What feels good for someone could feel off for another. And in a game with multiple options, leveling between choices can vary wildly as well.
There’s really nothing that replaces the first time for pretty much anything in life. It’s all shiny and new. Games certainly have that in spades, where it may be mechanics that open up over time, or a story that just hits all the right notes. Horizon: Zero Dawn was a damn feast in both those spaces, where more and more things just kept coming at you. God of War’s story is just mind boggling the first time you run through it. While both are made to play be played a main time, then perhaps a New Game+ (or much later), MMOs are instead meant to be replayed ad nauseum. The leveling portion (getting another class/character to top level) is a part that just really struggles to come close to the first time.
Most MMO’s today suffer from this fatigue, not so much because the of the repetitive nature of the game, but because the games themselves are so old and that the leveling portion itself is a fraction of the totality of the game. Since I’m leveling alts in WoW, I’ll pick on that for now.
There are few milestones in the leveling portion
- 1 to 20 – starting experience
- 21 to 60 – core skills (~24 hours from 1 to 60)
- 61 to 80 – Frozen Throne + flying! (15 hours)
- 81 to 90 – Pandaria (4 hours)
- 91 to 100 – Warlords (4 hours)
- 101 to 110 – Legion (4 hours)
- 111 to 120 – BfA (12 hours)
Character progression-wise, 1 to 60 is where the real meat is. You get pretty much the entire toolset by 30, and flying at 60, so the rest is all filler. I still like to think that each milestone should be of similar duration, simply because the expansion mechanics do some somersaults. I mean, you KNOW you’re in WoD because of the unskippable intro quest. All told, it’s about 50 hours to get to 110.
Assuming you have heirlooms, war mode, and flying unlocked for every zone.
81 to 110 is all done within a similar timeframe – but only if you’ve unlocked flying everywhere – takes maybe 2 hours to get through each phase. The 61 to 80 portion feels like it takes longer than the 21-60 part, but that’s not at all true. Catalcysm was just after WotLK and we were still in the hub/fetch quest model. There’s an insane amount of backtracking that is jut completely ignored once you can fly – and if you have any plans of visiting that content at all, it’s worth every second to unlock flying (remember to use a Human for any rep-based gains).
Now, the differences between classes is absurd. A Hunter with War Mode skills (2 massive DPS boosts on relatively short cooldowns) can take out absolutely anything – even the 3+ targets in BfA. It’s right on the edge of being a complete joke. The other side of that spectrum is something like the Shaman, where even a single regular target can kill you. I get the concept that each class has strengths and weaknesses, and for the most part they sort of all fit into this middle pack. And because the class kits are determined way back at the start of the journey, the rest of the ride can be quite painful.
Now, the fundamental question here is Does It Matter? In the context of leveling alts, not at all. It’s just a repeat of what came before (minus the Legion Class Hall stuff, which can be awesome). It’s a speedbum. Where it does matter is in the goal of bringing in new main characters (either new players, or existing players changing classes). The player’s enjoyment of the toolkit + leveling experience has a pretty big impact on the viability of that class long term.
If you have a chance, play a DH for an hour or so. Then play any other class in the leveling process. Or a WW Monk vs. a Rogue (or cat druid). Some classes/specs have such a dynamic toolkit that moves beyond 2-3 keys, and their abilities just look damn cool. Hate on Pally if you want, but there’s no denying that it looks like a Paladin should look.
Long post to short point. I dont for a second imagine that Blizz has the resources necessary to re-jig the leveling experience or class kits. I am hopeful that they address the time-to-level portion so that people can get to relevant content and current mechanics sooner. Right now, Shadowlands seems to clock in at 1-50 taking ~20 hours – I still think that’s twice as long as needed. It would be amazing if they somehow made the older content relevant again… but in nearly every respect that matters, that ship left port years and years ago.