Mists of Pandaria – Three Weeks In

On September 25th, something very interesting happened. Mists of Pandaria was released to a horde of fans who were eager to have something different, and hopefully better than what Cataclysm had been. They were chomping at the bit, desperate for something more than running a raid for the past 9 months.

Blizzard Entertainment did an extrordinary thing. They delivered, and then some.

Most people I had spoken to were completely done with Cataclysm. Dragon Soul had been out for about 9 months, they had cleared everything and had all of the mounts and achievements they could get or wanted to get. All of their professions were maxed, they had all the reputations they needed, or whatever their case may have been.

Personally, I wasn’t playing as much as I had before. I would log on a few nights a week to do a couple randoms, maybe a Raid Finder group (if it didn’t blow up). Leveling alts only stays exciting for so long. Not having time to raid took out the only regular thing I had ever relied on in previous expansions. The only thing I was doing was leveling my Alliance Mage on my friends’ server.

When Mists launched, all of a sudden I had so much stuff to do again. True to what I had been expecting, the very first thing I did was do some pet battles. I had only done a little bit of them in beta, and they were just as much fun as I remembered. Memories of playing Pokemon in junior high school came back in a very big way.

For the first time since Burning Crusade, my wife and I decided to level our mains together. I play a Feral Druid and she plays an Enhancement Shaman, so we were able to power through most mobs without much problem (except for some of the rares that we stumbled across). We hit 90 this past weekend, and really enjoyed all of the zones that we quested through.

Overall, the quest design of this expansion is absolutely amazing. There were quests where we laughed – mainly the Hozen quests, especially Riko expressing his undying (see what I did there?) love for Kiryn – some quests that were quite touching, but the most important thing is that pretty much all of them were a lot of fun.

There is one thing that I keep coming back to, something that I find myself saying all the time, which is how absolutely beautiful the new content is. It’s hard to believe that the engine running this is over 8 years old, yet we’re still given these amazing views. Everything from the grand temples and structures, down to the small little tumbleweeds that blow around Kun-Lai Summit. The environment is gorgeous and incredibly immersive.

At the moment, I have yet to find something about this expansion that I don’t like. The closest thing that I could label as a complaint is that there’s just too much to do. Once I hit level 90, I have at least four different factions that I want to raise my reptutation with immediately, and being the completionist that I am, I want to eventually get them all up to exalted.

I still have yet to fully do many dungeons or scenarios – the only ones I’ve done is one run of the new heroic Scholomance, and one instance of the Arena of Annihilation.

All I know is that I’m more excited about this expansion than I have been for any other, possibly having Burning Crusade for the exception (only because at the time, it was the first expansion). One last note: a few friends of mine were extremely critical of the Mists of Pandaria announcement after BlizzCon. They were complaining about how much it looked like a very weak expansion without much content. Now, after talking with them after the release, they have completely changed their stances and are quite happy with the result.

Bring it on!

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Screenshot of the Week – November 19

This isn’t a weekly feature anymore, obviously, but that doesn’t matter!

Click for full size

Being Canadian and experiencing the Northern Lights on a number of occasions, I will never get tired of seeing them.  Blizzard did a great job of making them in-game in Northrend, especially in Howling Fjord.  This view looks toward Utgarde Keep, just over a Vrykul settlement.  A moment of peace in an otherwise war-torn zone.

Excrement Excavations and YOU! (or, worst quests in WoW)

This is part of a Blog Azeroth Shared Topic – check out other articles about this topic from great authors around the WoW blogging community!

One of the very first things that anyone will do when they log into World of Warcraft on a new character will do is accept a quest. There’s a big shiny yellow exclamation point above a nearby NPC that draws you in and compels you to right-click them. Then, for whatever reason, if you kill enough pigs you’ll get a reward! How awesome is that?

More often than not, it’s very awesome. Even moreso since the Cataclysm old world redesign, WoW’s quest design has been amazing. Not too long ago, I did an article about some of my favourite quests in the game. This time we’re going the opposite way, to some examples of the worst quests that are out there today. Not surprisingly, they mostly come from Outland and Northrend – but this is partly because I haven’t done all of the new content yet.

