As the weeks go by, night by night I’ve been logging into World of Warcraft’s Battle for Azeroth and rotating through my three main characters (Hunter, Death Knight, Warlock), pushing each of them a little further when it comes their turn. It definitely has slowed me down overall and make goals like unlocking the allied races far off at this point, but I’m genuinely glad I’m doing it this way. I get a really nice variety night-to-night and I’m not here feeling anxious that I left my alts behind to rot. It’ll all pay off in the long run, but for now it’s just slow and measured.
As much as I have really enjoyed the questing, stories, and areas of the expansion, I’ll freely admit that progression has been a big fat nothing on the way from 110 to 120. Many other bloggers have pointed out that there’s really no purpose or reward to leveling. You get stronger in stats, but so do the mobs thanks to scaling tech. There are no new skills or talents to chase (I honestly can’t remember the last time Blizzard added a new talent tier — Draenor, I think — or additional high-level skills. The studio seems to be obsessed instead with retinkering with the current lineup). It seriously raises the question of “why have new levels at all?” — a question which Blizzard has ignored because Blizzard does what Blizzard wants to do.
Let’s be honest: Leveling from 110 to 120 is nothing more or less than a time gate and a grind to hold players back from doing endgame activities like world quests and high-level dungeons and the like. When you look at it this way, it’s just a long prologue that can be enjoyable for the experience of doing it but not rewarding for your character’s growth.
In fact, other than gear and stats, most of the growth of this expansion comes from leveling up the Heart of Azeroth, and boy does this whole system feel underwhelming and undersupported compared to artifact weapons. I don’t hate it, but it doesn’t have nearly the hook or excitement value that the previous expansion’s weapons did. It is nice to pick between mini-talents, and some are very helpful indeed.
But leveling up the Heart is pretty much divorced from traditional XP leveling. You can sometimes get azerite from quests or treasure chests, but from what I understand, most of it lies at 120 with world quests and island expeditions. That’s fine, I’ll catch up, I’ll get what gear I can, and I’ll look forward to two years from now when all of this will be scrapped for the Girdle of Azeroth, an even more powerful artifact that was sent by Amazon Prime but got lost along the way.
There isn’t a lot that I actually miss from Vanilla WoW, but I do miss the excitement of hitting a new level and looking forward to what it unlocked — a talent point, riding, skills, zones. Blizzard used to be really good at dangling these carrots, but now it has moved those carrots elsewhere and kept leveling in because it added another feature point to the expansion’s list and gave us busy work before the main event.