Starting out in World of Warcraft, 16 years late

Yesterday, World of Warcraft launched its latest expansion, Shadowlands. Normally WoW expansions are kind of a non-event to me, as I’ve never really been a WoW player. I don’t have anything against the game, there were just a few things that kept me out of it. But, while the expansion launch is still kind of a non-event, I have recently gotten sucked into Azeroth, 16 years late.

A few weeks ago, I was looking at my stable of MMOs, and feeling really burned out. Guild Wars 2 is my anchor, of course; I’m always playing that one, and I recently joined a new guild and have been having a lot of fun with them. But I like to have at least one other MMO to play on the side. Elder Scrolls Online’s vampire/Skyrim expansion was really disappointing, so much so that it kind of pushed me out of that game. Besides, I’m tired of action combat, which nixes most newer MMOs. Lord of the Rings Online, my go-to when I feel like a classic tab-target MMO, has been doing its best to demotivate me from playing all year, between its server issues and mini expansion drama. I always think about playing Rift, but given that it’s basically in maintenance mode, it’s hard to get excited about it. I played Star Wars The Old Republic for a few weeks, but with no new classes since launch and only a slow drip of new content, it didn’t hold my attention for long. I tried Final Fantasy XIV again, and once again, it just doesn’t click with me, even though I really can’t explain why.

Then, I started reading about World of Warcraft’s new revamped leveling, which came in with the Shadowlands pre-patch. There were two big things that have always turned me off about WoW when I played the free trial and that one time I tried classic for a month (three if you count the subscription fee in an era where almost everything else is free- or buy-to-play). The first is that the leveling always felt slow and unrewarding, taking way too long to get me into the unique mechanics of my class, then, once I hit the higher levels, giving me nothing of interest for leveling up except an excuse to get new gear.

The second is the daunting task of getting up a hundred-some levels before I can group with my friends. This was fixed to a certain extent with the introduction of level scaling, but as someone with a severe case of alt-itis, I don’t think I could stick to one character for that long, and going through the same old hundred-some levels of content repeatedly on multiple characters doesn’t sound exciting either.

With this level squish, however, WoW has managed to remove both of those barriers. In a week, I had several characters at or near the free trial cap of 20 (which is significantly farther than the old 20), and I had decided I wanted to main my Dwarf Death Knight. Zombie pets, DoTs, and a little bit of health syphoning. What’s not to love? The new tutorial zips players from 1-10 in an hour or so, better prepares them for the game (for instance, it hands you several bags instead of expecting you to know to track down a bag merchant the first chance you get), dumps you out in your faction’s capital city, points you toward the riding trainer, and lets you decide your destiny from there, be that continuing with the Battle of Azeroth expansion, or picking one of the others to level through. I’ve gone through the racial starting zone on a few of my characters, but I like that they now give the option to bypass that and just get on with the action. Sometimes that’s what you want.

In under two weeks of relatively casual play, I have nearly leveled my Death Knight to 50, and am most of the way through Kul Tiras. I tanked one dungeon with a friend, which was a mistake, partly because DK tanks are in a bad spot at the moment, but mainly because their tanking rotation is fairly complex, so just switching to it and hoping to learn as I went didn’t work out very well. I quickly switched back to DPS, and decided to level a different class as a tank. Maybe a Monk? That stagger mechanic sounds really cool and unique.

My main goal right now is to unlock Mechagnomes. I have a simple rule: If an MMO gives me the opportunity to play as a steampunk cyborg, I play as a steampunk cyborg. You can bet that I will be heading to Mechagon as soon as I ding 50, and rolling a hunter with a mechanical dog pet shortly thereafter.

My favorite feature of Shadowlands so far is that those stupid zombies are no longer exploding on me every time I try to use the auction house. Seriously, who thought that event was a good idea? As a humans vs zombies PvP instance it might have been fun, but in random old world maps, including capital cities, it’s just annoying. Rant aside, I haven’t bought Shadowlands yet and probably won’t right away. As fun as it can be to be a part of the initial rush to gobble up new content, there’s just so much old stuff that’s new to me that it doesn’t make sense to drop money on an expansion just because it’s shiny and everyone else is doing it. I’ll wait until I’ve seen most of the old expansion content, or for it to go on sale, whichever comes first.

It turns out now is a great time to get into World of Warcraft. I’m having a lot more fun than I have in any of my previous attempts to get into the game, and it’s nice to feel like there is a feast of content ahead of me. Not everything is perfect (I’ve had to find addons to do a lot of things that I feel should have been built into the game by now, and the community definitely doesn’t live up to the “subscription fees keep out trolls” meme) but I’m having fun and playing with friends, and that’s what matters most.

2 thoughts on “Starting out in World of Warcraft, 16 years late

  1. Heh! Apart from the playing with friends part I could have written pretty much the exact same post., including the list of alternate mmos. I’m going to have to get myself a mechagnome, too, once I’m done levelling my vulpera.

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