Because I Got High (Mountain)

After dipping my toes in over the weekend, I decided to get my hooves wet. Saintvache was off to Legion Dalaran as I decided if I couldn’t have a Zandalari, I could at least get a Highmountain Tauren into the fold. Plus, it gave me a chance to do some leveling, which…wow. Such an improved experience. I’ll elaborate on a later date but I definitely approve. Saintvache is now 47, and that’s just from doing the main Highmountain story and a couple of bonus objectives that happened to be where I was questing anyway.

It didn’t take too long to complete that main story and set up the meeting between Baine and Mayla. I was in for a bit of a surprise as I never looked up how any of the alliances worked. I figured I would fly back to Orgrimmar and it would be a simple case of “hey, thanks for all your help. You proved the Horde is good. We’re in, ok?” Needless to say that is not what happened at all. I really enjoyed the story that lead to them officially joining the Horde. Though I can only imagine what it was like to have to do that chain without a flying mount. Dear Illidan it was like a classic WoW questline – all over the damn place.

In the end, though, it all worked out. The most difficult thing was getting back to Orgrimmar because everyone is logged in for Shadowlands.

See? Just a few people. I actually had to go to Pandaria and use the shrine portal to get back. Then I was able to scoot off and get my new mount and more importantly unlock some new friends. It didn’t take long for one to fall into the fold.

Not a fan of her default armor, but we’ll get that fixed eventually.

A Weekend Resumed

Looks different around here, I know. But so does Azeroth. No, not in the private sector where you’ve occasionally heard me from. The real deal. I resubbed on Friday…for a month. Who knows, I might wrangle enough gold to buy a free month as well. But in the short term, we’ll see how it goes. It doesn’t mean I’m back for Shadowlands. Much as I have to have the Collector’s Edition at some point for my collection, I’m in no rush. Instead I came back to see what everything else is like.

The first thing I did was putter about on a couple of toons. Elcombe still has a 6-tab Guild Bank full of pets. So, guess no one hacked me at any point. After checking that, I took him to the barber shop to see what the new options looked like. He ended up looking like Stephen Baldwin apparently.

After that, I did what I do most. Maybe best. Took a bag full of pets over to the auction house. It’ll take me a little while to get settled into the market. But if I can sell a lot of what I’ve got in stock, that free month might not be all that difficult to achieve. Heck, if I put all my toons in one place it would be mission accomplished. But, that’s not the case, though I do still know how to move money around to some degree if I so desire.

Then it was time for familiarity. Over to Zarahi and druid adventuring. She was sitting at the top of the toons at level 42. So I puttered in Warlords for 1-2 levels and then made my way to Azsuna. Apparently I had some quests there from the last time I logged in…a couple of years ago. So I went through a few of the storylines.

Then decided to take her to the Barber Shop. Holy crap, I can be a Druid of the Flame. Permanently. Didn’t see that one coming at all…and nope, didn’t even look at Bear Form.

At this point, I decided to go to Zandalar. Figured her last few levels would get me on track to unlocking Allied Races. Of course, I didn’t put much research into how to do so and was disappointed when I completed the Zandalari stuff and it turns out that’s just the beginning of what was needed. Oh well, still hit the level cap in no time at all.

When I realized I wasn’t unlocking the Trolls just yet I thought I’d visit a place I’d been dying to see: Siege of Orgrimmar. If I can’t have what I want, at least I can go kill Garrosh, right? Well, not so much. Despite researching the issue, I just could not solo the Scrolls of Pandaria. After dying about a half dozen time I gave up. Between the trolls, Garrosh, and this site causing me grief (hence the new look), I wasn’t in the best of moods by Sunday night. So, I needed to remedy that. Went to a favourite place. No, not Karazhan oddly. Instead it was off to Sunwell Plateau. Wasn’t long after I paid Kil’jaeden a visit and felt better. Even had the Chaos Pup and Wretched Servant drop.

So I experienced some of the new and some of the old. We’ll see what the next 30 days brings. I know Shadowlands hits this week and as I said off the top, I’m in no rush to get it. I haven’t played the game in a couple of years so there’s lots for me to do for my dollar (which, yes I was fairly certain I would never again give Blizzard…eh, times change I suppose). I’ve certainly built up a few thoughts on how things are in Azeroth now. We’ll see if I can get them out here with some semblance of frequency. No guarantees, but for now we’ll do our best and enjoy the ride.

