Friday, November 21, 2008

Thoughts on the Wrathgate and Undercity Experience

Spoilers abound below for those of you who have not completed the Wrathgate quest chain in the Dragonblight (or watched it online).

Yesterday, Lal and Salthier completed the Wrathgate quest chain. First of all, I was really excited about it, and I had avoided seeing it or reading much about it online before actually doing it so it would be that much more epic when we did see it. It was impressive, and there are a lot of things I liked about it, but there were some things that didn't sit well with me either, and they were mostly related to lore. First the good stuff.

I love this phasing technology that actually makes the world change as if I affected it. I suppose it can be weird that you and the person next to you are seeing different things depending on what quests you have completed, but it works really well to develop the story of your character. I've noticed that the quest givers in Northrend will often call you a hero, or talk about how they've heard of your activities in Azeroth and Outland. We are the new heroes of the world, and we are the driving force in the war against the Lich King. That's pretty cool.

The cinematic at the Wrathgate was really cool. I wish (and hope) that they will use these more to tell the story of the game or give us a reward for a hard earned quest chain (besides a green item to disenchant). And because I had avoided the spoilers, I was actually surprised to see Putress show up and dump his plague on everybody. There are a couple things I would like to key in on. First, Putress shouts out that he wants to destroy the Scourge AND the Living. Which means basically everybody but the Forsaken. Now just before he did this, Bolvar and Saurfang Jr. were fighting side by side against the Lich King. Horde and Alliance united against a common enemy, which has sort of been a staple of the game for awhile. Then we have Putress, an agent of Sylvanas and the Forsaken, who basically turns on everyone. And after he dumps his plague, you hear the Lich King whisper "Sylvanas!" as if he's surprised to see that his old banshee has come back to haunt him. So it's pretty intense. The Alliance feels like the horde betrayed them; the Horde are saying the Forsaken are the only one's responsible; and even Arthas is surprised at Sylvanas' action, and it causes it him to retreat.

Our poor characters are tasked with telling the newly returned king of Stormwind what happened. And this is where I feel like things got messed up with the lore. We talk to Varian, and Jaina is right next to him (again, phasing ftw). She encourages us to go talk with Thrall. Varian seems cool with this. It's a diplomatic mission. So we portal off to Orgrimmar and Thrall and Sylvanas are right there to talk with. Apparently, they were both betrayed by Varimathras, who was the co-leader of the Forsaken in the Undercity with Sylvanas. Varimathras was a Dread Lord who had supposedly turned his back on the Burning Legion and the Lich King to assist the newly freed Forsaken. Turns out it was a big lie and his real goal was to wipe out all life. The Undercity is now controlled by Putress and Varimathras. So we take this information back to the king. He decides that now is the time to attack the Undercity, to destroy the traitor Putress, and take it back for the Alliance. So far, it's all pretty plausible. The Horde have a slightly different quest line that involves going with Thrall to the Undercity to kill Varimathras.

In an incredibly fun filled adventure, you basically go with the King to Undercity and receive a buff that makes you nearly invincible. You work your way through the sewers and kill Putress for his deception and his crimes. Then things go down hill. Varian, apparently thirsty for revenge and mad at how Thrall's acceptance of the Forsaken into the Horde lead to this event, goes crazy and decides that he's not satisfied with the death of Putress. He wants to end the Horde too. So when he hears Thrall yelling, he makes a bee line for the Orc and basically tells Thrall that all bets are off, the Horde ends now. Thrall really has not choice and they fight. Jaina, protesting, frost novas everyone and ports us all back to where we belong, in Stormwind.

So here's where I have trouble. If all we know is the lore that is in the game, we know that Varian was lost for a long time, and then found and forced to fight in gladiator arenas by the orcs, but he made his way back, and now is the king again. Bolvar was a good friend of his and had taken pretty good care of things in the king's absence. Well, except for that whole Onyxia thing, but that's another story. So anyway, with the Forsaken being part of the Horde, you might think Varian is justified in being angry at Thrall, once for the whole forced to be a gladiator thing, and twice for their acceptance of an evil that caused the death of Bolvar. But the problem for me is that we've already done the diplomatic thing for Varian and talked to Thrall who explained what happened. Putress didn't just attack the Alliance, he attacked the LIVING, which means Orcs and Humans and all the rest. If Varian was going to declare all out war with the Horde, then why did we even have to go talk to Thrall in the first place? It looks like Varian is blaming Thrall for Bolvar, and for his time as a gladiator because Thrall created the atmosphere for the tragedy to happen. Sylvanas says she's innocent too, which I think is a bit more circumspect, but it makes sense to give the forsaken players an out for being involved in the treachery.

