Ding, level 85! (And Why I Now Feel Empty Inside)
Approximately three weeks after the release of Cataclysm I’ve hit level 85 with my Warrior. Not exactly fast paced when you consider some psycho did it in the small window between the expansion releasing the Europe and America but, well, it suited me fine. I’ve had a nice three weeks of gently skipping through the levels and taking my time over it. Granted, I did a lot of PvP which isn’t particularly good for experience, played a new Worgen alt a bit and generally faffed around a lot but I was happy with my rate of progression.
Unfortunately though, instead of feeling satisfied or elated or even relieved, I feel kinda empty inside, just like Churchill did at the end of the Second World War (yes, I did just compare WoW, a video game, to the horrible suffering of WW2) or a kid who’s finally discovered that Santa Claus doesn’t exist. Hitting the level cap in MMOs has that affect on me and leaves me feeling unsatisfied and somewhat hollow. What’s left other than the repetitive grind for reputation and the tedious trawl up the itemisation ladder, followed by the bickering and childish romping that can only be raiding? Hmm, delightful.
I like games on rails (I think there’s something therapeutic about them) and I’m by no means a snob who insists that anything other than sandbox or hardcore MMOs are only for care bears and girls. For me, though, the fun comes from the sense of progression that one gets by moving up the leveling ladder, the backbone architecture of any online themepark RPG, and once that is removed then there doesn’t seem to be much of a game left, at least not in any sense that I acknowledge. They transition from a leveling game into a raiding game and I find that quite jarring. In many ways, I would’ve just preferred to hit level 85, see a nice big fuck off thank you message appear on the screen, followed by a cut scene and rolling credits. Boom. Game over. Thank you. Well done. Pats on the back all around.
The concept of the raiding end game in MMOs has always struck me as kinda weird. I know some people love it and see it as the primary point of it all which is fine and dandy (each to their own and all that) but personally I don’t get it. I’ve played the game, I’ve gained my levels and abilities, I’ve gone through all of the content, why can’t I just do a final dungeon, slay Deathwing and what not and then be done with it all?
The cynic in me considers the grind of itemisation and reputation (in order to get better items) a really cheap timesink. Blizzard, as much as I love them, have definitely found a clever way to keep people hooked in for longer by forcing them to step through the gated content of the end game. Contrary to what you might expect by actually achieving the last level in the game, it’s really just the beginning of a long haul grind. You need to acquire a certain item level in order to do heroic dungeons (the same ones as before only harder) and then keep running through them until you’re item level is finally good even to attempt raids. Oh and then there’s heroic raids after that. It never ends.
Which is a good thing, I guess, for the majority of players and, like I said, a very clever way for Blizzard to create a huge amount of content to keep their player base satisfied for a long period of time. For me though, staring down the barrel of that path of progression makes me shudder and wonder as to the point of it all. Couldn’t the expansion have added an extra 10 levels and done away the concept of heroics completely? Why have this strange split of gameplay at the “end” of the game anyway? And why can’t I get that wonderful feeling of satisfaction and achievement that I’m aching for, dammit?!
Big, important questions for sure. I’m happy enough for the time being though and have been enjoying the Warcraft expansion immensely. Even if I don’t want to go down the itemisation progression route I’m still enjoying PvP battlegrounds with my Warrior and will continue with that for a while. Plus then there’s always the alts I want to level up through the new content I haven’t explored yet.
Still, I feel a slight tear welling up in my eye as I recognise now that my time with WoW is finite and will, eventually, come to an end.
And on another, completely unrelated point, anyone know the release date of Star Wars: The Old Republic?