Ever since the launch of Wrath of the Lich King, and it’s Death Knight hero class, players have been begging for one thing: let all characters start at 55. At the time the cap was 80, and people said the first 60 levels were boring and no fun at all. Blizzard has done a lot to try to make things go smoothly for the average player. They have added Heirlooms, they have added xp bonuses, a better leveling experience, and more in an effort to hold onto the early 1-60 leveling process.
The old world is dead. The Cross Realm Zones feature that came in Mists of Pandaria is all the proof you need of this. The Cataclysm expansion tried valiantly to revitalize this 1-60 content, but the Mists expansion has dissuaded a good number of people from leveling any alts, so a number of folks have still not even rolled a Monk due to the valid concerns that they won’t have time to play more than one single main character. Why bother leveling many characters up to Mists content when hitting 90 on your first character just opens up a world of pain trying to get geared for the end game content? It really doesn’t seem to matter. You will need to spend time either through dungeon and scenario runs, or through endless dailies.
Therefore, there is a valid thought process that if we had all characters start at 55, and with the spells we now get at 55, players would start out more powerful than they do now. If Blizzard crafted starting experiences based on race or class, we could level to 58 or 60 through specially and carefully crafted stories and head right into Outlands. Once we leave, we could head right to Outlands, and avoid the time warp of traveling into the past and start out with the act of chasing, then killing, Illidan.
While there are some compelling arguments in favor of wiping out the 1-55 experience, in favor of a more streamlined process, there are some even greater reasons against the proposed suggestion. No good ‘one person debate’ would be worth it’s salt if both sides were not examined, so let me ponder the reasons against starting every new character at 55. First, Blizzard put years into designing, and even more time revamping the vanilla content for the players, and I doubt they would be willing to throw that away easily. There is a lot of area and content that would be tossed aside, rarely ever experienced by players, if they got rid of the leveling content. Why bother going to the Crystal Lake in Elwynn, the regrown area near Wailing Caverns, the now flooded Thousand Needles, or other areas, when you aren’t there for questing?
Sure some explorers will be there for the exploration factor, but you don’t put years of work and resources into something and then scrap it a few years later. There is also the consideration of player experience. Players now use those 60 levels to learn their class and become adept at playing their class. If you take that out, we will have 60s, 70s, 80s, and so on who are far less knowledgeable about the class they are playing, which will make the leveling process hard, especially for new players, even with all the ease in leveling that has been done over the years.
Lastly, the story that has been carefully crafted needs to be considered, because there are events in all expansions that really do rely heavily on the buy in that happens in the vanilla game of WoW. Players will become less connected, less enthralled by the story and experience of WoW when they start at level 55. They won’t have anything invested in those stories when they come up on the Cataclysm content. They won’t have any care for the cities of Stormwind or Orgrimmar when the undead come for them in Wrath. They also will not have the interest in the Dark Portal unless they played the earlier games, because the world they are trying to protect by going through the portal will mean less to them.
In the end, the decision seems pretty clear for Blizzard. While there are compelling arguments on both sides, the end result is that there has been too much time and energy, not to mention money and resources put into that 1-60 content. Blizzard is unlikely to throw away that content, be it art, story, or design. The players might think it would be beneficial, but I don’t think anyone wants to join a dungeon at 60 with someone who has a couple hours invested in their character, and doesn’t even know the benefits of one spell or stat over the other. I know some might think this is a good idea, I do not think Blizzard is likely ever to do it.
Thank you to Rioriel of Postcards from Azeroth for the use of the header image.