The writing has been on the wall for awhile. Once I finished leveling up & gearing my paladin, I started logging in less and less. For over a month now, I’ve logged in solely to either attend raid, farm materials for raid, or when I had a Flashback Friday event scheduled. I had no interest in leveling any more alts, I certainly didn’t want to run any Mythic Plus dungeons, and there just wasn’t anything pulling me to actually boot the game up.
Shortly after our guild took out Sire Denathrius on normal, I made the decision to step away for a bit to avoid the full-fledged burnout that leads to me not returning until the next expansion, as I’m still looking forward to the new content in 9.1 – I just don’t really feel like I have much to do between now and then.
I’ve already told my guild, and passed off my organizational responsibilities to other folks in leadership positions. My main is passably geared – this past week in raid I replaced my last sub-iLvl 200 piece – and her renown is capped. I should be in good shape to pick back up right around the next major content patch without really feeling like I’ve missed out on much of anything at all.
I’m not 100% sure how this will go – I’ve always been the type to keep myself busy with alts, old content, and cosmetic farming between content patches, but I just wasn’t feeling it this time around. When I’m paying a subscription fee, I feel like I have to play whether I’m enjoying myself or not, so I think this was the best course for me. It is, however, the first time I’ve taken this sort of break with full intent to return within a few months – normally, when I let my sub lapse, I’ve kept on so far past when I was actually enjoying myself, I don’t come back for a year or more.
I have been procrastinating doing any more leveling in World of Warcraft because I am finding plenty to do with four characters at max level, and I just really haven’t been excited about the leveling process. However, after finding myself in a position to need to be a healer for our alt raid, and my only viable choice being my druid, which I’m really not enjoying, I set myself a challenge.
When I sent that tweet, my paladin was just shy of 51, having made the trek through the Maw intro, but otherwise, just hanging out in Oribos waiting for her turn. Since she was also pretty neglected through all of Battle for Azeroth, I enlisted some help from my husband to get her into some Shadowlands starting crafted gear, turned on Threads of Fate, and made my way out into the Shadowlands to melee DPS my way through a bunch of quests and bonus objectives.
Now, I played a lot that day, and for the next two, but I managed to hit 60 with her on Friday night, at which point I ran a solo-raid on the auction house for some crafted blues, and got ready to start the Covenant Campaign quest line slog and do a truly excessive amount of world quests.
I took Saturday off from the project, due to the aforementioned alt raid and just really needing a break. But now, one week later, I feel like I’m in pretty good shape.
I haven’t done much at all in the way of dungeons, but I’ve managed to heal my way through four Layer 8 Torghasts, and have a 210 legendary for my holy spec to show for that work. My convenant renown is at 18, which means a lot of catch up happened, but I’m holding onto my weekly renown quests until after I go on a mythic world tour later this week. My hope is that I’ll end up with enough renown to max out my covenant gear in any slots I don’t fill out doing Mythic Zeros and LFR. The one place I’m feeling really behind is in Conduits, but I’m optimistic that plowing through a whole bunch of dungeons will help with that as well.
Now, to be fair, for most folks, I do not recommend doing what I just did. It was definitely more hours tied to the game than I like to dedicate outside of the first week of a new expansion. That said, I was honestly surprised how fast everything is coming together – if someone needed to change mains in a hurry, it’s still a significant effort, but it’s not as bad as it has been in previous expansions. I expect my paladin’s item level will be comparable with my other alts before the next reset, and I’m far more comfortable with the style of healing she offers as compared to the druid.
Of course, this has set back the rest of my plans a bit – I still want to play through at least one more title for #DatingSiMonth, and I’ve been sneaking some late night gaming sessions with my new Nintendo Switch, but I definitely put a hard pause on my other hobbies during this period, including most of the blogosphere and social media time. It was a lot, but man, what a difference a week can make.
Another month gone by, and again, it was dominated by World of Warcraft. That said, I played a bit less than I did in December. I had predicted that my time would likely increase a bit as I spent time on alts and old content, but what I found in actuality was that when I didn’t have firm plans for my play time, I tended to wander off and play something else, or indulge in other hobbies. I’ve completed all four convenant campaign stories on the four characters I leveled initially, and I’m finding that I’m not really feeling a sense of urgency about catching up my other characters. I’m enjoying Shadowlands enough that I’m expecting I’ll keep subbing throughout (unless something changes majorly to detract from the fun I’m having), so I figure I have at least another 18 months to level alts. No reason at all to rush.
