Sunwalker: The First Twenty Levels

My, how time flies. Just the other day, Alhazad Ghosteye was a fresh “re-roll” of a Sunwalker, a Tauren Paladin. Now, only four days later he has passed Level 20.

I had hoped to provide more commentary on the leveling process, but the speed of it has surprised me greatly. I’m even taking it slow, compared to others — the Ani Ayastigi’s guild leader has leveled a Troll Druid to already beyond Level 40 in the same amount of time!

Hit the jump to get a synopsis on my leveling experience thus far.

Levels 1 through 10

Starting a Tauren (of any character class) lands you in Camp Narache, just as it did pre-Cataclysm. Things have changed, however. I will not spoil too much of the happenings here, but someone important to Camp Narache has passed away (murdered, in fact) and the Quillboar are encroaching upon the Red Cloud Mesa and points beyond. It is up to your new Tauren character to fight back the Quillboar and save the mesa, and all of Mulgore.

As I said earlier, leveling is fast. There are fewer quests to do, and each quest awards more experience points than before (much of the Cataclysm revamp is like this). You do not need rested experience to progress quickly through your first few levels. Questing and enemy kills will keep you moving.

You also move more quickly from area to area within a zone, either thanks to smaller but more numerous “quest hubs” or methods of transportation (spirit guides here in Mulgore — the first takes you from the mesa to Bloodhoof Village), or simply more conveniently placed questgivers. Many of the pre-Cataclysm “challenges” are also lessened — if you remember having trouble with the dwarves in their dig site, the quest involving this area is much, much easier to complete now. Overall, from a new player’s perspective, this is welcomed. From a veteran player’s perspective, well, I do miss some of those classic quests. Also, gathering quests with fewer requirements (either whole portions removed, or the number of items needed having been lowered) can be completed more rapidly — this is generally a good thing, as a low drop rate on needed items can be frustrating beyond belief.

Regarding my advancement in terms of skills or abilities granted, I feel the pace is satisfying. When you reach level 10, any advancement in level is accompanied by either a new skill being made available to you or the gain of a Talent Point, so you are effectively always growing more powerful in one way or another. From the new player’s point of view, this is smoother, more predictable, and has a better feeling to it. From a veteran’s point of view, I feel I am missing some of the skills that were awarded early on — rather than spacing spell ranks out across the leveling curve, they now place whole non-rank or single-rank abilities at even-numbered level intervals, to fill in the gaps where you would not be receiving a new Talent Point.

I won’t get too “old fogey” here — the game has changed and it is for the better. World of Warcraft was launched at a time when MMOs were only mildly popular, and they appealed to a “niche” gamer. Typically these gamers understood the strange complexities involved in their respective MMOs of yesteryear (Everquest, Ultima Online, etc.), and the game design favored this. An example would be having a rare-quality (Blue) item be relatively, well, rare — many early dungeons had bosses that dropped normal-quality (White) items with some regularity, and rare-quality was a surprise indeed. Quests were harder to do, involving more steps and greater challenges and a far less worthwhile reward. The developer mindset here must have been “keep them playing, to keep them paying” — at the time, it worked. World of Warcraft also broke this mold in other places, and was easier for non-MMO gamers to pick up — with a little effort. Over the course of the game’s life, many, many steps have been taken to reward any effort in the game, be it something done during a lazy afternoon (e.g. a dungeon run) or something you’ve been preparing days in advance for (e.g. raids). Cataclysm is a further refinement of this.

I’m rambling a bit. Let’s rein things in.

Alhazad and the Eagle

Levels 11 through 20

Once passing Level 10, you’ve chosen a talent tree specialization. Here is where your low level character becomes notably more powerful, and more adept. You get some very cool toys at Level 10 thanks to this specialization. As an example, a Retribution Paladin receives Templar’s Verdict (a highly powerful attack that spends the Holy Power points your Crusader Strike has been generating), Two-Handed Weapon Specialization (a flat damage increase for doing what you’ve been doing right along, basically), and a few other nifty additions that help make your playstyle more distinct from that of, say, a Protection Paladin.

You’ll also begin your dungeon-crawling at around Level 15. Horde-side, Ragefire Chasm is opened to you. Let me say that I love what they’ve done with the dungeon quests — before, they could be scattered across the world, whereas now they are all conveniently located inside the dungeon instance itself.

Now, this does detract from the “open, persistent world” feeling a little. You won’t have some fellow out in Tanaris telling you to drop by a dungeon half a world away, so Azeroth does end up feeling a bit “smaller” or “streamlined” — but such is the price of progress. Now, players won’t have to continually run dungeons when they discover a quest they missed earlier on. You can continually run a dungeon for the primary purpose, which is to acquire more loot!

Speaking of which… many dungeons received a slight re-vamp in terms of the events taking place within them. Ragefire hasn’t changed much, nor did it truly need to. Shadowfang Keep, however, has changed dramatically. Gone is much of the Arugal storyline and the Worgen enemies — now you mostly fight undead. Deadmines has also changed dramatically. Wailing Caverns? Not at all, really.

Level 20? You get a mount! This change has actually been in the game for quite a while now, but it is worth mentioning. Also, the Sunwalker Kodo is an awesome, custom kodo mount for Tauren Paladins alone.

Leveling Path

For my Sunwalker, I am following a relatively traditional leveling path. After 1 through 10 in Mulgore, I traveled to Northern Barrens (by way of Orgrimmar) for 11 through 20. I am ahead of the curve, however, and will likely skip Ashenvale (20 through 25) to move straight into Stonetalon Mountains (25-30) next, and take a look at what’s available Horde-side in Southern Barrens thereafter.

Now, I mentioned being “ahead of the curve” — my Heirloom Items have likely helped with this, as I can kill enemies around my level extremely efficiently, with little downtime. Being a hybrid class (heals, emergency buttons) also helps. The “Blizzard approved” leveling path appears to be Mulgore to either Azshara or Northern Barrens, then from there converge on Ashenvale, then proceed to Stonetalon, Desolace, Feralas, and Thousand Needles, then points beyond. And while I appreciate being able to level relatively quickly, I do at times feel it is perhaps moving too quickly.

And I suppose that brings me full circle, back to where I started the article. I am leveling so quickly, I’ll end up writing my commentary in 10-level chunks (or so) rather than going by single levels, or even 5-level portions. Soon, I’ll blink and my Sunwalker will be Level 60 and bound for Outland!

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