Timewalking was a bit of a point of contention when Blizzard introduced the concept in 6.2. For many, it finally represented a Holy Grail for them as players: being able to complete old Wrath of the Lich King and Burning Crusade dungeons at max level, whilst gear was ‘scaled down’ to make the instances as challenging as they were on initial release. For others however Blizzard had managed to bypass presenting new content by repackaging old five mans as a ‘new’ experience. I’ll admit I had my reservations about the feature when Blizzard launched it, but after the last event? I’m very much a convert. My enthusiasm, I’ll be honest, has very little to do with the content or the ability to step back in time.
I’m here to tell you what a great levelling aid these dungeons will be for anyone wanting to get an alt to 100 before Legion drops.
I was amazed initially at the number of people who automatically assumed that Timewalking was simply a max level pursuit, which says a lot about how this game now tailors its new content to both the new and existing player bases. However, that’s simply not the case. You may only be able to pick up ‘A Frozen Path Through Time’ at L100 from your Garrison, but as long as you’re 71 and above (for Burning Crusade dungeons) or 81 plus (for Wrath dungeons) you can still queue to complete them in the Group Finder. Rather worryingly I heard tales of several low-level players being kicked prejudicially from ‘max level’ groups during the last event, one assumes because of the assumption that person would be some kind of noob. I’d urge anyone who’s been treated like this to report the incident to Blizzard, because scaling gear is the entire point of this exercise. The key for levellers is twofold: boss drops will be awarded at your current level, so the events are a great way of picking up gear to help with the experience from 71 onwards. More importantly however is the one-time drop you’ll get one the last boss of the first five man you complete during each event’s duration. This awards 500 Timewarped Badges, a currency that can be exchanged at two specific vendors in Dalaran and Shattrath during the period the event is active. It’s the range of rewards I’m most interested in, I’ll be honest, and that’s nothing to do with the two exclusive mounts or the Toys for your collection.
I’ll grant you that if you’re at 100, these things will probably be of better value to you than the 675 armour items that the Vendor sells when you are max level. After all, with a bit of work in Tanaan and some Apexis Crystals you can upgrade stuff to 695, so all of these items are effectively redundant. However, when you first hit 100? As a freshly minted individual there will undoubtedly be some holes in your gear, and the 6.2 ‘gear acquisition zone’ can be fairly brutal to exist in, especially for those of you not rocking a plate ensemble or playing with a controllable pet. That’s where these vendors and their gear will really come into their own, especially in equipping two key slots: rings and trinkets. Traditionally both these items can be quite a stretch to fill… well, long after you’ve hit 100. In Pandaria you could buy both of these items for cash, of course, and in Tanaan you can get one of each for 10,000 Apexis combined, but the random nature of the itemisation makes that purchase very much a hit and miss affair. Of course, if you want, there’s a lovely Legendary ring to be had from Khadgar but to get your hands on that means fulfilling an iLevel entry requirement to LFR, which you don’t need to worry about when Timewalking. Therefore, having the chance at a ring, neck, trinket, gloves, chest-piece and most importantly a weapon when you’re fresh out of levelling is really too good an opportunity to pass up. There’s also the point to make that all Tanaan armour items are unique-equip, and so you’d need a second ring and trinket regardless.
This means that the next time that Timewalking rolls around (that’s next Wednesday at 12.01 am CEST for anyone taking notes) I’ll be pulling every L90 I have out of retirement, making sure I can at least grasp the rudiments of their particular spec, and running them through at least one dungeon. I don’t need to grind multiples for any of them either, it’s not like I’m getting that five run chest reward at the end of their time in the LFR queue. All I require is the 500 badge reward, which will buy six slots worth of iLevel 675 gear when they finally max out. The vendors aren’t constant, only available during the specific holidays and in the relevant capital relative to the event, but for me it doesn’t matter. As each one hits 100 I can put them to one side and wait, and once the event goes live again and they’re maxxed, I’ll go pick up their rewards, allowing me to gear everybody to at least a minimum 675 standard for Legion. For me, it’s not about having an army of characters armed to the teeth. The task in hand is to simply level everyone, stick them in a Garrison to make some cash before the Expansion hits, and then to wait.
I know many people in the situation that I find myself in: slew of alts that have been largely neglected in Draenor because there was simply too much to do on the character you notionally consider your ‘main’. As a result, everybody else has gathered dust and while in previous Expansions you’d use LFR to gear those characters, the iLevel entry issues have become too much of a pain to surmount.
The key to Timewalking’s simplicity is, of course, that it completely negates the need for that arbitrary number to begin with, and it’s why (at least for me) that the concept being confirmed as a long-term addition to Blizzard’s slew of events can only be a good thing. Because what this gives the casual player like me is more choice, and the ability to plan ahead, knowing what items I will need to obtain if I wanted to gear an alt fast for use in a raid team, for instance. After all, if I was prepared to put my mind (and some in-game gold) to the task I could buy a L90 boost and be L100 in less than two hours. It’s entirely doable, thanks to a completely legitimate combination of XP increasing potions/elixirs and some judicious use of the Treasure Hunting and Bonus Objective rewards in game. If you’re that desperate to get to end game, there have always been ways and means. This event is, in my mind, Blizzard giving those with the organisational skills a real opportunity to make the most of them.
There was some mucking about in the last few weeks by Blizzard in the vastly popular Lich King ‘story’ dungeons that were introduced at the end of Wrath. This has led some to suggest that the Forge of Souls, Pit of Saron and Halls of Reflection trio may be the next to be added to the Timewalking roster, but Blizzard have confirmed there are no plans as yet to do so. There is lots of potential instance content that could be retooled, including encounters such as the Escape from Durnholde or indeed the Culling of Stratholme. The fact that all these dungeon are still potential death-traps for the foolish or overly casual stands as testament to the fact that you can’t simply AOE everything and hope your tank is good enough to survive. There does nees to be thought and often a measure of finesse to ensure the job is done with minimal casualties.
For someone like me, Blizzard’s use of this mechanic is long overdue. The fact it took so long to get right also says to me that what I think should be a simple task is clearly anything but when you’re a game designer. There’s no Raid Content currently included in this feature, and I’m wondering after the only lukewarm success Molten Core had as an ‘Anniversary’ Raid event whether we will see up-scaling at all in the future. The success of Timewalking however cannot be overstated enough: when I see ex-Guildies return for the event and then staying to max their characters? The whole exercise has clearly done something right. What this means for the future is however still very uncertain: Blizzard has promised that Legion will require players to go back to classic content to retrieve elements of the weaponry that will eventually become each player’s Artefact, but as to how that is accomplished? Will there be a new emphasis placed on co-operative content or could we see Blizzard giving players a meaningful solo experience for the first time ever? We’ll have to wait for Blizzcon for any hope of answers to those questions, but in good news we’re now at least less than a month away. Only time will tell how Timewalking shapes the future of Azeroth.
I make no apologies for that pun either.Related: Column, Developer, Legion, MMO, MMORPG, World of Warcraft, WoW Wednesday