When you’re playing a game like World of Warcraft, you expect that getting gear levels you up. It’s such a natural assumption that you wouldn’t even stop to think about it; when the numbers go up on your gear, you get stronger, right? Changes made to level scaling and end-game progression in the previous expansion, Legion, made that a little more complicated. Battle for Azeroth, with it’s brand-new end-game content, is starting to really struggle under the weight of that decision. The effects are so bad that some players are removing their new Heart of Azeroth neck piece and other bits of gear so that the game becomes less of a grind.
Here’s how it works. When you reach the max level of Battle for Azeroth and complete a few quests, end-game open-world content opens up. You can then complete World Quests, which spawn around the map. That content scales with your item level, with the intent of creating a challenge. The idea is that some players should not be able to roll around, one-shotting everything. But the result is that players are finding World Quests to be a bit of a slog, and leveling up creates the feeling of the world leveling with you. You lose the hero fantasy of conquering these new frontiers, and you adapt to a world where you feel just able to grapple with the game.
Battle for Azeroth also offers less end-game power rewards than previous expansions. Unlike other eras of World of Warcraft, there is no “final” talent tier; you get your final talent at 110, and you can get three extra talents if you opt into War Mode. Players also lose access to their Legion legendary items, which offered powerful, class-specific passives and procs, once they get past 115.
Players have gone ahead and done the math; while you’re still under 300 item level, you should be shedding items and putting them into the bank. While this certainly isn’t necessary — I’m currently playing at around 290 and I find the game quite tolerable, if a little slow — these kind of tricks are what end-game players do to get ahead as fast as possible before the next wave of content hits.
Blizzard clearly wants World of Warcraft to be more than just a game where a player can mash keys to get ahead; the recent leveling overhaul made it so that players on the path from 1-60 could explore individual zones, complete quest lines, and learn their class beyond just spamming one ability again and again. These goals are fine, but clumsy implementation is putting the developers at odds with the player base. Everyone wants to feel like a hero who’s getting stronger; no one wants to have to remove their hard-earned gear in order to make that happen.