WoW's speedy leveling is great, but it makes it harder to feel like a hero

World of Warcraft: Shadowlands pre-expansion levelling
(Image credit: Blizzard)

I've focused on one character in the 16 years since WoW launched. My tauren warrior, Moovine (great name, I'll not have a word said against it), has seen stuff that would make your shell curl. He's killed gods, defeated some of Azeroth's more sinister foes, saved the planet numerous times, and generally been what you'd call a hero. A champion. He's also murdered a lot of Alliance players (64,559 apparently) and been a complete dick on more than one occasion, but we won't hold that against him. 

Where to next?

Grand Theft Auto 5

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He's not my only toon though. I have plenty of other characters that are at various stages of their own heroic journeys, although I'm getting the feeling that these heroic deeds aren't really needed if you want to impress in WoW anymore. Any young pup can rock up and take on the next villain, olde god, or Horde-leader-turned-bad it would seem. There's no background checks, tests of mettle. Nothing. 

Since the levelling overhaul I went back to a freshly dinged level 10 panda I created years ago, but never got round to playing, and I was somewhat amazed that I could go straight to Zandalar. I'm happy about that, don't get me wrong, but it's the fact that I was treated like a kick ass hero from the off. That little panda had done absolutely nothing at this point to warrant being referred to as a 'hero' or 'champion'. I left it on the dockside in my confusion.

A Death Knight wondering why they're still in Zandalar. (Image credit: Blizzard)

I've pushed a few of my ignored toons up to level 50 since the pre-patch dropped. I dragged my hilariously-named Death Knight, she's called Keerah, as in… you know… Kiera (Death) Knightley (i'll get my coat), through the start of the latest expansion. That includes kicking off the whole Heart of Azeroth quest chain, throwing myself around the islands, despatching various baddies, and generally being a nuisance. 

I had no interest in running any of the dungeons, let alone the raids, as there's no point from a gear perspective, and I've ticked the main story box on my main anyway. Without this big end-game content though, it doesn't really feel like I'm doing anything epic in the world of Azeroth. Nothing that makes me feel like a hero.

I'm not saying it wasn't fun. It was a decent distraction, and the gear from Nazjatar was actually a reasonable upgrade to what I had at that point. The fact that I could fly the moment I set foot in Zandalar also made for a much happier experience. Honestly, while the main ziggurat in Dazar'Alor is magnificent, it's a royal pain in the ass to get around when you can't just fly up to its pinnacle in seconds, as opposed to trudging around its labyrinthian stairways.

So quite a positive experience of questing in Battle for Azeroth, but I've honestly no interest in doing it again with any of my characters. This is absolutely fine though, because with the new Chromie Time you can level wherever you want. If you don't want to experience the exact same zone again, there's plenty of alternatives—I can thwart evil in an alternative trouser leg of time in Warlords of Draenor, or revisit the original Outland afresh, even retrieve comically large vegetables in Pandaria, which drove me mad on Moovine at the time, because, you know he was the Hand of A'dal.

Kitting out your characters in pre-expansion event gear is easy, if a bit grindy. (Image credit: Blizzard)

So for my restoration shaman, and get this, this is a great name: Plasta. Get it? He's a healer, and… maybe I should just call him Orcface or something. Anyway, for my Shaman I decided that I'd stay in Legion, and pretend that BfA simply didn't exist. The only problem being that I'd already completed a lot of the Legion content. Levelling is tricky if you have no quests to complete.

But fear not, there's another option here, and that's just to run dungeons. Which is exactly what I did. With the experience buff from Wow's 16th anniversary package and the new levelling system, this equated to five dungeons to take my level 45 character to the max level. It really didn't take much time either, a couple of hours maybe, and it wasn't too taxing—a few dpsers died, but the tanks (generally) survived, so it felt like my job was done.

The only problem being that when I dinged level 50 my gear was still pretty awful. I think I had an ilvl of 53 or thereabouts. Not wanting to jump into BfA my options were somewhat limited in improving this enough to be able to survive in Shadowlands. Luckily I dinged 50 the day before the pre-expansion event dropped, which meant that I could despatch Nathanos (and pick up a iLvl 115 staff) before flying over to Icecrown to join the queues to murder rares that offer a chance of dropping 110 gear and gather tokens to fill in any gaps.

The Shadowlands pre-expansion event is a bit of a lagfest. (Image credit: Blizzard)

None of this feels particularly heroic though. Far from it. Having a screen full of players kicking the crap out of old bosses that have been resurrected and turned into loot pinatas is hardly the stuff of legend. Don't get me wrong, I'm glad I've managed to gear up without running the same content again and again, but it still feels like more of a chore than an epic story arc to rival the best ancient Greece has to offer.

You could argue that I don't need to feel like a hero. And you could be right. Chances are these other toons will be sat twiddling their thumbs for most of Shadowlands while Moovine runs around murdering everything with or without a pulse. If we do get a chance to stop Sylvanas, it's probably my beloved cow that'll be getting stuck in first. Maybe that's all that matters.

Regardless, I'm still looking forward to trying to be heroic. 

World of Warcraft: Shadowlands pre-expansion levelling

Hardly what you'd call heroic. Cute though. (Image credit: Blizzard)

As an aside, I've only changed one of my characters' names once, and that was by force. Back when Wow was still in its infancy, I paired up with a work colleague to wreak havoc on the boars of Azeroth. It was a magical pairing, with my colleague playing a mage called Pauldaniels and I, his able assistant, an undead priest, that I obviously called Debbiemcgee. We were a great double act. Until someone reported me for using a name that referenced a well known person, and I had to change it. Strangely Pauldaniels did not get the email. I think I deleted the toon rather than face the name change.

Alan Dexter

Alan has been writing about PC tech since before 3D graphics cards existed, and still vividly recalls having to fight with MS-DOS just to get games to load. He fondly remembers the killer combo of a Matrox Millenium and 3dfx Voodoo, and seeing Lara Croft in 3D for the first time. He's very glad hardware has advanced as much as it has though, and is particularly happy when putting the latest M.2 NVMe SSDs, AMD processors, and laptops through their paces. He has a long-lasting Magic: The Gathering obsession but limits this to MTG Arena these days.