Category: Levelling

With the next patch looming over the horizon – it has ships so it has to *sail* towards us – I’ve been concentrating on getting my army of alts to level 100. The experience boost potions you can now buy for garrison resources are fantastic – in fact you almost level too quickly. (There’s an npc sells them right outside your Town Hall, both factions). I’ve had to work out a strategy for completing the main quest lines in each zone that award building plans for the garrison and/or followers. This saves time and gold in the long run.

My process is this:

Starter zone – pretty much do it all, be it Shadowmoon or Frostfire, depending on faction. Get characters to next zone, Gorgrond, as quickly as possible. But completing the whole starter zone gets you started with 10 or so followers, who are then working for you and levelling up.

Once in Gorgrond, take up the main quest chain concerning your outpost building – the arena or the logging type one. I generally go for the arena, since this awards a strong temporary Gladiator npc you can call upon in emergencies. Great for the flimsier classes. Also, while questing around the arena area, you get to pick up Peckers, the cool raptor NPC for your garrison, simply by freeing him from a cage. Once free, he heads for your garrison and then acts up like a Siamese cat. If you pet him, he kicks you to the ground. Also does this to visitors. Cool.

Anyway, doing all quests in Gorgrond that lead to the Iron Docks gives you the building plans to be able to get a level two Inn. Now you can start recruiting a free follower every week, to your specifications. I’ve stopped picking up every single follower you come across while levelling, simply because there are so many cool ones to get from the inn. On Alliance, there is Clever Ashyo, Mia Linn, Rorin Rivershade, Ken Ken, Soulare of Andoral… to name but a few. Some have neat effects on their amour so are glamorous additions to your garrison, when they’re just hanging out and not on missions. On Horde, although I don’t know the names as well, I picked up a delicious female Blood Elf warlock, a half naked male Blood Elf mage (yum.. sorry), a Blacksmith called Charles (Chuck) Norris who’s Undead, and also a voodoo Troll in a top hat. It’s preferable to have different followers on all the alts so the scenery varies. I’ve been recruiting followers with the Treasure Hunting trait for the past few weeks, because this ups your gold income dramatically. Good for people with limited time to play.

Anyway, once you have Gorgrond plans, forget any other quests (assuming this is an alt you’re levelling) and head to Talador. Here, either of the outpost buildings give a good offensive buff, so choose which you prefer. Do the starter quests to get your outpost going and then follow the quest line to the Gordonni fortress. After this is completed, you get more plans, major ones, and you can build a level 2 Barracks. Now you can have a follower bodyguard, which speeds things up a lot for the flimsier characters. At the very least, you can take more risks. For clothies, I tend to use Illona on Alliance and Tormokk on Horde. (Look these up on Wowhead if you don’t know how to get them – don’t want to go into too much detail here.) The more armour and weapons you give your bodyguard when they’re level 100, the tougher and more resilient they get.

After the Gordonni part of the zone has been completed, you can choose to finish the main Shattrath story if you wish, but you’ve already got the garrison plans, and hopefully have picked up the bodyguard follower near to Auchindoun from a quest in the landscape, (available for both factions), so for alts there’s not an awful lot of point to hang around. Head to Spires of Arak.

Once in Spires, do the starter quests, and as soon as you can, take up the quest chain for your outpost there. There are two main chains to follow for plans and they are the same for Horde and Alliance. The Pinchwhistle chain grants the Salvage Yard plans – essential – and also awards the goblin girl Kimzee Pinchwhistle as a follower, who has often turned herself out in purple once I recruit her. Hello, epic chum! The other main outpost chain will also grant a small/medium building plan. While in Spires, I always pick up the cat guy Leorajh as a follower, since he’s a bodyguard. He’s a shaman, and will heal if the mood takes him, which frankly isn’t regular enough for my liking. He cares too much about his dps. Questing with him is like being in LFR! However, he’s good for Hunters or melee characters. Again, look him up on WoWhead if you don’t know where he hides.

In Spires, I tend to do the whole Arrokoa story chain as well starting in Veil Terokk, simply because doing so grants Ishaal the Arrokoa as a bodyguard follower at the end of it. He’s a shadow priest, so good for Hunters or melee classes to have as a bodyguard.

