But it has to be said that soloing is not encouraged in WoW. There are now so many perks involved in belonging to a strong and stable guild that few players will want to miss out. Of course, if you are not already ‘guilded’, finding a home that’s right for you could be as hit and miss as it was before. One thing I do think WoW could do with is a ‘bulletin board’ in cities where guilds can describe what they’re like so that they can attract the right members for them and people can find a suitable guild for themselves. This is found in other MMOs and it’s a great feature. At the moment people might have to search, research and apply on the net to find a comfortable home, or else just respond to requests in General Chat from guilds looking for members and hope for the best. Word of mouth and being introduced to friends of friends is still the safest way to find a guild that suits you, but for that you already have to know people in-world. To me, guild recruitment is something that should take place wholly in game, with the least inconvenience.
In Cataclysm, when you are part of, form, or join a guild it becomes a ‘reputation faction’ that you have to curry favour with, to get from neutral to exalted status. This is done by completing quests or achievements, or simply by working on your trade skill professions. Guild rep can be gained in many ways. With higher reputation you are able to buy cool things from your guild, including mounts and mini-pets. The guild itself ‘levels up’ like a player, and this requires the input of its members. Simply playing the game and taking part in all of its aspects will level your guild. As it levels, perks are ‘unlocked’ for the members, including enhanced levelling experience, faster travelling, extra guild bank slots, items from the guild vendor, and many other desirable features.
The decision on Blizzard’s part, weeks before Cataclysm’s release, to remove all the portals to major world cities from the previous expansions’ hub locations of Dalaran and Shattrath was met with disapproval by players, and no one can deny it was very inconvenient while people still raiding or questing in distant Northrend wanted to see The Shattering content too. Players took for granted being able to portal swiftly about the entire world of Azeroth, and it was rather a shock to find yourself having to wait for slow boats and zeppelins again to travel between continents. But now that we are all back in the old world, and can use flying mounts there, the travel aspect doesn’t seem so bad. If you have a mage character, you have a nice little earner in providing portals for other players, although it can be annoying when you are constantly bombarded with ‘whispered’ requests for the things. Dozens of new flight paths have been added to the game for those who are not yet of a level to have a flying mount and who need to use the ‘taxi services’.
Questing is challenging again now, and I’m not just referring to the overcrowding in areas. That will pass. It’s clear that we’re not supposed to simply coast blindfold through the new levelling zones, but at the same time, if you know your class and can play it properly, the challenge is welcome rather than a chore. If you’ve got to level 80 you should know your class(es) well and if you’re new to the game, the improved help facilities will contribute to you getting to know all aspects of it once you get to high level.
The new instances (or dungeons, for a group of 5 players) are also at first challenging, but we’ve found in our guild that the most difficult bosses in them are simply a case of learning tactics, often similar to bosses we’ve done in earlier content. Perhaps some dungeon bosses now use abilities we found only in raids before, but with a bit of common sense, they are not tiresomely difficult. What players have to get used to is a return to an earlier style of play. Teamwork, remember that? This isn’t an AOE fest like most things were in the Wrath expansion. Most times it’s helpful to use crowd control abilities to trap, stun or interrupt mobs. The habitual ‘rush rush’ behaviour of people in pick up groups of random players (the much maligned ‘pugs’ of the Looking for Dungeon feature inaugurated last year) will no longer wash. Yes, you do have to pause for a moment and use tactics. Yes, your healer might run out of mana if the triage isn’t going too well, so back off with the aggro-inducing damage. Personally I applaud this more intelligent approach to playing the game, but watch out for a few drama histrionics in pugs until the ‘random player base’ gets used to it...or quits. Same outcome.
I’ve also found in solo questing on my Balance druid, the character I elected to level to 85 first, that I’m using skills I rarely used in Wrath. Mobs do a lot more damage. I sometimes have to heal myself mid fight! Unheard of! I can’t remember ever using Entangling Roots in Wrath to keep mobs at bay for a while, but now it’s pretty useful. Same for the knockback skill Typhoon. I didn’t even have that on my action bar during Wrath. I assume it’s the same across the classes, meaning that even in solo situations, crowd control helps. But all this said, I’m not finding the levelling experience annoying. I remember levelling caster classes way back in Vanilla WoW, where the progress was fight, drink, fight, drink, in order to get your mana back. You don’t have to pause so much now, but you are kept on your toes. Respawn rates for mobs are swift so you can get surrounded quickly. You might be rooting one mob while fighting another, because two or more at once would shred you, at least until you’ve geared up a bit. Plate-wearing classes might have a better time of it. I’ve not tried my Paladin tank yet so can’t comment.