If you've read the blog a bit, you know I've been reading the WoW comics involving the king, and it makes things a little more complicated as well, since Varian didn't have such a bad time in the gladiator arena's as he makes it out to be in the game. On top of that, when he made his escape, his orc captor basically let him go because of some sort of respect. So in conclusion, I'm a little miffed at how vengeful and and warmongerish Varian is. Yeah, he's had it rough, but shouldn't he be more concerned about the threat from Arthas instead of f vengeful war with the Horde right now? And what happened to thinking and reasoning? It's more like he just got too excited after the battle in Undercity and decided to take it out on the rest of the Horde. Maybe I'm a little to sympathetic of the Orcs because I've read the novels that show them to be somewhat honorable and a noble people that got a bad reputation for being bloodthirsty because of the involvement of the Burning Legion. Maybe Thrall or Sylvanas should have seen this plague thing coming, but they seem more level headed about it than our blood thirsty king. I guess I'll just have to see how it all plays out in the coming patches. Maybe by the time we assault Icecrown again, things will have changed.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008


So we've had some time to let the expansion sink in. I really love it. Blizzard has gone above and beyond with regards to making your character feel like a hero and a major part of the machinations that are moving this war with the Lich King. They've also kept their typical humor and light heartedness that makes the game a lot of fun. Read on for some impressions of the zones, the story, and the leveling process. There will be spoilers for those of you who have not seen some of the content yet, so be aware.

Salthier and Lal started their journey in Northrend at Valliance Keep in the Borean Tundra. My main reason for this was because Salthier is somewhat a part of the politics in Stormwind and it made sense for him to take the boat from there. Lal came along because she wasn't too concerned where to go, and we did want to level together. The questing started in earnest as we began fighting back undead, right outside the front walls of the first city. One of Lal's first objectives was to start leveling her professions. She was particularly happy with the ability to gather more cloth than others thanks to being a tailor and getting a special skill. Salthier started learning new enchanting and alchemy recipes, but the levelign of the professions is going somewhat slowly.

We finished out the Tundra quests over the weekend. I really liked the quests on the farm, where you rally all of the farmers to take up weapons and fight the scourge. It's one of those "feel like you're making a difference" moments. We did all of the D.E.H.T.A. (Druids for the Ethical and Humane Treatment of Animals) quests. It was obviously meant in fun, but I can't help but feel a little upset about it, being a druid in the game. The Cenarion Expedition members of the DEHTA are a bunch of bloodthirsty hate mongering animal lovers. Granted they were after some pretty bad dudes who were trapping baby mammoths and transporting animal parts. But at the same time, I had never thought of Nesingwary as a bloodthirsty animal parts trafficer. More of just an old dwarf who like the thrill of the hunt.(Or perhaps the thrill of making other people hunt for him...)

Anyway, I thoroughly enjoyed the quests involving the Blue Dragonflight in Coldarra, and how again you feel like a major player in the Nexus war. And the way they are intigrating the Death Knight lore is pretty cool as well, as they do in the area called Death's Hand. It only gets better as you move on to Dragonblight.

Lore explodes all over the place in this next zone. You've got the Alliance and Bolvar fighting the Scourge on one front, the dragon aspects fighting their own war, and you even get to witness past events through a scrying orb with Arthas. It's a rush. One thing Lal and I have noticed are the shear amount of quests there are to do. We pick up several from one area, and while going to complete them, find another small hub. Then just when we think we've completed all the quests in an area, we get a new chain that sends us to a new place with quests along the way. Sometimes you have to be a bit patient and realize that all of the quests are helping you advance, and some of the rewards are really nice. Salthier is continually changing his gear, and Lal has replaced quite a few of her Tier 4 and badge items already. We're currently 74 and on one of the last chians in the Dragonblight that takes us through Wyrmrest Temple. It will culminate in the Wrathgate Cinematic which I haven't watched and know minimal details about. I can't wait to see it.

As for dungeons, we have done all of them at our level, starting in Utgarde Keep, moving to The Nexus, then Azjol-Nerub, and just last night we did Ahn'kahet: The Old Kingdom. Each one has been a lot of fun, and somehow seems to top the previous one. Utgarde was huge, with a lot of new lore and exciting imagery that made it seem more epic than just a regular 5 person dungeon. And the exit from the Keep where you jump down into the water was a blast. The Nexus had some really cool boss fights, and the story line with the red dragon is sad, but still epic. Azjol-Nerub was a very quick three boss instance with hardly any trash, but the boss fights were intense. I do wish that Anu'burak had a little more presence in the game though. I seem to recall he had a bigger role in Warcraft III. The Old Kingdom was fascinating. Anoter visual achievement for dungeons. And the last boss fight in there is quite different from anything I've ever done before. A lot of people say it's the best boss fight they've ever done. There are several screen shots below from The Old Kingdom.

