Choose My Adventure: I am so confused in World of Warcraft

World of Warcraft

Last week's Choose My Adventure polls for World of Warcraft set me on a very unexpected path. Male Blood Elf? Really? If you had asked me to predict the result of the class/race/gender/faction polls, I would have been extremely super-wrong. I thought for sure Massively's readership was full of carebear Alliance sympathizers who spend their WoW hours hosting hug parties in Darnassus.

Anyway. This week saw me creating our new character, using the included-with-Warlords of Draenor instant level 90 character boost, and diving through the Dark Portal to experience the starting moments of Blizzard Entertainment's latest bundle of WoW content.

It was... something.

The instant 90 effect

One of the big questions we're exploring in this CMA is what it's like to take a class you've never played and boost it immediately to level 90. The answer so far? Confusing. The character creation process is exactly the same as usual: pick a race, pick a gender, pick a class, etc. The boost can be applied to either an existing character or a brand-new character. All you do is click the boost button, select the character you want to boost, and wait a few seconds while the boost is applied.

When the idea was originally presented, it sounded as though Blizzard had a plan for helping players understand the ins and outs of their new character. After experiencing it firsthand, I can't say that's the case. This is a system designed for people who already have max-level characters and already understand core, important things about World of Warcraft. The first hint comes during the boost process itself when you are asked to choose your character's talent specialization. All the game provides you with is the name of each spec; there's no information on what those specs do, what they're useful for, or which spells they provide.

Once the character is created, you're dumped in Blasted Lands in front of the Dark Portal with level- and spec-appropriate gear (don't worry, RPers -- they mail you the old stuff) and a flying mount. You also receive a set of bags, some food, and 150 gold. If your boosted character was level 60 or above, your professions get bounced to 600, too. Finally, you're given a very limited selection of spells with which to start your adventure. This is all very good; Blizzard is providing you with the basic tools you need to learn your class and to get questing without burying you in unfamiliar icons.

It doesn't stay simple for long. Your spells and talents are awarded to you as you follow the WoD opening storyline. By the end of the first hour, you'll have all of your spells in addition to your level 90 talents. At no point does the game ever tell you what these spells do, why you should use them, or how other players have traditionally deployed them. The game simply goes, "HERE'S SOME NEW STUFF" every five minutes. When you learn a set of new spells, the only way to find out what they do is to read the tooltips or look them up in your spellbook. An explanation isn't even provided on the rewards screen.

It's a bit overwhelming. Our Priest (see note below) has a pile of abilities and skills, and I have no idea how to use them. Remember: I am a veteran World of Warcraft player who has pushed multiple classes to cap, one of which was actually a Priest (in Vanilla). I'm still lost. I can only imagine how confusing it would be for an entirely new player. Blizzard made it seem like there was some sort of mechanism in place for teaching people their instant 90 characters, but that mechanism appears to be, "You're 90 now here's some spells have fun with your garrison!"

Warlords of cinematic event questing time

Warlords of Draenor provides the most interesting first hour of questing Blizzard has delivered in an expansion thus far. It's basically one long quest chain with some bonus quests on the side, and tells a story that begins at the Dark Portal and concludes with the construction of your garrison. It's well executed, provides lots and lots of drama and macho NPC posturing, and does a nice job of setting up the expansion. Old-hat players may find its limitations frustrating (it teleports you back to the quest-giver if you try to explore, for example), but it's over so quickly that it doesn't feel like much of a hassle. Plus: Experience!

World of Warcraft

As most CMA readers know, I'm not big on lore. The story elements of the opening are mostly lost on me. I know there's some orcs or something and they're mad about the portal or whatever. I can't comment on the quality of the story or how it ties in with existing lore. But I do know competent storytelling when I see it, and lore fans are most likely loving Blizzard's decision to put Warlords of Draenor's story front and center for the first few moments of the player experience. There's just the right amount of killing, gathering, and cinematic watching to make it feel big, epic, and important.
WoW hasn't felt this interesting since Wrath.

One poll to rule them all

Unfortunately for this week's CMA, our options are limited in terms of what we can do next. The instant 90 gear isn't of a high enough item level to queue for any WoD dungeons, and there's no way I'm hopping into a battleground with a bunch of abilities I don't understand. Thus, questing is currently the only path available to us, though I'm hoping things open up a bit by next week. I prefer leveling through expansions by chaining dungeons, so this will be a change of pace for me.

We have one critical choice to make: Which specialization should we take on our Priest? I picked Discipline because someone in Twitch chat yelled it, but now we have an opportunity to put it to a vote:
Since there's nothing huge being decided this week besides specialization, I'm going to let you folks choose my mount as well. You can't fly in WoD, so I've offered a mix of my flying and ground mounts:
And why not my adorable companion pet?
And that's that. Get your votes in by Friday, December 12th, at 11:59 p.m. EST, and we'll see where this thing goes. Don't forget to watch the Stream Team schedule as well to find out when I'll be hosting the next CMA Live. Finally, feel free to join me on Kil'Jaeden with your own incompetent instant level 90; our character's name is Edelit.

Note on the polls: Due to suspicious vote activity, the class for this month's CMA was determined by the roll of a 12-sided die.

Mike Foster is putting you in the driving seat of Choose My Adventure, the Massively column in which you make the rules, call the shots, and take the blame when things go horribly awry. Stop by every Wednesday to help Mike as he explores the ins and outs of games big and small and to see what happens when one man tries to take on a world of online games armed only with a solar keyboard and the power of spellcheck.