It was inevitable. There've been more and more World of Warcraft references on RPS lately, and to a lapsed addict like me, it's been like someone pumping bacon smell into a vegetarian's home. Sooner or later, I was going to sink my fangs back into its moreish flesh. Adding to this was my foolish reading of the patch notes for the next update, which seem focused on improving the solo and small group play, rather than pandering to the infuriating large groups of humourless statistic obsessives who currently rule the game. Levelling from 1-60 will be faster, there'll be more well-specced items in the wild rather than purely in the super-dungeons and there'll be far fewer Elite beasties rendering sections of the great outdoors inaccessible to anyone not travelling under an all-purple armed guard.
The faster levelling's the fascinating thing, and what risks me going back in earnest.
I don't yet know to what extent it's been sped up [edit - 10-15% quicker plus inflated quest XP, I'm informed], but clearly it's to ensure people hit level 60 and the Burning Crusade content as quickly as possible. At a guess this is either so Blizzard can then focus their efforts in the relatively concentrated area of Outland, rather than on the entirety of WoW's massive geography, or to try and lessen the gulf between the casual players and the raids-are-a-way-of-life players, or both. It appeals to me because there's so many Horde quests I've never done (having poured the vast majority of my WoW efforts into a Gnome rogue), but as soon as I hit around level 30 with my Orc, the ennui of Stranglethorn Vale and thereabouts kicked in. There's no way I could sit through the 30-50 grind again, where, for the Alliance at least, the interesting quests dwindled, the amount of trudging around was obscene and the sense of progression and adventure minimal.
But what if it's really fast once this patch hits? Hmm. Already I'm forming vague plans with a couple of friends to start newbie Horde characters and take it from the top. (And, clearly, it could be something to chronicle here, Worst Ninja-style, though my complete familiarity with WoW's mechanics has me concerned I simply couldn't mine any humour from it. It's hard to get lost when you know exactly where every door goes).
So, I logged in for the first time in months today, just to see how it felt. Just one go can't hurt, after all. I can control myself now. No, really. Don't look at me like that.
The first thing I did was run to the auction house, the age-old force of habit. I found a good L70 rare dagger, going pretty cheap. For about five seconds I was excited. Then I thought about what that dagger actually meant. Best case scenario - I could kill things maybe a second more quickly than previously. I felt a wave of overwhelming depression.
So, instead, I attempted to amuse myself with the current in-game Halloween celebrations. The WoW seasonal events are usually a giggle, so I picked up an associated quest in Ironforge, which sent me down the road to Kharanos (the snowbound newbie Dwarf and Gnome village, which always feels like visting home in WoW, together with the associated fuzzy warm feeling and slight boredom I get from my real hometown). There, a nice lady from the orphanage asked me to practice putting out some fires. The purpose of this was unclear, for as far as I know Azeroth isn't currently recruiting firemen - perhaps this is a hint as to what the other Hero classes (alongside the next expansion's Death Knight) will be? Fireman class would be awesome - think of all the unique hose and hardhat designs, and the mount could be a tiny one-person fire engine.
Anyway, she pointed out a nearby well and a bucket, and sent me just down the road with a full pail. There, five burning wicker men awaited me, though the game's awful draw distance meant I didn't notice until I was basically standing on them. I threw the water, and was informed that 1 of 5 fires had been extinguished. Except it hadn't. Wicker Man #1 defiantly continue to be on fire. At this point, I became irrationally angry. Is the game now so fixated on number-based accomplishment that it's not even worth it deactivating the flame effect for a couple of seconds? All I wanted was to feel like I'd done something, and to experience a little bit of whimsy. All I got was a text message. Also, the bucket had disappeared from my inventory.
Making a sort of choked squeal noise, I trudged back to the well, filled another bucket, non-doused another perma-flaming totem, and repeated, four times. I was rewarded for my futile efforts with some Ironforge reputation and a sweet that turned me temporarily into a skeleton. My hopes of winning some sort of cool fireman's hat were cruelly dashed, and the skeleton was same skeleton I could haved turned into at any time with an easily-bought potion. I know the quest's designed for newbies and veterans alike, but frankly I couldn't see a single one of the former about.
Perhaps I should buy that dagger after all. I tried to summon my mount and head back to Ironforge, only to be told I couldn't use it whilst disguised, presumably because Blizzard still haven't gotten around to creating a straddling pose for this skeleton character model that's been in the game for years. I sighed and logged out. Happy Halloween, World of Warcraft.