With every expansion, it seems the first thing to do on the list is “make it bigger.” That can run away from the developers at times, though, and that has certainly proved true over the years for Blizzard’s World of Warcraft.
Over the years, there’s been a number of instances where Blizzard has decided to scale back some of the stats in play – something we generally call “Number Squishing.” For example, Battle for Azeroth, the current expansion, begun with a statistic number squish to deal with some of the outlandish stats being dealt out. By the end of Legion, players were regular hitting ridiculous numbers like “5,000k” damage, since Blizzard apparently didn’t grasp millions.
— Wowhead (@Wowhead) April 8, 2020
But once a number squish takes place, that doesn’t mean everything is solved since the old “make it bigger” style keeps going. It ends up being a game of whack-a-mole, with developers waiting until the numbers need squishing and knocking them back down again.
One thing that hasn’t been squished yet is the leveling cap, which has only ever been increased. In fact, it’s never not increased in an expansion. The level cap started at 60 in Vanilla, increasing with each expansion to 70, 80, 85, 90, 100, 110, and its current max, 120.
But it seems that Blizzard decided against any of this, targeting the level max as the new squish. And not only are they squishing it, they’re cutting it in half! The level cap of the eighth expansion, the upcoming Shadowlands, will be reduced back down to 60.
“Fifteen years and eight expansions can overwhelm and confuse new players,” Blizzard writes. “The traditional ‘newbie’ zones don’t adequately prepare brand-new players to the wide variety of concepts even a beginning player needs to know to progress through World of Warcraft. The challenge is how to balance the requirements for new players with the needs of experienced players who want to level up alts for the endgame.”
So where has this left the rest of the classes, namely the hero classes? These hero classes start at a higher level than the rest, as do Allied Races, which start at 20 instead of 1 like any other race. Death Knights and Demon Hunters start at 55 and 98 respectively, generally reaching 60 and 100 by the time they finish their starting areas.
These groups will still start out higher than other characters, but not by much, it seems. Allied races and hero classes will start their journey at level 10, just outside of the Shadowlands starting zone.
It’ll be interesting to see if this causes an upset of balance as time goes on. Either way, it seems that we’re going back to low level maximums again.