New Old Levelling

When I fired up retail for the first time in years last month my main goal was to check out the revamped levelling experience, but then our trip to 50 through BfA ended up being so quick that you could blink and miss it, and the husband got all caught up in continuing to play at endgame, so I haven't really been giving the whole levelling thing as much attention as I'd originally wanted to.

However, I've greatly enjoyed reading about both Bhagpuss' and Wilhelm's sometimes very confused experiences with levelling since the level squish, so I thought I should really go back and have another look at it myself as originally planned. So I returned to the random Draenei shaman I created a month ago and continued levelling her through Azuremyst and Bloodmyst Isle.

The Draenei starter zone has been a really interesting place for me to observe the changes, as I'm very familiar with it due to it being one of my favourites, and it's currently the oldest starter zone in the game, dating all the way back to 2007 - minor updates not withstanding (I keep being surprised by how many old and common creatures, such as bears and naga, have received graphical updates since I last played).

I finished Azuremyst Isle at level 15 and Bloodmyst at 27, and it was quite an interesting journey. Bloodmyst in particular used to have a very carefully designed flow, with higher-level quests gradually unlocking as you completed the lower-level ones first. With the new system, I was immediately greeted by a forest of exclamation marks on arrival, as I was instantly eligible for most quests bar a few that are part of chains, and it didn't matter what order I did them in as all the enemies always scaled to my level anyway.

Initially this felt pretty liberating, and I found myself forced to return to town due to the bag space needed to carry all the quest items more than anything else. However, towards the end it actually got a bit annoying as those quests that were parts of chains ended up sending me back and forth all over the place. In the old levelling flow they would have unlocked at just the right time to combine them with other quests of the same level so that you could clear out each area in one go, but this guidance was missing now. (And while I'm very familiar with the zone, it's not as if I had every single quest's original level and order perfectly memorised or anything.)

After the first ten levels or so, combat moved away from the boring "two-shot everything without losing mana or health" model and I actually found myself starting to use different abilities, which was nice! However, I also felt like I was getting weaker as I levelled up, with mobs seemingly taking off larger and larger chunks of my health and forcing me to use my heals more often, which felt less good, especially if it was the same mobs I'd fought before and they'd actually put up less resistance earlier. I guess it didn't help that useful quest rewards were pretty sparse in these zones, meaning that my gear fell pretty far behind after a while.

Still, I only died twice - once to fall damage after a badly judged jump (d'oh), and the second time after my first encounter with a Myst Leecher. I immediately remembered Rohan mentioning that the damage from some bleed abilities felt off to him in the new level scaling, and I can only guess that these spiders' poison falls into the same category as I soon learned that I had to keep spamming heals on myself for the remaining duration of the poison debuff even after the mob was dead. (I don't know how you're supposed to survive these if you don't have self-heals...) Also, this was when I learned that shamans in retail apparently can't cure poisons anymore; FML.

Leaving Blood Watch, I followed the old breadcrumb that gets you in touch with the night elves and used to send you to Auberdine, curious to see what had been done with that, but it just... dies. This huntress tells you that sure, she can send you to Auberdine, and then nothing. However, there are Hero's Call boards everywhere, and I used one of those instead to pick up a breadcrumb to see Chromie. Fortunately there's a portal to Stormwind in the Exodar now, and the guards even point it out if you know how to ask the right questions. I suppose I'll be off to Outland next.

Another subject I just wanted to mention briefly were professions. I noticed that for all the hand-holding the game tries to do in Exile's Reach when it comes to many aspects of the game, any mention of professions is conspicuously absent. I trained skinning, leatherworking and the still available secondaries anyway, but boy is it all a mess. There are different tiers for every expansion now, which makes some sense I guess, but the UI for keeping track of what's what is pretty horrid. I also don't know how you're supposed to farm the right type of skins now as the mobs level with you, so once they are high enough level to drop medium leather, you're just out of luck if you still needed light leather I guess? And here I thought the regular levelling was confusing...


  1. Yeah, professions. They sliced them all up into the various expansions back when everything was still in a vertical stack and it sort of work then. But since the squish put all of those expansions into parallel tracks... if you Chromie correctly... they really feel out of whack.

    It is not so bad for my old chars who have persisted leveling up professions since vanilla, but some of my freshly rolled characters I can't even figure where I ought to start or if anything would be worth the effort. Harvesting is probably best.

  2. Unless you want the oldest-school gameplay currently available in Retail I'd avoid Outland. I went there first, through following one of these mission boards, and compared to every other part of the game I've tried since, experience crawls and quest flow feels heavily artificial and constrained.

    On that latter though, I think it's the reverse of what you were describing about the forest of question marks. Outland still seems to follow a fairly rigid quest hub process (although I'm not exactly sure whether that was because I wasn't properly in Chromie time - I mean, I thought I was when I was doing it but now I'm guessing maybe I wasn't...). Personally, I've always disliked linear quest design where you have to complete one sequence before the next opens up - I'd rather everything (the beginning of chains, obviously) was open from the start and I could just pick up whatever I felt like. It does lead to a lot of unfinished chains but I'm alaways fine with that.

    1. How odd to hear you describe Outland like that, because I did make a start on it last night and kept thinking how great it was to have the freedom to run all over the map and pick up quests anywhere. It's the more modern content that feels more linear to me, with it's "pick up exactly three quests at this hub and then move on to the next one" model, but then I have to confess that this latter structure hasn't really encouraged me to try and break out of the quest flow. It may be more open than it feels to me.

  3. Some time back Blizzard split up the cleansing / curing. Each healer spec can handle some types, but not all. DPS specs get just one cleanse, as well. Blizzard is much more comfortable giving healers a niche to be strong with unlike tanks & DPS.

    Unless you are a recipe collector, it really feels like Blizzard expects you only to craft at max level. About the only crafting that is useful while leveling is tailoring and that is to just make bags. Having the two gathering professions (mining / herbalism) is handy while leveling as you get experience from the odd resource node you run across. Professions really could stand for a major rework.

    1. Re: the cleansing, I guessed something like that but it still felt very wrong to me since poison cleansing is such an important part of a shaman's role in Classic. Also, they are limited to curses of all things - which is the one thing they couldn't cleanse originally!

    2. That's Blizzard for you: no respect for their own history. ^_^