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WoWSep 9, 2021 2:00 pm CT

Patch 9.1.5 will have new Heirloom upgrades… but why?

There are new heirloom upgrades coming in patch 9.1.5, and they are expensive — 12,500 gold for each upgrade for armor, and 18,000 gold for the weapon upgrade. The weapon upgrade hasn’t changed, as it never provided experience, but the gear upgrade used to provide experience for the current expansion, and now it doesn’t. This was a controversial move at the time, and remains a point of contention for a lot of players.

So, what’s the point of adding new heirloom upgrades in patch 9.1.5 when the main benefit was already removed?

What are Heirlooms, anyway?

Heirlooms are items first introduced in Wrath of the Lich King that could be shared among characters across the account, and provided experience boosts. Over the course of following expansions, more heirlooms were added. Later, heirlooms could be upgraded to make them relevant to each expansion.

In addition to the experience boost, heirlooms have other benefits. They scale with level, and will be relevant at every level without worrying about gear drops. This is great when leveling in dungeons, when you’re not receiving as many quest rewards. They also don’t suffer durability loss, saving you gold on repairs. Some can be gemmed, and they can also be enchanted, providing a little extra benefit without having to reapply this repeatedly. Most importantly, they can be transmogged at level 1, and keep that look forever, making your alts stylish.

For these benefits, heirlooms cost you a pretty penny. Gold could be offset with holiday or Darkmoon Faire currency to buy upgrades, but if someone bought the original heirloom for 500 gold, Ancient Heirloom Armor Casing for 500g, Timeworn Heirloom Armor Casing for 1,000g, Weathered Heirloom Armor Casing for 2,000g, and Battle-Hardened Heirloom Armor Casing for 5,000g, that’s a grand total of 9,000 gold for each Head, Shoulder, Back, Chest, Leg, and Neck piece — in each armor class, if you needed it. Rings came from shipyard missions, but still cost 8,500 gold to upgrade, and weapons vary based on what kind is being used. Touch of the Void trinket was also from a mission, and could only be upgraded twice, for the low price of of just 7,000 gold.

However, for just the experience increasing gear, assuming just one ring, and assuming gold was spent on all the pieces, players would pay 53,500 gold for a full set to make leveling go faster. This was an investment worth it to a lot of players.

What did Shadowlands do to heirlooms?

Before Shadowlands launched, there was a level squish. Characters at level 120 were changed to level 50, and the leveling experience in the new expansion would take characters to level 60. As part of that change, heirlooms were changed to no longer provide an experience boost. The heirlooms still have their other benefits, and some new ones. Wearing two, three, five or six pieces gives a set bonus. The first and last bonuses slow the consuming of rested experience by 30%, sort of increasing experience gains in a roundabout way — but not in the direct way players already spent their hard-earned gold to use.

The outcry when this happened was not great. Some asked for their gold to be returned, as players felt they bought heirlooms for the experience gains, and that perk was gone. Blizzard assured players leveling was so much faster now, that leveling was quicker without the bonus than old leveling was with the experience bonus. There are two ways to look at that argument — players paid for something that was taken away; or players paid for something that was needed at that time, had it at that time, and it is no longer necessary.

Shadowlands leveling has not been the best-received leveling experience, either. Though there are some new options with Threads of Fate, more options will be available like Torghast, and there will be more ways to earn Renown while leveling in 9.1.5. Maybe leveling will still have benefits and players won’t want to rush through it. Someone could debate if that much gold is worth speeding up the leveling process — but that much gold just to extend rested experience? That doesn’t seem like something that will appeal to many players, if any.

What could be done to fix heirlooms? We have some ideas.

It’s disappointing to see something so important become something that seems too expensive for too little benefit. Heirlooms ranked right up there with mounts, pets, toys, and transmog — like those, heirlooms even have their own tab in the Collections menu. These should not become a fond memory of the past, but a valid part of leveling.

First of all, belts, hands, and feet should be added. Complete the sets so at the very least, players can fully transmog a set so a character can look good the whole time while leveling. Then, we’d like to see more set bonuses that make leveling faster — even if not necessarily by increasing XP. Increased mount speed, for instance — decreasing time spent travelling would also decrease time spent leveling. Even better, an extra teleport to quickly return to hubs to turn in quests without having to reset the Hearthstone would be a great addition — this exists in other games. Maybe a power where once every 30 minutes, you resurrect at your corpse without having to release and run back, as that takes extra time too.

Secondly, if the heirlooms are going to be so lackluster compared to what they were before, don’t charge to upgrade them. If they won’t work in the new area of the expansion for the first patch or patch and a half that’s fine, but when they are active to help out alts in later patches, just allow them to scale to cap. Players have spent close to a million gold already on heirlooms and are still bitter about their loss of function. Just upgrade them for free.

Finally — maybe just add back in the experience boost. What’s the harm in it? Let players play what they want to play. If they want to go through the whole Shadowlands story again — as players have to go through the whole story once anyway to unlock Threads of Fate — they will. If the experience boost only works through levels 50 to 60, that would be okay. If heirlooms can’t do that, let players level up faster from the beginning. Then if a max level character wants to go back and see WotLK or The Burning Crusade content when they’re max level, they can do that, too.

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