So that’s it. Little Echoes, who started her life as a newly-minted Tauren Druid in late November, has just graduated to a full-fledged level 80 powerhouse less than two months later. Despite playing WoW off and on since launch, this is my first level 80 (I had five level 70’s when Wrath hit). The 1-80 experience, assisted greatly by the Tour Guide addon and the new Dungeon Finder system, wasn’t blindingly quick, but it did progress rapidly and smoothly. Considering I took a few serious chunks of time off and wasn’t playing every night, two months sounds like a good amount of time for a casual ascent to the level cap.
And of course, it hit me, as it always does the few times I’ve gotten a character to a level cap in any MMORPG. The Wall. The XP bar disappears, and the push to do more to level disappears. For 80 levels, that’s been the driving force: more XP for the next ding. And now that’s gone.
It’s a bewildering sensation that plagues all level-based games, because it’s akin to throwing your car from fifth gear to first at 90 mph (that’s 120 kilohectres for our metric friends). Some folks consider the leveling game the prologue to the “real thing”, mostly because they spend a finite time leveling, but a potentially infinite era at the cap. It’s when you can raid and do Manly, Serious Stuff like battlegrounds and stressing out over incremental gear upgrades.
Usually what I do when I hit the cap is to take a few days off, to get some perspective and make sure that I wasn’t pushing so hard to get there that it’s going to be depressing and anti-climactic to experience. Then I reassess my goals: what do I want to achieve with this character in the short term and long term? Do I want to start a new alt? Raise more money?
The one thing that drives me to level cap more than anything else is guild gating — that unseen feature where you can’t do stuff with your buddies and the guild because they’re at max level and able to handle content that you’re too young for as of yet. Now, I can. Maybe I’ll never be fully Tier 50 gear or whatever ridiculous number they have these days, but I’ll be able to run small groups and even casual raids, and that’s just fine with me.
Things still left to do on my checklist for Echoes:
- Finish getting enough gold to afford epic flight training (and my epic flight form)
- Get 80 badges to purchase two 10% +XP heirloom items for my goblin hunter in the next expansion
- Finish going through the zones in Northrend — I still have four zones worth of quests, loot and gold to go
- Gear up a bit more — nothing excessive, but it’s nice to be able to do guild stuff when I’m in the mood for light raiding and heroic 5-mans
- Getting my perky pug achievement/pet, and in so doing, get the 50 pet achievement and another pet (skunk)