The most recent and final content update to the World of Warcraft expansion Cataclysm introduced a bevy of new features. None has proven to be more controversial, however, than the "Looking For Raid" option. The LFR enables players to group with 25 random strangers in order to take on the newest tier of end-game raiding, albeit considerably easier in difficulty.
The new mechanic has received much praise and ire, causing an already polarized community to become even more hostile to one another. What are the claims? Why is everyone so angry? Most importantly, is the Looking For Raid system a help or hinderance to a game that has lost close to two million subscribers in the last year?
Allow me to address the situation.
I've logged 90 days of in-game time with my two main characters in World of Warcraft. Some of that time has included hardcore raiding. But up until last week I had never seen the defeat of the main boss of a World of Warcraft expansion with my own eyes.
Nope. Didn't see him.
That was until the LFR system took me straight into the maw of madness. I looked ahead and struck swiftly to victory.
As a fanatic of the lore and canon surrounding the Warcraft universe, I rejoiced at finally seeing the culmination of a story that I had been a part of for almost a year. To see Deathwing, bringer of the Catacylsm that destroyed the face of Azeroth itself, was a moment I never thought I would see. I mean, who has the time to raid when you have a full-time job and a life?
The LFR system is amazing for subscribers that want to experience the content while it's still relevant. Past expansions left behind those of us not willing to dedicate ourselves to 10 hours a day, five days a week, and voice chat abuse for standing in fire.
The added bonus to this? Those that experience this content via the LFR system still have a chance at epic gear, the lifeblood of end-game raiding. This gear may be de-powered compared to the normal and heroic difficulty settings of the same content, but it's still more powerful than the loot a majority of gamers will get ahold of.
I should also make mention that I find the LFR system to be a great teaching tool for those looking to step their feet into raiding for the first time. Additionally, while these boss encounters are de-powered, LFR is a sound way of seeing the fight mechanics and familiarizing yourself with each individual boss fight.
All of this sounds good, right? Some would disagree, and even go as far to say that the LFR system is the final nail in the World of Warcraft coffin.
Remember the scenario that I used to begin this article? Completely true. Even sadder was that I did not know a single person out of the 25 of us that managed to kill Deathwing. On the first try.
We held no celebration, no culmination of hard work and effort on the part of a group. People rolled "need" on the gear they wanted and immediately bolted, off to the next source of loot.
Even I wasn't thrilled. In fact, I complained to a fellow guildmate that I didn't win any gear, ate a Pop-Tart, and promptly went to bed with a feeling of "meh."
Detractors of the LFR system complain that boiling down painfully technical and momentous encounters into nothing more than standing in one place and attacking ad nauseum has ruined what should be a great experience.
I can relate to this idea. Having been a member of a hardcore raiding guild at one point, I know the feeling of achievement and joy that comes with taking out the big bad of a raid for the first time.
What makes the moment important is that you have accomplished this with guildmates — fellow players whom you have talked, laughed and played with for months, all in the name of teamwork and accomplishing a goal.
Those against the LFR system are convinced that this lack of camaraderie is what will enevitabilty kill a game that has been around for close to a decade. After all, what is the point of doing the raid content on higher difficulties if you have already defeated the big evil…and with little effort to boot?
Why go after the more powerful gear in the higher difficulties when this is the last boss of the expansion? After all, this epic gear will immediately be replaced by common rarity gear that is more powerful once Mists of Pandaria — the next World of Warcraft expansion — is released. So why bother?
It's gotta go.
I do not believe that there is a right answer to this situation. I am thrilled to see content I never thought I would have the gear for. Likewise, I am sad that the moment had absolutely no meaning to me on a personal level. The solution does not appear to be clear.
Is the LFR system a deal-breaker? That is something each subscriber will have to decide for themselves. For the time being, I consider it a good thing. And it gives me a chance to level new characters.
After all, I've already slain the dragon.