I recently pondered if World of Warcraft was worth starting in 2018. I even sent a cut-down version of that post to the Massively OP podcast to get their opinions on the subject. Finally, I decided to give the free-up-to-20 experience a try. I had done this a while back and wasn’t impressed, but it was with a friend who was rather disenchanted with everything that had changed in his absence, so maybe I just needed to get to know the game on my own?
Sadly, my original impression was confirmed; the low-level game is just kind of terrible. I chose the monk because it sounded interesting to me (and it’s one of the newer classes, so probably a more refined design, right?), I’m dumped into the world with a single skill on my bar, which is a Chi builder that costs slowly-regenerating power to use–that’s fine, I’m comfortable with builder-and-spender class designs–but I’m basically just stuck auto-attacking until my power bar refills, when I can do another low-damage builder skill with nothing to spend it on. That’s… probably just for level 1, right? I’ll get enough skills for a basic rotation in the next couple of levels? Well, at level 3 I get my first spender. Still not enough to build and spend without auto attacking in between. Well, surely this will be remedied soon. So at level five I get… a roll? It literally just makes you roll forward, dealing no damage, and it doesn’t even stop at a target for use as a gap closer. I’m sure there are times when this comes in handy. I can’t imagine what they are, other than getting places slightly faster before I get a mount, but I’m sure it has a purpose. But why in in world (of Warcraft) wouldn’t you wait to give me this until I actually have enough attack skills that I’m not standing around waiting on resource blocks? When I hit level 8 and was handed, not another builder, not another damage spender, but a heal skill, I ragequit.
I don’t see a way in which this isn’t simply poor low-level class design. This is Blizzard for goodness sake! I thought they invented polish and accessibility in MMOs. I mean, they did invent polish and accessibility in MMOs; I played just enough EverQuest and other older MMOs to know that. But this is 2018 and in every MMO I jump into, I have three to four skills on my hotbar by the time I’m level 3, and I don’t have to feel like I’m doing RuneScape combat. I can’t fathom, with all of the class revisions they’ve done over the years–after all is the post-Cataclysm revised leveling experience–that they haven’t made this better. Are they just trying to discourage alting by making the early game experience so bad you only want to do it once? I can’t imagine why a game would do this; alting makes for better players who stick around longer.
My friends who play WoW assure me that this is a good thing. That by the time you get a new skill you really know that last skill. But I feel like I learned all I needed to know by reading the tooltip. Yeah, if they dumped three or four hotbars full of stuff on me all at once (as I’m sure they do when you level boost), it would be overwhelming. But I think I could handle two or three more at the very beginning to get a decent feel for how the class plays. I don’t mean to mock them too much; their main complaint with Guild Wars 2 was that, once you get your relevant slot skills, leveling adds nothing new to your character until you start working on elite specs (and if you don’t like the elite specs for your class, you’re pretty much done progressing). I think that’s a legitimate complaint. But there’s a middle ground that seems to be missing in WoW.
I’m going to try rolling another class–probably a druid or a shaman–and stick with it for another week or so, but if those classes have equally terrible early games, Blizzard probably still isn’t getting any of my money on this one. I really don’t want to be this negative about a game that is so influential and widely beloved, and, going in, I honestly didn’t expect to be. I’m quite sure the game gets worlds better if I just stick with it just a bit longer, but I can muster no motivation to do so.
You really need to work on your first impressions, Blizzard.
It should be noted that I wrote this post wile tired, sick, and cranky 🙂
I also realized that I neglected to add that I had a similar experience with my level 5 Paladin; I have two skills with long cooldowns such that I’m stuck autoattacking, and then I’m handed a heal skill. Maybe I’m just really unlucky with picking classes with bad low level experiences, because the Druid has been a lot better (at least I start with something with no cooldown, even if it’s a rooted cast; at least I feel like I’m doing something).
WoW doesn’t have to care about low level impressions because you’ll be low level about fifteen minutes.