My beta hunter hit 100 on the leveling server in 36 hours /played. Do not let the large number of hours played fool you. It is actually a lot faster than that. Once you take out all the countless hours I spent trying to complete quests that were bugged but I could not complete them and all those "beta being beta" disconnects that not only disconnected you but sent you back to stormwind when doing so requiring me to travel back and all those bug reports filled out I would say half that, maybe 18 hours would be a more accurate number.
I believe that number can also be cut down a bit if you move from zone to zone as soon as you are able to. I did complete zones in an effort to test, hey that is why I am there. In a way it turned out to be a good idea. I never stepped foot in the last zone, Nagrand, and even if I had I would have not been able to get anywhere because the lead in quest for the alliance is broken so you can not even start the main story line questing in Nagrand.
So what did I think about leveling? Read if you wish to know about leveling because that is what this post will be all about. There will be absolutely no spoilers so feel free to read if you are trying to avoid information because I will supply none, except for how the leveling felt.
I'll start off with my favorite part of leveling in warlords and my least favorite part of leveling in warlords.
Favorite Part of Leveling:
I raided heroic siege last night on the live server and was in exactly the same gear as I am currently wearing on the beta at level 100. I must say I really did love being able to quest and not feeling as if the first quest reward green I came along replaced my gear. It was like that in each of the previous expansions. If it was not the first quest you started replacing your raid gear it was shortly after, maybe by the second zone. Even heroic gear did not have a long life when the new expansion came out in previous expansions. I loved, loved, loved and can not express how much I loved being able to use my raid gear all the way to 100.
This time around I was in nearly all normal gear, a few warforged normal pieces, and one heroic piece and I did not need to replace any of them. I probably could have replaced my AoC trinket around level 96 because AoC was not as big for me any longer as some of the abilities it shortened a survival hunter no longer had, and that was what I was leveling as. I had gotten 2 trinkets with multistrike late on in questing either would have been a decent replacement but as I got close I wanted to see if I could get all the way with what I had, and I did.
Also, just as a side note as a level 100, even in my current raid gear at level 100 I was able to do the level 100 dailies with little to no problem at all. So it sure as hell felt nice to have my gear be worth something for once when a new expansion came out.
I must note I did not do the last leveling zone of Nagrand. I am sure if I had then I would have gotten a few pieces that could have replaced my normal siege gear. Even more so if I got lucky with a rare upgrade or an epic upgrade from a quest reward, which I saw a few of while leveling.
Either way, lasting as long as it did, I loved the leveling feeling. It made raiding feel like it was less of a waste late in the expansion because that gear was still useful. So if you are burnt out on raiding, think of it as gearing up for the leveling process. I would guess someone fully heroic geared and upgraded could very well not replace anything even if they do Nagrand.
The fact I could just quest and do so in the gear I had worked so hard for instead of replacing it with quest greens was the best part of leveling for me. A+ work on that one blizzard.
Least Favorite Part of Leveling:
Professions. I really could leave it at that one word. Professions are in a word, horrible, in warlords. From how you learn them, with random drops, to how you level them, to what you need to use to make stuff. Professions are beyond horrible right now and are something that if you were a solo player that does not want to shop for materials via the auction house means you will be required to either have alts or be active in your garrison to get the other materials you need.
Things like alchemy needing fish, meat, and ore for potions but not needing herbs is stupid. Sorry I could not find a more politically correct term for it because there is none. It is just flat out stupid.
Learning your professions will be luck based to begin with as well. You can not go to a trainer and train them, you need to find random world drops to learn them. Don't get me wrong, the drops do drop fast enough. I had most of mine within the first hour questing, but I still think it is a horrible idea.
I include this with my leveling review because I level my professions as I level my characters, always have. I consider professions part of leveling. I also consider them the worst part of leveling in warlords. Professions are probably in the worst place they have ever been in the history of the game in my opinion.
I am not looking forward to the nightmare of archaeology with no flight. But I guess that is not so much of a problem being I still have not found the damn book that will allow me to get to level 700. Yeap, all the way to 100 and some and I still have not learned it (I am sure they will increase the drop rate on that book, because they have to). Yeah, professions suck this time around and are the worst part of leveling this expansion.
The Flow and Feel:
Now to the flow and feel of leveling and it is quite good and somewhat bad at the same time. The main story line runs from hub to hub as we have become used to in these types of game, even more so warcraft because they have been refining it and making it better with each expansion, or at least attempting to.
You will get to a quest hub and "need" a lead in quest. That fits part of what I call somewhat bad but it is understandable because they want to keep you on task, so to speak, following the story. When you turn in the lead in quest they will give you anywhere from 3 to 5 quests that are all nicely grouped together which means no running all over the world for the objectives of those 3-5 quests because you can get everything for them in the same area. I like this and think it is a fantastic time saver.
What I do not like is that they seemed to all but abandon the pop up turn in quests that had become popular. There are a few, sure, but not as many as their could be. There are many quests that send you somewhere, you come back to turn it in and they send you right back where you were. I thought blizzard had grown out of that. Really loved the new style of if where if there was a direct continuation that the quest turn in would pop up and the follow up would be given to you without having to go all the way back. But oh well, it seems in many cases they no longer do that. The sting however is nothing major. As I mentioned all the story quest hubs seem to give you nicely grouped quests in the immediate area. So it is not like the old world quests before the redesign that would send you half way across the world and when you came back they would send you back there again. Nothing like that at all here.
The extremely small maps also make for a much more enjoyable questing experience because getting from place to place is so much easier on a smaller map. So easy that most of the time you are better running around on your ground mount than getting on a flight path because being on a ground mount is faster. And no, I am not kidding. I actually timed it running back to the same place after they had some "beta being beta" issues that kept putting me back in stormwind. It is faster to run, even to different zones, than to take a flight path sometimes. And that is great for questing but also says they need to work on flight paths a hell of a lot if even a ground mount is faster than them.
So as I said, the story flows nicely but what about non story quest content? There is a fair deal of that. Mini quest hubs you will come across while adventuring, ones you do not need a lead in quest to do. Like I can not do the Nagrand storyline because it is broken but I have found 2 quest hubs, nice sized ones, so far. Each zone is like this. They have quest hubs that are not story bound that can offer you a fair amount of experience.
So follow the story line or ditch it and look for some of the non story bound quest lines, you have a choice, but that is not the only choice while leveling, there are other things to do that will all give you experience.
Of course there are the old standards like exploring and newer additions like gathering, if you have a gathering profession, to get some experience, but it seems they took the timeless island and went a little, make that a lot, overboard with it in warlords.
There are things you can pick up on the ground that offer experience while opening them. I've gotten junk from them, gear from them, archaeology fragments from them, gold from them. They are all over the place and oddly enough even with the new highlighting feature on, they are still extremely easy top miss. You actually have to pay attention to find them. Those lucky dwarves that have treasure finding.
There are rares all over the place. You can not move 10 feet without tripping over one on your mini map and it is easy to be distracted by them. Killing them will usually net you some sort of goodie like a toy, and most of those toys do not go in the toy boy for some odd reasons so say goodbye to bag space again, a piece of gear, a useful item, or a silly item. Oh, and they also give you experience, which is what leveling is all about right? From what I have seen the experience they offer is nothing staggering but still not bad at all even if well below what you would expect for the time it might take to kill some of them if you are solo.
I will make a note that the vast majority of the rares you see while leveling are always up. So if you miss one just hang out there for 2 minutes and it will be back. No, I am not kidding. We do need to find a different name for these however, because they are not rare at all and there are actually rares out there. Don't want to get them confused. I'll just call them silver dragons named after the border they use and the addon made to find them.
These silver dragons are only special mobs to you once. So don't think you are just going to camp one and kill it over and over for experience. Does not work that way. Once you kill it the next time you see it the mob will not have the silver dragon border and will not give you anything special, item or experience wise. There is no reason, at least none that I have found yet, to kill these things twice. Kill it once and move along.
There are other things you can do while leveling also. There are events like the ship one and the brew one on the island. A bug there you need to kill a bunch of her insects so she gets angry with you and flies down to try and kill you, but you kill her instead, or at least that is the idea. There is a hidden egg in a cave that if you happen to get there during event time for it you can click the egg and then have to fight off mommy hydra. After you defeat mommy hydra you can loot the egg which will give you your very own baby hydra battle pet. Thing like that. Again, not the greatest of ways to gain experience, but still a way to get some, and some goodies too. I like my baby hydra pet.
Then, last but not least, there are event quests, or at least that is what I am going to call them. They are marked on your map by huge swords crossing, not like the thin silver ones that show events like the ones on the timeless island and the hyrda one I just mentioned. This one is much larger and much more colorful and has a lot of killing involved with it.
When you get to where one of these are on your map you are automatically given the quest. It tells you what your objective is. Usually something like kill this many peons, kill this many warriors, kill these two big baddies, and collect these four things. Basically it is like you are doing 3 to 5 quests, same as a quest hub, at the same time without actually picking up the quests or needing to turn them in.
