Today, most of the Blizzard fan base is firing up Diablo III and renewing the conflict with the Burning Hells, and I’ll soon join them, but first, I’d like to squeeze in one more Warcraft post before I become too distracted by zombie-slaying.
I’m not someone who views leveling as a speed bump on the way to endgame. For me, it’s half the fun of the game, and it provides a key way to grow attached to a character. Although I’m not really an RPer, I do tend to create rudimentary personalities for my toons, and leveling is where these personae develop.
As the leveling journey for one of my characters has just come to an end, I thought it might be interesting to chronicle her path to 85.
In the beginning…
I started a warlock as an experiment. I always loved the flavour and backstory of the class, but I found pets made questing (my preferred way to level) too easy, so I’d never leveled one far. But then, I got the idea to see what it would be like to level through questing without pets.* And so the grand experiment began.
*(Full disclosure: I still used pets for soloing group quests, dungeons and PvP, and on the rare occasions I grew very bored with a quest and just wanted it over.)
I made her a Blood Elf, of course, and decided to level through their native zones instead of skipping over to the Undead areas as I usually do.
I regret this. As much as I love Blood Elf storylines, I hate Burning Crusade quest design more. I still say Deatholme is a great way to end the zone, but it ain’t worth it.
Onward to Kalimdor:
Fleeing Burning Crusade quest mechanics, I moved onto Ashenvale. It’s not that fun as Horde — yet another Cata zone that paints the faction as the sort of people who kick kittens for fun.
After that came the Stonetalon Mountains, another “proud” moment for the Horde. At least its story was well-told, and it offered some of the most intense and emotional story-telling of Cataclysm, even if it still forces you to play as a war criminal. Even warlocks have limits. Well, mine does, anyway.
Then came Desolace, which was surprisingly enjoyable. I furthered my character’s persona as someone who enjoys tormenting the tormentors by enslaving all the demon mobs and forcing them to kill their comrades.
Later, I went to Thousand Needles, whose quests are ridiculous but very fun. This was followed by Tanaris, whose quests are unremarkable but whose soundtrack is second to none.
Beyond the Dark Portal:
Most of my leveling between then and level sixty took place via dungeons and PvP, but I did complete the Swamp of Sorrows storyline. By the way, the idea that the Alliance doesn’t win any battles in Cataclysm? Not really grounded in reality.
I then moved on to dreaded Outland. I’d leveled through the continent entirely through dungeons on my shaman and paladin, so I actually decided to brave the quests this time, mostly in Terokkar Forest. I like the ambiance there, if not the quests.
I also did the unthinkable and delayed going to Northrend to spend more time in Netherstorm. I always had a soft spot for that zone — partly due to how surreal it is and partly due to its importance to Blood Elf lore.
By this time, I was starting to think of my warlock as a kind of spiritual successor to my mage, also a Blood Elf. As he’d spent a great deal of time in Netherstorm, I thought it appropriate that my warlock follow in his footsteps.
This lasted until I got to the point where most quests required groups, at which point I continued my tradition of giving up in frustration and fleeing to Northrend.
Burnt out from leveling other alts, I spent little time in the Howling Fjord or the Borean Tundra. But then came Dragonblight, and Northrend sank its icy claws into me once again.
I really can’t overstate how much I love Northrend.The story blows everything else from WoW out of the water, the environments are the perfect mix of beauty and intimidation, and the mythology buff in me eats up all the Norse influences. Playing through it on a Blood Elf just adds even more poignancy.
I completed virtually all the quests for Dragonblight and Grizzly Hills, two favourite zones.
I didn’t realize I’d be leveling another alt so soon, so I’d recently done a thorough play-through of both Icecrown and the Storm Peaks on my shaman. As a result, I felt a bit burnt out on these zones when my warlock came to them, even though they are probably my favourite zones out of the entire game.
I did, however, do a couple short chains in the Storm Peaks, and I spent enough time in Icecrown to complete the main storyline related to the various gates, as well as the Crusader Bridenbrad chain, which I loved even before I knew the story behind it.
I also made sure to complete all three wings of the Frozen Halls. Still the best dungeons ever, if you ask me.
The final stretch:
I leveled primarily through Hyjal and Uldum the rest of the way. I love Hyjal — it’s beautiful, it has great music, and its story can stand with the best of zones. Uldum is just the post-Hyjal Cataclysm zone I was least sick of.
On the eve (literally — the night before) of hitting 85, I did Icecrown Citadel and got my Kingslayer title. For a quasi-RPer like me, this is an important thing for a Blood Elf character to do, and it carries a certain sense of catharsis. Salama ashal’anore.
At last, my warlock has reached 85. Leveling is always fun for me, but I enjoyed leveling her more than most. It’s an engaging class, avoiding pets made things much more perilous and exciting, and her personality really came to life for me.
I’ve come to see her as a kind of demon hunter — not in the Illidan sense, but simply in the sense that she hunts demons and other monsters. Her dark powers are the result of a “fight fire with fire” philosophy.
I now move ahead to the gear grind, Dragon Soul, and eventually Pandaria.
But first, Diablo.