I manage to complete threedifferentgames during #PuzzleGameMonth for the Community Game-Along, although I did go completely off-script from what I had planned. I did try out Outer Wilds, but the combination of feeling like I just wasn’t getting the concept and the fact that I’m a goddamn awful spaceship pirate left me looking for something else, although I do expect I’ll revisit it at some point in the future.
I also added a couple of new games to the library which were impulse purchases, but in a surprising turn of events, they were impulse purchases which I proceeded to install and play!
The last time I had peeked at Amazing Cultivation Simulator, English wasn’t a supported language, and despite the fact that the game otherwise looked right up my alley, I figured not being able to read any of the text was going to be a deal-breaker. However, when the game launched version 1.0 last November, it came with English language support, so when I spotted it on sale, I knew I wanted to pick it up. Sure, I don’t need another massive time suck colony management game (especially since I haven’t even looked at Rimworld in around two years), but I just found the whole concept and art style so appealing. So far, I’ve only spent about half an hour with it, slowly making my way through its robust series of tutorials, but I imagine at some point in the not-so-distant future, this game will take a good chunk out of my gaming time.
My other impulse pick-up was Hardspace: Shipbreaker, which has fantastic reviews, despite still being in Early Access. I’d been keeping an eye out for a new low-commitment chill game, and breaking down derilict space ships to pay off massive amounts of crushing debt is actually fitting the bill. I am taking advantage of the easy mode while I get comfortable with the 3D movement and figuring out how everything fits together, but not being limited by shift length and oxygen drain really does make this game almost meditative. It’s something I will definitely poke at here and there until the release of the first chapter of story mode coming in the next major update, at which time I’ll likely shelve it until full release.
It’s been quite a while at this point since I was investing so much of my time into a single game over a period of months – even when I was playing ESO regularly, I wasn’t dedicating half this much raw play time. It has definitely made an impact on how much other stuff I’ve had time to play around with, but really, it mostly has gotten rid of the hours I was spending trying to figure out what I wanted to be doing.
I won’t lie – pandemic life has gotten really old, even for someone who is as introverted as I am, and mostly happy to stay home. Mostly, I feel like I’ve missed having a schedule, and MMO-life has brought a little bit of that back with scheduled guild events and weekly chore lists. It’s comforting having something that manages to be both new and familiar all at once.
I feel like most of the major pros and cons of the different convenants have been discussed to death, but I haven’t seen much talk about the Anima Conductors overall, and the treasures unlocked by the first level anima conductor in particular. Sure, even a terrible treasure is still treasure, but after having done all four covenant’s treasures many times, I’m prepared to rank them, from worst to best.
Number Four – Necrolords
As far as Anima Conductor treasures are concerned, Necrolords comes in dead last – and it’s not even close. The treasure is located in the House of the Chosen, which is full of hostile mobs. However, just getting there isn’t enough – it’s a Runebound Chest, so you have to clear all around it so you can deactivate the three runes before you can open it. This is the one treasure I don’t bother with most days – it takes far more time than it’s worth.
Number Three – Kyrian
This one is pretty awful as well, but the most awful part (having to fight your way through a mob-dense area to get there) is made better once you unlock the second tier of your Transport Network, which provides a portal exactly where you need to be. However, like all things Kyrian, you need to prove your worth by ringing a bell, which will silence you and slow your movement speed, and then maneuvering through moving patches of bad on the floor. Touching that blue ick will bring you back to the beginning and stun you for a second, so this can get frustrating. The debuff lasts for two minutes, which is plenty of time to get to the treasure itself, but limits you from just changing your mind and leaving. I quickly learned that if I ring the bell in ghost wolf, I get to stay that way, so the movement debuff is less noticable, but overall, the Kyrian treasure is pretty irritating.
