Tuesday, November 30, 2010

A brave new world

With the release of the Shattering patch the world we used to know has changed forever. Some areas have been almost 100% revamped (Hillsbrad Hills, Loch Modan come to mind) while others are pretty much the same with just some tweaks (Elwynn Forest, Redridge Mountains). Some seem to remain as before everything went tits up. Yet in these almost-unchanged areas you can feel as it's a new place to discover. I warn you there will be some spoilers.

We have now a TON of new quests, all of them grouped in quest hubs. Some of them are just the same quests as before (Shintar already wrote about this) and it feels weird to do them again. In some special cases you get an explanation about this repetition. So far I've found this in The Third Fleet quest (Wetlands), where after completing the quest chain you're told the cursed Eye of Paleth was removed time ago and First mate Fitzsimmons died time ago too, so you've been talking to his ghost without knowing his condition. And when you exit the inn you see he's really gone.
Some of the new quests are continuations of old questchains but others just revamp the whole questchain, like the Stalvan Mistmantle serie. And it feels weird. You already killed Stalvan before, so when his brother asks you for aid (first quest) you expect to be a continuation and you just need to prove him his brother was a true evil beign. Instead of this you get to fight him again, but this time you get a nice surprise from his brother. Did you know the Stalvan family came from Gilneas? :)
Another change related to quests is the addition of questgivers inside instances. The first time I did the "CSI" questchain in Westfall I didn't complete all the outside quests, since there's a point where the chain seems to stop. So when I went inside Deadmines I missed the animation where you get a flashback of Edwin's VanCleef death. If you keep questing in Westfall (hint: do the Westfall Stwe questchain) you'll finally get to see what happened after Edwin was killed by a party of adventurers and who's the shadowy figure that appears in some quests.
The addition of several flightpoints is something I don't know how to rank it. In one hand will make lowbie players life much easy. Almost every quest hub has his flight point. The problem I see is there're too many. Some of them are the best thing since sliced bread: the one in Raven Hill (Duskwood) and Eastvale Logging Camp (Elwynn Forest) were as needed as rain in a desertic landscape. Back then you didn't get to ride a horse until level 40, so you had to run back and forth all the time from east to west in Duskwood to deliver quests, get the continuation and then complete them again and repeat the operation. Doing these quests at level 40 was meaningless. You didn't even got hardly any reputation (yes, back then reputation gain was tied to the level difference between your character and the quest) and even with a 60% horse it took enough time to grow bored of the place. Right now once you get one of these strategic flightpoints life has a new meaning.
On the other hand some flightpoints seem meaningless and just clutter the map. Are you sure Goldshire needed a flightpoint? Stormwind is just there! Same for Wetlands, where Alliance gained several flightpoints, when formerly there was just one (and it was also booooring to run from Menethil to Welgar's Excavation Site or the Dragonmaw Encampment) now whe have several scattered through all the map. What before was a pain it's now so trivial it loses almost all its value.

I've just visited a small part of the revamped Azeroth so far. Western Plaguelands should change its name and recover the Lordaeron designation. Only one Plague Cauldron remains and the rest of the land has recovered. Uther's Tomb is one of the most beautiful places, with so much green around. Stormwind is full of quiet and bautiful corners where you can relax or develop your RP skills, alone or with your mates. And if you're Alliance like me you'll rage and fume when you see how Southshore and most of the Hillsbrad Hills ended. Now I'm just starting to explore Kalimdor. Darkshore is one of the saddest places with the destruction of Auberdine.

My recommendation is: go out there, explore the old-new lands. Check out the quests, even if you're an old  grumpy  80, check out the old-new lore you'll get from them. In a week most of us will be busy leveling our chars to 85, so there won't be much time to rejoice in this old-new world (specially when you're out of slots!).

Post soundtrack:
Brave New World - Iron Maiden (Brave New World, 2000)

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

The misty frontier

So the day has arrived! Deathwing decided to take a tour and create the biggest barbequeue ever seen in Azeroth, ripping the world apart in the process. The foretold End of the World (copyright The Twilight Hammer) is here...the Cataclysm has arrived!
But wait! How come we are in Cata when the Cata expansion hasn't launched yet? It's not december the 7th yet! Well, for the first time Blizzard has changed the way th new expansions are delivered. When Burning Crusade and Wrath of the Lich King were launched we had to wait to get our hands on a copy of the game and install it. You were in vanilla WoW, installed BC and voilĂ ! You can now go through the Dark Portal and visit that strange continent made of different lands stitched together. Same for Wrath... you install the game and then you can take a ship or zeppelin to the frigid lands of the north. But not this time.
Blizzard has taken a progressive approach to the Cataclysm launch. Instead of waiting for release day to deliver all in one shot they've decided to do some major releases before launch date. First we had the new talent trees and abilities in 4.0.1 (note the change in the number version, no longer 3.x.x), then 4.0.3 brought the elemental invasion. Now we have 4.0.3a where the world has gone tits up. But while we're using v4 of the game (the Cataclysm version), we still don't have the Cataclysm game in our hands. We'are not in Wrath anymore, yet we're not fully in Cata. We're in a difuse border between the two expansions, although our foot in Cata land is placed more firmly and the foot in Wrath land is begining to raise and move to join its companion.
In one hand I'm a bit disappointed by this, because I get the feeling it strips a lot of content out of the release. Changing the world entirely is no piece of cake and I think it should have been reserved for that special date. On the other hand I'm happy to see this already without having to wait for december the 7th (even is not that far). The way we get our updates on the world of Azeroth is more dynamic, no more waiting for that milestone that's release day. If things keep going this way we could get patches (specially bugfixes or talents finetuning) on almost everyday, in a smooth way that wouldn't disrupt gameplay (breaking addons, avoiding respeccing, etc), leaving big stuff for special release days, like adding a new dungeon or raid zone. Technically is challenging, but a big software company like Blizzard should be able to cope with it.
I look back to the Burning Crusade release time. A lot of people gathered at the Dark Portal, waiting for midnight. Everybody held his breath when the hands of the clock came together. And then nothing happened. Not even a simple activation effect on the portal. Thinhs have changed a lot nowadays. The elemental invasion has been a good prelude to the Cataclysm launch, amking the content transition smoother.
Come Deathwing! My sword thirsts for your corrupt blood!