Once Spires tasks are complete, my alts are now almost at 100. I head to Nagrand and do the outpost quests to get another set of garrison plans. At 100, most players will elect to have the Dwarven Bunker (or Horde equivalent), the Salvage Yard and the Trading Post. Some alts might have to miss out on one of these in order to accommodate something like a Barn, for Savage Blood gains. But if you want to gear up your followers and get access to missions that award phat raid lewts, then you need the Salvage Yard and the Dwarven Bunker (or equivalent).

With this plan, I streamline my levelling, accruing important plans along the way and heading for 100 as quickly as possible. There is plenty to do thereafter. In order to do heroics, characters of course have to have 610 level gear. This can easily be attained if you’ve upgraded your Inn early and have been collecting the best followers on offer, covering all the available skills, and have also built the Salvage Yard and the Dwarven Bunker (or Horde equivalent). Gear upgrades come in thick and fast for followers and pretty soon they’re running home with fabulous gear for your character. Even as you’re levelling in Talador and beyond, you’ll get missions that award gear for your character better than quest rewards. Just get that Inn into production so you can choose an effective array of followers. The higher you gear up your followers, so the better missions are offered to them. At top level, they can raid Black Foundry for you and bring home 670 level gear. I recommend the addon Master Plan for garrison missions, which not only speeds things up but keeps you advised about which of your followers you should be gearing up as a priority.

If you keep on top of follower missions and get a level 2 Inn as soon as you can (i.e. Gorgrond), then you’ll have a mass of level 100 gear waiting for your character as soon as it dings. Chances are you can get almost, if not entirely, to the heroic 610 ilevel just by raiding your bank of all those 615 mission pieces that have been waiting there. If you’re below 610, a few quests in Nagrand will sort that, especially since the Dwarven Bunker increases the chance that quest rewards/drops will be upgraded to a blue or epic level.
So that’s my own strategy for levelling alts, making best use of the garrison. Hope it’s of use or inspiration to others.


Like everyone madly awaiting news of the new WoW expansion, I’ve got my own wish list of things I’d like to see to appear in the game or things that could be refined or changed. Here is my top ten!

1. The Mighty Wall of Leveling

Creating a new character now from level 1 is daunting to say the least. Maybe not so for a new player, who has so many exciting things to discover and explore, but for the veteran wanting to try a new alt it’s not a happy prospect. You might have leveled an account full of characters already, or even two accounts, or have another set of characters on a different realm. Do we really need to grind though all those quests and zones we might have done over a dozen times before? I think Blizzard should do something to remove that wall of leveling for alts. I’m not sure what, because there are different ways it could be implemented. I’ve read the suggestion that a ‘micro transaction’ of real money could be involved via the game store, but by experience we know that Blizzard’s concept of micro is rather larger than anyone else’s. I wouldn’t like to see another £15 cost added to the services. What would be better would be the ability to create a character of higher level, perhaps just before the level of the current expansion, or at least higher than Death Knights begin at now. If new races and classes are introduced, whether in the next xpac or one after, people will want to try them. But for many the wall of leveling will be a huge turn off. I wonder how many Pandaren are languishing unplayed just beyond their starter zones? I know for a fact in our guild it’s quite a lot.

2. Guild and Player Housing

As I’ve played several MMOs that already provide these features, it’s something I’d love to see in WoW. While it won’t be for everyone, many players enjoy creating imaginative homes. Buying items for such things can create another gold sink in the game – which we’re always told is needed. Again, as with some other games, items could be sold via micro transactions in the Blizzard store, as long as they’re not too expensive. I liked the way player homes were introduced in Rift, where you got a quest line to acquire your first one. During this, you were rewarded with a decent amount of ‘furnishings’ to start you off. Some players excel at landscaping and interior design and can create some pretty eye-popping domains. The best of player housing includes grounds to the main building that can be landscaped. In Rift, your ‘dimension’ (as your home is known) can be open to the public if you want it to be, so other players can admire your creativity. You might even pick up some commissions!

As for guild housing, I think it’d be fun to have a guild quest chain to acquire and start building your castle, palace, mansion, or whatever. Players could gather resources or donate gold to help with the construction. Features could be added as they’re earned, such as rooms like a Trophy Hall, where the heads of boss kills could be displayed, vendors, crafting areas and so on. In Runes of Magic, high level guild castles have grounds where players can farm resources, much like the farms we have at Halfhill in Pandaria now. Guild Housing in other games is instanced, so everyone enters through the same portal. It would be cool if the Guild Halls could be themed to particular areas, so (like in the original Guild Wars) you could choose the appearance and ambience of your Hall to suit your tastes. The Arathi model could be an old time castle, the Durotar one an Orc fortress, a Duskwood one like a haunted mansion, Stranglethorn like a jungle tree village, and so on. The potential is vast.

