Shadowlands Alt Leveling is Bad

It is difficult to say with any sort of conviction, but I’m strongly leaning towards the Shadowlands alt leveling experience being the worse it’s ever been in any expansion.

The normal leveling experience in Shadowlands is certainly the most on-rails I can recall, perhaps in the history of WoW. You go through the Maw tutorial and head into Kyrianland, which just happens to be the least interesting of the afterlives. And the actual quest content and layout in Bastion is horrible. There are long stretches of time in which you are far from an Inn or mailbox or flightpath. Want to take a break after 30 minutes? Better hearth back to wherever and then plan on spending 5 minutes riding back to whatever quest you were on. Or just buckling down and spending the extra 15 minutes to finish the quest chain in that area.

For as bad as Hellfire Peninsula was back in TBC, you at least had the ability to skip certain hubs and go to others. Once I figured out that hitting level 62 opened up the questing Christmas trees in Zangarmarsh, you bet your ass I was hoofing it out of Hellfire. No such skipping in Shadowlands. Do every quest in order, every time. Oh, and if you’re not level 53 by the time you get to Elysian Hold, go do some sidequests or pick some herbs until you are.

And can I just say something that I don’t feel enough people have complained about yet? The gearing situation is shit while leveling. Every single expansion I can remember had you immediately kitting out in expansion-reasonable questing gear within the first 30 minutes. That leads to casual raider tears when yesterday’s epics were replaced with greens, but it’s a necessary evil. Because it’s an incredibly dumb, unnecessary evil for my toons to still be rocking ilevel 58 shoulders throughout the entire fucking zone when 87-100 is the baseline.

What could be worse than all that? Threads of Fate.

On its face, Threads of Fate sounds like an incredible innovation. NPC meets your alt immediately outside of the Maw tutorial, and you unlock all the zones to complete in any order. What they neglect to mention is that “complete” means “grinding mobs like in a 1990s MMO.” Some of the Bonus Objective areas literally give you 1% completion per mob kill. “Just don’t do those.” Sure, let me just ride around this entire zone with only three flightpaths unlocked while trying to complete the same World Quests I’ll be grinding at endgame for the next two years. Oh, and they give 12k XP, same as each of the dozen story quests you could do in the same amount of time.

In many ways, Legion was considered the worst expansion for alts due to the way Artifacts (and AP) were spec-specific on top of the RNG of Legendaries. What is mentioned less in that calculus is how all the zones were available from the start and each class had engaging class-specific story content on the way up. With Shadowlands, everybody has the exact same story and quests in the same order until endgame, and then everybody is grinding Torghast for their Legendary, on every character.

There’s some Kyrian NPC who mentions that the Path is grinding Aspirants into dust. You’d think I’d remember his name after seeing it ten times but whatever. That’s what leveling feels like: being ground into dust. My character roster is 60, 60, 57, 54, 53, 52, 52, 52, 51, 51. I kept thinking maybe a different class would make leveling more enjoyable. But that’s when I realized that it wasn’t the class that was the problem, it was the rote, banal, awful design of Bastion through which all characters must pass. Well, that, or level 4x slower by chain-killing mobs inside a yellow shape on your mini-map. Engaging!

No escape in BGs either. Winning a 15-min match gives you… 12k XP. Once per day. Then it’s half that every other time, for a win. Not particularly reliable when you queue as Alliance.

I have never been more discouraged trying to level alts in an expansion than Shadowlands.

What would fix it? There is no fixing of the on-rails story portion, which wasn’t that bad the first time. It really comes down to Threads of Fate and fixing the jank there. Take the only page out of the Jay Wilson handbook and just double everything. World Quests give 24k XP, Bonus Objectives complete twice as fast for 16k XP, and the overall zone meter gives 1.5 levels. I am not even sure that this doubling would result in things being faster than mindlessly grinding the story quests, but at least it would be closer. And what exactly would the point of Threads of Fate be if it was slower than just doing the story again? I think you get a whole 4 extra Renown that you wouldn’t have, for all the good that does an alt facing down the barrel of 10-20 hours of Torghast and Maw busywork.

I forgive you for wondering whether I just don’t like leveling anymore. Thing is, I would take all my characters through Maldraxxus again in a heartbeat. I want to start over there. The Theater of Pain is where the actual Shadowlands experience begins, IMO. But you have to drag your face through four levels of Bastion broken glass to get there. Every. Single. Time.

I hope that this leveling setup is an experiment that Blizzard never tries again.

Posted on January 27, 2021, in WoW and tagged , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 15 Comments.

  1. I don’t have any Alts. I’ve ground myself to a halt. Got exalted with the vampires. I’m at renown 26? In two days I will lock my second tower for the anima stream, no clue how to unlock the next, I could go look it up on WoWhead but meh. I have gotten to 191 gear level, the raid team wants 195 min. I need rings and necklace, have no desire to do mythic dungeons, I cringe at the thought of LFR for more conduit rewards, or the slim chance of a 184 that will fill a slot I have a 197 in. I’m sick of riding to world bosses once a week, having to fight my way there, having to fight while there waiting to get accepted to a group, getting killed once or twice waiting for a world boss people just nuke down, for another conduit upgrade. I’ve taken to using a Dalaran hearth, or Tol Barad tabard time get back to town to portal back, because it’s less painful. I spent 5 minutes at a flight plan trying to go someplace else, couldn’t because something I rode past had followed me well beyond where it should have dropped off. I just exited the game to make it go away. Despite all the hype, all the belief that this expansion has to. E great because the last was bad, I think we have the potential for a new worst expansion ever.


