Leveling Punishment

C.T. Murphy recently wrote:

Leveling, as in playing the game, is still a lot of fun in World of Warcraft. Leveling, as in playing a roleplaying game where you expect your character to advance and evolve, has never been worse.

When you level up in Battle for Azeroth, you get nothing. No talents, abilities, or anything of any kind of merit whatsoever. Everything scales now too so there isn’t even a sense of “being able to go places I previously couldn’t”. Outside of padding, I don’t understand why they added more levels in the first place.

This is 100% accurate with my own WoW experience currently.

We are approaching three weeks since the expansion launched. I was on vacation for a week in the middle there, but the fact remains that my first toon hit level 113 on Thursday. It’s not that the leveling is slower, it’s that there isn’t any point to it. WoW fully embraced the TES: Oblivion conceit of punishing players for leveling up. At least, that’s how I feel about it right now.

Seriously though, think about it. Everyone talks about how the stories and quest-lines in BfA are excellent. Okay… are any of them gated by level? I don’t think so. Maybe the War Campaign? In which case it might actually be better to turn off XP at level 111 and just complete all your questing with your uber Legion gear (including Legendaries) and breeze through the mobs. You get nothing but weaker during the leveling process. That’s literally insane game design.

Of course, once you finish all the story bits, the actual endgame is still gated at level 120. And it would certainly suck if you ever changed your mind and had to gain 9 levels with zero questing opportunities. But the mere fact that this almost sounds plausible is blowing my mind.

As it stands, my primary purpose in logging in is checking the AH, and doing some light farming based on the prices of the day. The questing is fine, but it’s literally worse than doing quests at max level, considering how your character gets weaker each time they level up. So, I would rather run around hitting resource nodes and fill up my gold bar than my XP bar.

At least the former will make my gaming experience feel better.

Posted on August 31, 2018, in Commentary, WoW and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 9 Comments.

  1. I hated Oblivion.

    JRPGs are fun to me because you have the choice to be under or over leveled (via grinding). RPGs need peaks, valleys, and things worth accomplishing.

    Similarly, I loved Morrowind because if you knew where to look and what to steal, you could be relatively overpowered for your level. Or you could wander until you bit off more than you could chew.

    I don’t mind some scaling but never to the extent that it ruins the hooks of a proper RPG.


    • Oblivion really was the worst. The optimum strategy was either A) never go to sleep, so you won’t gain levels, or B) choose the worse skills as your primary ones, so that they never increase and thus accidentally level you. Want to be the best sneaky ninja? Specialize in Heavy Armor, Blocking, etc etc, so that your sneak attacks will still kill mobs later in the game. To this day, it still pisses me off that Oblivion gets lauded when the entire progression edifice is so terrible.


  2. Hmm I enjoyed Oblivion perfectly fine. I guess my favorite play style of caster conjuration scaled better and never turned the game into very hard really.

    WoW expansions however lately feels very unrewarding to level in and my main carrot to reach max level(flying) is gone. Makes it feel totally pointless to even play it anymore. This latest expansion is the first time Im not even buying a WoW expansion. I stopped hoping for it to improve now.


  3. It gets even more interesting, because the mobs scale with ilvl even at cap. According to Hazzikostas’s recent Q&A, you do start feeling like ilvl increases power again around the early 300s, and it’s working as intended.

    I suppose, like ability pruning, it’s part of the bitter medicine of reducing power to make subsequent gains feel meaningful and pleasant again.


    • …except it doesn’t feel meaningful and pleasant again.

      I can get behind ability pruning, when it’s a clear demarcation between expansions, and they keep what worked and drop what didn’t. That’s fine. But what’s occurring now is a downslope in the middle of the leveling experience. Instead of making a hard break, they are peeling the ilevel bandaid off slowly, one hair at a time.

      And on the back end, while you scale higher than mobs overall, the sensation of gaining power is markedly muted. Blizzard experimented with only giving +5 ilevel upgrades instead of +10 between raid tiers for a little while, and they abandoned it because it wasn’t enough to feel good. So, now, they kept the +10 and baked the true number (+5) into the finished product.

      I dunno. Based on the comments from a prior post, people are apparently super excited about Blizzard’s pivot into literally recycling everything from Legion. The game has always been a gear treadmill, but it feels like Blizzard is experimenting with just changing the title screen and renaming the mobs instead of putting any actual effort into disguising it.


  4. “You get nothing but weaker during the leveling process”

    For the first few levels, I guess it matters from where you start. I stopped playing WoW for a large part of Legion so my character was very under-geared. So getting new gear while leveling actually felt very rewarding to me, in terms of character power. I guess if you start with top level Legion gear you will not replace most of it before level 115 or so, IIRC this is pretty standard with new expansions.

    It should be interesting to see if this perceived weakening of characters while leveling had any impact on number of players to hit level cap in a given time compared to previous expansions. At least in my personal case it did not, nor did it seem to impact most of my guild – most already have 2 characters that are 120, which seems similar to Legion for example.


  5. Same system as in Legion (which people complained about then) but some of the periphery changes made it a lot worse.

    1) Legion did something they’ve never done and adjusted haste to be more normalized with what came before so even though you got less powerful on the way to max you didn’t feel like you were dragging your character through a tar pit. They got a ton of complaints later when they had to readjust this between raids though.
    2) There was a TON of cool new stuff to look forward to at max level. World quest were new, suramar was really well done, weapon had a ton of visible talents to look forward to. There were even profession quests. Right now they have… islands and a rep grind?

    WoW is going to forever have this issue because the main reason everyone keeps playing is “more powerful loot”. The designers are just stuck until they can figure out how to handle gating in a more graceful way.


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