Short version: I like it. I’m looking forward to hard modes.
I don’t do a lot of PTR testing, and I don’t watch a lot of videos before content goes live. I don’t like the spoilers. So we headed into the Firelands as blind as it was possible to be, and did battle with Ragnaros’ forces. It’s way too early to comment on whether the instance will be a success or a failure, but I think that it’s gotten off to a very good start, based on the normal modes.
One thing that I think is absolutely required for a good encounter is mechanics that punish failure. If we remember back to Tier 9 and Tier 10 normal modes, they had no mechanics that were particularly punitive. You could stand in the fire, and you’ld probably just get healed through it. Tier 8 and Tier 11 didn’t have this problem, and it looks like Tier 12 is following in those footsteps. It is impossible to make an interesting fight with ignorable mechanics, and it looks like ToC and ICC have driven that lesson home.
So Firelands passes the first hurdle. The mechanics are not so trivial as to be ignorable. It’s important, because no matter how great the art is, or how interesting the mechanics, if you don’t have to actually try and execute the fight, then it’s not ever going to be a lot of fun.
It’s difficult for me to evaluate the tuning for normal mode Firelands – it’s not my content, and my guild outgeared the content before we stepped foot in the instance, but things seemed very reasonable. We were able to zerg our way through some mechanics that would likely take planning at a lower gear level, but nothing felt like it was out of line in either direction.
I did find a lot of the mechanics to be interesting. Perhaps not completely novel, but Shannox is certainly a throwback to a time before tauntable bosses. There turn out to be a number of ways to deal with the debuff problem without taunting, but it certainly threw people for a loop, based on the forums I read. Beth’tilac and Alysrazor seem to have interesting DPS splits. Rhyolith and Staghelm have interesting co-ordination checks. Baleroc has a little something for the healers. In some ways Ragnaros was the least compelling fight, despite having the tightest tuning of the normal modes.
Given how well the normal modes are built, though, it bodes well for heroic content that’s compelling and interesting. Firelands normal modes were a success in my books. It’s no surprise that the normal modes all dropped quickly to the 13/13 guilds – and it would have been a tuning failure if they hadn’t.
On a personal note, as a tank, I really enjoyed Alysrazor and Baleroc. Big numbers are fun. I can’t wait for heroic modes.