One of the key components of mmorpg games is gaining levels. For most players, it’s how they measure the success of their character as it gains in power and abilities. We’ve become addicted to hearing that “ping” when someone levels, and when it happens to us, it’s almost as if we had received a tasty treat. The most obvious method of leveling within an online game is by killing mobs of monsters and completing quests. However, quite a few games offer some alternatives that players can partake of in order to level their characters, but such systems have their good points and bad ones. Let’s examine the pros and cons of mmo alternative leveling methods.
To be clear, I’m not talking about alternative advancement where players can divert some of their xp gained into buying special abilities or buffs. I’m talking about when an online game allows the player to gain xp and levels in a way other than killing creatures and going on adventures. This aspect of online gaming came crashing into my world recently in Star Trek Online. I had not played the game for quite some time, but I got back into it to play the Christmas event a few months ago. During the event, I gained eighteen levels by just doing activities for the special event. Afterwards, I just logged in to mess around with the Duty Officer system for several months. This system allows you to assign crew members to various tasks, and the result is that the player gains some rewards, especially xp. I did not play any missions, but just logged in, started my officers on their tasks, and then logged out. The end result was that my character gained a good fifteen levels without really doing anything.
This brings me to the first of our mmo alternative leveling pros and cons. On the plus side, I was able to level a character relatively quickly by just logging in for just a few minutes a day. This is incredibly handy when you’re raising up a bunch of alts within an mmo. Many games offer boosts to xp of some kind. Guild Wars 2 has tomes that will automatically push the character up a full level when used. World of Warcraft allowed players who ordered the Warlords of Draenor expansion to shoot a character all the way to level 90. Blizzard then started selling this particular service for $60 in their cash shop.
Again, there are some definite pros to having mmo alternative leveling systems. If you’re creating an alt, you don’t want to spend weeks or months bumping that character up to max level. Being able to read some tomes or having the ability to purchase a level-capped character saves a great deal of time. On a smaller scale (say just bumping your character up a single level), getting those kinds of boosts make for some great rewards for completing quests or gaining a specific achievement. Gaining those last ten to twenty levels can be excruciating. A small increase isn’t world shattering. Another positive is that such systems allow players to gain xp while not logged into the game. I’ve already mentioned Star Trek Online, but I’ve also gained a number of levels from doing profession tasks in Neverwinter.
However, there are some downsides to using an mmo alternative leveling system. The first is that while you may have gained quite a few levels, you don’t really know how to use your character to their maximum potential. The best way to learn all the ins and outs of your character is to actually play them. There’s no way to know which powers are best or which abilities work well together if you just gained twenty levels without actually playing the character. I’m still trying to figure out how best to spend my skill points in Star Trek Online.
Another item in the con column is that you’re not playing the game. While you do get xp for using an mmo alternative leveling method, you’re not interacting with the game in a meaningful way. You lose the immersion you would gain if you earned those levels by playing through the quests and exploring new zones. Some people argue whether the journey itself or reaching the destination is most important. To me, it’s the journey as there’s so much to see and experience along the way. I can’t fathom picking up a game and using only the alternative leveling methods to reach level cap just so I can do end-game raids or such. Using such methods deprives the player of the vast majority of the content within the online rpg. It’s always worthwhile to take the time to smell the flowers, so to speak.
In the end, there are a number of mmo alternative leveling pros and cons. The main pro is that players can level their characters quickly, and players can earn xp even while logged out of the game. While a small level increase is a nice boost for most players, the time saved by using alternative leveling is really best for alts. On the negative side, players may not pick up all the nuances of their class as they haven’t played it from beginning to end. Another important con is that players miss out on a lot of content by taking advantage of alternative leveling. As always, it’s up to the player to decide on which method is best for them leveling a character.