Almost exactly a year ago I wrote a post comparing four MMO expansions that were all available for pre-order. Three of them, the expansions for EQ, EQII, and LOTRO, shipped back in late 2019. The remaining one, Shadowlands, is expected to go live later this month.
There is probably an interesting discussion to be had comparing Blizzard’s longer horizon versus Daybreak’s ability to get an expansion… or something pretending to be an expansion… out every single year.
But I won’t be going there today. Instead I want to pick up on one of the aspects of the pre-orders that I noted in that post from a year ago, the presence of character level boosters.
The level boost, or insta-levels, or whatever you want to call them, were seen as a solution to the “too many damn levels” problem that a relentless history of expansions… EverQuest will be going live with expansion number 27 this year… had created.
And level boosts were a quick and easy way to get characters into the latest content, the “good” stuff where most of the long term players were. At least if you did them correctly.
LOTRO introduced one that only got people to the first expansion when there were already two more beyond that. Not exactly into the “good” stuff. They later changed that, but for a stretch their boost seemed hardly worth the price.
EverQuest had a decent boost that got you close to the current content. But that was back when level 85 was good enough. More than six years later their boost inexplicably still only goes to level 85 while the level cap is up around 115.
The EverQuest II side of the house managed to keep their boost up to date, so it would get you close to the latest content. The main problem was that boosting up into a high level character left you with mind boggling array of skills and spells to sort out.
And then there was the team at Blizzrd which diligently updated their level boost concept with each expansion, throwing in such a boost with each purchase. They even put together a little tutorial about your skills and how to play your freshly boosted character.
But that has changed with the coming of Shadowlands. Blizzard decided to try and solve the levels problem by resetting everybody to level 50 as part of the big level squish. Shadowlands… and if my theory is correct, every expansion going forward… will get you the 50-60 experience while all of the old content exists in parallel 10-50 tracks.
With this change, the level boost option fell out of the basic expansion. Blizz also knocked $10 off the price, reducing it from the $50 mark that they charged starting with Warlords of Draenor, back when the level boost idea was introduced.
The question is whether or not the base edition needs it any more.
With the level squish there are certainly fewer levels between a new player and the “good” stuff, the new expansion. And those levels come fairly quickly. I had three characters at level cap before the squish and now have seven there with not a lot of effort.
WoWHead reported that the optimum route for a Horde player could get you to level 50 in under six hours.
You can also use an addon like Azeroth Auto Pilot to guide you quickly through. You’re probably good in about eight to ten hours there as the addon tries to save you every second, to the point of auto-accepting quests as soon as you open them up. Screw quest text, go go go go!
An old hand at the game can get there in under a day’s play time, so I am sure a new player could get there in two days or so.
But that still represents time and effort. Blizzard knows this, which is why the level boost isn’t going away. It is still there in the store if you want it.
Furthermore, if you want to spend just $20 more on the expansion and opt-in for the Heroic Edition, you get the character boost plus a new mount and a transmog set. That is a hell of a deal, if you assume that the store price for the boots ($60) and the store price for mounts ($25) represent their actual value.
If you’re into that, then you’re probably already eyeing the Epic Edition, which for just $40 over the base package gets you all the stuff from the Heroic Edition plus a few more items.
The hard core though, they already know what they’re buying.
As the time for the expansion approaches and my need to grab a copy with it, I am leaning towards the base package. If the character boost was the only factor in my decision, it would be done. I have more than enough options at the level cap and, unless Shadowlands is really alt friendly, I will probably only end up pushing three or four characters through it total.