Blizzard has always maintained that guild and player housing would empty the cities, but if the portals for them were situated in cities, and things like the AH and the Bank (which let’s face it is the only reason players visit cities now) are still in the main square, I can’t see it making much difference. Especially if guilds could have ‘open nights’ (or days, weeks, whatever), so others could enter certain areas of their domains. This could aid in recruitment. Apart from Orgrimmar, Stormwind and the current City of the Year in whatever expansion we’re in, the cities are pretty much dead anyway. In Rift, on the housing interface, there is a list of dimensions you can enter. It couldn’t be that difficult for Blizzard to do something similar. It would be cool for guildies to have somewhere to hang out together that they have created themselves.

3. Character Model Overhaul

Well, we’re all waiting for this. It might happen in the next expansion, or partly, or it might not. I think we can conclude it will come eventually. What would be a welcome feature is the ability to customize your character much more, including the option to have different skins, i.e. Taunka or Yaungol for Tauren, and so on. The majority of MMOs now allow you to adjust all aspects of your characters, allowing for a more realistic array of different appearances in-world. While you might not be able to change the height of your gnome or goblin, (as a giant of either of those would be plain silly), you could perhaps adjust their weight or body shape. We could do with far more face and hair options, or the ability to tweak those ourselves.

4. Vanilla Pet Model Overhaul

Some of the original companion pets in the game are a pretty horrible lump of polygons – rabbits, prairie dogs, frogs, etc. Most of us use at least some of these pets for battling, if we’re into it. The humble rabbit can be a dreaded foe, hard as it might be to believe. It would be great if the old pets were tarted up a bit to look like the rest of the pets, i.e. realistic.

5. New Races

While I love new races being introduced, especially if they’re exotic, the point I raised first – leveling – is the only downside, unless you’re prepared to pay for a race change. I’m torn between the desire to have a cool new character, such as an Ethereal, Saurok, Naga, Vrykul, etc, and the heart-sinking prospect of leveling another character from scratch. So, for me, new races should only be introduced if an option is given to start at a higher level.

6. New Classes

While I read of players’ desire to have Demon Hunters, Tinkers, Battle Mages, Bards and so on, I wonder if any new class could be different enough to warrant its introduction. To me, those desired roles could be better fulfilled by offering them as new and exciting specs for existing classes.

7. Inventory Space

There can’t be a player in game who doesn’t want something done about our lack of storage options. If tabards, toys and other paraphernalia we tend to collect and carry about with us can be made like the pets and mounts and placed in our spell book, that would free up a lot of space.

6. Gear Sets
An extension of the above point, I think it’s clunky that we have to have different sets of gear for different specs, and these items have to be carried about with us in our inventory. Either make it that one set of gear functions for all specs or let us have a wardrobe feature like in Rift, where such gear sets are stored on the character, and easily changed, and not in the bags.

7. Gear Customization

We’ve got used to gemming, enchanting and reforging, as it’s been introduced a step at a time over the years, but it must be a daunting prospect for new players. I don’t like the way that changing only one piece of gear can mean a whole reforge is needed, which often doesn’t come cheap. Reforging is fiddly if you don’t use an addon like ReforgeLite to do the work for you. Otherwise, you have to use third party web sites to get the relevant information, unless you’re adept at working out all the stats yourself. Personally, I don’t want to spend a lot of time doing that. I think it’s time Blizzard overhauled the matter of stats on gear and made it more stream-lined and comprehensible. Do we really need 3 types of gear adjustment? Just seems like too much to me. Stats should be designed more cleanly so that reforging isn’t needed and gear enhancements are a boost rather than, as with reforging, a necessity to reach certain caps.

8. Cross Faction Contact

Perhaps the most controversial of wishes, and one shared by many, is the ability to team across factions, and in fact simply have communication between them. We have all these sophisticated races, yet they still behave like primitive bullies and, despite nods towards diplomacy, trade, co-operation and peace, WoW is still very much a school-yard us versus them scenario. I don’t think the rivalry should be done away with completely, and political relations could always be potentially volatile, but as so many NPCs of the opposite faction are willing to talk with, trade with and befriend members of the other side, why can’t players do the same? I know the argument against is that the second W in WoW is Warcraft, but after 10 years of virtual existence can’t the inhabitants of Azeroth start growing up a bit? PvP enthusiasts could still have their battlegrounds where characters fight for honour, perhaps in a more gladiatorial sense than we see now, (and on PvP realms still have their all out dog eat dog situation). Not everyone would have to see eye to eye, or join hands and skip among the daisies surrounded by chuckling kids, but there could be more realism by allowing players to make choices themselves about who they wish to hate, or not hate.

