Two Weeks of Classic Era

It's been about two weeks since I started playing on Classic era. My night elf rogue hit level twenty and managed to get into a group for Deadmines, but I didn't have a whole lot to say about that run. It was good fun but relatively uneventful. Since then I've allowed the character to rest up a bit in town while I focused on being active in my newfound Horde guild.

Playing on Horde side is very weird and in some ways quite unlike any MMO experience I've had before. I noted in my initial impressions of the population on Alliance side that it seemed uncomfortably low for my standards - and while we don't have reliable numbers, I reckon that the Horde population is maybe half as large as that of the Alliance, if even that (which is very much in line with the typical faction balance on PvE servers from what I've seen).

The auction house rarely has more than 100-200 auctions running and it's driving me batty, not because I have any ambition to be an auction house baron, but because I'm used to making a bit of money on the side by selling useful drops and trade goods. I'm already vendoring a lot of things that I'd usually try to sell to other players, but with some items it just feels wrong. I must have re-listed the same stack of mithril about ten times by now but I just can't get myself to vendor the stuff. Plus the auction house should have some mithril on it, just in case someone is searching for any! I'm not claiming to make a lot of sense on that front, but it's how I feel.

The emptiness of the open world is actually quite charming to be honest. It makes quests that send you out to deal with local threats feel more real somehow when you really are the only adventurer in town. And when you do run into someone else out in the open, you really notice that person, take note of their name and guild, and maybe emote at each other. Every encounter feels meaningful.

In the cities the emptiness is a bit harder to swallow to be honest. I had a bit of a crisis of faith when I did a /who Undercity one night and I was literally the only player there. Playing on era means needing to be able to feel comfortable with being alone sometimes. Orgrimmar at least gets a little bit busier around raid time, but then it's weird to notice that all the people in and around the bank are in my guild. There'll be the occasional unguilded character or member of Trinity, but other than that, it feels like the world basically exists for my guild. Did I mention yet that this is a very weird situation to be in in an MMO?

And yet, I've been playing in that environment, both solo on my hunter to work on some bits and bobs, and joining my new guildies for dungeons and raids to soak in some of the social atmosphere. In Thursday's raid I laughed out loud a couple of times, prompting the husband to ask what was going on, something that hadn't happened in regards to WoW Classic in a while. This is the sort of thing that made me fall in love with the Forks two years ago...

Still, I'm conflicted in some ways. I shouldn't be looking to replace the Forks, and nobody likes a person who constantly compares everyone to their ex. I worry that I might be making myself too comfortable too quickly. And do I really want to go through all that progression in Classic era all over again? I don't know.

I do know that I felt proud to finally be able to afford my tauren hunter's epic mount tonight, and to finish up her BWL attunement with the help of some guildies. That's another kind of interesting and bizarre thing: On the one hand the lack of an active pugging scene is obviously a massive inconvenience, but on the other hand it does put the onus more obviously on the guild to help people. I think of my many moans in early BC Classic about finding it hard to get guild runs together and how the response was always to "just pug it", because people didn't think that it should be their responsibility to make things happen for their guild mates.

In Classic era, that's not really an option, which is why I actually felt somewhat empowered to stand up and ask people to come run UBRS with me for my attunement despite of being very new, and after one of the raid tanks agreed to come along, the rest almost sorted itself, even as I felt hopelessly out of my depth keeping track of whose alt was doing what. (I'm still a big noob here!)

The lack of a functional economy also makes gold nearly worthless beyond taking care of certain vendor-sold conveniences such as mounts or chronoboons. My epic kodo did require some grinding (and I was pleased to find that I had a bunch of solo quests left to do in Silithus, probably because they hadn't been added yet when I originally switched to Alliance), but aside from that everyone just tries to take care of each other by providing help and material assistance when needed. I already mentioned that resistance potions were being handed out for free in AQ40, and when I asked whether the guild bank had any of the hunter books from AQ20 in stock, I found all three of them in my mailbox only a few hours later.

It's just such a chill and cosy community, but the whole environment is also kind of weird and different, and I don't know yet how that's going to turn out for me in the long run. At the moment I'm having a good time though.


