Patch 5.4 is finally here, bringing with it old-school rep grinds, sparkling treasure chests and Huolon dead on the ground because you zoned in seconds too late and that’s happened four times okay four times goddamnit Blizzard, uh, I mean new tier gear.
Blizzard has been hit-or-miss with its tier sets this expansion, but 5.4 is a step beyond. Compared to the season’s solid, surprisingly thematically consistent PVP gear, Tier 16 feels like the results of a Project Runway episode. There are a handful of dazzling successes, considerably more best described as “mediocre but inoffensive,” and then there are the bad ones.
And believe me when I tell you that the bad ones this tier are bad.
So which classes lucked out and which classes are getting a verbal smack to the head from Nina Garcia? Let’s find out.
3. Mages: Chronomancer regalia
This one’s probably contentious, but I’m sticking to my guns.
See, my problem with the Chronomancer set isn’t just about its looks (though, frankly, I think the silver and blue version looks like a pair of hooded pyjamas). It’s symptomatic of a larger problem.
Blizzard, learn to edit. Please.
We’ve all seen the improvement in the quality of WoW’s artwork in recent years, but I’ve long felt that Blizzard’s gear conflates “more intricate” with “better” to its detriment. I mean, look at this:
There’s so much going on here.
Cut away the steampunk goggles-and-hood (in theory, a fine idea — in practice, eh) and those pointlessly spiky shoulders and you’re left with the robe. And the robe is bananas.
The robe is chains and spikes and little turquoise blue lights and swirls and bands and armored panels and browns and golds and whites and reds and it just doesn’t work. I appreciate the craftsmanship, but there’s hardly an inch of fabric that doesn’t have an ornate gold swirl embroidered on it and it’s making my eyes hurt.
Don’t get me wrong, the colours are beautiful — the golds and the reds and those perfect turquoise blues are gorgeous and delicate and could have been used to create something stunning. But there needs to be less going on. Otherwise, all your beautiful detail work will be lost in the noise.
(Oh, and, uh, can I just say that the “boob shelf” you’ve managed to create with the high neckline on female toons could use work too.)
2. Hunters: Battlegear of the Unblinking Vigil
This is what happens when you don’t have Tim Gunn on standby to pull you back from the brink.
Honestly, I’m not sure where this design came from. The Warlock set was obviously a nod to the mogu (more on that later, believe me), but this… I can’t see the relevance. Not to hunters or hunting or even current lore.
But, frankly, even if there is a reason, there isn’t an excuse. The helm is a steampunk take on a personality core from Portal 2 and there’s a dirty brown sheet tucked into what looks like underwear (that, of course, is being worn atop a pair of dark scale leggings — as one does).
The belt is, like every belt this expansion, needlessly huge. I mean, the buckle is almost as large as her head.
It’s a hot mess, but what frustrates me more than anything is that there are hints, here and there, that it could have been great. I love the copper, brown and light blue-green patina together. They’re gorgeous, they’re different, and they give the helm and armour an almost crafted feeling — like jewellery, made with care.
And then Blizzard throws in the green and the red and, buddy, it’s September. I’m not ready for Christmas.
I will say the shoulders are okay. The asymmetry’s interesting and the bauble on the left is a nice touch.
But, overall, I’m not impressed. It’d be the worst of the bunch, if it wasn’t for one thing…
1. Warlocks: Horned Nightmare Regalia
This set makes me so mad, you guys.
It’s hideous. In fact, it’s so hideous its almost unredeemable. I mean, I know I’ve taken issue with the usual warlock aesthetic in the past, but what is this and more importantly how did it make it into the game.
Unlike the Hunter set I talked about earlier, the Horned Nightmare Regalia at least finds its roots in Mists of Pandaria. The robe is reminiscent of existing in-game gear (at first, I thought it was a recolour) and the helm is an obvious nod to the mogu. So, the helm’s ugly, but at least it’s ugly for a reason.
Problem is, its particular brand of ugly doesn’t work with the rest of the set.
If you want grotesque for the sake of grotesque, you can’t compromise. You can’t throw a helm like that on a strapless mustard-and-purple dress with a mess of orange scales down the front and expect to strike fear into the hearts of your enemies. The alternative — a more elegant form of terror, where a dress like that (just not that one, as it’s awful) is appropriate — means scrapping the helm altogether.
If I was somehow granted an almost Godlike control over Blizzard’s art department, I’d lose the helm in favour of a mess of twisted horns growing out of the warlock’s scalp. For the shoulders, I kind of like the effect of horns bolted in place by silver, but the existing shoulder model has to go.
This is why.
And then I’d completely rework the colour scheme and remove the LED lights that have been forcibly installed everywhere because Blizzard does that now.
And then I’d hurl that belt into the sea.
Rogues. At last, the steampunk Hannibal Lector facemask I’ve always wanted.