I prefer the Rift model of the factions, where the leaders of each regards the other with contempt for their views, politics and way of life, but out in the landscape, away from the politics, players are able not only to talk to those of the rival faction but play alongside them. You can’t actually team, but you can run around together closing rifts, taking part in world events, and such like. I would very much like to see this in WoW, but I’m aware the game population is probably divided right down the middle about this subject.

9. Resource and Mob Tagging.

Get rid of it. It works perfectly well in Guild Wars 2 that any player hitting a mob gets partial credit for the kill and therefore loot, whether teamed with other players or not. Resource nodes can be farmed by more than one player; they only disappear for you once you’ve mined them and another player can then come along and take their turn. We know that Blizzard can make mobs free for all in respect of tagging, as we see on the Timless Isle. There would be far less hatred and anger among players competing for limited resources and mobs if tagging wasn’t an issue. First nights of new expansions would be a far more joyous occasion if this was brought in – except for those whose pleasure is to turn on PvP flagging and make the whole experience more miserable for everyone. But we could do with fewer of those types couldn’t we?

10. Let PvE Realms be PvE

If people want to attack other players, what are they doing on PvE realms? Ah, of course, your average PvE player is easy meat for them. In my opinion, PvP should only be available in battlegrounds and arenas on PvE realms. Why make those of us who rolled characters on realms specifically to avoid that shenanigans have to put up with PvP players trying to trick us into hitting them and initiating combat and just generally making a nuisance of themselves, i.e. the notorious early days of new expansions and zones.

These are my ten wishes, and I know some of them are highly unlikely to happen, and there is massively divided opinion about others, but there’s no law against wishing, is there? I can also say that my wishes are not mine alone; I’ve seen them repeated across forums by many other players, as well as discussed with friends. Ah well, we’ll just have to wait until Friday when Blizzcon gives us the first of the revelations about WoW’s next chapter.

A couple of subjects I want to touch upon in this post.

After getting a *tiny* bit tired of the new dailies on Isle of Thunder, I wanted something different to do when I stopped work on Tuesday evening. I reviewed my languishing alts and decided ‘I choose you, Jassenah!’ my Priest. Poor old Jass. He was the bee’s knees in TBC and Wrath when he raid healed a lot. Well, I did, but it was on Jass. (He’s not *REAL* you understand.)

Anyway, after I felt he was well and truly thrashed to a pulp by class changes and dungeon/raid changes in Cata, and never enjoyed healing on him then, he was shelved for a while. Shame, because he was actually the second character I made, after Velaxis, all those years ago, and for a long time was even guild leader, before Vel pushed him off the cliff, being played more.

Happily, MoP has brought Priests back with a vengeance. I should know, because on a couple of raid runs we actually had four of them in our team – a healer and 3 Shadow Priests. OK, that’s really pushing it, and far from ideal, but we lacked bums on seats and wanted a run. What more can I say? Jass is a little powerhouse for levelling. Well he was, because I hit 90 on him the other night, so for him the levelling is over. I’d got him to the Shrine of the Seven Stars a while ago, because I hate having characters wallowing about the landscape with no true city to live in, and no portals to anywhere else in the world, and you have to be level 87 in Pandaria to get to the Shrine. (Not counting the creative jumping off the Wall to get there, but I like to do things proper.) Over the last couple of days, I bit the bullet and pugged relentlessly on Jass in Normal dungeons. No blood was shed. He was easy to play, did good for himself in respect of DPS, so no goggle-eyed pugger was going to shout at him, and I got 3 levels in two nights, plus a ton of gear, so he can laugh in the face of the tough level 90 mobs, which we face when we begin our reputation grinds with dailies. Happily, for alts, that is much easier nowadays, so I don’t mind doing a bit of it.

