World of Warcraft Level Scaling Impressions

If you're anything like me and actually like leveling up characters in MMOs, you might enjoy this PC Gamer article that analyzes World of Warcraft's revamped, level scaling-fueled progression system. The short of it is that while it may be easier to experience the complete zone-specific storylines now, the lacking low-level ability pool combined with increased monster health make the whole thing a bit of a chore. An excerpt:

It's been quite a while since I've leveled a character all the way from level one. In most cases, I'd either get bored and abandon them or pay for a level boost to skip the grind. In that regard, level-scaling is a huge win for Blizzard. While it doesn't fix all of the problems that Warcraft's older zones have, leveling a new character is much more fun.

Perhaps the greatest benefit of the new system is the way it more naturally casts the spotlight back on World of Warcraft's story. Before, leveling an alternate character was more akin to buying groceries—the objective is to get in there and get it done in as little time as possible. But 7.3.5's level-scaling encourages me to slow down and enjoy the journey. For the first time in World of Warcraft history, I'm actually taking the time to read the paragraphs of dialogue that accompany each quest. Yes, reading quest text feels antiquated compared to The Elder Scrolls Online's excellent voice acting, but Blizzard's hilarious writing more than makes up for it.

World of Warcraft has always been a little goofy, but in reading the quest text I'm discovering a much sillier side that I never realized was there. In Azshara, I helped a sentient raptor—the product of a mad scientist—free her babies and fix a stolen rocket ship that she intended to use to escape her captors for good. Moments later, I was trying to get my hands on a rare crystal by giving laxatives to a stone giant and then trying to scare the literal shit out of it. While more serious fantasy fans might read those sentences and roll their eyes, I love the contrast it strikes to Warcraft's more dramatic expansions. It's good to remember that this was a series that once relied on its own game designers recording voice over lines like "zug-zug."

Level-scaling has also given me an appreciation for just how massive World of Warcraft truly is. When max level, I too often spend my time in only a handful of areas, rarely venturing out beyond the view of Dalaran. It's so easy to forget that, at one time, Azeroth was a place that I liked to simply exist in, like a humble villager instead of a world-saving paragon of heroism. There's so much history and lore that is too easy to overlook in pursuit of that next level or item.

Because quests and monsters always scale to my level, I'm never forced to abandon a zone's questline prematurely because I've outleveled it. I no longer have to ignore monsters because they're too low (or high) level, leaving me to just enjoy the experience and not sweat the small stuff.

But not everything about level-scaling is a smash hit because, while I enjoy immersing myself in the story of each zone, World of Warcraft's leveling is still boring. The reason people rush through it is because, like getting groceries, it's time much better spent elsewhere. You want to get to level 110 as fast as possible so you can sink your teeth into a more challenging kind of grind. For new players, the pace of the starting zones feels awfully outdated compared to other MMOs. Warcraft's early zones could use a much more exciting and fast-paced overhaul.

For veterans, the combat tuning that came with level-scaling doesn't do anything to make it more exciting. Sure, monsters have more HP and don't keel over from a strong breeze, but what good is that larger health pool if you still only have three or four abilities to take it away with?