- Back in the days before the dungeon finder, I ended up leveling to 80 without ever finding a group for most of the expansion's dungeons - for a decent number of them, I earned my first clear on heroic mode. My warrior, on the other hand, finished the dungeon tour with half a bubble of exp to go before hitting level 79, having cleared each zone as the mobs became level-appropriate targets (generally a level or two behind the dungeon finder's minimum requirements, which are a bit generous).
- The new system also awards two of the soon-to-be-defunct emblems of triumph for completing your first random non-heroic dungeon of the day. This netted me 32 emblems and over 100 stone keeper shards, a decent head start on level 80 gear (and/or heirlooms for Horde alts).
- Many players were tremendously overgeared for the content, leaving it extremely easy. In some cases, I'd see multiple level 80's with 5K gearscores (the PUG community threshold for the game's final raid instance, not entry level single group content). The final dungeon run I finished for the achievement was "healed" by a Feral Druid with a gearscore in the mid-6000's who would occasionally pop out of cat form to throw a renew on the tank.
Blizzard is promising increased difficulty in the dungeons of Cataclysm, but it will be very interesting to see whether and how they are able to deliver. The difference in item levels between the gear my warrior will have in hand as a freshly dinged 80 and top end raid loot is literally over 100. If Cataclysm actually does deliver significant increased difficulty, undergeared PUGS may be painful or even impossible in the early days of the expansion.
The good news is that Blizzard has managed to actually convince me to spend a significant amount of my time while logged into an MMO in actual groups with actual other players. In terms of both exp and loot, 5-man content is significantly more rewarding than solo quests (ironic given that other, more group-focused games fall short of this bar). The question is whether they will end up regretting the way in which they got there.