Looking Back at My Classic BC Experience

With Classic Wrath launching in two months, and Red writing about his conflicted feelings about it considering his experiences in Classic BC, I wanted to jot down a few final thoughts about my (less than a) year of Classic BC as well.

I've been going back and forth about how to approach this topic and structure this post, but in a nutshell I can say that Classic BC has been a big disappointment for me. Don't get me wrong, there were some good things about it, which I shall list first:

However... that's already where it ends. Meanwhile, the following issues marred the experience for me:

  • The switch to the smaller raid sizes changed the general attitude in the guild I was in from one of inclusion (to make up the numbers) to one of exclusion and competitiveness (fighting for raid spots, constantly trying to out-do each other, expressing joy about getting rid of certain players).
  • Increased access to powerful rewards for the solo player and small groups meant that people cared less about the guild as a whole and more about going through their personal checklists on their own time (which usually seemed to mean as fast as possible).
  • While I could still appreciate the quality of the content, I did find it somewhat disillusioning and disappointing to see raids that I remembered as these epic battles in original BC be demoted to a level where they were considered a trivial farm.
  • Players and Blizzard pushing for mega-servers for easier trade and random group-finding destroyed server communities and made it harder to exist in the open world (insane competition for spawns, people increasingly wanting to avoid the opposite faction, rarely seeing the same people around).

For all that, I don't think my opinion about original Burning Crusade being my favourite expansion has changed. It's just that what I remember so fondly about it still had a lot of "Vanilla influences" to it, with the old world not getting nerfed until quite late in the expansion and most players still approaching the content with curiosity and a sense of wonder.

Classic has definitely been ruined for me though, at least the "progressive" version of it (not counting era). I suppose it's still possible to enjoy it if you just stick to yourself and mostly stay away from endgame, or if you have a tight-knit group of friends that creates its own fun, but if you participate in the wider community there is definitely a trend towards rushing and solipsism that's hard to ignore. If you're someone who's planning to do group content in Classic Wrath, I can only wish you good luck.


Return of the Horde Hunter

I forgot how quickly things can escalate in Classic when it comes to finding adventure.

One of the most fun things about Classic era for me right now is the renewed sense of exploration it provides. Sure, I've played all this before, but I've been playing BC for the past year and a bit, so it takes some mental effort to rewind certain gameplay changes (such as being unable to drop traps in combat again as a hunter), plus all my characters require a certain degree of re-acquainting. What did they have in their bank and bags at the time of cloning? What quests were they on when I last played them? And so on and so forth.

On Wednesday I logged onto one of my Horde characters for the first time, and within five minutes I'd received a whisper inviting me to a guild. I used to be more coy when it comes to accepting guild invites for a while, when I wanted every guild to be a forever home and therefore wanted to vet it carefully before joining, but more recently I've become a bit more relaxed about that, so that me accepting or declining such random invites comes more down to my mood.

In this case I felt sufficiently upbeat, and promptly found myself invited to "Warriors of Sunlight", one of what appears to be only two active Horde guilds on the EU PvE cluster. (Seriously, I'm running the census addon right now and it hasn't spotted any other Horde guilds so far aside from this one and Trinity.) I read and participated in guild chat for a bit and also joined their Discord, and quite liked what I saw there too. I quickly found myself thinking that maybe I could do some casual raids with these guys some time.

This is where the point about escalation mentioned at the beginning becomes relevant, because I also saw that they had an AQ40 sign-up for Thursday evening which seemed to be quite short on numbers. I didn't have any plans for Thursday night, so listening in on that seemed like a good way of checking what their raiding atmosphere was like. In fact, if they were sufficiently short, maybe I could even join them...?

This is where it really pays off that I've been through all of this before. When I first ascended to raider rank among the Forks, I was perpetually terrified of doing something wrong and being a burden on the rest of the raid. However, now that I've been there, I know what the fights are like, and I remember all too well the nights when leadership was asking every person online whether they didn't want to come fill out the raid, because having a warm body of any sort along was pretty much always preferable to undermanning things. So I felt little shame in offering to join on my tauren hunter, even though she was only in greens and blues and had never done anything harder than UBRS.

