Wednesday, February 17

Blizzard really needs to take a hard look at the 1-90 levelling experience in Legion

Leveling in WoW is in a sad state. It is tedious & boring for the people who don’t like levelling, yet also shallow & unfulfilling for the people who used to love it.

Offering character boosts bandaids the problem, but nonetheless it is at least ~50 hours of content that almost every player has to endure at some point if they want more than 1 character.

  • It's absolutely brainless. No one misses the days where mobs took 30 seconds to kill and you had to eat after every second pull but now we have the polar opposite. For ~60 levels, your character is an unkillable demigod. Even elites and quest bosses - mobs that should tough to beat - crumble before your unstoppable onslaught. Veteran players get insanely bored at the complete lack of challenge, and new players are never given the chance to learn their class or develop actual skills. The risk of death doesn’t even present itself until level ~80+.
  • Pre-60 dungeons are a farce. Some are even soloable. Newbies watch on in total confusion as their 5-man group barges through an instance like a freight train, pulling ~15 mobs at a time. Tanks deal 75% of the damage. While having Vanilla-style difficulty would probably slow things down too much, the fact that final bosses can be killed in seconds makes them nothing more than a dumb grind.
  • It is almost impossible to complete a zone questline without completely outleveling the zone. To level with efficiency you are cursed to hop from one incomplete zone to another, completely missing out on the more satisfying quests that crop up near the end of questlines. It means otherwise engaging content is completely skipped or wasted.
  • Skilling up professions is pointless. The various catch-up mechanics introduced in WoD means that organically leveling professions as you level your character is nearly pointless and simply a waste of money.
  • It's uneven and disjointed. You smash through 1-60, only to hit the brick wall that is Outland. Outland & Northrend are showing their age, and the 60-80 grind is a tough slog that almost no one enjoys. Things suddenly speed way up from 80-85, only to slow right down from 85-90.

Blizzard clearly wants WoW to be about the end game, and that’s sensible enough. But with every expansion, the levelling process is getting more and more broken and is quickly becoming the elephant in the room. Levelling should be both speedy and occasionally challenging, and there are plenty of ways to achieve this:

  • Reducing minimum level requirements for quests, and reduce (or delay) the penalty for completing lower level quests. This would help reduce the impact of outlevelling zones.
  • Buff pre-60 dungeons, elites and quest mobs so they provide at least some sort of challenge. Spamming “1” and autoattack gets boring fast.
  • Tidy up Outland/Northrend, fixing bullshit quests and increasing quest item drop rates.
  • Combined with lowering quest level requirements, provide tons of bonus experience to players who complete quests that are considerably higher level than they are. This would give players the option of a much faster levelling process, but at much greater intensity and difficulty.

To clarify: I am not suggesting a slower leveling experience, or an experience as brutal as Vanilla. A lot of people are simplifying it into a black and white argument of "easy vs hard" which goes against everything I was trying to say. I just think with some small statistical tweaks, Blizzard may be able to greatly improve the quality of gameplay. Fast leveling with occasional challenge is the goal.

This issue is only going to get larger with every increase in level cap, and it is disappointing to see Blizzard do very little to improve it since Cataclysm. Character boosts are great but they are not in any way a "solution" to the problem. These boosts should serve as a convenience & luxury for the people with the money. They should not be the default expectation for everyone's new characters.

Features like timewalking & transmog gives me hope that Blizzard at least wants to try keeping old content relevant. I only hope that they continue doing so. One of the biggest criticisms of WoD was that there just wasn't much to do, which makes me think that Blizzard needs to get better at reusing the fantastic content they've already spent hundreds of hours crafting. Within reason, of course (fine line between letting content have its time to shine & reusing it to the point where people get bored).

As an aside, sounds like I also misremembered the experience from 85-90, so my bad! It has been some time since I've completed Pandaria.
Would be great to hear what others think.

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