Playing Catch Up in World of Warcraft Before Dragonflight Drops

I had forgotten how much time playing a MMO can take up – it’s been less than a week since I reactivated my subscription, and I’ve already got over 24 hours into the game. I guess I really was ready to come back. Of course, I hadn’t anticipated my old raid group running short this week, and pushing to get caught up to the bare minimum of raiding requirements over just a couple of days took a significant time investment.

For the most part, I enjoyed the Zereth Mortis campaign far more than I did the Korthria one when that was current. I managed to complete all seven chapters in a couple of days, and then spent a little extra time there finishing up the achievements required to fly in the zone. I know that flight in World of Warcraft can be a pretty divisive topic, but from a time-saving stance, I’m never not going to jump through hoops to get into the air again as quickly as I can.

While that’s a not-insignificant amount of content I’ve already managed to consume locust-like in just a few days, I’ve realized that a lot of what I had hoped to get done is probably a bit ambitious, considering that the general consensus is that we have less than a dozen weekly resets before the expansion releases.

On the upside, it doesn’t seem like there’s much that I won’t be able to go back to after the new expansion. On the downside, history has shown I never really get around to doing the old stuff. Sure, I’ll knock out a few things here and there, but for the most part, once an expansion is over, it gets increasingly unlikely I’ll revisit that content.

Bearing that in mind, my content completion wishlist for the next few weeks looks a little something like this.

Twisting Corridors & Other Torghast Achievements

Of all new things in the Shadowlands, Torghast is the one I most expect to have its associated achievements relegated to legacy status in Dragonflight. There’s a lot of nerdpoints here I don’t have, and some pretty fun rewards from some of them, including multiple mounts. Getting all of these achievements will probably take a pretty significant time investment, but having run a few floors the other night, I feel like it is probably more about time than challenge at this point, which in all honest, are my favorite type of achievements.

Covenant Sanctums

While I set myself up well to be able to complete all of the covenant related content with a max level character in each of the four, I’m fairly certain there’s just not enough time left to get everything I’d hoped to finished. I do plan to make sure I’m rotating time between each of these characters to farm up as much anima as I can in hopes of at least getting all the upgrades finished up. Mounts are usually a pretty good carrot at the end of the stick for me, so I probably will poke at each covenants special a bit even when I outlevel it, but I’d like to make at least some (if not all) of the cosmetic & “fun stuff” anima purchases over the next couple of months.

Leveling Alts

Every single expansion, I set myself the goal of having one character of each class at max level, and each expansion, I never quite make it. In fact, I think the period before Shadowlands is where I came the closest, even after not playing for most of BFA, with only two classes below level 50. With the Threads of Fate option, the 10 levels that Shadowlands covers isn’t a particularly large time investment, so I’d like to set a bit of time aside to get a few more characters up to 60.

Other than the priest, who was my main for a time in MoP, most of these characters are fairly new for me, and they’re classes I’m not particularly drawn to. However, I plan to prioritize the ones who will give me access to professions I’m currently missing on my more often played characters. That means the priest, demon hunter, and warrior are the most likely to see level 60 over the next couple of month.

Maintenance Tasks

This is the one I least want to work on, but will most improve my experience going forward. All of my characters who have existed through multiple expansions have a pack rat problem. Much like in real life, I never want to get rid of things I may want or need later, even if – at the current moment – I cannot fathom why I may need or want those things. The more I play a character, the more likely that a look in their bank will give me palpitations. I really want to make a concerted effort to make all of this more manageable before there’s a new expansion, full of new profession related materials and things to loot, but man, I am not looking forward to this part at all.

As always, I am setting goals for myself that I know are overly ambitious, and I’m still passing over a lot of things I would either like to do (because they’re fun) or I would like to have done (because I want whatever shiny is at that end of a particular rainbow). But it does look like I’m going to be playing for a bit, which means a Dragonflight purchase is probably in my future, since the first months of an expansion are probably my favorite part of the whole cycle.

Lost in Lost Ark

It’s been a long time since there was a game I was enjoying as much as Lost Ark that made itself so very very hard to play. The leveling process is probably a bit too simple, where everything is solo-friendly and you can just mount up and ride through anything you don’t want to deal with. It’s easy to just roll through fifty levels ignoring just about every system the game tries to oh-so-slowly introduce you to, which is just as well, because I feel like there’s very little past the basics that the game actually bothers to explain instead of just opening up and expecting you to figure out.

Personally, I was just as happy to mostly bumble through things. I looked up skill guides, sure, but glossed over the parts about engravings and stat priorities and gear sets. I just equipped things with little arrows on them, indicating a higher item level. I did a bunch of guide quests that were supposed to explain the new systems (but really didn’t) and clicked through the option that says “I understand” in order to collect my reward. So, yes, I realize a not insignificant portion of this is my own fault, but now that I need to get actual end-game-ish gear to progress to the next questing area, I am finding myself frustrated more often than not.

I don’t know that I’ve ever played another game that feels so open, but is actually so very interconnected. Most nights, I log on intending to do one thing, and finding several other things that need to be completed before I can finish my intended task. I’ve finished up questing in Shushire, and to go to the next story area, I need to get my gear up to 460 item level. Since this was a 200+ item level jump, I knew it was time to start poking around in content I’d been avoiding, either because it was scary, or because I didn’t understand it.

