It's time we had a chat about the drake in the room.
If you were paying attention this morning (and not reading this after BlizzConline) you'll likely have heard that flight is coming to Shadowlands in patch 9.1. Yes, at long last, nearly three months after its release, the citizens of ̶D̶a̶l̶a̶r̶a̶n̶ Azeroth will finally be able to take flight in the realms of the dead. Hooray!
Now, let's talk about why that isn't exactly exciting.
Flying in WoW: A Brief History
Remember when the only things standing between you and the open-air were a level requirement and a series of gold sinks? Unless you were a druid—and, in most cases following Classic—access to the skies costed money. Whether you needed training, a mount, a license, or a recurring mix of all three, as long as you had the coin, the trainer had the wares.
Then, everything changed with "Draenor Pathfinder."
Draenor had a lot of issues which meant that restricting flight was all but lost in the scramble. Blizzard implemented a series of achievements to force players into every inch of Draenor. This became the norm moving forward.
It didn't matter how much gold you raised alone in your garrison or what level you reached combating Sylvanas—no achievements equals no flying. This added tedious gameplay and unnecessary hours trekking to every corner on this plane and beyond just to use a mount you spent countless gold to get and train for its intended purpose.
Why That Sucks: A Slightly-Less-Brief Analysis
Let's be clear: this isn't a "flight is bad" post. The mechanic of flight is fine and even enjoyable when waiting for a dungeon to pop or raid to queue. Azeroth is gorgeous. I have many fond memories skimming the surface of Stormwind's canals, watching the wake ripple behind me from the back of a white gryphon as the sun dips below the city walls.
No, it doesn't make the game easier. Chances are if I'm flying, I'm just trying to commute home, man. One could make the same argument against rogues infinitely stealthing through the same content.
No, it doesn't increase toxicity or antisocial behavior. Even on the ground, players only get together to beat and rare and run off. Be upset with automatic content finders if you need to.
And, finally: no, it doesn't make anyone appreciate the world less. How can I possibly appreciate the atmosphere if I'm racing through it with a pack of gnolls trying to merk my toon?
The real reason I have beef with flying is that it takes three times the hours to even get it. I highly doubt Blizzard is doing this to help us "truly immerse" ourselves in Azeroth. I was just as immersed playing an undead werewolf knight on a featherless flying bird as I was racing through Shadowglen on a saber tooth tiger. It seems like they're doing it purely because it makes us spend an extra week reaching the asscrack of Ardenweald.
By the time the latest Pathfinder achievement pings, I don't feel like I earned my wings any more than when I raised 1000 gold in Wrath of the Lich King. I only feel like I spent an extra $15 so a company can boast about its average active hours per account. The whole ordeal weighs on me like a chore—and why would I pay someone so I can do chores?
Flight is bad because of its newfound restrictions. Blizzard just uses it as a way to artificially force players to spend more time (and more money) in WoW by limiting how fast we can move from Point A to Point B. Why else would they wait so long to even release flight in Shadowlands?
Just give us "Grave-Shroud Flying" training for some outrageous amount of gold and let us take to the skies in peace.