A few weeks ago, WoW released its patch 10.2.6. In a move that's very unusual for Blizzard, they kept its contents a complete secret beforehand, with the only hint that we really had being a skull and crossbones flag on the roadmap and a comment from Holly Longdale about it being accessible to both retail and Classic players.

It turned out to be a whole new game within the retail client called Plunderstorm, a pirate-themed battle royale set in the Arathi Highlands. There was a lot of hubbub around this, and I really felt like I should have something to say about it, but the truth is that everything about it was just one big "blah" to me.

The wider WoW community hyping up the mystery patch to be everything they could've ever dreamed of, just to then be very angry/disappointed when it turned out to not be that, was not surprising but tiresome.

I could understand Blizzard wanting to try something new by keeping a patch's contents a secret, but I'm not really sure why they chose to release this of all things. It has absolutely nothing to do with WoW other than sharing general assets and could just as well have been a complete stand-alone game, with the renown reward track being a crossover promotion like they've had for titles like Hearthstone in the past.

Maybe they recalled the fate of Heroes of the Storm and what it means to be more than five years late to the party when it comes to jumping on the bandwagon for a popular new genre. It's unlikely that they would've been able to make waves with "Blizzard joins the battle royale" seven years after Fortnite. Maybe it was some sort of experiment to see how far they could push the WoW client. Who knows.

I myself had never played a battle royale game before and have no real interest in the genre (plus I don't particularly care about pirates as a theme either), but figured I should at least give it a go in WoW since it was right there on the character selection screen. And once again, my first impression was mostly "blah" - I neither loved nor hated it. Plunderstorm is just a game mode that exists. Hard to make a post out of that.


For some reason I've been feeling compelled to come back to it for a couple of matches at a time. The quick drop-in, drop-out nature of the game is definitely something different from my usual MMO deep-dives, and the daily bonus reward (even if it's somewhat buggy and appears very inconsistently) is a nice incentive to just have that one quick match in the morning or evening.

I like that the "lobby" the game starts in gives you the opportunity to run around and familiarise yourself with the base mechanics like star mobs, chests and abilities. And it's kind of fun to land on a star mob when the match starts and immediately get a spell and a bunch of XP. Though I find that the enjoyment quickly diminishes after I've cleared out the mobs and treasure in my immediate vicinity - as mobs don't respawn during the match, you have to roam further and further afield to find anything to interact with, either to pick up another player's scraps or to engage in PvP.

The PvP focus seems to be one of the most controversial aspects of Plunderstorm, because WoW has a lot of casual PvE collectors who don't like being "made" to PvP for cosmetics, and who I guess feel that they're kind of being "lured in" with the promise of rewards for killing spiders and looting chests, just to then serve as cannon fodder for actual PvPers.

I don't mind PvP in principle but I don't enjoy it in Plunderstorm either, because it requires aiming and dodging and I'm bad at those things. Nine times out of ten when I encounter another player I'm the one who ends up dead. I'm just not too broken up about it because most of the time when this happens, I've already "exhausted my fun" for the match anyway and am basically ready for it to be over. The highest rank I've ever achieved in a match was #5, and that was pure dumb luck as I somehow ended up in area seemingly away from everyone else for a long time.

There's been much praise for the spectator mode you enter after dying, though I'm not sure how much use it actually gets. In my very first match I did indeed stick around to spectate after being eliminated, simply because I wanted to see how the rest of the match was going to go and gain a better understanding of what was happening, but since then I just always click "leave match" immediately after dying, to either start over or go off to do something else.

I've made it up to renown rank 12 (out of 40) and there are some pretty nice rewards on the track - I've earned a mount and two pets so far for example. Apparently the event is supposed to run until June... I wonder if that's enough time to get to 40 with my casual level of play, or whether I'll lose interest before then anyway. We'll see.


  1. I think Plunderstorm is from a studio they bought, so it was probably already in the development pipeline. And it might have been easier to keep quiet it that regard. I'm sure we'll find out more details over time. Game devs do love to talk about game development. ^_^

    While this bit of Wow wasn't for me, I am glad to see them be more 'experimental' and secretive about some things. Having bits of content be a surprise -- not so much that something is on the way -- but the actual what of what is behind the curtain is refreshing. So much is on the PTR that whatever little 'joy of discovery' Wow has is so often beaten until a glue factory won't have it.

    There's also a lot to be said about game modes where you can quickly jump in/jump out as you have time. I used to play Team Fortress 2 that way (until the bots became a plague infesting too many servers). Hopefully Plunderstorm will return once/a few times a year to add some variety to Wow when we're in between big drops.

    1. I think Plunderstorm is from a studio they bought, so it was probably already in the development pipeline.

      I'm curious, do you have a source for this? I saw Kaylriene make the connection that Proletariat, which Blizzard acquired in 2022, had made a BR game before, but that's not the same as Plunderstorm already being in the works...

      I don't mind the idea of preserving more surprises in patches either, it was just that this in particular was a bit disappointing to anyone actually hoping for something within WoW itself. Unfortunately most of the reactions I've seen have been of pretty much the opposite of that opinion ("Plunderstorm is alright, but they shouldn't have kept it a secret").

    2. This PC Gamer article is the closest I could find. I suspect I misread/misremembered it slightly as it looks like the Proletariat team had already been absorbed into the Wow team. So I probably should have said that they used the BR experience of the team members from the company they acquired earlier instead of acquiring the company directly for that experience.

      Yeah, I can understand people wanting the surprise to be directly in Wow, but it has to be so much easier to keep secret if it isn't directly in the Wow client. I do wish some people (not you) would realize that small features are easier to experiment and surprise with than big ones.