Games this Week... Leveling in World of Warcraft 9.0.1

My Nightborne Warlock, Thea.

World of Warcraft: Shadowlands is set to release at the end of this month, and they somewhat recently updated the whole system with a numbers squish that reduced the max character level from 120 to 50 as well as everything from item levels to damage numbers to health totals. They made other changes to each class, most not all that exciting since it's more of a return to how the classes worked before Legion and/or Battle for Azeroth. Lots of classes had specialization-specific abilities moved to generic class abilities, and classes that used to have more than one energy/mana source saw a return to that across the board. 

 Blizzard also implemented a new leveling system where you can choose which expansion to play through from level 10 to level 50. I was probably most excited about this new system, because leveling characters through all of the same content every time got old fast, especially when it was time to hit Outland or Northrend. Previously, they did an update to the leveling system where you could choose one of two expansions for certain levels, like for 60-80 you could choose Burning Crusade or Wrath of the Lich King, and for 80-90, you could choose Mists of Pandaria or Cataclysm. But you still ended up leveling through part of an expansion, reaching the zones' level cap partway through the content, and then moving on to the next zone. With the new system, theoretically, you should be able to play an entire expansion from 10-50.

In practice, that is so far not the case.  

I finally made a Warlock character (above) to level through Legion content and only managed to make it through most of the main story lines of two zones (out of six total for the expansion). I did not do much side questing and only ran a few dungeons before reaching max level, and then the game forced me to return to the current timeline, porting me back to Orgrimmar to start the Battle for Azeroth quest line. 

All in all, not the great experience I hoped for. 

I was genuinely hoping for a leveling experience that would take me from the beginning to the end of an expansion by the time I hit max level. I'm not sure if my expectations are off, or if they are still working out some numbers bugs with the new system, or what, but I was very underwhelmed by the whole thing. Not only did I not get to level through the full Legion experience, but the actual act of choosing a timeline and starting those quests (regardless of expansion) is buggy as hell. 

For one, you have to talk to Chromie (a member of the time-traveling bronze dragonflight) to choose which expansion to play through, but then you have to find your faction's Command Board to choose which zone to start in, only it doesn't match up to the timeline you chose, so it's a hit or miss on whether or not you'll actually be able to start the quest to go to your expansion of choice. Everything in the major cities is still phased for post-Battle for Azeroth, which means that certain quest givers are not where they should be, or you have to get your quest from someone that doesn't make sense for the story. 

For example, to start the Twilight Highlands story for Cataclysm on the Alliance side, you're supposed to go talk to Anduin, but he's not in the throne room anymore, and is in fact, nowhere in Stormwind (that I could find), so you have to drop that quest and get a different quest from a different person to be able to continue. And then there is the whole timeline issue where you're getting quests from characters who weren't actually involved in the expansion, or weren't around at all, or some other such nonsense. It's very confusing and convoluted and not a smooth process at all. The whole timeline choice feels like a half-assed afterthought that no one actually thought through enough to execute it well.

I would be naive to think that they will improve that system anytime soon. It will probably be a broken mess until a future patch, months or years down the road. Blizzard is notoriously bad about not fixing issues with old content.

Also, the actual leveling experience feels really off as well. I felt way more powerful at low level than I did when I got to the higher levels, like the enemies and mobs I was fighting were getting exponentially stronger than I was. I don't know if others are having the same experience, but it makes leveling not very fun. If enough people are having the same issue, that's something they may update in an upcoming patch, as that is more gameplay impacting than the story inconsistencies. 

All that said, I know there are always going to be bugs and missteps whenever there is a major change to the system like they've done for Shadowlands. I'm willing to overlook them so that I can play the game, but it is still annoying that this new feature they championed and that I was looking forward to the most has started out a dud.