Now that we’ve taken a lenghty look at the difficulty changes from expansion to expansion, todays main topic will be the relevance of dungeons to the overall progress of a character, both during endgame and while leveling as well. The rewards you’d get by running a dungeon or heroic are also related to this topic, so we will be examining those as well.
The difficulty changes affected all players, solo and guilded alike, but solo players had a much harder time during the beginning of Cataclysm. Random groups were struggling to finish a heroic dungeon. Easier dungeons might have been beneficial for solo players in random groups, but good groups of friends or guilds were, once again, without. challenging 5man content until the speed run challenge mode with MoP was introduced.
Here’s a short overview for today:
- Dungeons during leveling and endgame, then and now
- What to do with the loot? How long gear rewards lasted and what they were intended for
Dungeons as a leveling device
Before the advent of the one click cross realm LFG tool, dungeons weren’t really a viable method of leveling your character. I previously mentioned the high amount of preparation and length of a dungeon, which weren’t significantly reduced until WotLK. If you were a Tank you could probably pull it off, just picking off 4/5 groups and run a dungeon and when leveling a bunch of characters in a guild, you were also able to do a lot of dungeons and gain massive amounts of xp through them.
But as a solo player, mainly as a damage dealer, dungeons were something you ran occasionally at most, usually if you had a bunch of quests for them or really wanted a specific drop, but during leveling, that was pretty uncommon.
After the LFG tool became available, this all changed. Now even damage dealers could, with a longer wait time, run dungeons easily during leveling and even during questing. This was a very significant change as you just couldn’t do some questing or farming and properly look for a dungeon group. You could use the old LFG interface, but it took a very long time to find players. So now you suddenly had a way of leveling your character and run an instance every now and then.
This also had a direct effect on the leveling difficulty and speed, because your gear was suddenly of a much higher quality than before.
Tanks and Healers had instant queue times (Healers had to wait a few seconds or minutes) and leveling exclusively through dungeons was suddenly possible. I leveled a druid tank from 60-80+ without doing quests, except a few at lvl80 where you had an item level requirement for the new dungeons you couldn’t reach unless you were decked out in super high level raiding gear from the previous expansion.
What changed when you hit maxlevel? In classic you probably ran the same dungeons you already did when you were lvl 55+, just no longer for xp but mainly for the boss loot. This was also the first time where you really started to repeatedly enter the same dungeon over and over. You were probably working on the D2 questline, which took incredibly long to finish.
However, the number of available dungeons was pretty limited, just as it was during leveling. With the addition of heroic dungeons in TBC, the 5man endgame suddenly became a lot more varied, as all the dungeons you visited during leveling were available as max level heroics as well and not just the regular max level dungeons. This didn’t change during the following years, with the exception of MoP, where many dungeons were only available as a max level version, making the leveling dungeons from 85-90 less varied and more boring than ever before.
What to do with the loot?
Boss loot during leveling in classic was something special. These items were much more powerful and you also couldn’t get your hands on one of them very often, so you really appreciated if you had one. Because you didn’t run dungeons that often, a blue boss loot often lasted for a very long time during leveling until you could replace it. You’d often use such an item 5 or 10 levels, something completely unfathomable these days.
That didn’t change when you hit the max level, at least in WoW classic. You still couldn’t run dungeons non stop and loot rewards were still few and far between, which made it pretty common to be still wearing green quest rewards 10 from 10 levels ago while doing lvl 60 dungeons. Upgrading all your gear to a high level was a monumental task and took months. Today your equipment is already of very high quality by just questing and with the ease of LFG, you can grind your way to a high quality heroic dungeon equipment set during a single weekend.
Even at the max level, boss loot was usable much longer than it is now. If you had had decent all blue dungeon loot at lvl60 in WoW classic you could spend a long time upgrading it very slightly but were also eligible for entry raids such as Zul’Gurub, a popular pickup raid, or even Molten Core if you were in a guild. Due to the high number of players in a raid and the low number of drops, gear upgrades were really rare and so your items from Stratholme, Dire Maul, Scholomance etc. would serve you well for a long time. You’d also still have a reason to run those instances for upgrades or quest lines like D2 or one of the many raid prequests.
Max level loot today is very short lived. It’s a stepping stone from regular instances to heroics, to low tier LFR instances, to higher tier LFR instances or raids and so forth. With the various sources of item upgrades available, you would sometimes get several item upgrades each day and many items would only last for a few hours until they got replaced again. Your personal attachement to your gear would also plummet further down with each new expansion, but that’s a topic for another day.
As usual I’ve written more than I intended and so the remaining entry in the dungeon series will have to wait until monday.
We’ll talk about the role of reputation in dungeons, attunements and item level prerequisites and I’ll also talk about what I’d consider the “perfect” combination of dungeon difficulty, size, rewards, attunements, quests etc.