Number Two – Night Fae
The Night Fae treasure is a Large Lunarlight Pod, which you may have encountered elsewhere in the zone. This one is right next to the flight path at Glitterfall Basin, and you won’t run into any hostile critters while looking for the Lunarlight Buds you need to light up to unlock it. Sure, it takes a minute or two to find them all, since they’re not always in exactly the same place, but with it being close to a flightpath and in a safe space, the worst you can say is that it’s a little tedious. As an added bonus, once you have the second level of the Queen’s Conservatory, this is a fairly regular source of catalysts, which is a nice bonus.
Number One – Venthyr
There’s a lot of things that are irritating and confounding about Revendreth, but thankfully, the Anima Conductor treasure is as easy as they come. Like the one in Ardenweld, it’s right near a flight path, and there are no hostiles between where you land and where you need to go. Once you click the tombstone, you just need to walk up the ghostly stones to the ghostly treasure chest. You do receive a debuff that doesn’t allow you to mount, and you are on a (very generous) timer, but although this may look like a jumping puzzle, it’s really a pretty simple walk. It also frequently gives almost as much anima as your average world quest, which is a great bonus.
Obviously, the ease of access and quality of Anima Conductor treasures is probably a worse reason to choose a covenant than fashion, but I thought this might help someone decide what to reinforce first on an alt. If you’re Venthyr, the treasure is quick and easy, and if you’re a Necrolord, well, you might be better off going after the rare.
I played World of Warcraft consistently from late Burning Crusade, all the way until about the midpoint of Warlords of Draenor, which is when I took my first extended break. I came back mid-Legion and stuck around through the second major patch in Battle for Azeroth. This latest break ended about one month before the launch of Shadowlands, and despite there being some pretty major flaws in this expansion as well, I personally am enjoying myself in a way I haven’t really since Mists of Pandaria (which was one of my favorite expansions).
However, since late Wrath of the Lich King, there’s been one constant in my World of Warcraft play – my guild. Stands in Bad was founded in 2010 after a bunch of us left our previous raiding guild due to some differences in opinion about guild culture. Although members have come and gone, we have to be doing something right, because there’s more than a handful of us that have been together for the entirety of that ten year period, keeping in touch via Twitter and eventually Discord, even when we weren’t actively playing the game. Stands in Bad has itty bitty spin off guilds in just about every major MMO, because it seems like no matter what we’re playing, we want to be playing it together.
All that was a super long introduction to a conversation that we were having in our Discord the other day about what our individual “end game” goals are in WoW. Although the majority of our guild is populated by people who play somewhat casually, what casual means is very different across the board. Some people have busy lives which leave them very limited play time. Some folks have health issues that limit their ability to play the game at the highest levels. Some folks just don’t want their leisure time consumed by something that feels more like a second job than a game. Our guild works because we’ve all tempered our expectations to match our personal realities, so our progression raid happens for two and a half hours every other week, and we don’t mandate participation in any content that our members don’t enjoy. Our raid requirements don’t actually require a whole lot of effort outside of those 2.5 hours.
I consider myself casual, despite play times that might indicate otherwise, because I don’t feel driven to pursue the most difficult content available. I like to raid, but I don’t like to raid enough to participate in meta-chasing, and I’m content to see the content at a fairly low difficulty to progress through it slowly and with people whose company I am glad to be in.
Early on in the expansion, I found myself joining in to the criticisms on the pace of gear acquisition in Shadowlands. The first month or so, it felt so very painfully slow. Now, I’m not the type to get overly caught up in item level, but when pulling a second overland mob had a 50/50 chance of resulting in my death, I wanted to gear to ameliorate some of that feeing of being painfully underpowered.
However, as I closed in on the end of my covenant campaign, the situation started to feel more manageable. Sure, I’d picked up a handful of upgrades elsewhere, but fully upgraded covenant gear is more than adequate for the needs of most players who do a lot of overland solo content.
After our most recent raid night, my main character is sitting at an item level of 198, but once I found myself in the mid-190s, gear stopped being a high priority for me. Getting gear past what I need to complete the content I’m interested in has never held a lot of allure for me. However, I realize that for a lot of people, increasing their item level, and hunting gear with better stats is their end game.
Quite frankly, I can understand why those people are supremely frustrated with the systems put in place for Shadowlands. The reduction of gear drops in max level content means that people for whom gear is the goal need to put in more hours for less reward, and I can’t imagine that’s a great feeling. Although runeforging and titanforging had their own issues, and I think most people are more relieved than disappointed to be rid of that one infinitely upgradeable item that you wont’ replace all expansion, it’s possible that, for a sizeable segment of WoW-players, the pendulum has swung too far in the other direction.
