WoW: the new levelling experience

When the random dungeon finder was first introduced to the game, I described it as feeling like a sugar rush. OMG! Dungeon! Zoom zoom. Quick, don’t stop. Moar dungeon! No waiting around!

The new levelling experience feels like a concentrated version of the same thing. It’s fast paced, a lot of the old pacing elements (like travel time) have been cut back or removed, and you’re moving quickly between one awesome story and the next. Blizzard had said that they were keen to bring the Northrend experience back to Azeroth and that is what they have done. There are vehicles, cut scenes, cool storylines covering entire zones, interaction with NPCs, and lots of it.

The lower level game has also been tuned for newbies. It’s intended that a new player, without much experience of MMOs and possibly who prefers to solo should be able to work through the questlines and easily level enough for the next zone in the series.

So if you are whining about how easy it is, then maybe you aren’t the target audience. Maybe you have even forgotten what it was like to panic every time a mob attacked you, freak out any time you thought you might be lost, and not really understand how the genre works yet. Sit back and enjoy the ride, the stories and quests are still fun and we get our harder content in a week or two.

This means that anyone who does know the game, who does do instances and/ or battlegrounds will level very quickly. Even without heirlooms, my test hunter has been almost outlevelling content in her zones, and I preferred not to skip any because why miss the new stuff? Having said that, the warchief’s command boards in the capital city do a great job of directing you to a suitable zone for your level if you do get ahead and aren’t sure where to go next.

I think this does leave the question that if WoW (at lower levels) is too easy for experienced MMOers who like this style of game, where else should they be heading? Rumour has it that Blizzard’s next MMO is to be a MMOFPS so that will have zilch for people who don’t like shooters. I’d imagine you guys should keep an eye on Guild Wars 2, since I’m not sure Bioware is going for a difficulty based approach on The Old Republic.

Blizzard have obviously noted this as an issue, because they responded today by nerfing instance xp (1-60). So clearly they are committed to balancing world quest xp for newbies, and instances are an optional extra. There was a time when the instances were the absolute pinnacle of WoW, the one thing where Blizzard blew everyone else out of the water. They’re still fine (I loved the new Shadowfang Keep) but the emphasis now is on the questlines.

Anyhow, I rolled a new forsaken hunter to check out the undead areas. It still feels odd that I have to roll a new alt just to find out what’s going on with my own faction but hey.

Welcome to the new girl

My screenshots of Phedra are a bit patchy. My excuse is … I was having too much fun. I’ve tried levelling a hunter before and got rather bored of it, so thumbs up to Blizzard for the redesign. I’m loving my hunter at the moment,  messing around with all my traps in Survival spec. It’s also great fun in PvP.

I didn’t use any heirloom armour for this experiment, just an heirloom gun.


Yup, it isn’t just LOTRO which features farm animals. These are some sheep in Gilneas. What was I doing in Gilneas?, you ask. Just an important mission behind enemy lines, don’t worry about it.



(Hope the captions on this are readable). I commented earlier this week that the forsaken theme has changed a bit, less gothic, more ick. Silverpine (level 10-20 zone) is more of a war story in which you aid your faction leaders to put down a worgen incursion, but it isn’t easy. There has been some brilliant work put into this zone, and along the way the character gets to learn more about the history of the forsaken and possibly a few hints about their future too.

The picture on the right here is from what will quickly become one of the most loved/ hated quests in the game: Welcome to the Machine. Don’t read the comments unless you want the spoilers but this quest plays on the metagame and will amuse experienced MMO players. It’s like those double entendre jokes that are put into pantomines to keep the parents amused. I have no idea what a newbie would make of it. (More on this one in a future post.)

And you will later encounter the featured NPCs again in Hillsbrad as you keep questing. Warning: Hillsbrad also features one of the grossest quests I’ve done, which involved killing infected bears and harvesting spider eggs from their backs – rather than looting the mob as usual, you actually click on the eggs. (It triggered my grossout response, anyhow.)


Hillsbrad is also the location of the Peacebloom vs Ghouls quests. If you’d been lulled by the ease of the quests up until this point, this is going to come as a shock because it’s quite tricky even for PvZ veterans. The singing sunflower is however totally adorable, if perhaps a tad inappropriate for an undead character.


Oh, and I also got to ride on the back of one of those cool undead drakes that they gave to people for the ICC achievements.

[Cataclysm] On being replaced by a pet

The Public Test Realms are now up with patch 4.0.1, which means that even slackers who aren’t in the Cataclysm beta will get an early chance to see the new class and talent tree designs.

If you find this PTR and patch 4.0 business puzzling, all you need to know is that before each previous expansion there have also been many class changes. Blizzard patches the class changes into the live game before the expansion. And no, we don’t know when although November 2nd is the current hot guess for Cataclysm. (Not saying this is set in stone, although I don’t think Boubouille has been wrong before.)

One of the more interesting changes is that the hunters’ pets have had a revamp. Each different type of pet will now be able to provide a different raid buff. And that raid buff will be exactly the same as a player of appropriate class could provide. This includes Bloodlust/ Heroism (which could be provided in future by a Corehound, available to Beastmaster specced hunters.)

Even a trained corehound could do that!

It’s ironic that one of the standard complaints about raiding (usually from non raiders) is “Even a trained monkey could learn to do that!” in a game where the actual trained monkeys are often more useful and easier to control than the players. A pet doesn’t have to worry about getting out of the fire in WoW, for example – they automatically take much much less AE spell damage.

You can probably even set the new pets to automatically renew their buff when the timer runs out. Which would put them way ahead of … well me for example! I do try to keep shouts (warrior buffs) up but sometimes if I’m busy it may be a few seconds late.  A pet won’t do that. And some of the ‘skill’ goes out of the game.

So there will be advantages to having pets along to do the buffing.

I don’t actually think giving hunters access to all the raid buffs is overpowered. Although it does give them a privileged position in regards to raid invites. Having one in your raid means a very flexible buffing class. If I played a different dps, I don’t really know how I’d feel about that. It’s not as if the class lacked utility before.

I think it’s a mixed blessing for the actual hunter player. Forget being able to choose which pet you bring to a raid, the raid leader will consult a spreadsheet and tell you. And if that means a tenacity pet which does less dps, then enjoy slipping down the damage meters in order to provide more utility. Look forwards to the joy of feeling obliged to go catch and tame a copy of every type of pet in the game if you are a keen raider, just in case. Enjoy having Beastmaster as an offspec, even if you hate it, just in case one of those exotic buffs turns out to be necessary.

Tanks however, are used to being replaced by pets. The pet’s entire purpose is to tank solo content, and if they can also tank instances and even raid bosses, well it’s just a matter of scaling. What I really want to know is why I can’t have a pet that heals or does ranged dps. I’d look after it and make sure it didn’t get eaten! (Or at least, I’d take better care of it than I do most of my mates in game, where I’d be more likely to point and laugh if they got themselves chewed on by mobs due to doing something daft.)

The strange lack of healing pets

In many ways, the most interesting of the new pet abilities is the heal which Spirit Beasts will be able to provide. Blizzard have shied away hard in the past from healing pets. I never really understood why this was. What’s the problem with a pet that can heal, given that they’re OK with letting them tank the occasional raid bosses? It could be tuned to never heal as well as a player, and to require lots of micromanagement if that’s needed as a balance.

Still, it feels odd to see abilities which used to be signature to a class turning up on a pet. It is a pretty good indication though that the days in which a player might expect to  be wanted in a raid just for one buff are over.