When you’re ultimately forced to stay inside at the hands of a global outbreak, video games quickly ascend on the list of things to do. And while there’s countless games to sink your teeth into when you’re cooped up indoors, there’s just something about World of Warcraft that always reels me back. Maybe it’s nostalgia? Maybe it’s comfort? Regardless, I’ve been playing a ton of WoW while waiting out the Coronavirus. I’m leveling a Draenei Mage named Myliria this time around, and I can firmly say that I’m seeing the game through an entirely new lens. 

I’ve leveled so many characters over my years of playing World of Warcraft that I’ve genuinely lost count of how many times I’ve mindlessly blazed my way through the world. Throughout my life, I always viewed the WoW leveling process as an extremely cut-and-dry affair: you grinded dungeons on end until you could eventually get the opportunity to grind endgame content.

And for every alt character I’ve rolled, I’ve consistently made it a point to get through the process as quickly as possible just so I could get it all over with. The old adage that “the real game starts at max level” served as my main propellant through every character’s journey to the endgame – it was a creed I swore by. 

However, this time around, with seemingly endless time to play WoW, I’m finding that I’m not in any rush to get my new Mage to the finish line. For once, I’m taking a deep breath and exploring the world around me. I’m reading almost every quest’s text in full, I’m venturing into every nook and cranny of the world, and, most importantly, I’m finding things that I’ve never found in my nearly two decades of playing WoW. I’m engaging with a universe that’s been under my nose this whole time. 

In the process, I’ve discovered that there is no “right” way to play World of Warcraft, but I’m swiftly learning what’s right for me.

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Image via Blizzard Entertainment

Perhaps that feeling of being pressured to finish a given grind within so many hours of a certain weekend was holding me back from getting the full leveling experience in the past. Nowadays, I have all the time in the world to complete a certain portion of the game’s story at my own pace. In the past week alone, I’ve already worked my way through Westfall and the Wetlands, while putting a pretty significant dent in Zangarmarsh. I’ve successfully shed the mindset that the only “worthwhile” portions of WoW’s gameplay come at max level, and I’m realizing that there is a beautiful, immersive, and downright massive world to get lost in that most definitely has the potential to keep players sated throughout the journey to the endgame. 

Instead of spamming random dungeons, I’m actively searching out zones I haven’t given enough time to over the years. I’m getting lost in places I didn’t even know existed. Weirder, more obscure zones like the Hinterlands and the Terokkar Forest are suddenly rising on my list of favorite areas on the game’s massive world map while questing is quickly becoming my favorite method of leveling. 

With prior characters, there were only a few quest chains that I deemed worthy of my time – quests that I would suspend my grind-focused mindset for and actually take the time to complete in full. Now, I’m finding that I’m passively treating textbook “collect and gather” quests with the same respect as full-blown zone-spanning adventures. 

And while I fully intend to bring Myliria to max level, I expect the process to be slow. Even with Blizzard’s game-wide double XP buff in place until late April, I’m going to try and ride out this journey for as long as I can. Seeing as there’s no definitive end to this quasi-quarantine in sight, I could have a lot more time on my hands to play World of Warcraft. And with a seemingly endless world at my fingertips, I’m not going to squander this opportunity. 

 

Photo Credit: Blizzard Entertainment, World of Warcraft