WoW Factor: First impressions of allied race leveling in World of Warcraft
Last week, I wrote about the addition of allied races without having actually gotten to play around with them much. You have to understand that at some point in the past I angered an elder deity of some sort, a fact which I myself was not previously aware of, but which remains the only real way to explain World of Warcraft releasing its pre-orders on the same day that my other game of choice released a major update which demanded my attention.
Or it was just bad luck, but “angered the gods” feels like a more all-encompassing explanation of same.
The bright side, though, is that it meant I finally had a chance to experience both big new things at the same time, enjoying the worldwide level scaling at the same time as I was enjoying my new allied race characters. So now that we’ve talked a little bit about the conceptual side of things, let’s talk about the actual leveling experience beyond the first unlocks.
First of all, let me just say that level 20 was both the right point to start allied races at and the adjustments to heirlooms have, by and large, been good ones. I still feel pretty darn powerful decked out in heirloom gear, not least because I don’t ever have to worry about upgrading a large chunk of my gear as I level. That’s reassuring. But I also no longer feel like combat is inherently pointless with everything at my level because it all just dies so quickly.
It also feels like leveling is actually, well, leveling again. For all the people complaining that it’s been slowed down too much, I haven’t found it notably slower, but I’ve found it notably less obnoxious, simply because I don’t have to stop and rearrange my questing schedule every five minutes.
Before the world scaling, it was a careful dance. If you started a zone at the absolute earliest possible point, and you avoided doing any dungeons, and you didn’t kill too many enemies or harvest too many nodes, you could probably finish the zone with the last couple of quests being green to you. Now, I just start doing a zone and just… explore it. I finish the zone as it was designed and then move on elsewhere, and I don’t have to ask myself “which of these two zones in the right level band do I want to see, because I’ll only get one.”
Obviously, most of the actual quest design and storytelling is back from Cataclysm, and that’s a mixed bag on the whole. But when you look past the zones that everyone knows are just plain bad, you wind up getting a lot of different options and some little tucked-away gems that were easy to miss otherwise.
The fear that leveling would become irrelevant also hasn’t come to pass; sure, you aren’t getting stronger than everything in a linear sense, but you’re getting more abilities and talents that give you more punch along the way. So it works out pretty well.
There are cracks in the structure as it stands, of course. For one thing, Wrath of the Lich King and The Burning Crusade content are still both dated rather badly; the scaling makes them functional, but they’re the oldest untouched content in the game right now, and it kind of shows. The breadcrumbs to level-appropriate zones also haven’t been touched, which seems like a misstep; you’re often wrapping up in one zone and getting quests pointing you toward what used to be a logical next step, except your actual next step can be literally anywhere, making it sort of irrelevant.
And, of course, at the end of the day you’re leveling another character through content that is, on some level, familiar. It’s refreshed and revitalized content, but it is content you’ve seen before.
How much that matters is ultimately going to depend on the individual and what you want to get out of the leveling experience. If you have exactly one spec and class you want to play, an allied race is not going to add a whole lot more to the process; it’s going to be the same thing as before. And if you don’t particularly care about any of the allied races, it’s also going to be something of a rough sell.
It strikes me, as much as anything, as a foundational shift. Monk was the only base class added to the game since its launch, but this kind of change makes adding another base class (i.e. not actually a hero class) seem far more workable a second time around. Ultimately, that’s a positive. That does mean that you don’t have one to level right now, though.
Put it this way: If you don’t understand why anyone would want to play a Lightforged Draenei, you aren’t going to find that there’s some wondrous treasure at the end of the Lightforged Draenei rainbow. If you look at Lightforged Draenei and immediately think “yes, I wish to play one of these,” you similarly don’t need me to convince you; you’re already on board.
As I’ve mentioned in the past, this is something that a lot of people – including me – have been asking to get for years. There are lots of racial variants out there, races that need customization options but not a completely new skin from the ground up. That’s what’s going on with the allied races, and that is – in short – exactly what I wanted from the beginning. Whether it’s for roleplaying, aesthetics, or just a feel that you want the most effective possible racials for a given character, if you want these guys, they’re here.
One of the things I’ve mentioned repeatedly is that there are a lot of options here for allied races. Some of them are races I have no real desire to play (I can live without playing as an uncorrputed orc), and that’s fine too. The option is there for the people who do want it.
If that doesn’t feel like a reward, well, then it’s not really a reward for you, is it? Don’t worry about it.
On the other hand, if your complaint is “I want this but don’t like the reputation requirements for it,” you literally are in the stage of the expansion where nothing new is coming. The requirements are not particularly onerous. If you don’t like the part where you have to raise reputations and do quest lines, dude, that is the game. Just like how I can get you not wanting any of these particular races in particular, I can totally get not wanting to put in the work necessary to unlock the allied races. That’s not going to penalize you, you’re just not going to get to play one.
No, previous races haven’t been unlocked by reputation requirements. Previous races have also started at level one, not had specialized heritage armor for leveling them, and come out two to an expansion instead of six at once. With a prior sample size of three, there’s a lot of stuff that’s been different in the past by definition, and considering this expansion is already adding more races to the game than had been added in the decade prior, I’m willing to play this one where it lies.
Not to mention that, seriously, I managed to fulfill the unlock requirements playing very casually without trying particularly hard. If you really want the most obnoxious races to unlock (Lightforged and Void Elves), you can get them pretty swiftly once you decide to put in the time. The story achievement alone will put you most of the way to Exalted, and with two weekly quests that bump you up plus emissary quests… it’s longer than I would like, necessarily, but it’s not too difficult, and it strikes me as fair.
That’s what it always comes down to, in my estimation. There are no hard-and-fast rules about the fairness of requirements to unlock something, but for a reward that only offers you more character creation options and is tied to some pretty story-involved races right from the start, I am completely fine with these requirements as they are. It feels fair, doable, and optional.
Like always, feedback is welcome in the comments or by mail to firstname.lastname@example.org. Now it’s time to hope for more allied races in the future (Eredar! Mag’har! Broken!) while I happily plink away with my Lightforged. Funny how just changing the racial button from a heal to an AoE changes the gameplay, huh?