Although the hype and glorious content of Patch 3.3 is still to arrive, I’ve started pondering Cataclysm.
What will the leveling process will be like, and what will we need to be successful on release?
Well geared toons will be killing machines
For starters I’ll assume that like me, most folks here have a Death Knight as your main toon, or a toon that you play a lot. This means that even if you’re only in middle range gear you’ll massively over-gear the monsters in the level 80-81 areas in the new game. The starting areas (if history repeats once again) will have mobs around 79-81 and as a well geared DK you’ll find them quick work. This is because those monsters will be tuned for players who are questing though 79 to 81 without the time spent at level 80 getting epic gear, and all the advantages that offers. And unlike last time the Death Knights will be first on the ground next to all the other classes to play thorugh the content.
What I also expect though is the creatures in the “new” zones to be far tougher than the creatures in Northrend. This is for two reasons. Firstly Blizzard wants us to feel like we are stepping up to a changed world. I expect that the mobs will hit harder, have more resistance, and possibly even have smarter AI hanndling them. I hope that we need to engage our brains and kill tactically, rather than just zerg through the content like we could in Hellfire Pen.
Secondly there will only be 5 new levels for characters to advance. That means that each level will be longer, and the jumps in difficulty will be broader across those levels. I’d expect a level 82 mob to be a tough challenge for a well geared 80; and to basically to be borderline impossible for a 78-79. Just like fighting a level 7 when you were level 4, you ‘ll need luck and skill to pul it off. Again ponder the challenge of being a level 79 wearing green ilevel 174-200 gear, vs being a epic geared Champion of Wrath wearing ilevel 260+. It will be a totally difference experience. Some players will not be replacin gear till late in the new leveling process, which is kind of to be expected.
A possible flaw in this theory is if Blizzard include a radical “re-adjustment” when the change the stat balance and itemisation on the gear. It could be that all the gear levels get hashed to far more granular numbers, and that an old ilevel 213 epic is similar in power to a Rare 200, and a better 219. We really don’t know what will happen when all the peripheral stats are squeezed from the items in place of base stats. This could see the difference between the 200s and the 232 items being far less.
Overall I expect anyone in gear of ilevel 213-219 or better to be fine and have no real issues. Like having a set of nice entry level epics when Wrath was released, it made for nice gear to have until your quest rewards let you sell it to a vendor.
So what can you do now?
Prepare now, and plan ahead
Grab plenty of pots, have bandages, and all the other useful leveling items ready. I aim for zero downtime when leveling, and that can mean HP regen food, entry level potions, and even simple bandages can accelerate the time between kills.
It is far too early to be putting together a leveling team, but think about who plays regularly at you time. Come early 2010 when the expac is released (total guess) you’ll want a set of guildies and mates to streamline the leveling. Nothing makes leveling more fun that chatting about how awesome it is on Vent while you all experience it together.
Start building your warchest now
Stockpile the items you think folks will want. Ore, herbs, cloth, everything will be valuable again when all the alts hit the servers. I think most players will roll a Goblin and Worgen at some stage just to see the areas, and that means more that a few will be hitting the AH to grab mats for profession grinding. Remember all the Draeni and Blood Elf toons, and what that did to the price of Tin and Mithril ore? Well expect that to happen again.
Bonus XP will Dissappear
I’d guess that when Cataclysm is patched into our game all the +10% experience gear will have a 1-79 limitation placed on them, as I can’t see Blizzard delberately putting in only 5 levels and then letting us accelerate our way through. I can however see the logic of allowing the existing leveling process before 80 to be sped up. All the new classes that roll a Goblin or Worgen should get full advantage. On that note, perhaps the current items will be a token that is used to purchase the upgrades ones at level 85 a few months after release?
But you’re a scrub, alt DK huh?
If however your Death Knight is not your major character, and is played casually then you’ll have different needs when the expansion hits. Expect the mobs to crush and hurt you if you get even slightly out of your depth.
Quick aside: please keep your DK as your Alt, there are a heck of a lot of DKs already and rolling against 5 others in every bloody 25m raid is a pain.
What will change from last expansion?
Last expansion the Death Knights were slightly behind the curve of leveling. We hit the game at 58 and had some repeat work to do before we saw Northrend at 68. This time we can teleport back to the old world straight away with everyone else, and see what Deathwing has done first hand. I could not help but see some content with an old 70 when Wrath was released, as it was just too darn exciting, and this time the Death Knights will be on the front line straight away.
That said however the Death Knight starting exerience was pure unholy cream. The “starting” gear was very nice, and this made leveling easy. If you are leveling thorugh from a low level toon please expect to die.
Roleplaying will get a minor revival
As an aside I look forward to the huge RP opportunities for my Death Knight – as seeing a world torn apart by flame and destruction is nothing new for a Death Knight, but will be new for the host of old world races. The opportunities abound to listen to them cry, bitch, and moan about what an awful creature Deathwing is. Frankly, it will be nice to see some suffering…
I still contemplate if the Death Knights will be used by as many folks in the next expansion, or if the new class race options will see a revival of options.
Gear might get totally insane
It is possible that through the use of creative drop rates, phasing, and level requirements that monsters and encounters for level 80+ characters might be very hard, and therefore offer upgrades in the order of ilevel 270+. This is because it is possible that the gear reset will be so radical, that granting a green quest reward with stats akin to a lower epic are ok. It gives the less to mid geared toons a slight upgrade, and also would vendor for a small fortune for those who don’t need the item. I would not be surprised to see the vendor price being easily 12-15g.
This will being a raft of bitching from some players, but nothing that we have not turned off trade chat to avoid before.