Next up: Less ranting, more praise. The best of Tier 16 is still to come.
I’m not sure where to begin…
Usually, I find a lot of pleasure breaking down sets to their basic components, then rebuilding a new set from the pieces I like. Shoulders, belts, gloves, and boots are usually my starting points in a set, with shoulders being the focus. It generally works out that I mix and match from there. I had not seen these models until you posted them. In fact, I hadn’t seen any models until I ran raid finder a couple nights ago.
However, with the sets you have shown, I’m not sure I could manage to scrounge anything useful from the heap. Okay, maybe it isn’t that bad, though it isn’t great. There are a couple pieces I could use if they would at least be stylistically the same from front to back. You view your character from behind, most of the time. Armor designers need to take that into account.
The mage set actually feels really, really bland. The details feel forced. As you mentioned, more isn’t necessarily better. The real issue I have with the set is it’s lack of model design, flat look, and nearly uncommon item quality. Just to be absolutely clear: Uncommon item quality means greens, those items you get from every other mob in Pandaria. Actually, I think I like them better than the shoulders found with this set. If they are going to go with steam punk styling they should at least ad some moving gears to it, or something, anything.
Is that a hunter? Sincerely, it looks like a paladin. Actually, if that were plate, it wouldn’t be half bad! The style is similar to several of the paladin tiers: High shoulders, bold detailing, and I love those boots! Though, I’m not quite sure where they got the “animus red” for the chest and boots. Shouldn’t that be the blue (or purple?) light color from the shoulders and helm? It’s like the set is two different sets stitched together. Okay, here is how to fix this: Make it an alternate set for paladins, fix the shoulders and helm to have a red glow to match the chest and boots, then replace the belt and gloves with an animated animus orb gem! Voilà! A perfect set!
And last, but certainly least, the warlock set. It’s atrocious. Finish the back half of the set, cover the shoulders, and then actually put some time into designing the robe. Honestly, I don’t want to be mean, but we know the designers have done better. I agree that they should either go for scary and intimidating, OR scary and sexy via horns or something which reveals the face and neck a bit. They are trying for all three and it isn’t really working. At least make it the same in the back…
I feel like I’m maybe annoyed at these sets vicariously through your annoyance with them, but each time I scroll back up to see what can be redeemed I am less impressed with each viewing. That isn’t a good sign.
It isn’t all bad though. I am quite fond of the warrior and death knight tiers, which I previewed inside the first part of the Siege of Orgrimmar. And the weapons, the tasty, tasty weapons. I wonder if the same people designed the lot of the items in there, or if there were teams for the different classes. Perhaps one of them will read this and take home the message: Theme, use it, love it. :p
You know, I think you’re right that you could easily recycle some of the pieces in the Hunter tier into something viable for paladins. I probably wouldn’t like it much (that helm, oh my god — that helm is somehow both beautifully crafted and completely horrendous), but thematically it would feel a lot more true to the class. It’s funny, instead of being helpful it looks like the larger asymmetrical pauldron would seriously impede the hunter’s ability to fight, while if it was intended for a paladin with a shield, the design would make perfect sense.
I have to wonder if midway through, the artists forgot which class they were working on.
If you want adherence to theme, check out the PVP set this season. I’m going to do a post on it and, frankly, it’ll be hard for me to fill out a “worst of” list. Compared to this hodgepodge, it’s incredibly cohesive.
I haven’t even gone to a PvP vendor this season yet, so I’m looking forward to your post. The faction themed weapons of last season was a highlight I’d love to see repeated.
Thank you for your enlightening post. I can’t wait to see your “best of” post. :p
I rather like the Mage set, but it feels too similar to T13 to me — I think the T16 heroic helm and gloves combined with the robe and shoulders and belt from the T13 normal set (and either pair of boots) would be better than either set alone.
I agree pretty much wholeheartedly with your assessment of the Hunter set. I’d thought the color scheme was pretty wonky, but now that you point it out, I can see how without the green and red, it would really be quite nice.
The Warlock robes are okay in isolation — I kind of like the waterfall effect down the front panel — but with the rest of the set? Yeah, hideous, and not in a good “warlocks are supposed to be intimidating and scary” sort of way.
You know, your comparison to the T13 set is a very good point. I feel like they both came from the same place, from an inspiration standpoint, but that the T13 simply did it better. Not that it’s without it’s flaws, but compared to T16 it’s a lot less flat.
In hindsight, I agree with you on the Warlock robe. The mustard/orange/purple combination is unsalvageable, in my opinion, but the other two (without the rest of the set) can work if accessorized correctly. That’s something, anyway.
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I will say the normal version of the warlock set looks pretty good with the the challenge mode helm and belt.
I love this hunter set above all others. I’ve transmoged it every expac and I don’t see myself stopping. The helm with the laser pointer just gives me goosebumps. Can’t disagree with you more on this set.