RNG – the bane of all existence

The infamous random number generator (RNG) can be one of the best or worst things in the game. It is blamed for drops from mobs and bosses, block/parry/dodge/hit/miss chance, spawn rates, and quest item drops. There is a reason why the RNG is hated so much, and it’s because of the simple fact that it’s so very random.

Any quest that does not have a 100% chance to drop your item has the possibility to require you to spend an unhealthy amount of time trying to get what is required. Lately it seems that the drop rates for many quests have been improved, but there are many that are still very annoying. Good examples are in Zul’Drak, the quests to collect bat wings and spider ichor.

Isn’t killing a BAD thing?

Falling in line with the RNG is the “kill mobs until something happens” style. Apparently the leaders or commanders of certain groups of mobs only appear after a certain amount of people die. It makes me very glad that I don’t serve under them.

Three examples that came to mind immediately are all from Northrend. In Howling Fjord, you have to kill a number of Vrykul until the commanders show up for you to impale with a battle standard.  In Zul’Drak, shortly after going to Zim’torga, many trolls need to die in order for certain mobs to show up and take their shinies. I just did this quest again yesterday, and it took way more time than it should have.

Excrement Excavations

This post could not happen without some mention of the poop quests. First appearing in Burning Crusade, there has been some sort of quest like this in random places since. To this day, my wife won’t do the Hellfire Peninsula one.

The above-noted quest is called Shizz Work, and is given by a goblin foreman near Thrallmar. Part of a quest chain and open to both factions, it involves using a flute to summon a felhunter and digging through its “leavings” to find some keys. After digging through each pile, you get a debuff called “Stanky” that doesn’t do anything but give you a green smelly aura.

Good idea, but enough already!

Once Blizzard finds a quest mechanic that they like, they tend to stick with it. Sometimes a bit too much, at times. There are quests where it’s a fun mechanic, such as taking an abomination and blowing things up with it, but the amount of things required to blow up is a bit much.

A good example of this is the a quest in Zul’Drak for Drakuru to require a total of 60 trolls to be killed to draw out the three chieftains. I really enjoy things exploding, but it could have easily be done in half the amount of trolls and have the chieftains come with every 10 instead of every 20.

In closing…

Thankfully there is a good variety of types of quests in the game. Blizzard has done a great job, especially in the new Azeroth, of mixing things up. I hope that eventually we’ll see a revamp of Outland and Northrend, and with that we can see some of the new mechanics introduced to these areas.

4.3 Instances of Awesome (I hope)

Looking around the WoW news community this morning gave me quite a bit of happiness. 4.3 looks like it’s going to be incredibly awesome – and even though the word is used entirely too much these days, the word we’re looking for is epic.

On top of the other features of the patch (transmogrification, void storage, raid finder tool, Darkmoon Faire revamp, among other things) we get the best part: the Deathwing raid and 5-man dungeons. Interviews were given from Tom Chilton and Greg Street (aka Ghostcrawler) across a few websites, and a bunch of information was given.

From the WoW Community Site

Basically, there will be three 5-man dungeons giving the story leading up to the Deathwing raid, all involving the Caverns of Time:

  • The first one (“End Time”) will be a dystopian future where Deathwing won and the world has been destroyed and remade the way he likes – all in ruins. The idea behind this is convince Nozdormu that he needs to get involved and help, or else there won’t be much of anything to watch over.
  • The second one (“Well of Eternity”) will be during the War of the Ancients, where Deathwing first betrayed the aspects and created the Dragon/Demon Soul. It looks like we join Thrall to get the Demon Soul to use as a weapon against Deathwing in the present.  Basically using the power to overload the essence within him, causing the big black dragon to burst from within.
  • The third one (“Hour of Twilight”) will be a flight to Wyrmrest Temple to begin the fight against Deathwing, raid-style. Along the way there will be battles against many foes trying to steal back the Demon Soul and prevent you from attacking the big bad guy, likely lots of Twilight people.

