Monday, November 24, 2008
Hit 80 Thursday night. So it took about 1 week, with leaving work early on release day and taking Friday off. I was lucky in that I could spend time with my girlfriend and play WoW (and she's even more into it than I am! She dinged a day before I did...) at the same time, effectively allowing me to spend a lot more time playing without neglecting her. I really feel bad for those who are hitting 80 this weekend by themselves; they must either have no jobs or a seriously neglected group of family and friends.
Since dinging, I've had an opportunity to really dig into the non-raid meat of the endgame: level 80 dungeons, heroic dungeons, and daily quests.
The level 80 dungeons drop loot that requires level 78 to equip. They are quite easy, as a group without Sunwell gear could AoE down all of them without anyone in the group even being 80 yet. I imagine totally new characters in greens will still find these places easy at 80. There's really no Shattered Halls or Shadow Labyrinth in this expansion. Back in the day, those instances were such a jump in difficulty that no one would even attempt them without exactly the right group makeup and good gear.
Some small degree of challenge finally comes from Heroics. That's not to say that you can't take a group in decent gear (mostly blues from the regular dungeons, rep, quests, and crafting) and AoE many of them down. But you'll finally start to wipe if you make mistakes, and start using the occasional sheep, sap, hex, or freezing trap on the harder pulls. I have yet to see what I expect to be some of the harder heroics, such as Halls of Lightning and the Oculus. They may require more serious crowd control. Nonetheless, groups in even Naxx10 gear will probably be AoE mopping these places up for badges in no time (which is a nice change from when the entry-level raid was a faster and easier source of heroic badges).
From what I hear, Naxx will be more in line with TBCs heroics than with Karazhan. It is already being pugged on my server, which has a pretty low level of progression. Serious servers apparently already consider that place "old news". Whatever, I'm excited to see it and try it with my guild once more people reach 80 and gear out.
As for the dailies, Blizz took what was once an unnatural surgical addition (I likened it to stitching another arm onto the game), and integrated it into the new endgame from the ground up. Instead of feeling tacked-on, there are now dailies in multiple locations throughout each zone. All factions, including those you can "champion" in order to get rep from dungeons, have multiple repeatable dailies you can do for reputation. This alone, is a huge boon, and the single biggest improvement to the faction system: you no longer have to run a certain dungeon over and over to rep up. You can now do it solo via dailies, or rep up super-fast by combining dailies with dungeon rep runs.
There are even a smattering of non-faction dailies. These mostly provide money, but also other incentives. For instance, a daily quest in Storm Peaks rewards the player with some cash and a bag of spoils. 99.9% of the time, this bag will have a small amount of money and vendorable water in it. But every once in a while, the bag will have a POLAR BEAR MOUNT in it. A worthwhile daily for the lucky or mount-obsessed, I guess. Sadly, I will probably be doing it when I can, for that shot at the mount.
Regular dungeon runs give about 5 rep per mob and 50 per boss, for about 1000 rep per run. Heroics triple that, so running heroics will rep you up very quickly. It's still worth it to do the regular dungeon daily quest, however, because it rewards an extra 250 to the faction of your choice, plus 75 Kirin Tor rep.
All in all, the early endgame has improved immensely as far as I can tell. It remains to be seen how difficult it will get.