I don’t ever think I’ve experienced a World of Warcraft pre-patch (which is, let’s not kid ourselves, a patch, no “pre” needed) that’s felt as exciting as an expansion launch as I have with 9.0 last week. In a way, it feels like multiple expansions are launching at once. In a way.
By streamlining the leveling experience, adding a new starting zone, adding tons more character visuals, and offering players a single expansion to comprise most of that character’s leveling experience, it’s like the doors were thrown open to alts. The new leveling scheme is far more smooth than before, without any worries of having to jump from expansion to expansion before hitting the level cap. Now we can just focus on a single destination, experiencing that story from start to end.
I restrained myself to creating — for now — a single alt who had been waiting for this moment. Gwenders the Gnome Hunter jumped out of the gate and into legend. I’m envisioning her being a total gearhead, with mechanical pets, as much steampunk transmog as I can find, and engineering as her profession.
And with her, I got to experience the new Exile’s Reach starting zone. For a 45-minute zone, it was incredibly well-done, especially to onboard new players into WoW. Not too busy or overwhelming, but not too hand-holdy either. And it helped that there was good mission variety and some nice visuals.
Before I knew it, Gwenders was level 10 and ready for her expansion journey. I deliberated a little over where to take her, but in the end I figured that Warlords of Draenor was a good pick. That expansion had a great leveling experience, its own tier of engineering, and the garrisons. I’m wondering if the Shadowlands era might see a newfound appreciation of WoD as simply a leveling expansion, since that’s where its strengths lay anyway.
Considering the crowds of people who were at the Dark Portal and in the starter quest zone, I’m not alone in this.
And egads, every time I come here, I’m floored with how pretty it is.
Again, it’s hard to put into words how much better this feels to level up than it did a month ago. Keeping one’s headspace in a single expansion without having that nagging worry that you might out-level the story or need to rush. In fact, the levels are coming pretty fast and furious. I’m not even halfway through Shadowmoon Valley, and already I’ve gone from 10 to 20.