I finally hit 85 with my Monk the other day, which means that Pandaria is open to me. Let’s meta first. Monks have a daily quest that gives a 1 hour buff for 50% exp boost. Every 10 levels (it seemed) the quest became available again and refreshed the buff plus added another hour. I had full heirloom gear plus accepted a random level 25 guild invite, giving me something like 70% experience boost. I also created the monk and waited a day, to get some rested experience (monks rested exp lasts twice as long as other races). So take all of that in and I was sitting at nearly 350% experience boost for the first 60 levels.
I rather enjoyed the “new” 1-58 portion. It linear, granted, but the stories were much better. Especially in the underused zones. Punching Deathwing in the face or riding a motorcycle with a babe into the moon is pretty funny. 58-68 is the Outland stuff. I barely entered Terrokar (3rd zone) before I happily left. There’s one town in that zone, when I first entered, had a solid 10 quest givers hungering for me to help them. It was like Christmas Tree had lit up. Next up was Northrend. I did one starting zone, then the game quests pushed me through 2 zones in a flash, with me ending up in Zul’Drak. The experience gain here was crazy. I missed some of the more involved quests, like the one where you blow up the zombies with an abomination. Cataclysm is still behind a level 80 wall but once in, you only need 2 zones (out of 5). Now this is linear questing! I chose Hyjal to avoid the 3d mess of transport in water-world. The story here is pretty cool and getting to take on massive bosses (with the help of other bosses) is awesome. Fighting Ragnaros is a massive letdown though, as you’re just a gopher. “Slay these bugs while I hit this massive wall of fire”. Like they couldn’t kill them with a blink?
Deepholm is next, which is my favorite of all Cataclysm zones. WoW has a penchant for keeping all single player zones above ground and all dungeons underground. I guess people like the feeling of an “open” zone. Well, this is a massive cave under the Maelstrom, full of fairly rich lore that hasn’t yet been abused. I remember the original WoW and the first dungeon patched in – Mauradon. I played that with friends a whole bunch of times, it was a blast since it was an open dungeon. I found Theradras to be a damn cool idea as a boss. Earth elementals, to that point, were a collection of random rocks. They remained that way until Cataclysm (while Fire and Water were used in Molten Core). Deathwing lived underground for millenia. Why only 1 zone? Bah!
Level 85 opens the Pandaria stuff. I zone in, get on a helicopopter and start nuking some things. 2-3 quests later, I’ve killed some horde bad guys then this massive wall of gunk comes alive. I’m 1 zone through and I’ve never seen another horde enemy. I thought this was the Horde vs. Alliance expansion pack?
Anyhoot, I’m having fun. The quest structure is a lot better. I get sent all over the map to discover new zones and enemies. Some are silly (the SI:7 quests), some are somewhat serious and others are just strange (stomping bookworms). A few times though, I’ve run around without any quests in my log and no direction. That was the most fun I’ve had to be honest. I haven’t really “explored” WoW since Vanilla and having to get off the rails for a bit felt good. I had to cross half the zone before I found the next breadcrumb quest.
I have leveled 3 characters to 85, 2 more to 80 and 3 to 60 over the years. If I were to rate the leveling curve experience thusfar, I would go with Pandaria > 1-60 (post-Cataclysm > Lich King > Cataclysm >1-60 (pre-Cataclysm)>>> Burning Crusade. The 1-60 (pre-Cataclysm) isn’t really fair since the game wasn’t even a themepark back then – at least not by today’s standards.
The next few posts will probably cover my experiences from 85-90. It’s an interesting ride.