Oh The Questing Of Old

Quest

Ah the questing of the good old days. Well, ok, not entirely. If you’re playing in Wrath or older, that means you’re questing in Vanilla. And if you’re playing Classic WoW then of course you’re doing it also. Some of the quests are enjoyable (as I eluded to before and will bring up again later), and let’s face it a number of them are simply “Kill X of Y.” And then there’s other quests. Like class quests for example.

Now yes, I will get out of the way right now you are under no obligation to do any quest in particular (unless the loot entices you), I feel a desire to complete the class ones just to see the stories through and feel like I’m doing my characters a proper service. That said, it doesn’t mean they’re easy. Take this quest for example. At level 12 you receive the quest which will lead you to a great 2H Mace: Redemption.

Obviously good things are worth putting in the effort. But the quest for this lovely item starts outside the gates of Ironforge (as a dwarf). Subsequently you’re going to head off to find four items. No biggie. Except as you can see in the picture, there’s a bit more involved than that. Four stops: Thelsamar, Deadmines, Shadowfang Keep, and Blackfathom Deeps. As Alliance, you’re riding from Arathi Basin or possibly Southshore depending on how far north you’ve rode. You also have three instances to get into.

While it’s nice getting the quest at 12, you’re not completing it until you’re in your 20’s or higher. Me, I didn’t run and dungeons at level and as such didn’t complete it until about 40. Nice thing is, the mace is still solid at that level. Unless you’re a Prot Pally like yours truly.

Still, it’s not about the reward in this case. I did enjoy the mild story and the idea of someone building a weapon specifically for me (even if I couldn’t use it). But I forgot about the quests of old and the traveling involved. Some are worth doing, and others (an elf in Darnassus wanted me to go to the Hinterlands) can be passed on. And yet, I find I like it more than questing the original zones post-Wrath. Doing the traveling and completing the quests feels appropriate to your level, rather than going into a zone and jumping on a storyline that you out-level before it culminates.

Classic Quests: The Missing Diplomat

There are a lot of quests of varying satisfaction in Classic WoW. One in particular many players manage to bypass. The quest has two requirements: Alliance and level 28. To start The Missing Diplomat, you need to pop in to the Stormwind Cathedral and talk to a young boy named Thomas. He tells you there is a bishop in Stormwind Keep that you should speak to. Over the course of the next dozen or so quests, you are going to follow the trail of some shady Defias activity and go from Stormwind to Duskwood and Wetlands to Dustwallow Marsh, where Jaina and company are thankful for your assistance.

Along the way it doesn’t take long to find out who has gone missing and it adds to the story that much more. It’s a quest chain that doesn’t require a lot of “kill x to get y.” A great deal of the quest chain involves talking to various people or cracking down on a few individuals. In the end you get a decent ring depending on your class and a great deal of xp along the way.

But none of it happens if you don’t come upon the start of the quest in Stormwind Cathedral. There’s a good chance the non-human races don’t come across it if they level in their race’s region. To say nothing of Horde characters. Honestly, I would definitely recommend rolling an Alliance character to experience this quest chain and a few other quite good ones. I’ll share a few more over the next couple of weeks. And don’t worry Horde, I will get to you as well. I just have to reacquaint myself with a few of them once more.

Real Virus Harkens Back To Virtual One

The untold truth of World of WarcraftSports organizations throughout North America are suspending activities indefinitely, in an effort to curb the spreading of the COVID-19 virus. Officials in China, Italy, and more are shutting down amid what the World Health Organization has classified as a pandemic.  Here in Canada we’ve not been strongly affected. Yet. I recognize it’s coming and I work front line when it comes to germ control and contamination. Today isn’t about the real plague we’re dealing with, but instead one that most players probably were not even around for.

The day was September 13th, 2005. Blizzard rolled out a fresh new patch, which included the Zul’Gurub raid instance.  Obviously players and guilds were anxious to get in there and take on the denizens inside, including the final boss: Hakkar the Soulflayer. Now the raid itself was pretty straightforward with fights and challenges, but the end boss had one little difference. During the fight he would cast Corrupted Blood on players. The spell healed Hakkar but was also hit-point draining and incredibly contagious for players.  It made for a tough fight. Even pets and minions could be infected.

And that’s where the problem started.