The final battle against Deathwing (“Dragon Soul”) is in an instanced version of Wyrmrest Temple in Dragonblight (hopefully including the changes that happened in the Thrall: Twilight of the Aspects novel), with fights around and in the temple itself. At one point we get to be on Deathwing’s back, trying to pry off his armour plating to get to his fleshy bits underneath. Apparently there will be a “balance” mechanic, as Deathwing isn’t just going to be flying in a straight line – the raid will be a bunch of fleas on his back that he wants to shake off (do a barrel roll!).

Eventually, Deathwing ends up at the Maelstrom where he becomes a bit of a conglomeration between himself and an Old God minion. The phrase used in the interview with Ghostcrawler says that they call him “Cthulhu-Deathwing”, tentacles included. All in all, this raid looks like it will be living up to my expectations and more.

Also included with this will be a new legendary, a set of two daggers for rogues specifically. This quest line will involve the uncorrupted black dragon egg that was the subject of a really good questline in the Badlands. At the end of it, there’s nothing said about the future or fate of the new whelp, but it looks like we’ll find out shortly.

For more reading, check out interviews at Joystiq, MMO-Champion, and Tankspot.  The official World of Warcraft community site also has a bunch of information.

Screenshot of the Week – September 1

Been a little while for one of these, and since I’ll be out of town for the long weekend I thought I’d throw it up early.

Click for full size

I was in Dragonblight helping my wife with some quests, and noticed the nice auroras.  I live in Northern Canada, and even though I see the Northern Lights often, it never loses its wonder for me.

Memories of Azeroth: Zangarmarsh

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After Hellfire Peninsula, the next stop is Zangarmarsh.  Whereas Hellfire looked a lot like the Blasted Lands, and wasn’t too “alien”, Zangarmarsh is a completely brand new world.  It’s basically a reminder of the Warcraft II expansion set “Beyond the Dark Portal”, as there were forests of mushrooms there.  Well, here’s your forest of mushrooms!

Cenarion Refuge - Click for full size
Telredor - Click for full size

Starting in the zone, characters would have breadcrumb quests leading to Cenarion Refuge, and their respective faction camps of Swamprat Post for the Horde or Telredor fot the Alliance.  I must admit that I was always a little choked that the Alliance got this amazing looking outpost built into a mushroom, and the Horde just gets a generic Troll camp.  The quests here would take up half the zone, eventually leading west.

The Dead Mire - Click for full size
The Spawning Glen - Click for full size

The zone’s story has a lot to do with the Naga, and how they’re draining the lakes for their own purposes.  They don’t say exactly what purpose that is, but I think it’s along the lines of: “It’s MINE! Go away!”  The Dead Mire is an example of what happens to an area once the water has been drained out completely.  Among the inhabitants affected by this are the mushroom people of Sporeggar.  There are some quests to help them out, and a faction associated with them.  The rewards include a non-combat pet, but it takes a very long time to get the reputation required.

Ango'rosh Stronghold - Click for full size
Orebor Harborage - Click for full size

The west side of the zone dealt mainly with the Ogres, and that they were chopping down the mushrooms for themselves and messing things up for Sporeggar.  Because the fungal giants didn’t have mushrooms to eat, they decided to eat Sporeggar’s young while they were growing in the Spawning Glen.  It’s up to the player to go and crush the Ogres at their stronghold, which is a small island using a downed mushroom as a bridge.  Altogether you get to lay a beat down on a bunch of things to try and bring things as close to normal as possible.

To Terokkar Forest - Click for full size
To Nagrand - Click for full size

After Zangarmarsh, it’s off to Terokkar Forest – normally.  I try to skip Terokkar, as I’m not too fond of the zone, so I try to go right to Nagrand.  There are entrances to Terokkar, Nagrand, and Blade’s Edge from Zangarmarsh, very much the crossroads of the continent.