[disclaimer: prefacing every sentence with In My Experience or In My Humble Opinion would make this post awful to read, but in essence this is all about my experiences and opinions - many readers may disagree of course]
I’ve talked on this blog before about feeling that the leveling speed is off in MMO games these days, certainly this was my experience of leveling in Rift, SWTOR and is also true for Neverwinter. That’s not to say fast leveling is intrinsically bad (well actually it is) but if you can’t experience all the content on level in a zone there’s something wrong with your games leveling curve. It seems in these games that you barely have time to catch your breath as your character rockets towards the level cap. It makes the enjoyment of zone storylines and zone factions (with rewards to grind towards) rather difficult as you out-level the quests or faction reward items too quickly.
This has had a negative impact on my experience of those games and leaves you all too quickly at the end-game wondering what to do with your character. But there’s a more insidious aspect to this trend of speed-leveling. Having gone back to more traditional games like LOTRO and EQ2 I find myself unhappy with the questing pace and too used to having the questing trail laid out before me.
In LOTRO I’ve found the leveling through Rohan (and to a lesser extent Isenguard) to be a real slog. The drive to get a warhorse ASAP to finally experience that gameplay mode had me racing through quest hub after quest hub as fast as possible. I was even skipping some quest text (there is SO much of it in LOTRO)! I’m on a break from this game at present and if I do go back it’ll have to be at a more deliberate pace. It’s a game to enjoy at a saunter, not a sprint in my mind.
With Everquest 2 I have faced the twin problems of level-speed extremes and content ease. I’ll preface this with the statement that it’s a marvelously deep game – there is just so much content to be found. Found is important here since a lot of it isn’t that obvious – it’s the old-school idea that you go find people and they give you stuff to do. Not all of them are in quest hubs (though they’ve become more common as the game has aged) and not all of them are in easy to find places. So you can easily miss quests, maybe important ones. I do find myself consulting the wiki a little too often when playing EQ2 as I don’t want to miss out on the good stuff as I play through.
Leveling speed starts fast and then slows down rapidly as you reach the mid-game. My insta-dinged shadowknight has been crawling his way towards the cap but it’s slow going – this shouldn’t be a problem of course but I fear I’ve become so used to fast leveling that I get frustrated too easily now by a slower game. I’ve resisted the temptation to drink loads of XP boost potions, that still feels like cheating but what if the game is designed to encourage that?
I need to do some thinking about my approach to these two games before getting back into them again – I think they both need a different mindset to enjoy them properly. At least with the deliberately slowed leveling pace of Free-to-Play SWTOR my leveling trio can enjoy the leveling experience without feeling as rushed…