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World of Warcraft: Questing Self-Help

Or: how I learned to stop worrying and love the grind.

Let's be blunt: World of Warcraft is, for a lot of people, a lot of the time, a solo RPG. Whether starting a first character, casually dipping in to play old ones, or compulsively levelling "alts" in the gaps in your main hero's raiding schedule, it's a safe bet that the majority of players out there at any one time are on their own, in the wild, churning through quests. And it's also a safe bet that they're doing it wrong.

Although it was shortened last year, the game's levelling curve is still an epic one, and littered with some inevitably basic and repetitive quest design (albeit excused by the rich world and carefully-designed areas the quests are set in). Many players battle through it with their heads down and teeth gritted in a masochistic slog, forgetting to do one simple thing: have fun.

But solo questing can be fun. It can be more than that: it can be one of the most rewarding single-player RPG experiences out there. All you need to do is sit back, relax, and follow our nine-step plan for a healthier questing lifestyle.

1. Efficiency isn't everything

This one may contradict some of the practical advice that follows, but it's more of a state of mind than a strategy.

The slightly more experienced quester will fall into the seductive, but ultimately damaging, trap of trying to maximise their questing efficiency. The entire levelling arc becomes like one of WOW's battles, a game of percentages, as you attempt to chain quests in a pattern designed for optimum experience reward and nothing else. This is a fun challenge at first. But it's not long before it becomes a tyranny.

Downtime isn't a sin. A long walk isn't a waste of time if you like the sights on the way, or are interested to run the quest at the end of it; and the quickest path isn't necessarily the most enjoyable one. Efficiency is always worth bearing in mind to keep the pace of the game up, but it should never be your prime concern.

2. Don't try to do it all

Especially with the fast levelling speed that Blizzard introduced last year, there's simply no need to visit every zone, or complete every quest in a zone. Be selective. Pick and choose what's quickest, most interesting, or what just feels right, and feel free to ignore anything you don't want to do. Anything else is just borderline OCD.

Clearing a zone can be worthwhile in some of the more recent, better-designed, more densely-packed and story-driven areas: Ghostlands, for example, or the revamped Dustwallow Marsh. Otherwise, remember that you'll probably be levelling another character up one day, and then you'll thank yourself for not having done everything there is to do already.

3. Follow the chains

Quest chains aren't always the most immediately rewarding kind of quest available, they often involve a bit of tedious travel between NPCs, and unless you obsessively read ahead in online wikis and databases, they can be something of an unknown. But avoiding them would be a mistake.

In most games, not knowing what comes next is considered a good thing. Why can't that be true of WOW? Following chains serves up better storytelling, gives you a more varied experience, and tastier rewards at the end of the day. Unless there are uncomfortable level gaps, doing a single chain in a single play session, without distraction or deviation, is one of the more satisfying experiences is WOW.