Lately, I have spent quite a bit of my time on my rank 40/70 Archmage, focusing on emblem collection and participating in the newly formatted Tier 4 city sieges. Earlier this week, as I considered topics for this weekend's column, I realized that it had been a while since I had experienced the low-level content. Conveniently enough, I was just starting to suffer a bit from healer's burn-out (thanklessly healing day after day can wear a person down), and decided I would take a break and tool around on a lowbie for some fresh kicks and giggles. Shaman, but by gameplay). It only took a few minutes after the decision was made, and I found myself standing by the Chaos Gate with my brand new Witch Elf. Interestingly enough, it took longer to put all my add-ons together and sort out my interface and key-binding preferences, than it took to customize my new character's looks. Once I got that all sorted and out of the way, I grabbed the first quests and was off and running. Curiously, just as soon as I was out of the first and second camps, I ran into a rank 11 Dwarf Slayer rampaging through the newbie zone. It struck me then, as a party formed to take him out, that WAR was indeed everywhere! Not even an hour into my new character's life and the PvP was seeking me out! After the Dwarf died, the same party agreed to head over to the nearest public quest and play together there.
Leveling through the first tier happened within just a few casual sessions (if we take a casual session to be around four to five hours of gameplay). All of the public quests up to the warcamp were well-populated, and I had no trouble finishing the chapter influence for everything up to around level 10 -- there were more than enough people around to complete the public quests. I had quests for Hunter's Vale, the (relatively) new Tier 1 dungeon instance (introduced a while back with the Wild Hunt live event), although I decided to spend my time in scenarios and the constant tug-of-war RvR that I found in Nordland. Scenarios would pop with surprising speed and regularity, and when finished, I would find myself dropped right back into the ebb and flow of RvR combat. It really didn't take long at all to have a well-rounded collection of skills and abilities, giving me a strong sense of how the class would play and develop. As I browsed some of the skills and abilities that I would learn in later tiers, I felt that same anticipation I felt when I first leveled my Archmage -- thinking "I can't wait to try that skill!" Also, as my character grew, each level had a sense of accomplishment, and new abilities added to a sense of real growth. I assume all careers would also carry that cadence and meaningfulness behind every ding.
As I already mentioned above, the scenarios were available and active with very little wait time in-between. I have to be honest here: I was afraid to find myself woefully underpowered, standing against heavily twinked players on all sides (a twink being a character that has been fed items and enhancements otherwise unavailable to him by regular means; for example, Endless Trial characters kitted out with items one would normally find on the auction house or passed down from higher-level characters with access to generally greater wealth). And although such characters do exist, they really don't possess more or less than is available to other characters from a normal subscription, or even other Endless Trial users. It really only boils down to two factors. First, a twink character has his level capped, and as such, he has no real concern for leveling out of the tier. As a result, he can relentlessly queue, acquiring all the emblems he needs to equip all of the RvR gear available. The other factor is effort. Anyone wishing to compete at that level is given access to the same items and all that remains is the time needed to acquire them. So, while the twink characters exist, it is only during a very short time that they present a competitive problem to the new player experience. Once an untwinked character reaches rank 10 or 11, the difference becomes negligible. Subscribers (new or old) or re-enlistees need not worry about these ET twinks beyond a few levels into Tier 2 (everything evens back out at around rank 14 or so).
With all of this in mind, I want to stress that this was my experience. Your experience, dear reader, could be wildly different. In fact, if you have one, I encourage you to share it in a comment below. If you've recently leveled through the new player experience in WAR, tell us how your experience was, what choices you made, and how you felt about WAR in the early stages of your character's career.