If it's crap ... We'll tell you
(formatting may be off since the blog editor doesn't feel like cooperating... )
Its been nearly three weeks since the release of Cataclysm; the third expansion of the gargantuan MMO, World Of Warcraft. Azeroth has been reshaped, both geographically and politically, in the wake of the destruction caused by the reemergence of Deathwing. There's a plethora of new things to do, as well as a completely redesigned leveling experience.
This blog will be about the new zones introduced in the expansion (not the completely revamped old-Azeroth) Since these are my early impressions, not everything will be covered. I have one level 85 Undead warlock. I've leveled a Gnome mage up to 62, and left his ass in Outland in order to experience more new content. I have also completed the Worgen and Goblin starting zones. I have not, however, had time to run any of the new dungeons or battlegrounds. My warlock got to 85 in
Uldum, and has barely done anything in Twilight Highlands, so I'll be skipping that zone for this blog.
Let's start off with the 80-82 zones. The first one I went to was Vashj'ir. This zone is notable for being Blizzard's first attempt at an underwater zone. For the most part, this zone is a success. Since flying is out of the question, players receive a seahorse mount to zip around on. Its a nice addition, as well as a great way for Blizzard to troll everyone who spent an ungodly amount of time trying to get the turtle mount in the last expansion. Vashj'ir is home to sharks, crabs, dying demigods, and lots of Naga. Seriously, I hope you really like killing Naga, because you'll be doing a lot of it.
I enjoyed Vashj'ir quite a bit, although not at first. The zone is divded into three sub-zones. While the second and third areas feel expansive, the first zone gave me the impression that I was just in a giant fish tank. It didn't give me the feeling that I was in the middle of the sea. After a while, however, it did win me over.
The other 80-82 zone is Mount Hyjal. The Night Elves, led by the long absent Malfurion Stormrage, are attempting to defend the World Tree, Nordrassil, from the encroaching forces of Ragnaros. This one is basically a standard mountainous zone. There's plenty of fire elementals, ogres, and harpies to slaughter as you make your way down Hyjal. I wasn't as impressed with this zone. It kind of felt like "Stonetalon Pt. 2" due to the geography. It isn't really a bad zone, but it just didn't
Next up is Deepholm. After a trip through the Maelstrom, we end up at the Temple of Earth. The Earthen Ring is desperately trying to repair the World Pillar that Deathwing destroyed on his way out. In addition, players must deal with stone troggs, cultists, and pissed off Earth Elementals. For the most part, I did like this zone. It really is just one giant cave, but I thought it was at least fairly visually appealing. I assumed that Deepholm would be full of fire and brimstone, and the blue color palette made gave the zone a somewhat calm atmosphere that I really enjoyed.
Finally, we end up in Egypt, I mean, Uldum. That sums up the zone pretty well. I don't mean that in bad way, though, as Uldum is my favorite new zone. The main focus of the zone is assisting the Ramkahen; descendants of a race known as the Tol'vir. The only way I can really describe them is "feline centaurs".
The other storyline centers around everyone's favorite explorer, Harrison Jones. Players help Jones solve the various mysteries of Uldum, as well as defeat the Nazi-esque forces of Commander Schnottz. As you may have guessed, its an incredibly unsubtle parody of Raiders of the Lost Ark that is thankfully funnier than it sounds. Overall, the quests in Uldum are
pretty fun. The sheer brightness of the environment helps a lot. It is somewhat reminiscent of Nagrand from Burning Crusade, which is one of the best looking zones in the game. There's a lot to do, and plenty of things to kill, but the visuals make it a fairly relaxing experience.
Onto the new races! Let's start off with the Goblins. Unlike their neutral cousins, the goblins of the Bilgewater Cartel have joined the ranks of the Horde. They start off at their island town, Kezan. After a visit from a certain pissed off dragon, as well as a run-in with an Alliance ship, the goblins find themselves stranded on the Lost Isles. From here, new goblins must deal with pygmies, raptors, sharks, and a few traitors. The goblin quests are generally humorous. This isn't a species that's concerned with honor or tradition. It's all about profit, and the many of the quests fit that theme. Its a fun experience.
On the other side, the Alliance added the Worgen to their allies. They begin as the Gilneans; a faction of humans that left the Alliance and hid behind the Greymane Wall in Lordaeron. One night, the city is attacked by what seems like an entire army of Worgen. Players, as well as the major NPCs, survive the attack. They do not leave unscathed, however, as they have succumbed to a curse. They have become like the beasts that invaded their city! The cursed Gilneans manage to escape the capital, but they find themselves with bigger problem. While the Worgen attacked the city, the dreaded Forsaken (Undead) invaded from the sea. Apparently, it really sucks to be Gilnean.
I did like the Worgen quests. They are the tonal opposite of the Goblin zone. There is nothing light-hearted here, which does fit the tone of much of Cataclysm. Unfortunately, there's a lot less personality in Gilneas. A lot of the NPCs are no different then other human characters. It doesn't help, of course, that Blizzard forgot to give some of them the right accents; rendering them nearly indistinguishable from the humans of Stormwind.The quests are enjoyable, but I felt like I've done all of them before. I understand that most WoW quests aren't that different from each other, but Gilneas stands out for this.
I think there's a possible explanation for this. Normally, I roll my eyes at people who whine about Blizzard's supposed faction bias towards the Horde. This situation is a bit different. I don't necessarily think that bias is the problem here, but I can't fault anyone for believing it. I got the impression that Blizzard really wanted to make goblins playable. The effort they put into it really shows. The character models look great, and the animations are quite detailed. The goblin zones are full of personality and charm. Also, the goblins remain a presence in various Horde zones and quests. Their leader even carved his face into a goddamned mountain in Azshara.
If you're playing a Worgen, don't expect anything similar. Once you get to Darnassus, you're told to help out the Night Elves any way you can. From here, you're dumped in Darkshore and essentially become a Night Elf. Outside of their starting zones, the Worgen are barely present. Even the Draenei, who are now almost as absent in the world, at least had a major presence in their expansion. This really does make me think that the Worgen were an afterthought; an excuse to add playable Goblins without working in a third faction.
Regardless of my complaining, I am having fun with Cataclysm. The new zones, combined with a streamlined leveling experience, manage to reinvigorate an aging game. If you've ever thought about giving WoW a shot, now's a pretty good time to start.