One ever so tiny oversight nearly shut down the game. You see, if Warlocks or Hunters dismissed their pets and re-summoned them, they would still be infected.  Low level characters didn’t stand a chance. And players certainly would summon their pet or minion innocently enough, only for the Corrupted Blood to latch onto those lower level toons and literally wiping them out. Cities, like Orgrimmar above, suddenly looked like skeletal genocide. Eventually, among the three servers most affected, the cities were empty ghost towns. People were getting their characters out of them as fast as they could. The saving grace was if you died, the debuff vanished. But again, if you were in town and went back to your body, well rinse and repeat essentially. However, once in the outer areas it wouldn’t spread faster than the players were dying.

As you might expect, the reactions varied. Many players felt it was a fantastic world event. There were lowbies who couldn’t do much but would help players get out of the city to a safer location. High level healers would offer their services (much like we did when the Wrath pre-event launched). And of course, you would have the Rudy Goberts, sorry I meant idiots, who made a point of trying to spread the disease.

In the end, it took several hard resets and some quick fixes to deal with the issue. The developers switched the mechanics so that pets and minions could no longer be affected by the Corrupted Blood debuff. As a result, on October 5th, 2005 (about three weeks later), the plague was over.

Two years later, a number of medical institutes talked scientifically about the plague, and compared it to what a worldwide epidemic would be like. It was compared to biological illnesses, and more importantly than anything it showed how hosts would behave – something all the theoretical studies in the world couldn’t accurately replicate. 15 years later, we’re dealing with the real thing. However it doesn’t endanger everyone necessarily. It spreads through whomever it seems to decide to, while being a risk to those with low immune systems and the elderly. Who knows, maybe some of the research from Corrupted Blood will help in some way as the world deals with the coronavirus.

 

5 Ups And 5 Downs In Wrath

It’s funny. Until you go back in time (no, not Warlords), you don’t realize just how much of the game has changed. But when you stop to think about it, Wrath ended 10 (!) years ago. With all the changes that have taken place, here are 5 things I like from Wrath and 5 things I’m glad changed.

Plus: Harder
Going back I’ve come to realize how much more difficult the game was, particularly at lower level. Yes, it was still the era where start zone mobs were yellow, but once you tag them, they can be hard to deal with. Even more so if they bring friends to the fight. My Mage has died a lot and it’s not from doing dumb things. Hunter could say the same pre-pet.

Minus: Mob Tagging
This was one of the things Blizzard got right, likely taking the lead from Guild Wars 2. There’s little more frustrating when you are doing a kill ‘`em quest and someone tags one of your mobs right before you do. And heaven forbid it’s a quest objective mob, otherwise you may as well get comfy for a couple of minutes.

Plus: Talent Trees
I might be in the minority on this one, but it was one of the things I always liked. The modern formula of choosing one of three abilities here and there was never the “better choices for the players” that the developers lauded when they brought it forward. Instead it became even more cookie cutter. Sure, the old trees still have their optimum build, but there is room to play around. And if the character isn’t raiding, the tree is your playground.

Minus: Profession Specialization
It’s a bit trivial, but having to choose between Weapons or Armor, for example, feels like you’re forced into a specific direction that by this time in the franchise certainly wasn’t necessary. For someone who also likes to have all craft options, it makes it a bit more difficult. But let’s be honest, if this is one of my gripes then things can’t be too bad.

Plus: Less Flight Paths
The abundance of flight paths post Cataclysm makes getting around significantly faster than it had been to that point. However, between that and being able to fly your mount, Azeroth got significantly smaller. But in the modern game if you are starting out then you’ve got 120 levels to get through. With only 80 back then, it wasn’t so bad. You could get Outland flying at 70 and Northrend flying at 80, the latter of which then unlocked the Cold Weather Flying option for any of your other characters and they just had to be high enough level to be in Northrend in the first place. But there’s something nostalgic about running from Loch Modan to Menethil Harbor, or Stormwind to Westfall, that while a short distance still seems to emphasize the “World” part of WoW.

Minus: Corpse Run
I like the world to feel bigger, just not when I’m dead. Having to run across a zone to get back to your body can be painful sometimes. Ok, almost always. And if you’re the only member of a group or raid, you feel even worse while everyone is waiting on you to return. The changes that made getting back to your body a minute or less ordeal was definitely a step forward.

Plus: Leveling
As I said in flight paths, the leveling had to change for the modern game. But the pre-Wrath zones that were changed in Cataclysm took things too far. We got quest hubs that we often outgrew before even finishing the story or getting the xp for the area becase it was no longer worth it. Ten years ago, that wasn’t the case. You could do all the quests in a hub and sometimes it wouldn’t even be enough to level out of. You might head to another zone just to get topped up, and start a new trek. Combining that with the talent trees gave a feeling like every level after ten meant something.

