on the Grim Guzzler side of the Shadowforge Gate. To prevent players from being stupid, an invisible wall would have to be erected around the Black Anvil so that they can’t inadvertently enter the Detention Block area. Also, the bridge to Molten Core is destroyed for no other reason than to keep players on a straight track to the High Seat. Torches are no longer needed to open the doors of the Lyceum, instead making it more of a Lord of the Rings-style rush through Moria; for some reason, players can’t be bothered to check their bags for the limited-duration items, if they bothered to actually loot the mobs in the first place. Aside from these changes, the Upper City would remain the same.
Blackrock Depths isn’t broken, but it can be fixed. The instance can remain the same without losing any of the flavor or sense of adventure. We just need to identify the problems (the players) and things can be adjusted accordingly.