Mind you, a little shame is still not the same as no shame. For example I was a bit embarrassed when I remembered that my tauren was Beast Master spec instead of Marksman like every good Classic raider should be, and that her gear only had 1% hit rating on it, though I managed to dig up a helmet from her bank that added at least another two.

Never mind consumables, I didn't even have appropriate amounts of pet food for a raid on me, so I quickly stuffed my bags with fruit before it was world buff time, just to realise inside AQ that my wind serpent didn't like fruit, or any of the other food in my bags except a few bits of cheese I had left. So much for remembering which pet likes which food... I was already contemplating the embarrassing possibility of being a pet-less BM hunter when I remembered that wind serpents do eat bread, so I had a friendly mage conjure some rolls for me and the day was saved.

Ultimately I need not have worried too much. While I did feel a bit awkward about my poor performance, I wasn't even the one doing the least damage, and in general the mix of people and their attitudes reminded me a lot of the Classic Fork raids, with some people preparing themselves as much as possible in order to top the damage meters while others would go AFK in town, miss even the free world buffs and then need a summon.

Leadership performed a similar level of hand-holding to what I used to see in the Forks in Classic, reminding people of some key mechanics before every fight (not that this prevented one guy from killing himself in the green goo left behind by the Silithid Royalty, because of course there's always one) and handing out free nature protection potions where it was helpful. Again I was fondly reminded of the Forks, and felt like I was being a good raider just by following all the instructions.

There was one moment where people got cross with the hunters in general because apparently this guild has issues with hunter pets on Twin Emps, but ultimately it wasn't a big deal. Overall the atmosphere was nice, the banter full of dad jokes, and there was occasional friendly teabagging. It also cracked me up/I thought it was cute how the raid leader always asked for reses with the phrase "let's res our fallen heroes". It was a fun night that definitely left me itching for more, even if we didn't fully clear (just due to general slowness, and people wanting to go to bed after a certain point).

So now I'm actually kind of motivated to work on my tauren hunter - and there's a lot of work to do for sure. The only raid she's attuned to is MC, as mentioned she's missing a lot of hit rating, and she doesn't even have an epic mount. Making money looks like it's going to be harder than on Alliance side, as the number of auctions on the AH is a lot lower and I've not succeeded at selling anything other than a vial of Winterfall Firewater so far. For an extra bit of irony I actually found a BoE world epic in EPL, but who was I going to sell it to in this economy? I just mailed it to a lowbie hunter in guild who's still levelling up.

Either way, I've been reminding myself that while it's nice to be excited by the idea of catching up in order to become more involved with the guild, there's no rush as Classic era isn't going anywhere - which is a nice change from the way I've felt about Classic raiding for the past one and a half years.


What's Really Going on with Classic Era?

When a few thousand people are happily playing an MMORPG, but none of them post about their experiences online, how does anybody else even know about it? Aside from exploring Classic era by playing it myself and paying attention to in-game chat, I thought I'd also do some research online, and it's been quite interesting.

I mentioned previously that there've been a lot of public declarations floating around of how dead Classic era is, not just on the official forums but also from actual content creators, such as WillE putting out this video called "Classic Era Servers Are OFFICIALLY Dead" in May, which has nearly 300k views at the time of writing this.

However, while era players have mostly been quiet and kept to themselves, more recently there appears to have been some pushback against this "era is dead" narrative. Only a week ago, someone made a massive megapost on the WoW Classic subreddit that explains in detail how the era servers are structured, who the major guilds are and more. I thought it was funny that the most upvoted comment to that was someone asking what era servers actually are; they didn't even know!

I also found two small YouTubers who've been reporting on Classic era - they are also referenced in the reddit post, but I actually found them before seeing them mentioned there. First there is Morphious, who - by his own admission - initially did the same thing as many other YouTubers or streamers and logged into era for just a few minutes to have a look around and then declared it dead. However, when people told him that this wasn't true, he looked into it some more and quickly became part of his server's local community, leading to a follow-up video proudly declaring "Classic Era is Back" in the thumbnail, which is now the most viewed video on his channel. He also has a video answering some frequently asked questions about era.

The other YouTuber is DwarfLord, who most notably released a video only yesterday in which he interviews a bunch of people on his server about why they play Classic era, and also includes some little comedy skits.

