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WoWApr 20, 2020 6:00 pm CT

How long does it take to level in the Shadowlands alpha?

With the big leveling changes coming in WoW Shadowlands, we’re all wondering just how long it will take us to reach max level on our mains and on our alts. At BlizzCon last year, Blizzard said leveling in the expansion would be “60 to 70% faster,” which would (hopefully) be just right to level through a single expansion’s content for a cohesive storyline.

Despite the level squish, leveling should feel pretty speedy, and well-paced for the story you’re going through, a sharp comparison to current leveling where you’re constantly outleveling the content as you play through it.

But does the Shadowlands alpha live up to Blizzard’s promises? Though this is still an alpha test and things can change, so far leveling feels pretty good. So let’s talk about my experiencing leveling in the Shadowlands alpha.

Leveling from 50 to 60

Of the premade characters I’ve been working on, the three I’ve been playing most are level 52 and close to level 53, the current level cap. They’re pretty far along the Bastion storyline and I expect to hit 53 when I finish it.

In terms of the gameplay, the speed felt about right and I had no real complaints. But keep in mind that this is still an alpha test, and leveling could certainly be extended out. However, there was enough content there that I felt like I was accomplishing something and I didn’t feel like I was blazing through the leveling process.

Bastion is a gorgeous zone and you get to explore it as you go, nothing wrong with that. Clearly Blizzard has learned from leveling zones from Warlords of Draenor and Legion and of course Battle for Azeroth in terms of how to design a zone and use the story to guide your experience of the environment and that’s pretty close to perfect here. Bastion feels, even in its current state, like a well-crafted leveling zone.

Leveling from 10 to 50

Though I haven’t leveled a new character from scratch, reports are that it can go very quickly — if you put in a lot of effort. Speed-runner DesMephisto has hit level 50 in just under seven hours, a significant speed boost over his previous 12 hour record. That’s about 40% faster for him, rather less than what Blizzard told us to expect. But DesMephisto thinks he could shave that down to five hours, which is in that 60% range.

Keep in mind that speed leveling is with a precisely mapped out path and as many heirlooms and buffs as you can get, including War Mode (which is a lot safer on the alpha right now than it is on live). The average player won’t be able to level that quickly: you’re likely looking at between 15 and 20 hours of play to get from 1 to 50, which is analogous to going to 120 in the current game. That’s pretty quick, but it’s in line with Blizzard’s stated goal of you leveling from 10 to 50 in a single expansion’s content.

But that’s absolutely not a certainty in terms of when Shadowlands actually comes out — as always, remember that this is an alpha test, and leveling is one of the things they’re testing.

Leveling from 1 – 10

New characters have the choice of leveling in Exile’s Reach, a brand new starting experience that gets you to level 10 and introduces you to the game’s current storyline. (Brand new players must play through Exile’s reach, while existing players can chose to do the existing starting zones if they prefer.) Exile’s Reach takes an hour, maybe two if you’re taking your time, so getting through the early levels is pretty quick.

From there, new players move directly to Battle for Azeroth to go from 10 to 50 and existing players will pick any expansion to play through.

So how long will it take to level to 60?

Leveling to 60 — the max level in Shadowlands — feels faster because it deliberately is designed so that you don’t have to do most of the existing game content to get to max level.

You’ll get your start in Exile’s Reach or another starting zone, then pick the expansion you want — or be sent straight to Kul’Tiras or Zandalar if you’re a new player, with all of Battle of Azeroth as your leveling content. So you would go from Exile’s Reach to Battle for Azeroth zones to Shadowlands zones, and never even see Azeroth, Outland, Northrend, Pandaria, Draenor, or the Broken Isles on your path to 60. Leveling is designed to fit into the size of each expansion.

Will this be the path going forward? I have no way of knowing. This is the problem with talking about leveling on an alpha test — the whole point of the test is to actually determine how fast or slow these kinds of things should be. Are we leveling too fast? Blizzard is watching to determine that exact thing right now.

My personal opinion is that 50 to 53 feels about right for Bastion — it gets you to the end of the zone and leaves you with seven levels to go in three additional leveling zones (Maldraxxus, Ardenweald, and Revendreth). If each zone takes three or so levels to get through, that puts you at 60 the end, ready to head into the max-level Maw zone.

Though the design for level from 50 to 60 may be modified, it’s built to take you from 50 to 60 over the course of the story, so the adjustments could be relatively small ones. But I definitely feel like Blizzard knows where they want leveling to go.

At present I’d say that 1 to 50 leveling in the alpha is completely up in the air — and ultimately so is 50 to 60. What speed runners can achieve isn’t likely going to be what players end up doing once we’re in Shadowlands proper, so your numbers will probably be a lot different. And we don’t know what leveling buffs will look like in Shadowlands. Heirlooms, War Mode, all experience buffs that are currently available in the alpha test could be removed or substantially reworked at a moment’s notice.

But right now in the Shadowlands alpha, leveling feels right — regardless of how much time it takes in the end.

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