  2. If you are Alliance, try this:
    12k XP per kill if you are rested. Plant a Banner of Cooperation (or something) and you will get more. DMF buff? Even more XP.

    And I agree levelling one alt is a grind. But levelling many and only when they have rested XP is a bit easier than that.

    Low item level on your gear? I guess I should start making level 50 gear then. Some goldmakers mentioned it is a good source of gold but I was skeptical.


    • Not super interested in doing any glitches like that… although I may look into whether my alts have already picked up all of the easy Draenor treasure chests and see if those give reasonable amounts of XP.

      The level 50 gear sells rather well on my populated server. I pop on my paladin once a day and relist/craft several rings/necklaces and pick up around 4500g from the mailbox. The material costs are usually 50g and they sell for between 180g-450g depending on whether any goblins try to reset the market. For things like shoulders though, others are selling for 1000-2000g apiece for level 50 crafted gear at ilevel 87. Which is fine, but my larger point is that it shouldn’t be “twink your alts or be stuck with prior expansion gear through the entire first zone.”


  3. I wish you’d posted this a couple of days ago, when I was writing my “no-one can agree whether Shadowlands is good or bad” post. I’d have linked it and counterlinked with this from Gnomecore:

    Here’s a quote:

    “I’m very firm with the idea that Shadowlands is probably one of the most alt-friendly expansions…much, much friendlier than previous iterations”.

    In case you think he’s speaking wherof he doesn’t know, his post today starts with a spreadsheet listing his nineteen level 60s (and three more just about to join them).

    Whether Shadowlands ends up being listed in the “Good Expansion” or “Bad Expansion” column I suspect it may be the uncontested Most Divisive Expansion. All I can say as someone who isn’t yet playing is every counter-argument I read, whichever way it swings, just makes Shadowlands sound more interesting, which is not something I can say about any previous WoW expansion, ever. (Except maybe Cataclysm…)


    • Ironically, that post links to a Wowhead post that describes how alt-unfriendly Shadowlands is and how to fix it.

      Having said that, I did discover this post by the author about the best way to leverage Threads of Fate. Specifically targeting side quests is not what I had been doing before, so perhaps I have simply been doing it wrong this whole time. We shall see.


  4. Hope you got diamond hands. What a ride.


    • Sold 25 at close yesterday because I wanted my cost basis covered, as I’m terrible at musical chairs. Still have 75 riding to the moon.


      • Smart you paper hand bitch. 223 here until DFV says the ride is finished (or 1k, maybe…)


      • The smart part was sincere, not sarcasm.


      • That’s the thing: the moment we see a DFV screenshot with zero shares is the moment the music stops, regardless of whether it could have gone higher. He’s going to be north of $30m tonight. He staying in for the $53k to $53m meme potential?

        But, yeah, I paid a premium for my paper hands. Would have had 2x had I waited until literally the next morning, but I wasn’t expecting the Elon tweet. Those 25 were being sold regardless though, because I can live with the loss of 25% max gains but not with mistiming the exit and losing any upside opportunity. There will be a lot of people without chairs on this one, and not just Melvin and friends.


      • I am curious how he is going to do it. I mean obviously he is going to sell and then post, and he posts daily now so can’t avoid it, but I do wonder if he will post like mid-day, and get all of the active people on WSB out before it becomes a chain reaction going off. I also don’t think its going to go from say 1000 to 30 in a minute or even an hour. Even a drop from 1000 to 500 before you can react is really, really nice gains at the end of the day.


  5. ???
    I’ve been leveling alts in the same exact way than in previous expansions, and in Shadowlands it works way better.

    – Cross the Maw (the most annoying part) and then skip the campaign
    – wait until rested XP is at 150%
    – queue for a dungeon, while in the meantime doing the side-quests in an area or the quickest World Quest OR, if you like PvP, queue for a bg
    – absolutely ignore bonus objective areas

    This brings you to level 60 by doing side quests (which, since you already did them, you know when to skip and when to do) and dungeons/bgs. At level 60 do dungeons/BGs/LFR/story questline to get stuff.

    Of course, if you hate PvP, hate quests, hate dungeons and hate raids this won’t work. But if you hate all that why are you playing WoW?


    • I don’t do dungeons if I can help it, and I intentionally don’t PvP until at least level 55-56 because otherwise you’re dead weight to your team. With PvP though, the leveling is mostly incidental. And you end up Honor capped before level 60 and either waste Honor or be forced to level elsewhere.

      I will change my strategy up a bit to see if focusing on side quests makes the Threads of Fate experience any better. That may seem like a “duh” moment, but up to this point I really had been focusing on World Quests and Bonus Objectives instead.


      • We clearly look for different things in the game. For me WoW is more or less synonym of instanced content, so I often level entirely by dungeons (at 50k / random dungeon + the mobs, it goes quite fast). With DPS it’s more of a mix, since the queue is long, but as tank/healer it’s almost constant dungeon runs. At the same time I do this because I like dungeons, trinity classes and playing with other people. Often the interaction is minimal, but sometimes you meet nice people (like the tank I met a few days ago with my healer, we chained multiple instances with 0 waiting time….).


  6. In case you didn’t notice (sounds like it), the secret is to do the normal questlines in the 4 zones with Threads of Fate, while also taking the WQs that kinda get done automatically.

    I did it once like you wrote, and I hated it because it was so slow (Demon Hunter, shouldn’t be useless with damage) and then I switched to doing ToF with mostly quests, not Zone quests or WQs and it felt twice as fast. Doesn’t make it less stupid, no.


%d bloggers like this: