Sapphire hits 57

30th September 2008 – 7.57 am

A relatively short session in World of Warcraft last night saw my warrior, Sapphire, reach 57th level, putting me just one more level away from having another character running around the Outlands. And it's not just having the Dark Portal open for a character that makes 58th level more of a milestone than 60th now. After all, a warlock's summoning spell or a mage's portal can get a character to the Outlands at any time. What makes reaching 58th level a major event is that the far superior Outlands loot first becomes available at that level.

It only takes a quick trip to the auction house to equip a 58th level character with gear that surpasses all drops or quest rewards, from dungeons or the world, that can be found up to 60th level in Azeroth. Whilst this equipment is needed fairly soon after entering the Outlands it effectively makes a character overpowered in Azeroth, helping you to breeze through any remaining quests or dungeon explorations for even quicker gains of experience. This might tempt you to remain in Azeroth to reap the benefits for longer, but the rewards for even the early quests in Hellfire Peninsula surpass the quality of gear that is available in the auction house.

Staying in Azeroth is also less appealing if you have explored that world for years. Having adventures in the same areas multiple times can become tiring, and we all have favourite places to quest as well as zones we'd prefer to avoid. The faster experience gains ushered in by the 2.4 patch have a splendid side-effect of allowing players the opportunity to pick where they want to quest. Whilst it still isn't entirely feasible to avoid the tedious familiarity of Stranglethorn Vale completely there are enough quests available in most other places that levelling up can now be more of a trip down memory lane than a nightmarish grind.

Having levelled Knifey beyond 60th level and Sapphire rapidly approaching the Outlands I am happy to say that I have entirely avoided entering Un'Goro Crater with either character, and Sapphire only visited Searing Gorge to get the dragonflight moult quest reward. I am not suggesting that there is anything particularly unappealing about either zone, more that a pleasant choice presents itself of where you would like to spend your time, rather than having to complete almost every quest in a zone before being ready to move to a more demanding one.

Even now, Sapphire has a choice of Silithus, Winterspring, Burning Steppes and the Eastern Plaguelands to gain the final few levels, with the same number of zones available for lower-level, easier quests to rush through. My only concern is that the explorer in me feels uncomfortable without a fully revealed map, a goal I was keen to achieve with my first character but has been less fulfilled with later characters. I know a lot of the nooks and crannies that exist in the world, the hidden shacks and caves, obsurced paths and shortcuts, but you wouldn't know it from looking at my current character's maps.

Having incomplete maps is a niggling complaint, one that will diminish significantly once I have left Azeroth for the Outlands. It won't be long now, although having my subscription lapse until the new time card arrives will delay my progress slightly. On the positive side, this allows me more time to be a space cadet in EVE Online, where I can progress my application to join a corporation as well as blow up rats in satisfying explosions.

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