Strange Times to Have Fun

In terms of public perception, WoW may be in the deepest hole it's ever been in, with the perfect storm of patches taking too long for the player base's liking, unpopular storytelling decisions, and now the whole behind-the-scenes shitshow on top of everything else. And yet... I've been having more fun in retail than I've had in a long time.

Sure, having a game to play with the husband that we both enjoy to some degree is always nice, but there's more to it than that. I watched a video a few weeks ago that contained the following line after the creator admitted to really having enjoyed Warlords of Draenor, previously widely considered the worst of all WoW expansions: "If you start playing WoW, no matter how bad [current expansion] is, you're probably going to have a great time because there's fifteen years of shit to explore!" And while I'm not exactly a WoW noob, I've been away from retail for so long that yes, I'm not just sitting here on the content of one patch, I've got about six years of quests and stories that I never did when they were current to look into! And that's been fun to explore on a casual basis.

As a bonus, a couple of friends from our SWTOR guild have also had their interest in WoW rekindled, to the point that we even made a little levelling group to take through dungeons together. It's been interesting to see some of the changes that had been made since I last played... for example I was already familiar with the new versions of Scarlet Monastery and Scholomance, but I didn't know that Blackfathom Deeps and both Razorfen dungeons had also been given a new coat of paint during Warlords of Draenor. Makes the dungeon levelling experience in retail even more different from Classic.

Levellers at the end of Gnomeregan. I'm the second from the left.

It's also been interesting to see just how much of the XP gains from running dungeons are tied to choosing the "random" option. We've been queueing for each one specifically since we wanted to do them all exactly once and in order, and that results in only about half the XP that you'd get with the random bonus. About one level per dungeon still isn't bad, but less than I'd expected.

The only thing I've been struggling with is how extremely boring my character has been to play so far, which is very ironic in a game that prides itself in being all about engaging moment-to-moment gameplay and interesting rotations. I went elemental shaman since that's a spec I never really played before (for a number of reasons) and a static group environment seemed like a good opportunity to give it a try.

The problem is that whoever designed the current iteration of elemental shaman clearly gave absolutely zero thought to how it would feel while levelling. Most glaringly, you're given a secondary resource called Maelstrom the moment you choose the elemental specialisation, but with my character in my twenties I still don't have a single ability to spend that resource, so it's just a coloured bar that slowly fills up and then sits there, permanently full, while I spam the same three spells that I've had since level eleven, never getting anything interesting from levelling up. From what I can tell I won't actually get my first way of spending Maelstrom until well into the thirties, so why give me that bar at level ten at all? At least I'm about to be able to start using chain lightning...

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