I can see why so many people want to play Priests in Shadow spec at the moment. It really is a walk in the Heartland, and although Jass wears cloth armour like other caster classes, he is so durable he might as well be in plate. I love it when I don’t have to be mincingly careful around mobs, which with so many caster classes in MMOs you have to be. I’ve already said on this blog I’m rather impatient when it comes to levelling quests and dailies, so if I can shoot a lot of mobs in the face in one go and survive, that’s dandy. Mind Sear, the Priest AOE skill is marvellous. It hasn’t been emasculated like my Hunter’s AOE, and I can use it a lot. I know Hunter players who have abandoned their main characters because they hate the focus mechanic so much. Plus Hunter AOE is a shadow of its former self in the glory days of Volley. But I digress…

Jass has been a dream to level from 85 to 90. I won’t really be able to use him much in the guild since we’re swamped with Priests already, but I’m not shy to pug with him, because in comparison to a few other classes, (notably DPS melee), I’m not going to play him badly and get yelled at. I’ve dropped into the rotation of Shadow Priest really easily. Whether I will heal with him or not is another matter.

I’ve already written on here about the problems with tanks and healers in the game at the moment. I’ve taken Ysobi, my Druid, into LFR raids up until the second part of Throne of Thunder. After seeing the new third part on Vel, I wouldn’t take Ys in there yet. On Vel, (like two thirds of the raid group I was part of), I struggled with the mechanics on Durumu, which I found as hard as Normal raiding. I don’t want to try healing when I’m still being killed by the floor. That’s just not fair to my team mates. Once I have my head round it, I’ll risk taking a healer in there. Healers have to be focused on the raid frames to heal. Skipping around the shit on the floor is a tiresome addition to all the other things they have to do. I need to be 100% on avoiding the purple maze before I can heal. It didn’t help that when I first did Durumu in LFR we had some comedians in the group, who had clearly benefited from practicing the raid relentlessly when it was on the PTR. That is, they knew it very well, even from day one. Smugly, these people took delight in calling other players ‘retards’, because they were struggling with the mechanics, which in my opinion are badly-designed. Why on earth should players have to turn down their graphics settings on their computers in order to be able to deal with an encounter? Shouldn’t that encounter really be designed so any level of graphics can deal with it? If it isn’t, isn’t it just, well, too gimmicky? Anyway, I’ve read today that Durumu and his floor have been hotfixed a bit as the LFR posse have been struggling with them so much. If I get chance to go in there this week, I’ll be able to see if the changes have made that much of an improvement.

I’ve not tried a Priest as a healer for a couple of years now. Our best healer in the guild is a Priest, but during Cata I felt the class had become more complicated to manage. Druids are really easy to heal with, once you know the lay of the land. Still, I will give it a try, preferably in a guild group first, if I can get one. And that is another story…

Things are a little quiet in our guild at the moment. We’ve had a couple more people drop out of raiding, and it’s nigh on impossible to get any group activities going outside of raid nights. We lost a couple of good social members, because raid drama spilled over into guild chat and the public part of our forum, which they found distasteful, and not something they wanted to see after a day’s work, when they were intending to relax. This is not good for a guild that has prided itself on its mature atmosphere and lack of drama, but still… Nothing incites drama in WoW more than raid politics. I figured all this was a message from the universe to get over my fear of WoW strangers and pug more. If I want to play the game, and take part in activities that need a group, I have no choice. Hopefully, I might meet some new friends, who might even join us.

People have said to me before, and I have found it to be true, that joining random dungeons on the way to top level is a far more relaxed and friendly experience than when you are at max. I really enjoyed the two nights I did this with Jass, talking to people who were bringing alts up as tanks and healers, and everyone being somewhat forgiving of mistakes. Once you hit heroics at 90, (and of course the Normal dungeons are no longer available to you then), the atmosphere changes radically. This is probably because people simply regard them as an inconvenience they have to suffer to get their Valor Points, and they have no interest in socialising or taking things easy. Many have no patience or tolerance either. I really wish the WoW community didn’t have its toxic elements, because when you come across the best of it, it’s a great way to spend an evening. And unless we get a few new people for our guild, or I resign myself to more solo play, I have to brace myself to face that community and hope I find more good than bad.

