Thursday, April 4, 2013

Re-Capping Pandaria

I stopped what I was doing to go get the last chunk of exp from a pet battle daily.  It seemed appropriate.
My mage finally hit level 90 in World of Warcraft, reaching the new expansion's cap roughly six months after its release.  I had sat out the original launch of the expansion in favor of tending to a newborn, and was rewarded for my patience with some major sales over the holidays that let me snag the expansion and a 60 day time card for $35.  I then proceeded to spend a fair chunk of that game time working on Pet Battles (with a collection of 426 pets, nearly 70% of which are rare quality).  With a day to spare, I finally got around to getting back to the level cap.

When I discussed my earlier troubles getting interested in the expansion, several commenters suggested that the later zones were better.  Indeed, I skipped over nearly half of the continent to dive into Towlong and the Dread Wastes, which do have stronger stories.  Throw in a level or so worth of exp from pet battles and archeology, a level or so from running random dungeons, and I was able to get to the cap despite covering a relatively small portion of the content. 

I did see a bit of the farmville minigame - it seemed like progress was largely blocked until you have access to level 90 dailies - and otherwise I spent my last day of prepaid time using my newly re-unlocked flying mounts to clean up some odds and ends out of my quest log.  (This included the Pandaren elemental pet tamer series - the final pet taming quest I had yet to complete - which requires either a flying mount or a player willing to taxi you to the locations.) 

It's really early for me to have much of an impression of the endgame, but I was surprised at how much my experience playing the game improved upon regaining the flying mounts.  Blizzard isn't wrong that the ability to swoop in trivializes many quests, but that ship has long since sailed.  If anything, Pandaria's abundance of quick daily quests scattered around the landscape is especially suited to flying in and out... or especially unsuited to being forced to do without flight for five levels. 

I came into MMO's in November 2004 due to WoW's solo PVE game and I still enjoy solo PVE in numerous other MMO's.  Thus, it was a surprise that Blizzard has somehow managed to make the process of leveling something that was standing in the way between myself and the content, rather than something I looked forward to.  I am interested in many of the things that I have yet to do in this expansion but in some ways I'm not sure that I'm looking forward to the inevitable follow-up expansion that will likely be announced at Blizzcon this year.  I'm not sure if that's an endorsement or a condemnation of Pandaria on its merits - I suppose time will tell.   

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