Tuesday, August 13, 2019

Leaving Here: WoW

This afternoon I completed the Pandaren starter questline. It took me a couple of hours or so, almost half of which was the very poorly designed finale. I'll come back to that.

I was quite surprised that when the option to leave Wandering Isle appeared my monk was only Level 14. I was expecting to go pretty much all the way to 20 before the quest ended, although checking the Wowpedia entry it describes it as "The Pandaren level 1-10 starting experience". That must have changed. I can't see how you could do all the quests and still only be level 10.

Then again, I did kill a lot of mobs. One thing that really shocked me about Wandering Isle was the combination of mob density and aggro range. I don't recall any of the other starting areas being anything like as full-on.

There are large areas with few mobs but in areas where you're sent to quest the mobs are packed like sardines. I was frequently mobbed and almost as frequently died. It was far from unusual to find myself fighting first two, then four, then six mobs as adds appeared seemingly out of nowhere. I wasn't moving around to aggro them - they were coming in from distance like homing missiles.

I don't like this sort of design even in high-level areas. It's the number one reason I strongly dislike Guild Wars 2's Path of Fire expansion, which has nightmarish mob density and aggro almost everywhere. In a starter zone, in a game famous for its easy gameplay, particularly at low levels, it seems completely insane.

Just the two of you? Come on, you don't fool me!

The penultimate stage, a boss fight, was also very tough. I died right before the boss was about to die because I mistakenly hit my new taunt abilty and pulled him off Aysa, the NPC who was supposed to be tanking. That reset the entire encounter and I had to do it again from scratch.

The final set piece was a super-annoying "keep the healers alive" marathon. As you can see from the lengthy thread following the walkthrough on Wowhead, it's a deeply unpopular event and rightly so.  I died more than once trying to work out how to do it and each death set progress back to zero.

On the third death I googled to see what I was doing wrong, which turned out to be not much. In the end I followed the advice to just concentrate on keeping one or two healers alive and ignoring the rest. That worked. Slowly. And irritatingly. Not fun at all.

Eventually it ended. I got in a cart and let the ox pull me back to the Sensei, who told me I should leave Wandering Isle to go help our new friends in the wider world. He offered me the choice of going with The Horde or The Alliance although up until that point i had only met and talked to The Horde.

Despite that, I took the option to join The Alliance, because Pandas seem to fit much better on the "good" team and also I don't really get on with The Horde. I'm not sure I should have left right away. I have the distinct feeling there was quite a lot I hadn't seen or done. The main quest is very on rails and I doubt it would have omitted any hubs or quests but there seemed to be a lot of map I don't remember visiting.

Tauren always seem as though they should be in The Alliance to me. Never mind that, though. Just look at my gorgeous split cloak and crossed maces. Can't remember when I had a low-level WoW character that looked so good.

Wowpedia says that "Once characters leave the Wandering Isle, they are ineligible for a return journey" so if i want to explore it any further I'll have to make another panda. On the other hand, Wowpedia also says "Non-Pandaren are prevented from ever entering the Island" but I swear I saw several Dwarf PCs running around. It's possible they were NPCs but since I saw at least two of them in the stages long before the Alliance and the Horde entered the plotline I don't think so.

With a huge, successful, popular game like World of Warcraft I do expect the main information sources to be up to date, but thinking back to when I first played, during Wrath of the Lich King, when the game was far more popular and successful than it is now, I remember running into many examples of old, outdated and obsolete information, even on the main support sites of the day.

A hot air balloon transported me to Stormwind. I'd have preferred Ironforge and I'll probably take the underground to the snowlands to complete my last five-and-a-half levels. First, though, I had to see King Anduin to formally join The Alliance.

I liked the way many NPCs pointed me out and commented, favorably and unfavorably, as I jogged through the streets. My panda posse commented on the comments and it made for a very atmospheric entry into the new world.

The King could at least have given me an armband or something. I had to get this Alliance Balloon off some random child!

Unfortunately, the meeting with the King was a total anticlimax. He had one short paragraph which boiled down to "Hi! Welcome to The Alliance. Now bugger off." Joining The Alliance also immediately removed any novelty value I might have had. All NPCs went back to ignoring me. Also, my posse vanished without explanation or farewell. It was a bit of a let-down to be honest.

I consoled myself by wandering around the streets of Stormwind finding stray balloons for some little girl who asked me to help. I had nothing better to do although I doubt it was what my Monk Master had in my mind when he sent me to fix the broken world outside.

Don't care. I got a balloon!

At that point I took a break to write this. I'll definitely get to 20. I have a feeling I may have an unused Level 100 Boost left from Legion. I don't think I used it on my Hunter, who probably levelled up far enough in the excellent pre-expansion events. If so I could use it on the Monk. Level-scaling would, presumably, allow me to go back down to do the 80-90 Pandaren zones, and if not they would just be very easy, which suits me.

Something to think about, at least. I do like the setting and the questing so far and I'm very fond of my Monk, who looks fantastic in all the quest and dropped armor she's found. Chances are this will go further, if not now then at some future time when I'm at a loose end.


  1. It is possible that the Dwarves you saw were a phasing issue. Blizzard reused the Wandering Isle as the Monk Order Hall in Legion. I could be wrong about that as I haven't researched it, but I can see them using phasing instead of having a separate instance for just the Order Hall.

    1. That's entirely possible. Some of them didn't seem to be interacting with the NPCs or mobs. On the other hand, a tleast a couple seemed to be fighting things. I clicked on several of them and they were definitely PCs, with their server names and guilds showing.

  2. "Can't remember when I had a low-level WoW character that looked so good."

    Except that those maces look more like maracas. ;-)

    I have to say though, the game looks pretty good on these screenshots of yours.
    I'm not in the camp of people who don't play the game because of its graphics, but I admittedly assumed it to look worse than this.

    1. Visually it stands up to most MMOs I think. The graphics are cartoony, yes, but they are gorgeously detailed and the art design and direction is superlative. I'm not a huge WoW fan but one of the best things about it for me is how it looks.


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