Every guild goes through hard times. Some survive, some don’t. We’ve been through worse than this since we began in Vanilla, including two mass exoduses of players, with such a high amount of drama involved, I was moved to write stories about them. On at least two occasions, disgruntled people have flounced off and also attempted to take a lot of guild members with them. Poison whispers; don’t you love them! Both attempts failed – ultimately all that those people could take with them was the friends they’d brought in – but it wasn’t nice to experience, and for a while thereafter a hollow wind always blows through a guild as the dust settles and the departures are accepted. It’s interesting that in the two cases I mentioned, the exoduses occurred after one person brought a lot of friends to the guild, then (certainly so in one case) attempted a coup to oust the existing officers. The first time it happened I was horrified people could behave like that in a game, the second time, (which wasn’t so much a takeover bid, but more of a poaching extravaganza), just wearily resigned that the worst in human nature showed through again. But because we have weathered such storms, I have no fears about us surviving. But, yes, a couple more good people on the roster would be nice. Here’s to positive thinking.

I know a lot of guilds have suffered from game decisions, as they always do. There’s always something that drives players away for a while. At the moment, it is the over emphasis on dailies, and the fact that Normal raids are really hard for people who can’t commit more than a few hours, two nights a week to it. Frustration sets in, because progress in raids is slow, or even stalled, and people become more upset about issues, which if things were better in the game they wouldn’t worry about so much. The annoying thing for us is that we have the personnel, even with the recent departures, but because of real life family and work commitments, it’s incredibly difficult to get 10 on at the same time. Hence, I think we need a couple more people to get over that problem. But recruiting is a nightmare at the moment, because every guild is recruiting. We’re trying, and will continue to try, but we can’t just accept anyone who applies. They have to fit well with us, for their sake and ours. One thing we don’t want to do is compromise the atmosphere of our guild just to get more raiders. We know from experience this never works. And at worst, you end up with the sly snakes, who will turn on you with a poisonous bite some way down the line. We really don’t want any more of those, thank you.

What with all the things I’ve had to do in WoW, and real life work I’ve had to do, I’ve not had time to write about the new expansion. Remiss! So here it is.

Mists of Pandaria has lived up to my expectations and more. It is a far more polished expansion than Cataclysm was, with a ton of activities for top level. There are one or two things I’m not so happy about, but much of that might be down to personal likes and dislikes. I don’t expect any MMO to be absolutely perfect, tailored to my desires alone.

I was somewhat astonished that some players somehow zoomed to level 90 in a day and then started to complain they were bored. For those of us who raid, there was some incentive in getting our main characters to top level fairly quickly, simply because once they’re 90 we need to gear them up for raids. But in our guild, most of the team only started hitting 90 around 2nd Oct, and the remainder and other guildies continue to do so on a daily basis. Many people just wanted to take things easy and progress slowly through the zones, experiencing everything to the full. I and a few others got our main characters to 90 over the first weekend, but then I’d given myself a week off work to do this. After I’d hit the top level, I spent the rest of that weekend looking at all the things to do. I devoted a couple of hours to doing the Lorewalkers achievements to get to exalted with them and therefore able to purchase the Red Cloud flying disc mount. I started on Tillers rep to be able to cook decent buff food, and worked on my new farm for eventual self-sufficiency. I also started Order of the Cloud Serpent rep with an aim to secure myself a beautiful Cloud Serpent mount, but am not too stressed about any of these rather relaxing rep grinds. I’ll take them as they come and just enjoy the new content. There are quite a lot of reps to work on. I will talk about the Golden Lotus rep grind later; that is a different matter.

I really loved levelling, even though it was over fairly quickly. But this was my choice, simply because I wanted to start getting my main character raid ready as soon as possible. That said, most of the process was fantastic. The landscape is gorgeous, the majority of quests are interesting and fun to do, and I had a lot of fun exploring. I’ve enjoyed the dungeons I’ve done so far, normal and heroic. They are easier than Cataclysm dungeons certainly, but there is a fun factor that was missing in the Cataclysm instances. Mists ones are more enjoyable to do, with quirky little mechanics here and there. The ‘normal’ modes are levelling dungeons. That means they are able to be tackled by players of all levels of skill without too much trouble as they rise from 85 to 90. They are not supposed to be cutting edge, hard content. Neither are the heroic versions that come at 90. There is a new aspect of dungeons in the Challenge Modes. These are for people who like their instances punishing and taxing. So in my opinion there is absolutely no reason for such types to moan about the lesser difficulties being available for other people.

