[Cataclysm] Why I hate heirlooms, and what’s in store for them in Cataclysm.

Oh the angst! Oh the torment! Oh the purples and the blues!

Last week Blizzard CMs commented that they will aim to return to the ‘blues from heroics, epics from raids’ model in Cataclysm. I had thought that this was fairly unremarkable as announcements go – raid gear has always been better than heroic gear at the start of a WoW expansion. And yet, a lot of players feel that they’re being told that they will be less special in the next expansion than in the current one. That’s the power of colour.

And another colour which should cause more outrage than it does is gold, the colour of WoW heirloom gear. Heirlooms are great. They are the ideal levelling gear for an MMO, particularly for players who don’t like to fuss over gear which they’ll only replace in a level or two. You give them to a level 1 alt, and they will increase in stats automatically as the character levels. They will always be roughly equivalent to a decent blue dungeon drop of the right level. And if that wasn’t enough, some heirlooms also grant huge xp bonuses to levelling characters.

But why is that bad, you ask? It’s great. But in order to get them, you need to level a character to 80 and do heroic runs. Fine for those of us who were going to do that anyway, but not very fun for a player who wants to just solo slowly and then level a few alts.  (It’s a classic example of forcing players to do content they don’t want in order to get a reward to use in the content they do like.) People complain when they are forced to PvE for PvP gear (or vice versa) so why are we forced to endgame for levelling gear?

The answer as to why is because help for alts is an easy, desirable reward to give out which cannot ever unbalance the end game. But wouldn’t it have been even neater to give tokens from the levelling random dungeon runs which even low level players could turn in for heirlooms. Have dungeon blues be better than equivalent level heirlooms to give levelling players some choices. Have a small chance for heirloom tokens to drop from random lower level mobs. Make cheap heirlooms which are the equivalent of nicely itemised green drops  — they might not be special but a player never has to worry about upgrading them while levelling.

There is a balance of how much advantage an old player can or should have with an alt in comparison to a new one. It’s definitely cool to be able to ease the level grind on the second or third time you do it. But I think heirlooms would be more fun if they were more accessible to everyone. No one wants to be outgeared so severely even at level 1!!! Or maybe, for the alts, being able to feel superior to the noobs is the point …

We don’t yet know much about heirloom availability plans in Cataclysm. There was mention that guilds might be able to provide members with heirlooms. This would solve most of my issues with them, if true.

Heirlooms in Cataclysm

So for anyone who is curious, here are the known facts so far:

  • Current heirlooms (1-80) will continue to work.
  • Heirlooms with an xp bonus will stop giving that bonus past the max level of the heirloom. (eg. no xp bonus from 80-85 using current heirlooms)
  • There will be level 85 heirlooms which will work from 1-85. You will again need a max level character (probably with spare heroic badges) to buy them.
  • Blizzard would like it to be possible to send heirlooms from one server to another (you can already post them from one faction to another on the same server) but we don’t know if this will be possible.