The new addition to the World of Warcraft is of course a new land, dungeons, Raid and changes in character balance. In Shadowlands significant improvements have also been made to the leveling system, which has been asking for a refresh for years.
The last few days I spent exclusively in World of Warcraft. On Tuesday, I sat down at midnight and got up 10 hours later, when my Hunter had the maximum level. The day after, I joined my friend's party, created a new character, and leveled up my new character from scratch, from level 1 all the way up to level 60. I experienced most of the changes of the new addon, I felt the famous, long-awaited "level squish" first-hand, and I'm happy to say that Blizzard took a very big step in the right direction.
Level squish in Shadowlands
The current leveling system in World of Warcraft was long, tedious and in no way prepared us for what the game actually has to offer in later stages, when we reach the maximum level. Previously, leveling up to 120 could of course be significantly shortened by using various shortcuts, spamming dungeons or using potions and enhancements that guarantee a faster gain of experience points. For an ordinary player, who entered the world of World of Warcraft for the first time in the first few dozen hours, the game did not offer much except walking from one point to another and killing lots of weak mobs.
So Blizzard finally decided to refresh this whole system and introduce level squish. Since The Burning Crusade it has been accepted that with each new expansion the maximum level of the character will increase. Like in Destiny 2, players had a campaign to go through, several levels to hit, and new locations to explore. We went from level 60 in vanilla to 120 in Battle for Azeroth.
Shadowlands in many ways offers exactly what the previous few expansions did. This time, however, our adventure begins at level 50, and the maximum level is only 60. What's more, the entire game now scales to the current level of our character. So we have full freedom in terms of the order of passing the content. Leveling up takes much less time and although it's still largely based on the same, clearing repetitive quests and exploring new locations, there is not enough time to bore the player.
An addition designed with new players in mind
Level squish and a new way of scaling, however, is only the beginning of the changes introduced. The first revolution is visible at the very beginning, when in place of the standard, starting location appears Exile's Reach. In earlier supplements, a new character at level 1 landed in a town assigned to the selected race. We did some quests, gained several levels and went to a larger city, where the vast world of World of Warcraft opened up to us.
Now, with the initial location Blizzard tries to introduce the player a bit in the universe of his game and better demonstrate what attractions await them in the final stages. The new character ends up in Exile's Reach as a result. We go through a short tutorial on the controls and basic skills of our class. After the training, NPC sends us further, where a few tasks characteristic to World of Warcraft are waiting for completion.
We have to do the series of quests, which leads us to the 10th level. It is interspersed with a few quests exclusive to our chosen class. I was taught the basics about Chi Monk system and effective spending of generated resources. Some tutorials, such as those for Mage or Priest, went much deeper into the topic of skills. NPC was able to punish players for improper use of skils and make them start the test from the beginning.
Don't get me wrong, these tutorials are still nowhere near what a max level game begins to require of us. New players will meet a wall as soon as they decide to do anything beyond World Quests and random dungeons. However, Exile's Reach does a much better job at introducing newcomers to the world of World of Warcraft than any previous starting location.
Especially considering the fact that the whole thing ends with a small dungeon. We sign up for the queue, enter the dungeon with three leveling players and face the task of completing a simple instance. It consists of a dozen or so mobs and one stronger boss, but very well demonstrates the basic mechanics of World of Warcraft and activities, which are the foundation of virtually the entire endgame.
After completing Exile's Reach, new players will be led to Zandalar, the setting of Battle for Azeroth. This will likely be the same for each subsequent expansion. If players are new to the game, World of Warcraft will drop them into the previous expansion to familiarize them with the most current content. About halfway through the third installment of Battle for Azeroth, we hit level 48, which allowed us to start Shadowlands.
A Veteran's Paradise
The changes made with new players in mind, however, don't mean that Blizzard has forgotten about those who have been part of the World of Warcraft community for years. In fact, the improvements in Shadowlands have managed to satisfy veterans to a large extent as well.
For the first time you can see it already in the moment when we start leveling up the first alts. After completing Exile's Reach, instead of going straight to Zandalar, we face a choice. If we've already completed the Battle for Azeroth campaign, we can talk to Chromie in the capital and choose the addon, on which we want to level our character to the maximum level.
Players analyzing Shadowlands beta tests have already discovered, of course, that the fastest way to level up alts is Warlords of Draenor. For many people, however, this will be a great opportunity to go back five or even ten years and play older additions at the cost of a few extra hours. I myself would love to do some alts to remember Wrath of the Lich King or play The Burning Crusade campaign, which debuted when I was 12 and spent most of my time playing Fifa.
For another nod to veterans we get right after the start of Shadowlands. When we land in Orbitos after a brief introduction, we're faced with another choice. If we have previously finished the Shadowlands campaign, we can choose to skip the story quests altogether. Campaign on this character is then automatically passed, already at level 50 we unlock World Quests and with their help, accompanied by side quests and dungeons, we can get the maximum level.
Taking into account the nature of Shadowlands and significantly reduced amount of grind in the endgame, changes in leveling is a very conscious decision on the part of Blizzard. It is much more encouraging to do alts now. Players who finish most of their activity on their main character can test another class without much trouble.
Shadowlands has a very positive effect on the so-called "new player experience", or the first impressions of the game of new players. In the past, to start an adventure in World of Warcraft you needed at least a few friends playing and a lot of free time. Now WoW is becoming much more accessible. Veterans still have their hands full, and less experienced players don't have to worry about the high barrier of entry.
WOW: SHADOWLANDS LEVELING TIPS
Here are some tips:
- Use the AzerothAutoPilot add-on: The add-on will automatically collect quests and give them away, skip movie interludes, provide a full advancement route, and even select items for you. However, we don't recommend getting levels this way if you want to learn the story.
- War Mode: PvP can be scary, but the 10% bonus to PD (30% for alliance) is hard to turn down. If a problem arises, you can always turn it off at any point to rest at any time.
- Play Alliance: Simply put, Alliance almost always has a 25 or 30% bonus to PD due to the smaller number of players in the faction, making them ideal for lowering your overall XP levels.
- Set up Hearthstone in key locations: if you advance in the quest center, maybe set up your Hearthstone there. We'd probably recommend setting it up on Oribos, since you'll be returning there often.
- Rested XP: Don't want to gain levels all at once, or maybe do it over the course of a week? Well, make sure you log out in a rested area (and Inn or larger city) to gain rested XP. (This bonus is limited at two levels.)
- Try to avoid leaving the main story: it can be tempting to help that angry orc get revenge on his fallen brothers halfway across the map. We recommend paying them a visit when you reach level 60, but they'll still need your help.