No, I don’t have a sparkle-horse. But I promise that it’s related. In the usual meandering way, anyway…
I dislike heirlooms. Weapons I can sort of live with – it can sometimes be quite a long way between decent upgrades, and it helps to be on par if you’re levelling in the dungeon finder. The problem is, heirlooms are just so… static.
Your character will look the same from lvl 1 through to 80, and worse, they’ll be indistinguishable from every other character of the type. Moreover, despite the nostalgia clouding people’s eyes, most of the heirlooms actually look rubbish. Go take a look at the standard quest rewards from the revamped levelling zones… they actually look really great, and you’ll generally pick up a matching set if you quest through an area. Now go and compare them to the heirlooms. Honstly, vanilla-style gear has not aged well at all.
Now, that’s not to say that there isn’t the occasional flash of genius – Herod’s shoulder, for instance, is one of the best looking shoulders in the game. Then again, that’s the only one I can think of right now. The cloth shoulders are a mess, the leather dps shoulders remind me of a squished fly, the leather healer shoulders appear to be patches of dead grass, plate shoulders are simply uninspiring, and the caster mail looks really arb.
Arguments on how heirlooms’ xp gain outlevels one from the content have been hashed over and over again throughout the far corners of the web. I’m not going to address those here. What I am going to look at is how they affect the perception of gain.
As I level a character (heirloomless), I’ll occasionally find a nice pair of pants or a new set of shoulders, or what have you. These feel like rewards, since I’ll equip them immediately and they’ll have a visible effect on my character’s stats and appearance. With heirlooms, there is no reward. There is no gear progression until the endgame, and by the time you’re there to earn the reward of 80 or 85, you’ve been grinding away for so long that the reward probably seems like a bit of a cop-out. Without, you’re not “starting the grind” at endgame – you’re continuing to grow!
These tiny rewards really do keep me going. New pants! Awesome. New shoulders! I just changed my character’s *whole look*. Yes, some people will assume I’m a nub – unless of course I’m carrying around an axe that you could land a C-130 on – but that really doesn’t matter. Yes, my gear will be slightly worse on average than a standard gold-clad seventh-generation alt. Don’t care. I enjoy my gear more than him, and sometimes my gear’s better. Best of all, I get to see it improving. I get to make choices in my gear, even if some of the choices are blatantly terrible. (I’m looking at you, original vanilla gear…) There’s none of this quietly upgrading in the background nonsense. It’s something that you as a player are a part of throughout your character’s lifespan.
Gear is more than just stats and pretty(?) textures. It’s a part of the experience, and without that part, levelling just seems a little more bland.