Updated Wed, Jun 29, 2011 by DarkFact
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Heirlooms are the newest item class that World of Warcraft has added for this upcoming expansion. Focusing on letting your new characters obtain levels faster and not swap equipment aroud a lot, this new item type offered by Blizzard will surely benefit those "alt-o-holics" that keep making new characters over and over - now you can level faster, look cool, and not rely on those heavily overpriced green and blue items on the Auction House for low levels to get some decent gear and get to leveling past Azeroth AND Outland, on your way to Northrend.
Byron "Messiah" Mudry has written an excellent editorial on Heirlooms as well, you may check it out here!
Swift Hand of Justice... shame it isn't like the old Hand of Justice
Heirloom items are items you may earn at level 80 (for the most part), as reward for turning in several Dungeon or PvP tokens to several NPCs scattered across the world - some may be obtained in other ways, but there's not enough information yet to determine this.
Once you obtain a Heirloom item, you will know it is because its color will be golden, like Diablo II's Unique items. The difference between this kind of item and the rest is simple, it binds to your account, not to your character. What does this mean? If you have any low-level alts (even Level 1 characters may equip some of these) you want the item to be with, you simply toss it in the mail and voila, your new alt will receive it.
The only problem so far is that it will also downlevel with you, meaning that if you equip an item at level 1, you will get minimal additional stats and effects, but the good news is it keeps growing along with you - letting you empower it more and more as you keep gaining levels.
Charmed Ancient Bone Bow, nice for new Hunters
Heirloom items are a nice new bonus for people aiming to raise new characters up, and will definitely see a lot of use in the expansion for those alts who want to level faster. The main reason for this is that, aside from any stats and effects they may have, many heirloom armors also have the added benefit of adding 10% more experience for your monster kills.
Adding this effect to the fact it's already 4-5 times as fast to level in Azeroth, and Outland's level requirements may also see a toning down upon Wrath's release, this allows for faster leveling and less downtime turning in quests and moving around.
The main problem may be the market - if we have heirloom items to take over the spots of weapons and armor for PvP twinks and whatnot, won't that make low-level blues and greens worthless?
Tattered Dreadmist Mantle, adds 10% bonus Experience!
Unless things change drastically, Heirloom items will not really replace the "best" stat-items in the lower-tier brackets for PvP competition, they're here for a very different purpose - leveling. As an aside, currently there are no full-sets of heirloom armors, just shoulders at the time.
Not only that, it will be really time-consuming to obtain a full set of these items, as they require a lot of Marks of Heroism each, and before even considering buying some, many people will want the level 80 items the vendors offer before any of these.
It is currently unknown which heirloom items will be able to be obtained elsewhere, and how many they will add, but this item type is a welcome addition to the growing item types.
Currently, there are a couple vendors for Heirloom items in the game located in your faction's PvE/PvP turn-in area. There's currently trinkets such as a Swift Hand of Justice, that improves your haste rating and restores health per kill, weapons that have a lot of stats and effects that will grow with the user such as a Special Arcanite Reaper and a Special Headmaster's Charge, and finally armor such as Shoulders that will yield 10%bonus experience for each monster kill.
Heirlooms are one of the best new features for those players who love alts and keep making them for time off, and will add a needed boost to the leveling process so that people get new characters up to speed faster than ever before.
As always, we'll keep you posted with Heirloom item changes and new types as it becomes available.