So, as I mentioned a couple of days ago, I’ve been playing a little World of Warcraft lately (okay, more than a little, a lot). I’ve built my dwarf warrior Varulus up to level 70, and as I’ve been tooling around at level 70 for a while, I’ve developed some feelings about the “endgame” content — that is, the high-level instances and raids that ‘wrap up’ the storylines you’ve been following as you play through the game.
WoW is a very well designed game, and it is clear that when it came to developing the first expansion (Burning Crusade), Blizzard applied a number of lessons learned from the original, making the game — especially the higher levels — more accessible to the casual gamer: the kind of player who can get a couple hours of play in at once, but doesn’t have the time to devote seven hours to an instance raid.
What I’ve found lately, and what has been frustrating me, is that the real end-game material (at least right now) is a bit too tough for my standard group to run. We’ve got the skills, we just don’t have the gear to consistently perform at the level necessary to tackle the top-end enemies without wiping half-a dozen times.
Normally, this is a matter of getting better gear and going back to tackle the parts that are too tough right now. But the better gear is — for the most part — available as drops from the places that are too tough, rewards for getting your reputation up to high levels with the different factions, or rewards for earning a lot of honor in the player-versus-player battlegrounds.
In other words, a lot of repetitive grinding, or what I’ve come to call “Final Fantasy syndrome”. I haven’t actually completed a Final Fantasy game in a long time, largely because the end-game dungeon battle is easier if you do all sorts of side-quests and grinding to get those extra levels. I just don’t have the time (or inclination). I want to see the end of the story.
I’m looking forward to the next expansion for WoW this November, because it will provide a lot of new content and story. Of course, I wonder if the same sort of thing will happen to the outland that happened to the high-level zones in the original game: nobody goes there anymore, because there is better and more interesting stuff to run.