A few in the guild have had one quick bash at doing a Challenge Mode dungeon so far, but we are not quite well geared enough for that activity yet. We were slightly below the iLevel of 463 recommended for them. If anyone’s gear goes above that level, it is brought down if they enter a Challenge Mode dungeon. They are designed to stay difficult and people won’t be able to outgear them. Still, despite not being ready for the Challenge yet, what we managed was great fun and, as was announced before launch, much more like the old-fashioned Burning Crusade heroic level of difficulty. I can see that it will be of benefit for the same teams to work on them, devising the quickest routes and pulls, and how best to work together for success. I expect there are already comprehensive walk-through guides on the internet, but we didn’t look for them before we went. We decided just to have a look and see what a Challenge Mode will be like. We really enjoyed it, even though were unable to complete the challenge on a first try.

I can’t say I was overjoyed on the journey to 90 for being on the ground, i.e. having to use ground mounts not flying mounts. It was a great relief to be able to fly again at top level. This is because I’m not the most patient of people and it began to get on my nerves having to fight my way through a load of mobs to get to an objective and then back again because they’d all respawned in my path. It’s just a personal thing; I prefer to fly over irritating mobs that often only drop useless loot like a couple of fangs. Another downside was player over-crowding, but you have to expect that at the beginning of an expansion. Player behaviour wasn’t as bad as I saw it at the beginning of Cataclysm but that might be because Horde and Alliance were separated at the beginning, so less PvP shenanigans, and Blizzard seems to have learned from the past and implemented some player-friendly systems from the start. Remember how eventually named mob kills for dailies in Tol Barad completed for anyone who managed to get a hit in on them? Most named mobs/mini bosses needed for quests in Mists are the same. That is a wonderful improvement.  Mobs and quest items are usually plentiful enough – although there are unaccountably some quests/areas where this is not the case – so there is less griefing and selfish behaviour.  There is still *some*, but that’s inevitable in an MMO. I did find myself getting progressively angrier as I neared 90 simply because of the competition with other players who, to be fair to them, were probably equally as eager to get that last level as I was. People were more cut throat and selfish in the last two zones.  But before that, it was all pretty blissful. I’m going back to finish a couple of zones now for the Pandaria Loremaster achievement, and they do seem less fraught and busy than they were in the first week of playing in them.

The atmosphere of Pandaria is equal to Northrend, if not superior. I adored the Wrath of the Lich King expansion, simply because I felt immersed in that world, became part of it. Mists is the same. We can look upon Cataclysm as a hiccup, perhaps a needed one to belch up some wind, as it were, because the old world *did* need that massive overhaul. There was a lot I enjoyed about Cata, but for the first time ever in my history of playing WoW since Vanilla, I got bored and ran out of things to do. This is with a host of alts as well. With Mists I want to take things easy with the alts, so that never happens again. Looking at the expansion from where I stand now I’m fairly confident it will last two years as Burning Crusade and Wrath did – if we don’t rush through everything with all our alts. I confess to a slight prickle of urgency over professions on some of my alts, since I like to be self-sufficient in terms of enchantments and gems, but as we’re not raiding yet, and a couple of other guildies have maxed out on these professions, I will accept their generosity. It’s a part of my nature that I
like to do things myself, or at least be able to offer things in return to people, but my main is a Leatherworker, so I will at least have leg armor to hand out and can make a couple of half decent cloaks for the newly-dinged 90s. Plus there is the inevitable PvP leather-working gear that will help guildies flesh out a sagging iLevel to be able to get into heroic dungeons.

Now to what I don’t like. There isn’t much, but what there is, is annoying. As I said above unaccountably some quests are far more difficult than others simply because there are no mobs around. One or two players might come along and decimate the desired creature, then the mobs don’t reappear for ages, or else there are too few of them to start with. Same goes for a couple of quest items. Most quest objectives are quite the opposite, in that there are often too many mobs for a comfortable experience, (which is how they tend to be tuned at the beginning of an expansion, to accommodate player load), so it’s strange some are utterly different. Also, on a few of these quests, which are for dropped items, the drop rate is appalling, so you have a) few or no mobs around, b) a lot of player competition, and c) a dreadful drop rate. This has resulted in me spending half an hour in one case completing what should have been a quick and easy quest. If it was just the odd one or two like this, it wouldn’t be so bad, but I’ve been held up on several occasions, which is just frustrating for everyone there and incites bad feeling among the players trying to complete their objectives. We have enough grrs between players in WoW as it is, so Blizzard, please fix these quests.

