The beginning of the end

15th April 2009 – 10.34 am

Just as my death knight reaches 80th level I feel compelled to push my warrior to the current level cap in World of Warcraft. Being over half-way through 79th level it shouldn't take too long to complete the levelling adventure, even if it has been five months since the Wrath of the Lich King expansion was released. I head out to the Storm Peaks to continue my questing with the Sons of Hodir, where I ride tediously slow hunting bears, hurl boulders at giants and leap across dragon mounts to fight what seems like a mile above the ground.

My questing brings me close to reaching the final level, but it is the offer of a trip to the Culling of Stratholme, the daily instance quest, that will surely complete the effort. Going back to before Stratholme was burnt is an amazing experience but, unfortunately, just as reaching 80th level on my death knight was anticlimactic—as I was fighting multiple mobs at the time and honestly didn't notice gaining the level, and no one from my guild was on-line to notice—so it was too with my warrior. I hit 80th level in the instance and no one in the group, apart from the accompanying guild member, pays it any attention. Moreover, shortly afterwards the hunter in the party is quite rude to me, to the point where he is making the game more of a chore than an amusement, so I quit the group and log out. But at least I made it to 80th level.

Now that both my characters are 80th level I am left with a curious question of what to do next. There doesn't seem much point in doing quests for the sake of doing quests, as I won't be gaining XP from them. I am in a small guild that runs maybe one instance a week, and relying on PuGs for 80th level group content seems rather masochistic given recent experiences. There is always the battle for Lake Wintergrasp, but that happens once every three hours or so, and the PvP battlegrounds occur only sporadically. This leaves me with grinding for reputation and working on achievements. Playing for reputation and achievements doesn't sound particularly appealing, until I realise that is effectively what I have been doing for the past handful of levels anyway.

The actual levelling process has been an effect of playing the game, not my motivation. I have had short-term goals, though. There have been annoying restrictions on content throughout my Northrend adventuring, which I have pushed passed. I reached 74th level so that I could enter Dalaran, 76th level to 'unlock' Sholazar Basin and Zul'Drak—too late to be useful—77th to enable the use of flying mounts in Northrend, 78th so that I could pick up the daily quests for Wintergrasp, and 80th finally to use the best crafted gear and PvP rewards available. But I only wanted to reach these levels because they were artificial restrictions on the game content, I was happy to enjoy the regions and quests on their own otherwise.

I also took time to get some achievements, most recently Ambassador of the Alliance for Sapphire, as well as visiting instances missed on my way to Outlands and Northrend, both for Sapphire and Gnomesblight. These excursions offered little, if anything, in the way of XP and tangible rewards but they held personal interest to me. And there are other achievements that I was interested in getting, like exploring every region of every continent, but purposely delayed them whilst I wasn't 80th level, because there seemed to be more meaningful objectives to complete whilst it was possible to gain XP. Now that I am 80th level I should be able to revisit these achievements, like World Explorer, Loremaster, and Well Read, knowing that I am working towards a set goal and am not distracting myself from anything more relevant.

Effectively, nothing has changed about the way I play the game, the only difference is that I am no longer gaining XP or have any new levels to reach. It's still funny how reaching an arbitrary limit that I wasn't particularly aiming for has had such a halting effect on me, though.

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