But for me, it’s a relief. I likely won’t return to LFR this tier on my main, because she has nothing to gain in there. The experience doesn’t translate well to an organized raid, and none of the drops (or associated Great Vault options) are going to be a significant upgrade. I’ll probably continue to run the occasional low-key (in both senses of the term) Mythic plus with my guildmates because I enjoy their company, but not the pressure of pushing keys. I’ll do the world bosses once a week, but more for the anima reward than any potential gear reward. It feels good to be geared enough to complete any content I am interested in for this tier so early on. If upgrades come, I won’t turn them away, but I’m not actively hunting for them anymore, which allows me to focus on the aspects of the game I really enjoy.
Until 9.1, I feel free to pursue the epic chase for achievement points, to farm anima (or not) to continue upgrading my covenant sanctums and play around with the minigames. I can pet battle, and play the auction house, and not feel like I am holding my friends back. I have enough, and now I feel like the real fun can start.
I seriously considered skipping out on this post this month because (with some very minor exceptions), all of my gaming time was spent neck-deep in World of Warcraft. Normally, I’m a dabbler, but I’ve been all in all month long.
If I hadn’t been tracking it, I wouldn’t have believed I spent over two hundred hours with a single game over the course of a month. Of course, there’s no way to differentiate idle time from active playing time, and I do tend to leave WoW running and walk away to do other things.
I guess that means – at least for me – the $40 I dropped on Shadowlands was a good time-for-entertainment investment, even when you tack on a month’s subscription fee. Although I haven’t been making tons of gold, I did just pick up a token, so I should be able to go back to subbing via in-game gold again. Given my guild’s super-casual raid schedule, I’m expecting most of my play time over the next month to be spent leveling up more alts, and maybe spending more time in previous expansions increasing my nerd point total.
Happy New Year, friends. I hope your 2021 is full of all the best nerdery!
… and I would be lying if I said it had been smooth sailing. The first week was pretty great; everything since then has been a tug-of-war between frustration and fascination.
In that time, I’ve leveled three characters to 60, and even managed to get my main reasonably well geared, considering the current state of loot overall. I’ve been in 6 of the 8 release dungeons (which is a lot for me), and even done a very small number of very small Mythic+ keys.
While I’ll admit, I don’t love the decisions in regards to decreasing the amount of loot from various activities, I can say that I absolutely hate the reduction in the number of viable paths to getting geared. Despite not playing for much of BfA, when I was active, I was all in for world quests and emissaries as my primary path to not being a complete dead weight when I poked my head into the raids. In an effort to make world quests and callings (the Shadowlands version of emissary quests) feel less mandatory, they also made the rewards … well, let’s be real. The rewards suck.
As a result, I’m doing more instanced PvP this expansion than I have since Wrath of the Lich King. Honor gear got me over the hump to the minimum item level required for heroic dungeons, and then again over the next hump to where I could queue for LFR. The perk from your covenant that allows you to upgrade your honor gear further is nice, and I even went all out one week and did a few rated battleground in order to complete the weekly PvP quest and get a chance at a piece from the Great Vault. It’s still not my favorite way to spend my game time, but I actually find it less painful than using the LFD tool and doing dungeons.
All in all, at least for me, Shadowlands feels like it’s in a very strange place. There’s a lot to do, but there’s not a lot that’s worth doing, which sometimes can leave me feeling both overwhelmed and bored at the same time. It’s a weird dichotomy. From what I’m seeing around the internet, it seems that most people have found something to be grumpy about, but not grumpy enough to play something else, and I feel exactly the same way most days.
Probably the biggest thorn in my side so far has been the whole legendary acquisition system. While I understand that I don’t have to have a legendary, it is probably the single biggest goal to work towards independently right now. Unfortunately, as someone who mains an elemental shaman, my best memory comes from a boss that won’t be available until this coming Tuesday. I’ve had the Soul Ash for awhile, and figured I’d go an pick up my base piece, which is when I discovered the second really irritating thing about the system.