There are multiple references to era having a "small town feel" to it, where people know each other and help each other out. Which sounds great and is one of the things I wanted out of Classic from the beginning. Of course for someone who's not comfortable on a server with fewer than 10k concurrent players, this is probably more or less equivalent to "being dead" anyway, but for those of us who're looking for more of a community feeling and are okay with not being able to anonymously queue up for a battleground or join a pug at all hours of the day, there's definitely something there.

Interestingly, a lot of people talking about their experiences on era also mention that it's been growing recently, which I can definitely see being a thing. I may be part of a minority, but surely I'm not the only one who'd rather go back to Classic than forward to Wrath of the Lich King, and whenever Season of Mastery ends, that might also provide a small influx of additional players. Which is kind of funny in that it's the opposite of WillE's video and his bold declaration about era servers being "officially" dead now.

Of course, one thing to keep in mind is that up until now, people have still been able to buy clones of Classic characters that previously moved on to BC, but in only a few days, that will come to an end and all dormant clones will be deleted. I went ahead and cloned a few more of my lower-level characters, just because Blizzard drastically lowered the price of the cloning service and I'd rather have those characters available if I become more invested in era than regret not unlocking them later on.

Once that's gone though, levelling a brand new character from scratch will be the only way to join the action in Classic era, and we'll see how that's going to affect the population. On the plus side though, deleting all those tens of thousands of dormant clones that have been taking up names will make it a lot easier for players to find names for new characters that aren't already taken.


Classic Rogue Thoughts

One of the first things I noticed while levelling my new rogue on era was how good the levelling felt, to the point that I constantly found myself looking for opportunities to play just a little more - and that despite of not being too keen on rogue as a class. I ended up looking back at this post from September 2019, a month after Classic's launch, in which I noted how well levelling in Classic seemed to be balanced, with everything tying into everything else just so.

That was less than three years ago - it's funny how quickly we forget. A few months ago I noted how levelling in BC Classic felt ever so slightly "off" to me, and I did remember it feeling better before the levelling nerfs, but I'd forgotten just how good it feels, with everything always driving you forward.

As for my dislike of rogues, there are mainly three reasons for it: Firstly, I prefer playing support over dps, so therefore I'm not a fan of classes that can't spec into the former. Secondly, when it does come to playing dps, I vastly prefer range to melee - and thirdly, stealth is slooow, especially at low levels.

Fortunately I'm in no rush whatsoever when it comes to this character - after all, it's just me, and as far as the game itself is concerned, Classic era itself isn't going anywhere either. I can take my time slowly stealthing around things without feeling too bad. I think just finishing business on Teldrassil took me almost eight hours of /played.

I'm still not great at being a rogue - which is actually the fourth reason I don't like rogues and which I almost forgot to mention. Rogues are all about careful movement, choosing your targets, going directly for the kill and then disappearing again. When properly executed, this actually feels pretty cool and almost overpowered... but if anything goes wrong, you're usually toast, especially at low levels (WTB Vanish). If you're caught out by an extra mob in the middle of an area you stealthed into, it's not even like you can run away, because you'll be surrounded on all sides. This has already happened to me quite a few times and caused a number of deaths.

However, this is Classic and I've been able to (mostly) take these setbacks with grace, especially since the penalty for reviving at the spirit healer is significantly reduced at low levels. And it's not as if it's been death and frustration all the time. That one time I was sent to assassinate a furbolg chieftain, I managed to sneak into his camp and hide on a grassy knoll until he walked past, at which point I pulled him with my throwing knife and then proceeded to take him out by himself. Perfect assassination! As a bonus, a rare mob walked past as well and could be taken out the same way. (One upside of the levelling zones being very quiet is that there are rares everywhere.)

The level ten rogue quest was also pretty fun. I mentioned in the comments on my previous post that I'd had trouble finding the rogue trainer in Darnassus, but once I did, she sent me to pickpocket from a satyr, which resulted in one of those "I can't believe I've done this zone how many times and yet I never knew this was here" moments as I found myself sneaking out onto a (relatively) thin limb of Teldrassil to steal from a mob that promptly teleported away before I could reach him and then reappeared some distance behind me. I was so startled by this development that I fumbled my movement and plummeted to my death, because of course I did. Death by falling off Teldrassil, once again: very old school.

