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Getting out of the rut January 24, 2013

Posted by Ben in Uncategorized.
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(Insert comment about not blogging a while here)

Over the course of the Cataclysm, I leveled four alt characters to 85 in addition to the others I already had on my Horde realm. Leveling with a full complement of heirlooms, guild bonus and often fully rested is like seeing Azeroth at turbo speed. You can’t complete a single zone before you’ve surpassed the ideal range for the next zone. You have so many slots filled with heirlooms that dungeons don’t always have upgrades, and definitely not the kind that give your character a different appearance between level one and eighty. If your goal is getting to max level as quickly as possible, there is absolutely nothing wrong with this. It also means not having to worry about your gear trailing far behind your level (with the exception of trinkets which I’ve had dungeon-crawling characters not upgrade between Blackrock Mountain and Mount Hyjal)

But the alt bug bit me again two weeks ago. I already have a Pandaren Brewmaster Monk on my horde server that is leveling via dungeons (and sitting in the low 50s where that gets really annoying), but I decided to make another one. I only have one slot left on my Horde server, so I went back to my old Alliance server (where I have a level 90 Gnome Mage) and rolled a Night Elf Monk to level as a Windwalker. I’ll admit that I expected it to go like many other alts I’ve started without leveling perks. I’d play it for an afternoon, get into the 10-20 range and promptly forget about it.

Except that didn’t happen. I’ve only leveled two characters through the post-Cataclysm Alliance tales, so the stories are still fairly fresh. The monk Enlightenment buff (+50% experience from monsters and quests) keeps the experience bar moving at good pace, and adding in the dungeons that I enjoy along the way, I had a blast. In less than a week, I was heading to Outland, and in the back of my mind, I knew this was the end of this character.

Except (again) that didn’t happen. The ennui of another character in Hellfire Penninsula didn’t set in, and then it was off to Zangarmarsh and Nagrand, and I was off to Northrend. Surely this would be the end of this alt. After all, I have a couple alts stuck around level 71.

Except (again) that didn’t happen. I’m currently sitting at level 77. I’ve done dungeons along the way, and doing quests that I hadn’t done in years, and rediscovering how much better the Alliance story in Dragonblight is than the Horde’s.

Why is this alt successful where so many others have failed? I’ve got a few ideas.

  • Enlightenment – For one hour I get 50% extra experience, and I hate to waste things like this, so I’ve tried to use it strategically. Taking a groups of quests at mad dash, avoiding things that involve more travel than necessary. Holding off on profession training or vendor visits unless absolutely necessary. Pre-level 60, I could squeeze at least two levels out of each hour-long buff. And the extra buffs at each tenth level were strategically received after completing tasks like going ALL THE WAY BACK TO DARNASSUS FROM THOUSAND NEEDLES for riding training.
  • Dungeons My Way – I almost never used the “random” feature, choosing instead to select from the list of available options. Because I didn’t have any heirlooms, the world was suddenly full of upgrades, plus there are some dungeons that I just don’t enjoy. And the experience bonus of “random” isn’t worth it to me to get stuck in yet another run of Dire Maul after I’ve out-leveled it. And the [Satchel of Useless Crap]? Yeah…
  • The class is genuinely fun to play. Roll, Flying Serpent Kick,  Spinning Crane Kick, Spinning Fire Blossom, Rising Tiger Kick. 

But leveling without heirlooms, a guild, or gold-rich characters on the same realm has reminded me how much better in small ways this game has gotten better over the course of eight years.

  • From level 1-59, the gear you receive has your two main stats and maybe one secondary stat. Then from 60-79 where suddenly all bets are off. A weapon who’s only stats are +Hit and +Attack Power? A cloak with only +Stamina and +Critical Strike? Thank goodness, Blizz has settled on more consistent itemization.
  • It’s more than possible to make enough gold to afford most anything you need. I only had to delay the purchase of epic flying a few levels (because there wasn’t much of a market for Outland herbs on this server that week). Quest rewards eliminate for shopping the auction house almost entirely.
  • Battle.net makes it much less lonely. Just because I’m on a different server, doesn’t mean I’m isolated, and if I hadn’t been gaining levels at such a clip, I could have run a couple dungeons with Stormy’s late-50s healer on yet another server. (Maybe at level 90, we’ll try to team up)

In a way, it’s a bit like rediscovering the game. Since the launch of Mists, I’ve almost exclusively played in the range from 85-90, and breaking out for two weeks has been just what I needed.

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