Friday, August 16, 2019

Twenty Something

I had been planning for my panda Monk to finish her trip to the free trial cap of Level 20 in Dun Morogh but somehow she ended up in Goldshire instead. Thinking ahead to Classic, where my Dwarf Hunter will most definitely be starting in the snows around Ironforge, I figured it might be better to avoid doing the same content twice in such a short time so I stayed where I was.

Wilhelm has been talking about how very much he just wants to get on with Classic already. I'm not quite that gung ho but I am looking forward to it. So, it appears, are lots of people, if what I saw in Goldshire and Westfall are any indication.

I wasn't too surprised to find the area around the Goldshire Inn teeming with ne'er-do-wells talking trash, riding their culturally inappropriate mounts and dueling. That's how it mostly is in the armpit of the WoW universe.

What set me aback was the sheer number of players out questing and levelling up. Everywhere I went, every quest I took on, I was shoulder to shoulder with two or three other characters, sometimes more. There were crowds at every quest hub and player characters travelling in all directions.

I know this is one of the most popular starter areas in the game but I've played through it a couple of times in recent years on trial characters and I can't recall seeing it like this. I wonder if people are giving themselves a little pre-Classic reminder of what things are like now so they can better appreciate the change. Or maybe the general buzz has just raised all boats and even non-Classic fans are out for a little nostalgia. Then again, maybe it's always this busy now Blizzard has tweaked servers so they come in clusters.

Whatever the reason I was able to appreciate some of the changes that have come to the game unnoticed by me. I hadn't realised that WoW now has open kill-and quest-sharing  like Guild Wars 2, for a start.

So long as I put in a hit or two on a mob someone else was fighting I got full credit and loot, including any quest items. That made a huge difference to the community feel, turning much of what I was doing into co-operation not competition.

Then there were the quest rewards. I had two green rewards upgrade themselves to blue when I selected them. I don't remember that feature but it's very welcome.

I also ran into several wandering vendors. I do remember these but there seemed to be a lot more of them. One was a boy selling kittens. I bought myself one. A very nice little addition to my pet collection.

As for the supposed heart of the game, combat, it was really quite challenging at times back in the Pandaren starting area but it has become very much easier. Mostly, I think, as a function of the hugely improved gear I'm now wearing. For a game like modern WoW, so famously unchallenging at low levels, the design of racial starter areas seems out of step.

My monk went fifteen levels with virtually no quest rewards above Common. Her weapons hit like wet noodles and her armor didn't seem to do a lot to protect her. She had hardly any fighting abilities and the mobs were in most cases as powerful or more so than her plus they came in packs.

How that makes for a suitable introduction to the game for new players beats me. It seems almost intended to put them off.

It's going to be interesting to see how hard the first few levels seem in Classic compared to that. I definitely don't remember dying as much when I levelled up to fifteen in Wrath of the Lich King.

From the moment of arrival in Goldshire, however, the famous casual-friendly pace has been very much the norm, apart from a couple of oddities. One such occurred when I was working my way, yet again, through the mystery of the Furlbrow murders.

I was sent to get clues from Murlocs and Gnolls. The gnolls gave their clue up in a handful of kills but I was the best part of half an hour prying one out of the dead claws of a murloc. I had to wait on several full respawns of the little village, which took what seemed like five minutes each time.

Other people were also trying for the clues. Things got very competetive for a while, at least for me, because kill-sharing is quite hard to achieve when you have no ranged attack whatsoever. All in all it felt like an oddly nostalgic episode but not in a particularly good way.

After an hour or two, hoovering up every quest I saw, which was many, I finally dinged twenty on the hand-in for a mission for SI:7. That puts a full stop to the Monk's journey for now. I can still play her, make money, get drops, complete quests and so on but her experience bar will stay firmly closed.

It's been a very nice run. Now I have to think about subbing. With clear pressure on the announced servers as signified by the rush to reserve names I might get my credit card out a little earlier than I planned. That way, I could make a character for Classic and also carry on with my Monk until it starts.

Going to have to give that some thought.

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