Also, despite my preferences, the gameplay has actually been kind of fun (whenever I'm not dying). Remembering that Gouge was a good move to combo with Backstab, especially if I failed to open from stealth, was like being reunited with an old friend. Rogues have some very interesting skills, if you're only able to figure out how to best use them.

And all the while I'm keeping an eye on chat to find out more about the community of era. It's not super obvious that there is one if all you do is log on in Stormwind or Ironforge and count the people idling by the bank. My first attempts at selling something on the auction house were all returned to me unsold, but since then I've been successful at auctioning off about half of my finds. I've also seen a couple of guild recruitment messages, as well as someone asking for people for an MC pug. That one almost tempted me to log one of my clones, but ultimately I decided that it's too soon to get dragged into anything like that. I want to observe and learn some more first.


Exploring Era?

My holiday in June finally broke me out of the habit of at least occasionally logging into BC Classic to fish and use crafting cooldowns. It's been almost a month since I last logged into any of my characters there, and I'm not sure I will log into them again. Whenever the forced transition to Wrath happens, I'm planning to just uninstall that version of the game.

I'm still holding off on finalising things in case there's a sudden turnaround on the subject of BC era servers, but the chances of that happening appear to be vanishingly small at this point. You could argue that I should just move on and forget about it, but I was so in love with Classic when it launched; I just don't want to let go as long as at least a chance remains for me to engage with it in an enjoyable way.

And since I don't want to play Wrath Classic, I've turned my eyes towards the only alternative that remains if BC era doesn't become a thing: Classic era servers. I've previously written about a few adventures I had on there, which were overshadowed by the fact that Classic era Hydraxian Waterlords had virtually no population. This was due to Blizzard deciding to keep it cordoned off from the regular PvE realms, which were all connected once era became a thing. They did offer free transfers off to Pyrewood Village though, which is part of that bigger server cluster.

At some point I decided to take this transfer on my two cloned characters, though I was quickly put off by how badly I had to mangle their names on the new realm. Still, every now and then I would log in, run around Stormwind a bit, check the auction house, and then log off again because I didn't know what to do. Last week I actually managed to muster the energy to run my night elf hunter from Stormwind to Darnassus, but then just ended up logging off there instead. She's already cleared Naxx and effectively "beat the game", what is left for her to do? It's not that I wouldn't repeat content for the sake of being social, but without my guild or any real connections at all, I was just lost.

I had a bit of a think about it and decided that if I wanted to properly get to know the way Classic era works and familiarise myself with its community, the best way to do this would be to start a character from scratch. You can still only have ten characters per server in era, but since the PvE cluster effectively merges several servers into one, I have near endless space to add to my roster on any of the other servers that are part of this same group. So I went ahead and created a night elf rogue on Mirage Raceway.

I'm not entirely sure why I went with rogue; it's not a class I've ever liked and I hope I'm not subconsciously sabotaging my own project here, but I didn't want to create another character of a class I already had, so there weren't a lot of options there. I also figured that rogues are pretty independent with their stealth and all, which should serve me well if I find myself soloing a lot.

I was definitely interested in interacting with other players if possible though, so I joined the LookingForGroup channel at level one, just to get the lay of the land so to speak - and promptly found myself double-checking after a few minutes that I'd typed it correctly because there was no conversation going on at all. At all. Throughout my first evening of questing, I would eventually see three grouping requests pop up: First someone was looking for one or two more for Deadmines (not sure if they found what they were looking for), then someone expressed interest in a group for Uldaman (pretty sure that didn't end up going anywhere), and finally a level 60 tank piped up to say that he fancied a dungeon, which eventually resulted in a group going off to do Undead Strat.

I'm not gonna lie: It was a bit discouraging. People will tell you pretty much anywhere that Classic era is dead, but after all that's happened in the past year, that was actually encouraging to me, not a deterrent. After all, I learned that my preference for smaller servers is the complete opposite of that of many Classic players, and that what looks "dead" to a megaserver player might in fact be just perfect for me. However, three LFG requests over the course of several hours was a bit quiet even by my standards.

