One of the things that disappointed me most about Cataclysm was the archaeology profession. When the concept was announced years ago, I envisioned a new addictive profession that would get me out exploring the world, collecting interesting artifacts, and gaining lore tidbits. I generally like professions in video games, and I love exploring as well. It seemed like the perfect match.
What we got was a tiresome, grindy experience reminiscent of the original incarnation of fishing, but without the added benefits of tying in with Cooking. I chose to level Archaeology on my former main (Kaelynn the rogue). Instead of giving me a reason to play her, Archaeology gave me a reason to stay away. I did eventually reach max skill in Cataclysm, but couldn’t convince myself to continue to grind for the items I actually wanted (pets, mounts, and BOA epics that would have been useful in the first tier of Cata raiding). I grew to despise the continent of Kalimdor and its long flight paths. The Tol’vir became the bane of my existence. Archaeology was frustrating and dull for any significant length of time.
With Mists of Pandaria, a lot of changes were made to the profession. Dig sites give more opportunities to survey, and each find gives you more fragments. Pandaria artifacts aren’t just worthless grays, but can be turned into crates that can be converted into other races fragments. Sha will randomly spawn after a find, offering even more artifacts. Pristine artifacts can be put on display and reward you with Keystones.
These changes certainly make archaeology in Pandaria a less frustrating experience. The XP provided is still a nice supplement to leveling through the zones. Getting dig sites for a race you no longer care about doesn’t feel as worthless. The Lorewalker tie-in makes the profession feel more integrated into the game. All things that really should have been a part of the profession in the first place.
I found myself leveling archaeology on my rogue instead of questing. I finally felt like I was having some fun with it! Digging was easy, things got solved faster, the crates of artifacts stacked nicely in my bag, and I didn’t have to fly across ridiculous sized continents to get them.
Then I saw the archaeology quest for the Order of the Cloud serpent, and screamed in frustration. My max archaeologist was not my main. The though of leveling again through the old world made me shudder.
I eventually got Exalted with the Order of Cloud Serpent, and forgot all about archaeology for a bit. Then Blizzard put in a tiny hotfix that went almost unnoticed – skill ups are now given after every find. I sighed, realized I had no excuse anymore, and got to work leveling on my main. It only took me three days, a few hours each. It was not painful at all, and actually had the addictive quality I had so longed for.
At this point I’m reluctantly admitting that I like archaeology. I like it about as much as I like any other profession. It’s not quite what I had imagined, but it is something I’ll continue to spend my time doing.
I forgive Blizzard for whiffing on this one, because the profession they introduced with this expansion is exactly what I hoped archaeology would be. Yes, Pet Battles. But more on that some other time.