The Face of Azeroth: Hopes and Struggles in Tol Barad

By Chad Awkerman

January 3, 2011

I have but a singular subject I’d like to discuss this time around. Seeing as it is holiday time and gamers don’t have lives, I’m sure a good chunk of you are playing WoW right as this is going live. So, since you have so much free time on your hands, let’s talk a bit about Cataclysm’s new outdoor PVP zone, Tol Barad.

Tol Barad, for those who don’t know, is broken up into two sub-zones. The first one, Tol Barad Penninsula, is completely free of PVP. It provides a small base for each faction, as well as a rotating set of dailies every day, which build rep with the faction that aligns themselves with either the horde or alliance. For completing these quests, you also get Tol Barad Commendations, which go toward purchasing rep-based items and gear.

The second sub-zone here is Tol Barad itself, the PVP zone. Battles happen here once every two hours. Once a battle is over, the victor gains access to a completely new set of rotating and static dailies. When a battle is not happening, this is not a PVP zone. The quests don’t flag you, nor is any PVP involved in the quests.

With that description out of the way, there are definitely some pros and cons to this set-up, and unfortunately most of the cons revolve around the mechanics of Tol Barad itself. But, first, let’s talk positive, shall we?

The Pros

I love that every single daily in the entire zone is not PVP-related. Even in the PVP area, once your faction wins and controls it, you aren’t flagged when you run around doing those dailies. There wouldn’t be a point to it anyway, if only the controlling faction gets the quests. In this respect, Tol Barad could be comparable to the Sunwell area of late-BC, filled with dailies to do to boost your rep and gain snazzy rep-based rewards.

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Most of the dailies rotate, and there are varied and interesting quests. Most of them, however, are kill or collection quests, but they rotate enough that no two trips through the dailies are quite the same. Some are more difficult than others, but all except two (that I’ve seen so far) can be soloed. The two group dailies (one of which is built into the rotation in the peninsula area so it isn’t always up) are fairly easy to do, since everyone will be looking to get them done, and they do reward you with an extra Commendation for the extra effort.

If you’re a pet collector, aside from the pet you can obtain via rep and Commendations, you can farm the non-aggressive foxes in the peninsula area in hopes of having a Fox Kit pet drop. The second day I did dailies in the area I got this to drop, so I no longer have to go around killing cute, innocent little foxes.

The other bonus to questing here is that, it seems to me there is a higher drop rate of Embersilk Cloth, and a good abundance of most herbs that are available in other zones. The downside is that the mobs are probably tougher than anything you’ve faced before Twilight Highlands in the leveling department, and sometimes they’re packed in pretty tight. Even the non-elite named quest targets can cause a bit of damage if you aren’t careful.

All in all, a great set of dailies to do, even if your faction doesn’t control Tol Barad itself. They will eventually be pretty quick, give good rep and will let you start collecting Tol Barad Commendations for the inevitable mount you will want to pick up for your related faction.

The Cons

The bad part of Tol Barad? The PVP objectives. Inside the PVP area of Tol Barad, you have three bases with flags to capture, which switch to whichever faction has the most people at that location. There are also three towers which can be destroyed with siege tanks. Destroying a tower provides the attacking team – which is always the faction that is not in control when the battle starts – with extra time in which to secure the bases.

Each Tol Barad battle starts with 15 minutes on the clock, and can be extended to 30 minutes if all three towers are destroyed. The positive aspect of this is that the battles are over pretty quickly, so you can take part in them and then move on to other things. However, the issue here is that the faction on the defense – which is always the one which is in control of the zone when the battle starts – has an incredibly easy task and nearly always win.

On my server at least, I’ve noticed that when Tol Barad does change hands, it is usually in the middle of the night when no one is around anyway. In the time that I’ve been participating in the Tol Barad content, the Alliance on my server has had the zone about 80% of the time, while the Horde (my faction) has had the zone the rest of the time.

The problem here is that the attackers have a monumental task ahead of them. They must control and hold all three bases within the zone when the timer runs out. On the other side of the fence, the defense just has to move from base to base, recapping behind the attacker in one huge group. Doing this, it is nearly impossible for the attacker to win, considering they must control all three bases and defend them to win.

Not only are the conditions to win highly unbalanced, but so are the conditions to gain control of a base. Let’s say the attacking team is able to defend a base with five players, but the defending team has 10 players attacking those five. Even if those five rarely die, the defending team still has more players present at the flag, so the base will cap back to the defending team. It is purely a battle of who has more players at the base, not who has the better communication to defend the base. This is highly lopsided and needs to be fixed.

More times than I can count, I have been with a solid group of players, blasting away at the superior (in numbers) Alliance players at a flag. I was all in my bear form, up in their grill, being healed by awesome players from the back. We weren’t dying, we were doing pretty darn good. Yet, the Alliance far outnumbered us, so no matter how well we “defended” the base we nabbed from them, they were still able to flip the flag back to their control.

Therefore, the battles in Tol Barad, on all fronts, come down to who has the bigger numbers at any given base at any given time – not skill, not communication, nothing else. This makes the zone overall very broken.

Blizzard has recently applied a hotfix to increase the amount of honor the attackers get for winning from 180 to 1800. This, however, is not a fix for the zone. It isn’t even a Band-Aid, it is just an incentive for the defenders to purposefully lose so they can be on the attacking side next go-round and gain the honor bonus, because the defenders still only get 180 honor for a “win”.

No, some more drastic mechanics changes need to be applied to the zone. I propose the following changes – in combination or separate, it doesn’t matter.

  • Winners get three Tol Barad Commendations, losers get one (right now, losers get nothing but 180 honor plus the honor received when killing an opposing player).
  • There has to be a consequence to the defender when they let a tower fall to the attackers, right now there really is none besides 15 more minutes spent recapping flags from the attackers. I propose that when all three towers fall, the attackers only need to cap and hold two out of the three bases, which I’ve seen is quite possible. This will force the defense to split up and not just move in one group from base to base, recapping after the attackers.
  • Institude a hard cap to the amount of players that can contribute to the flag capping. Let’s say the hard cap is 10 players. This would mean that any extraneous players would be “unneeded” at the flag, and it would come down to who has the better defense, better skill and/or better communication. They would be able to eliminate the opposing players quickly enough that the flag would move toward their faction. This would also be incentive for the “unneeded” players to spread out and attack/defend other objectives.

The zone overall is great, and houses some awesome rewards, however the PVP is incredibly lackluster because of the greatly unbalanced nature of the entire area and its objectives. I’m not just saying this because I get the bum end of the deal being a Horde player on a server where Tol Barad is controlled by the Alliance 80% of the time. I just want everyone to have an equal chance, and at this point, the mechanics themselves prevent that.

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Chad Awkerman

Chad joined the DualShockers staff in mid 2009 and since then has put much of his time into covering RPGs, with a focus on the Japanese side of the genre, from the obscure to the mainstream. He's a huge fan of iconic games like Secret of Mana, Final Fantasy VI and Persona 4 yet enjoys the smaller niche titles, as well. In his spare time he enjoys experiencing new beer, new foods and keeping up with just about every sci-fi show on television. He's married to an intelligent, beautiful Southern Belle who keeps his life interesting with witty banter and spicy Cajun cooking.

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