Knifey Reaches 50

Knifey the rogue hit the 50 mark recently, and it really doesn't seem like it took long at all. Well, okay, it was two months ago that he got his pony at 40, but having to spend a month without being able to play can really put a flat-spot in the levelling process. When Knifey is gnome about the wilderness in Azeroth he advances quickly.

I encountered the mid-level drudgery that used to be wandering the jungles of Stranglethorn Vale and, apart from gaining Stormwind reputation in Kurzon's camp, I avoided pretty much all of that once-dreaded area. I eschewed the barely-disguised grind of Nessingwary's culling quests, and only ventured out of Booty Bay to kill pirates with friends. Who can say 'no' to that? Instead, I headed to the newly-landscaped Dustwallow Marsh. The goblins had done a lot of work and had even helped out Tabetha, making paths to her cottage and even signposting the way. No more guessing where her place is and having to avoid huge crocolisks to get there. Maybe she doesn't quite have the hermit status any more, but on the positive side she has a couple of acolytes to help her out.

The new Dustwallow Marsh quests at Mudsprocket aren't exactly shaped from a different mould, but they are new and in a different zone and so are more interesting to complete than killing 10 rats. Sorry, 'panthers'. The quests in Theramore Isle itself are fairly interesting, culminating in killing a huge marine beast with big cannons. It's on a scale that looks important and involving, even changing the weather when the quest starts.

After the mid-level lull there is a refreshing change of pace. There are the usual quests to complete in Tanaris, either in Gadgetzan or Steamwheedle Port, which aren't that much better than Stranglethorn Vale, and Searing Gorge is starting to become available too. But the joy of levelling is found with even a single visit to an instance. Running through Zul'Farrak with a few quests will get you over a level quickly enough, and combined with a handful of quickly-completed quests in the wild gets you ahead pretty fast. Zooming through Searing Gorge with the quest density there gets the levels flowing too. Soon enough you find that Felwood, Azshara, Western Plaguelands and even Burning Steppes are calling to you. When not too long ago you wondered if there was anything outside of Stranglethorn Vale and now the world opens up completely.

Fifty comes quickly, and with it dozens of new quests. Because the quest XP is increased significantly the amount of time spent in one zone is reduced and it is possible to spend only a short time in each area before moving on. This lets a character linger in his favourite places, or move on quickly from the less desirable areas. The only problem is that if you enjoy two areas of similar difficulty playing in one will likely out-level you from the other, such is the speed of the level gain. That's not to say you won't be able to go and quest in both areas, but the feeling of progression will be lost on picking up low-level quests and getting quest rewards that are already useless. I think the opportunity to explore the world and see new sights with regularity is a fair trade-off for this, though.

One big difference with the fast levelling is the rate of loss of rested experience. It once was that a full rested XP bar would be difficult to consume for the average player, who could not spend as much time in-game as out, leading to a character getting double experience for kills from level 40 or so right through to the old level cap of 60. But no more. Even with large chunks of experience handed out for quest completion, which doesn't eat in to the rested XP, the extra experience given for mobs pushes that experience bar out so quickly that even with a full week's rested XP at one's disposal it can run out within a session or two. Of course, with a week's rested XP equally a level-and-a-half of double experience gain, that highlights how quickly a level or two can be gained in-game.

If more proof is needed that levelling is mighty quick, for anyone who hasn't levelled an alt recently, in the time between reaching 50 and sitting down to write this, Knifey had a quick trip in to the Sunken Temple and, between getting the quest chains and completing the quests in there, is now 54! The level progression is quite dizzying in its speed. It won't be long before the Dark Portal calls me.

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