Elionene has taken some time off and is sitting in the Howling Fjord still. I'll be able to spend more time on her after Thanksgiving, hopefully having Salthier at 80 by then. Then I'll have two level 80 raiding toons. I haven't yet played through the Death Knight Experience, but that will be one of my goals for the coming weeks as well, and I might even do up a little story for my knight, to try and differentiate him from all of the other stories of DK redemption out there.

Here are some shots of our recent activities. Enjoy!

Elionene met Mr. Lich King himself while searching the spirit realm for information on the history of the Vry-kul.

Salthier and Lal learned a little more about what really happened when Arthas took up the cursed blade, Frostmourne.

We ascend the Nexus to try and lure Malygos out. Not all went according to plan however.

One of the famed turtle ferries that take people between starter zones.

Lal showed off her cooking abilities by making a feast that the whole party could enjoy. Not only did we get to sit around and have a good meal, we got a well fed buff to go with it. +60 AP, +35 Spell Power, and +30 STA. Mmm Mmm Good.

One of the areas under The Old Kingdom.

Another shot of the Old Kingdom, one of the more visually stunning dungeons. They're all unique and interesting in their own right.

Monday, November 17, 2008

Northrend is Beautiful...

Well, you know, except for all of the undead, and the wars going on, and Arthas showing up to laugh at you every now and then. But all in all, the new zones are amazing, the music is extensive and fitting, and Lal and I are having a great time.

I took time off work for Thursday and Friday so we could play our eyes out over the weekend, and we did. Lal is currently at 73, and Salthier is on his last bubble of 72. We are playing at a quick pace, but still trying to take the time to read the quest text and enjoy the experience. We started in the Borean Tundra and are working on the quests in the Dragonblight at the moment.

Elionene went to the Howling Fjord and is somewhere in the middle of level 71. I had time to play her when Lal was out and about on Thursday and then Sunday. Overall, I like the Fjord zone better in terms of things to see and the lore of the Vrykul. The quests everywhere are intelligent and different. Yes, there are a lot of kill this, and collect that type quests. But interspersed throughout are quests where you get to pilot planes, surf on harpoons, fly on dragons, and trample hordes of undead while bubbled.

And then there are the excrement quests. Seriously, what is up with all of these? It started in Outland where we had to find some water breathing cherries in Talbuk poo, but in Northrend I've encountered at least two and heard of a third quest all involving somebody's... left overs. I suppose it could be funny, but this might be overkill.

Moving on. The guild as a whole is set to start raiding Naxx sometime in January. I'm hopeful we can be clearing the place in February. This might be complicated by some real life activity for Lal and I that will interfere with our gaming time in December and January, but I'll adjust when we get to that point.

Other than the queues, the servers have been stable and the lag not unreasonable. It's a lot of fun to be doing new things and seeing new places instead of the same raid week after week. I've taken a lot of picturs and will throw up a post when I can. In the mean time, posting will probably be a bit irregular while I spend time leveling Salthier and Elionene with Lal.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

The Plan

Yesterday I had the day off. I knew there was going to be maintenance, but I was expecting to be able to play in the early afternoon. Much earlier than I normally log on during the week. While waiting for the maintenance, I played some Twilight Princess on the Nintendo Wii. It was a lot of fun, I need to make a note to do that more often.

I logged on at around 11:45 Server, and played for 15 minutes before the server came down. And then the waiting began. Needless to say, didn't get back on until 10 hours later, and then I just checked my non existent mail and went to bed. /sigh

But that is the past. The future is now, and today, I have a plan.

1) Get off work and go home.

2) Eat dinner

3) Grind the last of the reputation on Salthier for Cenarion Circle and grab that "Guardian of Cenarius" title. Stylin'.

4) Go to guild meeting. (sporting new title)

5) Participate in guild RP event. (Guild Master is doing a pilgrimage from Ironforge to Uther's tomb. He's a dwarf pally.)

6) Get ready to go to mall around 10 PMish

7) Wait at Gamestop, see if anyone is in costume (I will NOT be), purchase game and beat it at 12:01 AM

8) Return home, install one copy on each computer (2) and hope that the lag and server death doesn't prevent me from playing until the sun comes up. My hopes are not high based on recent activity.

That's the plan. Let's hope all goes according.