Tailoring makes armor for three classes, and everyone can loot cloth. Blacksmithing also makes armor for three classes, with necessary materials that are a little more difficult, requiring either a character with mining or purchasing the ores from other players. Leatherworking, however, makes armor for 6 classes, also requiring a second profession to farm up, and so far, seems to require far more (and more difficult to obtain) base materials. As a result, if you don’t make your own base pieces, expect to pay at least twice what a plate wearer pays, and at least four times more than if you needed cloth.
As a result, a good amount of my time this week was spent leveling up a fourth character so I had access to do my own skinning. Using the Threads of Fate system, and moving around to the quests and bonus objectives that require the murder of the most skinnable creatures, it took me until level 57 to obtain enough materials to make the base item for my main characters legendary. If I want my main alt (a druid) to have a legendary for each of her specs, I can expect to need to do that twice more, and that will only get me the lowest item level for each.
It’s not a great time to be a leather or mail wearer. But it’s probably worst for folks who are waiting for the last wing of LFR for their legendary memory! Sire Denathrius won’t be available until February 2.
All my gripes aside – and gripes, I have many – I am enjoying playing Shadowlands more often than not. When I don’t want to do something, I generally just skip it. I will be able to take my main to raid with my guild for the foreseeable future, and I still feel like I have plenty of time left for playing around on other characters, even if they never do anything more intensive than their covenant story campaigns.
I am the first to admit, I probably play World of Warcraft wrong. The gear grind doesn’t excite me, so I’m not constantly chasing more and more difficult experiences. I do enjoy the stories the game tells, but it’s not my primary motivation either.
For me, it’s the fiddly bits of WoW that really do it for me. Professions, pet battles, and achievements are the main things that keep me coming back over and over, and since the introduction of the WoW token and the ability to pay for game time with in game gold, I’ve learned to really appreciate time spent just farming.
With everything I’ve read about Shadowlands, this expansion feels like it was build for the folks who, like me, really enjoy the fiddly bits.
I will admit, I did glance at one of the many guides out there that advise players on how to choose a covenant based on combat abilities and soul binds (which I admit I still don’t *really* get), before deciding that there were far more important considerations for me. Clearly, I want to spread my alts out, to allow access to the greatest amount of silly cosmetic stuff, and with unique armor sets being one of the silly cosmetic things available, I wanted to make sure I took armor class and fashion into account.
Kyrian – The Iron-Willed
While leveling, there was a lot of green text about the cult-like ways of the Kyrian, but I still maintain that they’re just manifesting some serious Capricorn energy. Strong willed determination and discipline rule the day, but I’d be lying if I did say a big part of the allure is the adorable Owlkin stewards. My main pledged herself to the Kyrian, mostly because she’s going to look badass in their transmog set.
Because this is the covenant I’ve chosen on my main, it’s likely where I’ll be spending the most time, and I’m intrigued by Path of Ascenion (the minigame associated with this covenant). I love the aesthetic of the sanctum, and the pets and mounts are pretty compelling too.
Oh, and at least the shaman ability (Vesper Totem) seems pretty damn useful so far, but that’s incidental.
Necrolord – The Ferocious
There is zero doubt in my mind that both my Death Knight and my Demon Hunter would feel right at home hanging in Maldraxxus with the Necrolords. My mage I’m less sure about, but she ended up here more or less by default after figuring out who else belonged where.
This is probably the least appealing covenant to me, overall, but Jiggles, the jellycat is a fantastic looking pet model, and I want to see all the stories and unlock access to the maximum amount of cosmetic rewards I realistically can.
Night Fae – The Harmonious
So far, Ardenweald seems to have it all. Probably the best zone story of Shadowlands, some really beautiful mounts, and some excellent transmog option. I’m super excited to have a garden again via The Queen’s Conservatory, and it just felt thematically right for all three characters who I intend to pledge here.
Also, the Soulshape ability is fantastic, although I’m sort of dreading the time suck of trying to unlock them all. I’m fairly sure I’m going to feel the need to try to unlock them all regardless.
Venthyr – The Haughty
Full disclosure – I kind of hate the Revendreth zone, but there’s a lot that comes with this covenant that I do like. The Door of Shadows signature ability seems like it could be ridiculously useful, and I am intrigued by the Ember Court game.
