While it might be a teensy bit early, given that Warlords of Draenor is still a good six to nine months away, I’m feeling in the mood for some stock-taking of the last Warcraft expansion. Even my server full of slackers, casuals and roleplayers has punched Garrosh in the face a few times, and many of us are marking time: levelling alts, polishing off professions, hunting down shiny transmog gear or, in a few deranged cases, continuing to relentlessly grind current content and optimise the NUMBERS on gear that’ll be obsolete in six months and doesn’t really do much except make us better at things we have to be capable of already to get the gear.
MMO players are a strange lot, and what Mists has taught me is that I don’t entirely share their mindset. There was a time – before this blog opened its grimy, filth-encrusted doors – when I was totally new to the whole experience, and took my sweet time about it. I didn’t believe in gear farming, rep grinding, power levelling, or any of that stuff that has you doing the same things over and over again. Wouldn’t do a dungeon twice, would quest through an area and never visit again. Took me a good eighteen months to reach the endgame, and after my first brush with daily quests I found myself asking “is this it?”
I’m still asking that now, having taken a few tottering, tentative steps into something that approximates endgame play for the first time. After the excitement of a whole new continent full of embarrassing Orientalism and pandas, after the unfolding story, the exploration, and the learning a new class or two, Pandaria is starting to feel like something of a solved game. It’s gone from “new place like nowhere you’ve been before!” to… well…
Now, in the past I’ve noodled around levelling a lot and doing a spot of PvP, but never really gotten my teeth into an expansion’s endgame – the bit where most of the design and play effort seems to congregate. This time out… I’ve hardly been TEH MOST HARDCOAR or anything, but I’ve done all the world bosses at least once, dabbled in Flexible raiding and Arena PvP, and I have done a fair bit of Looking For Raid random-group shenanigans. I completed the legendary quest on my main character. I can tank most of the Throne of Thunder, on LFR difficulty, in my sleep. I’ve taken down the Empress of the Mantid, the Sha of Fear, the Thunder King and – only the once, because really, once he was done the expansion felt more or less over – Garrosh Hellscream. I may not have unlocked all the achievements, I may not have learned all the mechanics, I may not even have enjoyed it all the way through – if I ever tank Durumu or Garalon again it’ll be a million years too soon, and playing LFR difficulty did not ready me for dealing with the solo scenarios AT ALL, and PvP has become a messy ballache for various reasons – but I played through Mists of Pandaria and I didn’t totally hate it. And, somehow, I’ve gone from having one or two characters at the level cap to my seventh level 90, and spending more time playing the game than roleplaying in its chatboxes.
Over the next [span of time redacted to save face] I’m going to look at those characters one by one, and use them to reflect on my experiences. The game hasn’t always been fun, and is in fact implicated in my currently dodgy mental health – it’s also been enormous fun, made me some lovely friends, inspired me to write and even learn to draw a bit, and has been my lifeline during long months with no money, crap health and little time for anything else. I think that warrants a little bit of thinking-about.