The next thing that I have issues with is certain aspects of the reputation grind. I don’t mind working for things, and seeing steady progress. It’s always great when you hit the longed-for exalted and can then get whatever reward it is from that faction for getting there, and I was delighted to get my cloud serpent mount tonight after working on the rep to acquire it. Blizzard has done a lot to make the grinds less tedious, with a lot of variety among the quests so you don’t get the same ones every day. On the whole I’m enjoying The Cloud Serpents, Tillers and Anglers dailies. Klaxxi aren’t too bad either. Unfortunately, the same cannot be said of the Golden Lotus dailies. You need to get to revered with this faction to open up two other important factions, The August Celestials and The Shado-Pan. All of these supply gear that will help enormously with the start of Pandarian raiding, if not be essential.

The Golden Lotus dailies remind me greatly of the Tol Barad ones when they first became available in Cataclysm. The mobs hits like trucks, there are thousands of them constantly respawning and they take a long time to kill with average gear. There is also a baying mob of players at the quest locations at peak times, adding to the chaos and difficulty. With some of the dailies you really want others around to help keep the mobs off your back, while some quests make other players massive impediments to your own success, such as when you need to collect a particular item, or the quests where the mobs seem slow to respawn (not many in this case).  There are quite a few quests needing drops from mobs, and again the drop rate often isn’t good. For packed daily quest hubs, with so many players competing, this just seems like needless torment. The drops should be 100% guaranteed, or if that is really so dreadful a thought to contemplate for the developers, at least a 33% drop rate. There would be more mobs to go round, and players would finish their quests quicker leaving room for others to do theirs. As it stands, tempers fray and behaviour isn’t always exemplary. Out of sheer frustration perhaps, other players will steal your kills or your quest items as you’re fighting towards them. That’s not an uncommon situation with dailies, of course. But to add insult to injury, the amount of rep given for each of these annoying quests is 110 reputation.  On average, although I haven’t totted it up exactly, you get between 1000-1500 rep a day, once you get a few more dailies to do at Honored. You can imagine how long it’s going to take to get to revered, never mind exalted if you want the rewards that come from that. It’s 42,000 rep points to get from neutral to exalted. And many people can’t do daily quests every day.

I know from experience that daily quests that seem difficult in starter dungeon gear at the beginning of an expansion become a lot more forgiving when your character has been kitted out better. So despite the frustration I feel at times, I’m aware things will improve as I work through the different factions. But the sheer length of time it will take, given the paltry amount of rep you get, is more difficult to swallow. After an exhausting time clawing my way through the Golden Lotus dailies, I only see a hideously slow accumulation of rep points.  Luckily I’m doing them at the moment with a friend, and two people do have a much easier time of it than a solo player.

I’m aware Blizzard wants to make the content last, and if the Golden Lotus dailies were actually enjoyable I wouldn’t mind so much. But gritting my teeth to get through up to an hour of play I don’t even enjoy isn’t what I want to be feeling when I log on in an evening. You could have difficult mobs with good drop rates, or easier mobs with rarer drop rates, but for the gods’ sake, difficult mobs *and* bad drop rates is rather cruel. I don’t think the idea of ‘gating’ reputation factions is that good. Everyone is obliged to do the Golden Lotus quests if they want to progress to the other factions that might be more useful to them. And there is the risk that by the time they get to revered with the later factions, the gear they were striving for to help with raiding will already have been superseded by what they might have picked up in raids. Spreading the players out between all of the important rep factions would have been better I think; less crowding and hostility.

But aside from my grumbles about dailies and drop rates, I am loving the game at the moment. The pet battles are great fun, and hopelessly addictive, and there are a lot of sleek new mounts to collect that non-raiders will be delighted to know you can get from just playing the game and gaining reputation points with the various factions. There are tons of cool new mounts to get outside of raids. While I am a raider myself, I’ve never liked the way that raiders are given lots of stuff that others can’t get. I know the special snowflake types get their panties in a knot over ‘lesser players’ getting the same toys as them, but frankly I don’t care about it. I’ll ride a mount for as long as I care to, regardless of who else might, or might not, have it.

If I were to give Mists a mark out of ten, it’s 9 and a half. Only the level 90 rep grind has knocked off that half a point. I have a feeling that player comment will have some bearing on this and we will see beneficial nerfs to the grind, as we did in Tol Barad. But my minor gripes aside, I can recommend this addition to WoW whole-heartedly. I find it hard to tear myself away from Pandaria. Raiding will be coming soon for us, and then I’ll have more to say!