However, I desperately want the transmog for my Void Elf Warlock, and even if everything else about the entire covenant was unappealing, I’d at least have her pledge solely for fashion.
Obviously, there’s no way I’ll be able to keep up with 12 characters spread across all four covenants long-term, and due to armor class restrictions, I won’t be able to get all the transmogs without creating additional characters. However, I know I do better with a plan than just trying to figure it out as I go along, so this is my Big Picture Covenant plan, in which I make the decision for every class without even really taking into account the class specific abilities for each covenant.
I admit, the single thing that got me most interested in coming back to World of Warcraft for Shadowlands came in the pre-patch – the level squish. I’ve always been a bit of an altoholic; I would have a main for each expansion, but I would always level my shaman, even when I decided to focus on a different class for awhile. Then, during even the smallest content drought, I’d start working on more characters.
I probably had the highest number of max level characters during Cataclysm. Across both factions and three servers, I think I had 9 max level characters. Since then, I’ve never even come close to that again, and in Battle for Azeroth, I managed an all time low of 3 level-capped characters.
With the level squish, I realized I had a great opportunity to remedy that, and – after completely ignoring my active WoW subscription for the better part of a month after leveling my warlock – I decided to see if I could get one character of each class to level 50 before the start of Shadowlands.
I didn’t quite make it, but I got a lot further on the project than I honestly expected to. When Shadowlands went live last night, I had 10 max level characters on my main server, with only my monk and rogue left. I probably could have finished at least the monk, but I spent a bit of time in the pre-patch event on my druid, in order to get my hands on the leather set.
This extra push will make it a lot easier to cover all my bases during Shadowlands, making sure I have access to all the professions, and spreading my characters out between the four covenants for maximum cosmetic rewards. I know my goal was overly ambitious, and I was actually quite pleased that I managed to get as close as I did.
After what feels like waiting an eternity (or longer, it was probably longer) for the pre-Shadowlands patch, it’s now less than a week away. I have World of Warcraft installed on the new PC, complete with the addon folder I remembered to copy over. I am so ready for this.
I still have yet to pre-order Shadowlands, but I have no intention of spending more on it than the base edition, so I don’t have to think about what to do with a boost, because it doesn’t come with one. Besides which, I still have some manner of boost collecting dust, so I’m not really a huge fan of them in the first place.
I decided to pop onto my loading screen and try to make some sense of characters to prioritize my leveling. Please forgive the Inactive tag on most of my characters – I don’t plan on actually resubbing until patch day.
I only have three characters sitting at 120 – which might be the worst I’ve done with leveling in any expansion since Burning Crusade, when I first started playing and had exactly one max level character.
I have pretty much decided to be 100% done with Battle for Azeroth, which means other than cleaning out bags and banks, and possibly dabbling in the pre-expansion event, these ladies are done until after Shadowlands release.
After that is two pairs of characters, currently stuck in their respective expansions, who will be less than 10 levels from cap once the squish drops. I might work on the priest and paladin (two characters who I have had level capped every expansion between Pandaria and Battle for Azeroth), but I’m likely to let the Demon Hunter and Warrior continue to languish.
My warlock will plummet to level 21 post-squish, but she is probably the character who I will dedicate myself to leveling first. I don’t think I’ve had an end-game warlock since Cataclysm, and I’ve missed it (even though I don’t tend to spend much time with DPS only characters).
As evidenced by the fact that three out of four of my rolled but mostly unplayed characters are pure DPS classes. The hunter has the best chance of getting out of lowbie limbo – I have enjoyed playing hunters in the past, but it’s been a long time and a lot of changes, so I’m not going to commit too heavily.
That’s the full roster of characters (bank alt notwithstanding) I have on my main server, and honestly, I can’t even start to think about cross-faction or alternate server characters at this point.
Depending on how quick leveling goes, I would like to commit to having the warlock, paladin, and priest ready to start Shadowlands content. If it’s all super-fast, and I’m still having fun with it, hunter will be next, and then I can hem and haw over the merits of the remaining lowbies versus the almost theres. It will be weird to be playing just about everything except a shaman for a yet undetermined period of time, but since I have played very little in the last 18 months, playing at all is going to feel pretty weird to start out.