Two Weeks on the Dragon Isles – Some World of Warcraft Thoughts

At least once per day for the past week or more, I’ve told myself that it was time to sit down with my Dragonflight thoughts and put together a blog post. And at least once per day, I’ve told myself “No, not yet. I’m not ready.”

Now it’s a smidgen more than two weeks since launch, and although in a lot of ways, I’m still not ready, I am going to do my best.

My absolutely favorite part of World of Warcraft is the start of an expansion. Some patches come close, but for me, there’s nothing else that feels as good as the first day or so of exploring a new area. The group I play with is not so rush-rush that we’re not reading quests, watching cutscenes, and exploring the world, but we’re rush-rush enough that everyone is online as much as they possibly can be during the first week or so.

Of course, within minutes of Blizzard flipping the switch, the boat to the Dragon Isles broke, because of course it did. It took a good couple of hours of rage-smashing the replacement portal, mostly being met with “Transfer Aborted – Instance Not Found” and being dumped unceremoniously back on the Stormwind docks before we finally got started.

It took about two days of pretty heavy play to reach level 70 on my main (although that was spotted with some alt play, since I was leveling my main with my husband, and doing other things when he wasn’t available). While leveling, we pursued just about every exclamation point we saw, but once reaching the cap, I turned my focus to just main story quests, and plowed through the remainder of the campaign. Once that was done, it took me another couple of days to finish up Loremaster of the Dragon Isles.

So – at least for me – approximately the first week of Dragonflight absolutely exceeded my expectations.

Since then, however, I’ve found myself repeatedly adjusting my expectations as I interact with all the new end-game systems. Part of what fueled my enthusiasm for this expansion was the idea that dungeon content was going to feel a whole lot less required in order to gear up for raiding. Now, I’ve tried almost all of the new five mans, and I’m still really not a fan. They’re tolerable enough while leveling, but one night of running Mythic Zero has pretty much made me not want to go back. With five-man dungeons of various difficulty levels being the primary source of pre-raid gear (and a massive time-sink), I’ve been curious to see how end-game feels without them, and overall, it’s been a little disappointing for me.

Of course, there is some world content – namely, Primal Storms – that has yet to make an appearance, but in week two, for a player primarily interested in improving in a player-power context, there doesn’t feel like there’s a lot to keep logging in for. The majority of world quests are either on weekly, or semi-weekly, timers, so you could easily knock out the whole map by logging in for a couple hours twice a week. There are a few repeatable events, but although you can participate over and over for reputation, the big rewards are limited per reset period.

After that, if you’re not running dungeons, what you’re left with is the most tedious parts of the game. Most of the reps in the game are nearly infinitely grindable, and I’m sure there are folks who have already maxed them out, but it’s incredibly slow and tedious to do so. The game seems to be designed with a set amount of progress to be readily attainable each week, and then additional progress comes so slowly it might as well be a hard cap for most players. In a lot of ways, Dragonflight is probably a much more satisfying experience for the average casual player, but I’m finding myself missing the rewards that have traditionally been available with a heftier time investment.

As far as the new major systems for the expansion, well, those have also been a mixed bag for me.

I’m not 100% sold on Dragon Riding being the best addition ever, but I am grateful to not be ground-bound for the next several months. I would even argue that the system when you first get access to it is more frustrating than fun. Initially, dragon riding feels very limited in comparison to the flying mounts that we’re all used to. It’s not until you find all 48 dragon riding glyphs – either through natural exploration or, as I did, through concentrated effort – and fill out the entire dragon riding talent tree that it starts to feel really good to use. Unfortunately, once you reach that point, the only thing left to do with your dragons is to seek out new customizations. I’m sure there are players motivated by this, but I’m not one of them.

I also have a love/hate relationship with the profession rework. I think it’s great that crafting professions are intended to be continually relevant throughout the expansion, but it was a bit of an attitude adjustment to realize that professions are no longer meant to be leveled to max alongside your character. Most of the gathering professions felt a little slower, but not obnoxiously so, however, it’ll likely be months before my main character’s enchanting reaches its skill cap. Not only am I waiting on the highest level of enchantment materials, which come from epic pieces that just aren’t that plentiful just yet, I’m waiting on recipes from reputations and from my profession talent tree.

Which brings me to my biggest disappointment thus far, and I acknowledge this one might be on me for just reading the headlines. I was super excited by the idea of reputations (renown) being account-wide this expansion. Now, to me, that meant you would have one single renown level with each faction, and it would be the same no matter what character you were playing, but this isn’t the way it works at all. Instead, there are certain account-wide unlockables in each faction, like certain types of world quests and the open world events, but each character still has to level up their renown in order to access things like profession recipes and gear. Obviously, this has put quite a damper on my plan to have an army of alts at level 60 hanging out in the city to be completely crafting self-sufficient.

Which is probably for the best, because if it weren’t necessary to level up my alts and get them renown for their professions, I’d very likely feel like there was nothing left for me to do until my guild starts raiding in January.

I realize this may have sounded like a whole bunch of complaining, probably because it is, but overall, I am enjoying the new expansion. It’s sort of like going out to dinner and saying “Well, the food was great, but the portion size was just too damned small.” I’m sure I’ll be grateful in a couple of months to not feel overwhelmed by all the things I should be doing, but right now, it feels like there’s a lot of good stuff here, I just want more.

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