Monday, November 23, 2020

Ready Or Not : Shadowlands

Today's the big day, then. Everyone excited? Scornful? Affecting not to notice? Got to be one of those, I guess.

Or maybe it doesn't. I'm still kind of on the fence. I haven't bought Shadowlands. I don't plan on buying it just yet. I might, at some point. Maybe some point soon. Especially if everyone keeps talking about it and makes it sound too interesting to miss.

I just won't be there on day one.

Then again, in a very real way I will. I'll be playing World of Warcraft, anyway. I'm letting my subscription run on for another month. Since I re-subbed in October I've been logging into WoW Retail every day. I usually play for a couple of hours,  sometimes quite a lot more than that, and I've been having plenty of fun doing it. 

I'm going to carry on leveling my vulpera hunter. She dinged thirty-two last night, completing the zone storyline for Plaguelands (East and West, I believe), thereby adding yet another level of confusion and complexity to the already convoluted process, as Shintar will be no doubt be amused to hear.

As we accelerate away from the pre-patch that brought us the Level Squish and Chromie Time, information on how the whole process works is starting to harden up but its a scab I just can't stop picking.  

WoWHead now has a much more detailed and comprehensive guide that clarifies a number of issues of concern. For a start, it makes it very clear that the status quo ante still prevails as the game's default setting. If you don't go speak to Chromie, the pre-patch changes nothing. There's now a big warning near the top of the guide:

That's quite neat. If you were happy with how things were before, fine, just carry on as if nothing happened. Of course, you'll be in a world of your own.

That explains a couple of things, not least why it is that the game forcibly removes you from Chromie Time and teleports you back to your capital city as soon as you hit fifty. It has to or else you'd be out of synch with everyone else. Which you already were, only until then it didn't matter, apparently.

Okay, maybe it doesn't explain it all that well.

It does, however, explain why I couldn't take my mid-forties hunter to Icecrown to level up on the round robin rare event. Why, indeed, there were no rares to be seen when he tried. Also no event and no crowds. He was on Chromie time for Warlords of Draenor and phased accordingly. The whole event literally didn't exist in his timeline.

Another thing the WoWHead guide not only clarifies but codifies is the radical difference in efficiency between the expansions. Leveling from ten to fifty in Warlords of Draenor is estimated to be twice as fast as doing the same in Wrath of the Lich King or the Burning Crusade.

Now that I've levelled one character all the way from creation to cap (well cap-as-was), taken another from forty to fifty and a third from ten into the low thirties, I'd have to say that whether things go too fast or too slow all depends on what you want. Revelations, eh?

When I was trying to get my dwarf hunter to forty-five, then fifty, for specific reasons, even the xp in WoD didn't feel fast enough. I'd have happily pressed a "Be There Now" button just to get to the bit I wanted.

Playing my vulpera hunter, things feel very different. She's not on Chromie Time at all. She just wandered out the gates of Orgrimmar and started exploring.  She's been gawping and gosh-wowing her way across the unfamiliar post-Cataclysm world ever since and frankly it's all going a bit too fast.

There's so much to see. The changes wrought by Cataclysm are widespread and fascinating and thanks to my stint in Classic last year the way the world used to look is fairly fresh in my mind. So far I've barely had a chance to take a detailed look at one small area, the Plaguelands, and she's already in the thirties. 


The much bigger problem is that without Chromie Time most of Cataclysm stops scaling at thirty. When this begins to happen it's actually kind of a relief. The "everything matches your level exactly" method of scaling is a mixed blessing at best. 

I find it has a deadening effect over time. Everything feels too similar. I miss being adjust the difficulty level on the fly by choosing to fight mobs lower or higher level than me. Losing that option almost seems to negate the obvious advantages of nothing being too tough to handle.

I hung around in Plaguelands for a couple of levels after things stopped keeping pace just so I could enjoy that feeling of getting more powerful each time I dinged. That's quite a significant element in the levelling process for me. I'm not sure how comfortable I am with the concept of being just about exactly as capable at level thirty as I was at level ten.

You do get more tools in the kit as you level up. That makes a big difference or it does when they're things like Feign Death and Camouflage, which literally change the way the game can be played. Not to mention the upgrades to riding skill, which can also feel game-changing. 

Even so, I think I'd prefer a little more granularity. Maybe if the mobs could all maintain a holding pattern around the character's level, three to five levels either side perhaps, rather than matching it exactly. That might make things feel more nuanced.


While everyone else is enjoying Shadowlands I'm going to have to make some choices. If I want to carry on with Cataclysm on my vulpera she's going to have to go visit Chromie to get the whole world reset. 

Although, not right away, I guess. Most Cataclysm zones tap out at thirty but there are a handful that go to thirty-five and even after that presumably there are several more levels where the xp diminishes but doesn't stop completely.  With luck I might stretch things all the way to forty. It would slow down a lot towards the end but would levelling more slowly for a while be such a bad thing?

There is another intriguing possibility. I don't plan on staying subbed indefinitely. Once the EverQuest II expansion arrives I'll probably let the WoW sub lapse. But I do expect to keep playing on the eternal free trial or as it's properly known, the WoW Starter Edition.

It occured to me as I was writing this that, with the way WoW scaling now works, I could cycle a number of characters through not only Cataclysm but all the expansions, eventually seeing everything, without ever having to subscribe again. 

I can't imagine keeping that up. The organization involved would be immense and I'd run through a lot of characters. The free trial does allow you to make a lot of characters, though, so it's possible.  

Or is it? Not according to the official guidelines, it's not. I just checked the support article on the rules and restrictions for the free trial at and it says "On the Starter Edition you will not have access to: Expansion content (quests, zones, etc)". WoWHead agrees

Hmm. Is that really true, though? Let's just fact-check it, shall we? It so happens I have an unsubscribed Starter Edition account right here...

... six hours pass ...

Nah, that's not right! They need to rewrite the FAQ. You can level to twenty in any expansion now. I'm as sure as I can be. My Starter Edition goblin just dinged sixteen in Warlords of Draenor. She has her own garrison now. I may have gotten a bit carried away - she was level seven when I logged her in...

I'd have to do a bit more experimenting to see if you can skip the introductory questlines to the expansions. Those give quite a lot of xp so you'd eat up a significant chunk of your twenty levels just getting to the opening zones. I can think of a few fun projects for the future there.

So, Shadowlands is going to have to wait. I have more than enough to keep me busy already.

Make a note of this so you can have a good laugh in a day or two, when I'm posting my first impressions of the expansion I said I wasn't going to get.

1 comment:

  1. I honestly forgot that yesterday was launch day until I had to wait while my login to Classic stalled for a minute. I thought, "Huh, internet issues?"

    Then I realized it was launch day for Shadowlands.

    "Ah. Oh well."


Wider Two Column Modification courtesy of The Blogger Guide