Checking out a few of the island quests seemed to me to be the least scary. I picked one – pretty much at random – and followed the convoluted quest chain to it’s conclusion. But instead of gear, or something else I needed to get stronger, what I ended up with was an item that I could bring to one very specific trader (yep, I had to look it up outside the game) to exchange for a mount. Not exactly what I was expecting.

Since then, I’ve managed to dip my toes into Chaos Dungeons, which are less actual dungeons than something akin to Greater Rifts in Diablo 3. It’s basically a whole bunch of running around, gathering up tons of monsters and then blowing them all up with an ability or two. I can do my two-per-day limit in about 20 minutes or so, and – as it turns out – they’re not scary, or even really difficult. This has gotten me all the gear for my base T1 set, and I’ve (mostly) figured out honing and gear transfer, and while I realize I’m probably supposed to be more concerned with getting the right secondary stats, I’ve been mostly just using the pieces that seem to have a higher quality indicator.

… I know, I’m clearly still not getting it.

I’ve done a couple of Chaos Gates (which are absolutely not the same thing as Chaos Dungeons, obviously), which I think you can do once per day. The biggest benefit I’ve seen from these seems to be that there’s a gold auction at the end, and everyone who participated in the event gets a cut of the gold spent in the auction. I have no idea if I’m performing well, or even passably, in this content, because it’s so damn hectic, and I don’t really foresee a time when I’m going to have enough gold in my own wallet to even think about bidding myself.

Although I appreciate the construction that pretty much never leaves you without something you can be working towards, even if you play far more every day than I do, I’m almost always overwhelmed. Everything feels so very incremental, which hey, that’s not a problem, but doing tiny bits of work on 50 systems just doesn’t feel as satisfying as knocking out a pretty solid chuck on any single one.

There are also too many types of currency in my opinion, although I do prefer that to a whole bunch of currency-like items clogging up my inventory. I still don’t even understand what some of them are for, and some I have only figured out when I was unable to progress something that I thought was totally unrelated. I was stuck for a few days attempting to level up my stronghold since I couldn’t figure out where to obtain pirate coins in any significant number. Then, I stumbled upon a guide quest that awarded several thousand, so I should be set to keep doing research and sending out dispatches, at least for a bit.

Despite all of this, I still find myself wanting to log in every day, and each day, I make an effort to try out something new. Nothing so radical as, say, actually playing with other people in content where coordination matters, mind you, but … just a little something different. I don’t see myself in a raid, or even in a guild, anytime soon, and I’ll probably run into a brick wall because of it at some point. There are still ostensibly important systems I’m completely ignoring because I cannot figure out how to make them work. My storage is full of chests that I haven’t opened because I don’t know what I’m supposed to choose from the items inside.

I may not know where I’m going still, but I intend to keep muddling along until I figure it our or I hit a dead end.

For FOMOs Sake: Dabbling in Lost Ark

I don’t know that I’ve ever gotten much out of a traditional MMO that was designed as a free-to-play experience, so my expectations for Lost Ark were pretty low. In fact, I hadn’t really given much though to even trying it out, but watching my fellow bloggers and my Twitter feed get excited for it, I figured I could at least install it. I probably wouldn’t get past the character creator. I definitely wouldn’t get past the whole “new player experience” section. I just couldn’t see myself getting invested in a Korean free-to-play MMO – I don’t love the aesthetic, and I’m not great at ARPG style combat, and besides, none of the folks I normally game with showed much interest.

So I decided to just poke at it a little, to satisfy my curiosity and confirm that it is Not For Me.

Well, thirteen hours later, my character is just past level 30, and I think I’m hooked.

I still don’t care too much for the character aesthetic – my kingdom for a pair of actual pants – but the rest of the game is gorgeous. I also still really don’t get it. I am doing just fine with my typical pattern of push buttons and things die, and I am guessing that is working primarily because leveling content in MMOs is basically the game’s easy mode. I love that the game isn’t forcing me to group with strangers to proceed through the quest lines, and there hasn’t been anything yet that I cannot just do on my own.

Playing on US servers, I have not run into a single login queue, and starting after the head start period expired, I’ve only had minor issues with character naming, although I feel like region-wide name exclusivity was certainly a choice they made. In fact, the things I’ve seen most people complain about (gender-locked classes, a completely on-rails leveling experience, and an uncompelling main story line) don’t bother me overly much. Obviously, this is all in “your mileage may vary” territory.

Where Lost Ark almost lost me is in the glut of systems that need figuring out at some point. For now, I put on a new gear when a little arrow shows up in my inventory indicating an upgrade. I interact with stuff that shows up near where I happen to be, and have managed to gather a handful of collectibles that way. I was easily 10 levels in before I realized I had skill points I should be spending (and alternate skills unlocking). There are a million menus, and I’m perfectly ok with just ignoring most of them until I can’t ignore them anymore.

I do think that, despite a not overly interesting main story line, that Lost Ark does have some pretty compelling zone stories. Not so much in quest design – those are very much in the go here, talk to this guy, kill some beasties, rinse repeat. But the reasons for doing the quests, mostly the cutscenes and instanced areas are holding my attention. I don’t find myself wishing that grinding was a viable leveling path. I’m content to ride the monorail until the solo-friendly content runs out, and then see if what, if any, of the other MMO side content appeals to me.