World of Warcraft's New Leveling System: Like It or Hate It?

World of Warcraft, Level Scaling
Another day, another level, what about it?

With the advent of patch 7.3.5, Blizzard has done something that breathes new life into the older zones of past expansions for World of Warcraft. They have introduced level scaling to the entire game, rather than having it exclusively on the Broken Isles, which were brought in with the most recent expansion, Legion. The level scaling was well received then, since players could choose what zone to do rather than following a linear storyline. Instead, Blizzard gets to reemphasize the multiple storylines each zone has and introduce new players to older content.

The Hinterlands, a zone often overlooked, will hopefully have more players running under these pine trees.

Now, the level scaling has been patched in and even if it was a bit of a rocky start, with quests being bugged and various parts of the game “breaking.”(You can’t just have global level scaling and have it go smoothly you know?) Those issues have been hammered out through hotfixes and continue to be ironed out as the patch went public. The scaling effects all zones in WOW. There are still level brackets, that players are familiar with, but now the brackets encompass entire past expansions rather than single zones. This enables much more flexibility for players with where they want to go in the game world. The zones are broken up by expansion as follows:

Starting Zones: 1-15

Classic WOW: 1-60

Burning Crusade: 61-80

The Warth of the Lich King: 61-80

Cataclysm: 81-90

Pandaria: 81-90

Warlords of Draenor: 90-100(same)

With the allied races coming in BfA (releasing in September), where they all start at level twenty, level scaling was clearly an incentive to introduce and implement early on. The fact that four of the new allied races were recently released as a pre-order bonus also confirms this assumption as well. The desire to make an alt can sometimes intimidate some players, although others are altoholics (like myself) and enjoy making characters if not just to play around with a different class for a little bit.

It was not an easy thing for Blizzard to implement, but developers stated that it was on their minds when they created level scaling for Legion. Considering the leveling experience has been virtually broken, with players killing NPCs with only a couple hits or even a single hit, if they are using heirlooms, the leveling zones needed the fix. And also, similar to Legion’s nonlinear leveling experience Blizzard wanted to give players the freedom of choice when deciding what expansion to go on to. In some ways the leveling timeline is beyond logical reasoning, considering you essentially “start” in Cataclysm style zones, go back to Burning Crusade and Wrath of the Lich King and then back to Cata etc, it can lead to some strange jumps. Death knights have had an even rougher time, with spending roughly 10-12 levels in Outland before getting back to the expansion they are defined by(WOTLK).

Elwynn Forest the first zone so many of the alliance experienced so many years ago.

It is hard to say if older zones are truly seeing a burst of new/old players returning, since most realms are either sharded (instanced after a certain population of players is reached) or servers with low to middling populations. From what I’ve seen over the past month is that there are a lot more players questing versus doing the dungeon spam, which used to be the fastest and efficient way to level. After 7.3.5, dungeon spamming has become slower and it used to not have any extra experience bonus for those who queue for the dungeons, but that has since become fixed with Blizzard doubling the experience awarded upon killing the final boss.

Level scaling has created is two viable options for players to take, an immersive experience of leveling through zones or to level through dungeons like it has been done in the past.

There have been many more players talking about making new characters to experience zones they have not seen, since they leveled their main over ten years ago. And for me, I’ve made at least four or five new alts to slowly level while I wait for BfA and I’ve rotated playing each and I’ve seen dozens of players leveling and questing versus the one or two a year or so ago when I was working on an alt. I also do a mix of both questing and dungeons and have found it to be refreshing that I’m not relying on dungeons for experience, especially since I queue as a DPS normally and those times can be killer.

Patch 7.3.5’s reception has been relatively mixed, but leaning more positive than negative, especially after the dungeon hotfix was applied in the last maintenance. For most, the feeling has been good, considering the tease that Blizzard gave at Blizzcon, this past November, with Classic WOW servers. Players have wanted a reason to go back and the idea of being able to complete a zone without outleveling it, which was a problem before level scaling is immediately attractive to completionists and lore seekers. The addition of allied races, which start at level 20 is another added incentive to go back and make an alt and level through these zones as well, which makes perfect sense to some. And in another way, the players have overall been reinvigorated by the level scaling, since it gives them both content and a reason to go back to the older content rather than simply ignoring it, as every current expansion did up until Legion, which incorporated older zones into artifact quests and side quests to the main campaign.

Here are some quotes from players, who have had a favorable experience with the new patch thus far:

“Leveling has been broken for over half a decade. This basically fixes it. You can level anywhere in the old zones from 1-60, which is excellent. 75% of the zones before this were basically unused because you would move on to a higher-level zone. Beyond that, all the dungeons scale to the same levels, which will MASSIVELY reduce que times. Outland and Northrend are now both 58-80 level content, which is another desperately needed change.” -Johnathan Straka

“This patch is the first step on a long road to restoring the soul of this game.” -Matthew Lenhert

“I'm glad Blizzard did this and I'm enjoying leveling again for once.” -Lionhearte

Other players have not been so optimistic or hopeful about this change, given that dungeons used to be completed in ten minutes, but now take closer to 30 minutes. And others have accused Blizzard of implementing this change in order to sell more level boosts, which the developers have dismissed. The older zones are not perfect by any means, and players have taken special time to point out where the questing experience feels especially dated or buggy, BC and WOTLK suffer the most from these reports. Here is what some of these players are saying in:

“I think the issue is that they're bringing leveling back to its original difficulty, and also profiting off of that change directly with max level boosts.” -Kori Jenkins

“The problem with 7.3.5 isn't the increased levelling time, it is the increased levelling time without the danger associated with vanilla wow. Essentially it is trivial content offering no challenge spaced out longer to encourage people to pay for boosts.” -Archvaldor's Warcraft Hacks

“I this point and time of WoW leveling should not be made longer but faster...The whole point of the game is end game now. Slowing the leveling process is even more of a chore then it was before...” -Ehrand

All in all, the new level scaling has slowed down the experience for players, which may or may not get ironed out or addressed by Blizzard. It will take time for the player base to get fully used to the changes and some might never, but overall it seems to have been a great quality of life improvement and development for World of Warcraft. In some ways, it was a bold move by Blizzard, although a common sense one with allied races on the way with BfA.

Azuna, one of the more pictueresque zones from Legion. Have fun leveling out there!

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Always fascinated by the night sky, Alex has spent plenty of time developing and writing stories about rocketing to space. When he'd rather stay planet-side, he enjoys an ice cold PBR.
Gamer Since: 1998
Favorite Genre: RTS
Currently Playing: World of Warcraft: Legion
Top 3 Favorite Games:Stellaris, Starcraft II: Legacy of the Void, Mass Effect 2
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