Minus: Wailing Caverns 
I can honestly say I have almost no difficulty in any of the dungeons or raids from 3.3.5 and older. This one, though, is a whole mess of worms. Without the later introduced map tool for dungeons, getting lost is incredibly easy.  And then one wrong step or turn and you’re really running around in circles which isn’t the best in an already incredibly long dungeon.

Plus: Dungeons
No, I’m not contradicting myself. With this one, I’m removing WC from the discussion save for the fact it’s a good run if you want the Druid of the Fang armour. But that aside, I love the way things were. Zul’Gurub and Zul’Aman aren’t 5-man’s. High Inquisitor Fairbanks is hiding behind the secret wall in Scarlet Monastery, Deadmines is back to the way it was meant to be (though Vanessa Van Cleef’s story was one of the better ones in Cataclysm).  The original dungeons had excellent stories, and you tended to farm them while leveling. Now the pre-80 stuff you might see two or three times if you’re lucky, again because leveling is so much faster.

Minus: Missing Race/Class Combos
Sure, this one is purely cosmetic (for the most part). But I miss a lot of the things we got in 4.0.3. For the most part they were changes that made sense. Human Hunters, Dwarf Warlocks, Tauren Paladins, Troll Druids, and so forth. There are a number of them I am quite fond of being able to create. That said, I do not miss the idea of a Gnome Hunter.

So there’s a handful of thoughts that have come about as a result of my time warp. I might be able to make the list a bit longer, and maybe even on both sides of the equation, but these are the ones that stand out the most. If you can think back that far, what changes are you happy for? Which ones do you wish had never changed?
 

Back To Wrath….Back To Reality?

After spending a lengthy amount of time on the private server “Monster,” I found myself in a relatively short honeymoon phase. Their Legion server was ok, but I made the switch to BfA and was excited at the opportunity for the content. Unfortunately reality set in and it was clear neither server was in good enough shape to call home for myself. I was just too excited early on to notice. As a result, I ended up in a mass hiatus once again. Recently, though, I found the strings to come back being pulled at my heart once more. It was heavily influenced, no doubt, by my acquiring the WoW Board Game in all it’s glory. Seriously, it’s vanilla to a tee. Or a vee, I suppose. But it gave me thought on what I wanted to do if I returned to Azeroth. I gave a lot of thought to vanilla because there’s so much stuff I missed out on, for better or worse. In the end, as the title would suggest, I went down a different path.

Indeed, back to the days of Northrend. Patch 3.3.5 to be specific. One of my happiest times in playing the game and the content was as rich as it would ever be. The server I ended up choosing seems to be a perfect fit. Everything works the way it’s supposed to (though I haven’t rolled a Death Knight yet, so that’s one of the few things I can’t speak to). No glitches, missing quests, npc’s, or anything to that end. In fact, there’s some bonus treats. They have a mall. As in, a developer created location that doesn’t look like anywhere else in the game. You have access to all the expected goodies such as Tier gear and legendaries if you’re lazy. But also you can transmog. By paying their vote/real money currency, you can get transmog tokens. One token lets you transmog one slot. Certain mounts can also be bought in this location. Ones that weren’t in the game yet. So again, it’s a purely cosmetic service. You’re also able to buy said currency with in-game gold, so even if you don’t give the server any money you are not missing out.

There are two things in particular the server does for starting out. For one, you’ve got Goblins and Worgen who spawn in existing start zones. The goblins join the orcs and trolls starting out, while the Worgen are in the Night Elf start zone. The other thing, which even modern WoW should do at this point, is the moment you hit level 10 you get the Riding skill and a version of your racial mount.  With most of the flight points players are accustomed to being nowhere in sight, having the riding mount at level 10 is a nice boon. It doesn’t make a huge difference, just that nice little assist as it were.

So, yes, there are some minor modifications to what we knew as Wrath of the Lich King. But that’s all they are. The game itself functions as one would expect it to. It’s 2009 all over again as far as I’m concerned. And that’s not a bad thing. Granted, it isn’t all sunshine and lollipops. There are some things that definitely changed for the better, but there are others I miss. And I will go into those at another time. For now, I’m playing the game on my time, my terms, and where I want to be in the WoW timeline.