One of the biggest features I’ve been looking forward to in Cataclysm since it was announced is the new secondary profession of Archeology. Being a secondary profession, it ranks right up there with the likes of Cooking, Fishing and First Aid, in that any character can learn it and skill it up, regardless of what your main professions are or how many you have. The difference here is that is seems deeper, more interesting and more time-consuming than the other three. With Cooking, Fishing and First Aid, you basically can stand in one place and skill up, hardly paying attention to your surroundings, but that most definitely isn’t the case with Archeology.
What is going to make Archeology so great? Let’s go over some things.
- It requires you to get off your lazy bum and travel the world: The survey points are all over the place. Where they show up is based on your character level and your Archeology level. If you’re a level 15 Tauren druid just starting Archeology, your dig points will be in Mulgore, Durotar and Northern Barrens. If you’re a level 80, your dig points may be in Un’Goro, Uldum, Ashenvale and Dustwallow Marsh. You have up to 16 dig points total – four per continent – that are available at high character levels. Obviously you need to be Outland and Northrend levels to make use of the dig sites in those areas.
- Triangulation: When you arrive in a zone with a dig site, you can open up your main map (not the mini-map) to see the area where the artifacts are located. Once you get inside that shaded area, you can use the Survey skill – which comes with Archeology training – to help triangulate the location of the artifact. You can dig three times in each survey area. When you place the survey marker, it will be either red, yellow or green, depending on your position relative to the artifact, and will point you in the right direction. Keep surveying until the artifact appears, then loot it.
- No competition: Unlike other gathering professions like Mining or Herbalism, these survey points are for you, and you alone. There is no competition, they are unique per character. Sure, two people might have the same dig site highlighted, but the artifact itself is unique to your character, so you aren’t competing with anyone for the goods. This alone is completely awesome.
So, now that you’re digging for and collecting artifacts, what can you do with them? There are artifacts that are based around all the present races in the game. You can get a general idea of what artifacts you’ll be digging up based on the ruins. Ashenvale, for example, has a lot of Night Elf ruins, while you may find Orc artifacts in various Outland locations. These artifact fragments that you dig up are used in research projects, each requiring a set amount of fragments to piece together the ultimate artifact and complete the project.
When that occurs, you get a piece that you can sell, with some lore-related flavor text. These artifacts, when assembled, can also be weapons, vanity items or other interesting do-dads. It is interesting to note that the weapons and armor items will be account-bound, so if you piece together a level 30 weapon on your level 80 character, you can send it to a level 30 character to make use of. These weapons don’t scale like heirloom items, but it is still nice to be able to pass them around freely to be useful to a variety of possible alt characters.
It seems the amount of items that can be obtained and the number of little flavor-text items that are available are pretty high. It will likely keep the hardcore busy for quite some time. But, are the hardcore WoW players really into the lore and RP aspects that this new profession provides? It doesn’t bring any benefit to raiding like cooking and first aid does, at least to a small extent. I see Archeology as geared more toward the casual, and that is just fine with me. I’m looking forward to delving deeper into the profession, as well as the lore spread out across the game just waiting to be discovered in this manner.