I'm not about to give up that quickly, however. I have seen other players around, many of them guilded, which makes me think that the smaller population might have led to people clustering in guilds more strongly than I'm used to, with less pugging going on. And I found it very noticeable that every time I ran past someone, if they were capable of buffing me, they did so. I'd almost forgotten about the value of these drive-by buffs, considering that their importance gradually diminished with the changes to levelling content in BC.

So I'm planning to continue levelling slowly at the original Vanilla pace and see what I learn. Worst case I get to enjoy another tour of the old world by myself, which is what a lot of my early Classic experience was like anyway.


Zereth Mortis at Last

It's hard to believe that Zereth Mortis was released in February, considering it took the husband and me this long to finally check it out, but that just seems to be how we roll. Part of his initial hesitation to jump into it was caused by the fact that we'd levelled as a warrior and monk duo until now, but he had come to enjoy the demon hunter play style more and wanted to make that his new main (yet at the same time didn't feel quite ready to do so yet).

In the end it was last week that we finally set out as monk and demon hunter duo to check out the last zone added for Shadowlands. It took us about two weeks of real time to get through all the story (and to do the weekly twice while we were there), with one particularly intense play session on a Saturday afternoon taking up something like six hours.

And it was enjoyable! I quite liked Korthia until we got dispirited by the grind, and Zereth Mortis functions in a similar way but in a prettier environment. Now that I've finally seen the basic workings of Warlords of Draenor, I can really see how Blizzard's approach to these zones evolved over time: Burning Crusade first added the concept of a faction offering daily quests, which remained their go-to way of keeping players busy with only relatively minor changes for the next three expansions, until Mists of Pandaria caused backlash with its "daily overload". This in turn then resulted in Blizzard trying something completely different with the Timeless Isle and just letting people look for treasures and rare mobs with little to no direction there.

As that got what I think could be called a mixed reception, they went back to dailies with WoD, but left in the treasures and rares, and also experimented with these things called "bonus objectives", which were basically story-less area quests that just magically deposit rewards in your bags if you killed enough mobs in an area to fill a bar on your quest tracker. As these proved pretty popular, they decided to merge dailies and area quests into world quests for Legion and BfA... though there seemed to be some demand for dailies to make a return, as they did so in the later half of BfA, meant to work with world quests in a synergetic way. And that's kind of where we are in Shadowlands, and I have to admit it works.

In Zereth Mortis, a small number of dailies and world quests provide a basic framework to answer the question of "What should I do today?" when you first enter the zone on any given day, and then the dynamically popping treasures and rares provide additional busywork to extend your time in the zone. As an example, today I arrived in Zereth Mortis with the intent to just do the puzzle world quest and nothing else, but just on the way there I found myself stopping multiple times to loot chests, then a big rare popped and I flew over there to kill it, so all in all just "doing that single puzzle quest" actually ended up taking up quite a bit of time, but in a fun way.

Of course I say all this, having unlocked flying. The flying unlock for Zereth Mortis is pretty reasonable by the way: Just running around and doing the story we ended up ticking all but one of the boxes for it - the thing we were missing was an achievement to find a number of hidden scrolls (of which we had only found a few), but it was easy enough to look up a guide for where the remaining ones were hiding.

While we were still ground-bound it was a bit more of a mixed experience, not because I have any issues with ground-bound adventuring in general but mostly because of how many chests were only accessible by overcoming jumping puzzles of various difficulties - if you were a monk like me that is... my husband's demon hunter would just double jump and be done, which caused a fair amount of friction between us.

I got a pair of gloves early during our questing which had a special on-use teleportation effect that helped a little, but it also had a very limited range and a cooldown, so there was more than one occasion when I was waiting for that ability to come off cooldown to be able to make one final jump, just to have the chest I'd been working towards despawn. I have to admit this really made me miss the way SWTOR has a larger variety of tricks available to help other players overcome obstacles like that, as there my husband's character would've likely been able to pull me up in a similar situation.