Not exactly sure why blizzard considers this ground breaking because it is not but it does add a little something to the game none the less. You do not need to find a quest, you can just find the huge arrows on the map which are impossible to miss and go there and be given the quest event. Like I said, it is like you just went to a hub and picked up all the quests. When done however, it auto completes just the same way it auto accepted itself and throws you some gold and some experience.
There are a few cool things about these event quests that I think might be something a few people like. When you leave the zone the quest is in it disappears from your quest bar. However, when you go back to that area, even much later, the quest pops back up with the exact quest progression you were up to. Meaning you do not need to do it all at once. Even getting distracted and going somewhere else, say to kill a rare, will not mess you up. Oh, and they also offer reputation and we all love reputation right?
So when I am guessing leveling would be half of the 36 hours it took me and be closer to 18 hours for me I believe that to be a fair guess. Between the standard quest story line hubs, your random quest hubs, your silver dragon mobs, your rare mobs (yes there are some of those too), your events, your quest events and the exploration and gathering factor, there are many ways to get some experience while leveling, so much so that I think you can stumble your way to 100 even if you just run around killing things and doing anything that you come across. So even questing mindlessly you can still level. You do not need to follow the main story.
I would suggest however not to just avoid quests even if you do not like questing. There is a lot to get from them besides story and I am not just saying that as someone that likes to quest. There are quest line rewards that give you books you can trade in to upgrade garrison buildings which in turn can save you gold. Either spend 1000 gold to buy the plan or trade in the book you got from questing to get the plan. Something like that. And you can get followers from doing questing as well not to mention the reputation doing quests offer. That is always a plus.
So even if you are like me and wearing SoO or better gear where you will not need anything quests drop all the way to 100 I would say it is still worth questing. But hey, if you really hate it, there are enough events and silver dragon mobs to move you along some.
Over all blizzard did not reinvent the wheel here because it did not need to be reinvented. The tried and ture questing system works because it works, there really is no need to change it. But by adding some things, even as simple as events and silver dragon mobs, they did add a little spice to it. The event quest things really do not tickle my fancy, not sure why they did not just give you a quest to do those 3-5 quests instead of popping them up as an event, but oh well, whatever floats their boat I guess.
I would say the flow and feel of leveling in warlords is good over all but when comparing it to previous expansions I would say this expansion finishes second to last on the list of which I enjoyed most with only cataclysm and their disconnected zones being a worse leveling experience. Even with all the spice they added to it the story was still lacking, the questing was still tired, and the "fun" parts were few and far between. However there were a couple of vehicle quests that were fun, not even close to as fun as running over all the gnomes in uldum, but not all that bad either and something you will actually enjoy doing.
I don't see myself having as many 100s as I have 90s this time around however because the questing just doesn't do it for me here. Maybe it will grow on me as I get a few characters up and develop my route to level like I always do, but only time will tell for that. As much as I like questing, this was the first time I actually felt like I just wanted it to be done already. I blame that in part on garrisons. I kept wanting to go back to my garrison to send my followers out on new missions every time they finished one. I kept wanting to spend time there instead of out in the world questing. Bodes well for garrisons? Maybe. Bodes bad for questing? Definitely.
So that is my take on leveling. It had a good flow, moved nicely but the story was lacking and I really did not feel the repeatability as I have with questing in other expansions. I would not say that the leveling was bad however, it was definitely good and the added ways to get experience did give it a little more than a direct route feeling. I would give the over all questing a B. It was good and I really can not find much bad about it but there was still room to make it better.
Side note to end it. I did not mention this in the main post because I think it is a beta bug, but I hope it does not go live. Way to many mobs drop nothing. Not even 10 silver. Not a single thing and that greatly hurts the questing experience. Getting loot when you kill something just feels good, even if it is junk. Lets hope blizzard does not let this go live. If it goes live this way I would lower my quest feel and flow rating to a C-, which basically means, barely passing.
Added: Because a few people asked I will explain the gearing if you are not in full SoO gear. For the first time ever blizzard finally designed an expansion correctly.
It is designed that if you are a new player coming through a year from now and hit 90 at a 435 item level you can go straight to warlords and do just fine. The first few quests will give you some solid gear, around the 500 to 522 item level. You will get consistent upgrades, and it is a smooth transition.
No more will you experience things like going from wrath questing with your 138 item level to cata with their 272 item level and massive gear difference. Even if you come from mists with your 430 gear to warlords and the 500 gear, the quests that give the 500 gear are meant to be completed by people in 430 gear. So no worries people, blizzard finally for the first time got an expansion transition right. You can quest from one expansion to the next and never even notice it. This is part of the reason I think questing this expansion is so well designed.