There was also that one time where I died after a quest had teleported me to a location high up in the mountains, and since my ghost could neither fly nor use the teleporter, I was initially a bit lost as to whether it was even possible to revive without talking to the spirit healer. Fortunately a quick Google search revealed that I wasn't the only one to ever run into this problem, and I learned that my character's corpse had automatically been deposited in a different cave at ground level.

But anyway, that's all behind us now... here are a couple more things I really liked:

The overall zone story was surprisingly enjoyable. WoW rightly gets flak for the sometimes nonsensical nature of the plots for its big NPCs, but the more down-to-earth questing has always been at least okay in my opinion. I liked the concept of the Enlightened as these ultra-capitalists having found something close to religion, and I liked the little side story of that one Broker trying to get his friend to come back and slowly gaining insight into why she doesn't want to leave. Firim is a fabulous character too - great voice acting, and I liked the combination of a scientist character full of awe and love for the objects of his study.

Pocopoc, the little robo-dude that becomes your companion throughout the zone, is basically a Disney animal sidekick and I'm okay with it. He's cute and I love the little customisation options.

Have I mentioned yet that I also really like the zone as a zone? I appreciate the combination of pretty greenery with a bit of desert (which is attractive in its own way), and I also like that there are quite a few neutral mobs, meaning that there are areas where it's quite safe to roam without getting attacked every two meters. I still think the devs deserved to be memed on to some extent for hyping it up as being this alien and exotic place (e.g. water "unlike any water that we've seen before"), but it is a pretty zone.


More Retail Levelling

With my hopes for and interest in Classic at an all-time low, I've been spending more time in retail, including on new alts, even if that has meant finding more random low-levels to delete so as to not run up against the account-wide character cap.

Levelling in post-level squish WoW remains kind of weird to me because it just goes so fast. I generally consider it a good thing to have options while levelling, but when you have over a hundred zones to choose from as quest destinations and then end up hitting level 50 and the "Shadowlands wall" after completing only two or three of those zones (slightly more if you limit yourself to the old world, where zones are smaller), it just feels weird and at least to me, kind of unsatisfying. Maybe I'm too much of a completionist - but being max-level, with most of the game's content already behind me without ever having touched it feels a bit bad. Sure, nothing's stopping me from going back and doing all those grey quests to pass the time later on, but it just feels badly balanced somehow.

Even funnier, as little quest content as you need to do to level to 50, if you ever set foot into a dungeon, questing will suddenly manage to feel slow in comparison, because a random dungeon can net you a level in about fifteen minutes. The mob killing and available dungeon quests give some XP, but the XP reward for simply choosing the random option in the dungeon finder easily doubles your overall gain, which is what makes it so fast.

Dungeons also have the advantage of having a decent chance of rewarding you with a piece of gear or two each run. When sticking to questing, I've found it a bit of a struggle to keep my gear up-to-date, which is extremely ironic considering that "not enough useful quest rewards" was one of those old world problems that the Cataclysm revamp was supposed to fix - and did fix at the time, but considering how quickly completing quests advances you towards the level cap now, only getting a green every fourth or fifth quest just isn't good enough anymore. My new rogue in particular really struggled with this, as she's dagger spec and for some reason most quests would insist on awarding me maces - if they rewarded a weapon at all. I think it took until her thirties until she finally replaced her dagger from Gilneas.

My husband and I also decided to take our panda duo to level 60. While we're not finished with Draenor, we're overlevelled for the content either way and can keep coming back to it at a later time as and when we feel like working on it. The Threads of Fate option had Torghast added to it in a recent patch, something I was quite excited about, considering that the hubby and I had rather enjoyed doing Torghast together on our other characters, but the experience was a bit lacklustre. The XP rewards from it drop off rather sharply as you go up in levels, but more importantly it still doesn't reward any gear even while levelling, which means that you can only do it as an occasional side activity but otherwise have to continue focusing on regular Shadowlands content for levelling, so as not to get too underpowered from scaling as your level goes up but your gear doesn't.

It just seems bizarre to me how on any given character, 99% of levelling content up to level 50 goes unused now, but then at 50 the game funnels you into doing the same Shadowlands levelling content you've already done several times before, struggling to present it in slightly different ways so as not to drive people crazy from the repetition. If only there was a really obvious solution to that, such as letting you level all the way to 60 in any content...