Sunday, October 25, 2020

Twenty The Hard Way

I spent what felt like most of today taking my goblin shaman in World of Warcraft from fifteen to twenty. First I waved the trolls of Zuldezar goodbye, hoping never to see their monumental ziggurat-city again. It's an impressive feat of engineering, sure, but a nightmare to navigate.

Back in Orgrimmar, itself no favorite of mine, I went to see Chromie, looking as out-of-place as you'd imagine a gnome among orcs might. After a quick look at the options I plumped for Cataclysm. I've always wanted to take a tour of the old world to see what changes nature wrought.

Chromie sent me to go read some Warolord's board or other. When I found it, there she was, sitting on her hourglass. Unlike her Stormwind version, who, in my limited experience at least, stands in one place and looks respectable, Orgrimmar-Chromie seems mischievious. She vanished and re-appeared twice in the short time I was with her. She even made a joke about it.

The options on the board she made me read were disappointing. Two zones I don't like (Searing Gorge and another volcanic/desert zone I forget) and one I'd never heard of. That one was at least a forest so I picked it and spoke to Chromie again.

She told me to go to the Pathfinder's Den, which obviously I had never heard of, and take the portal to Shattrath, which sounded vaguely familiar although I couldn't place it. I went to the spot marked on the map and spent five minutes checking all the portals I could find. None of them went to Shattrath.

I picked one that went somewhere else I'd never heard of, Silvermoon City, on the grounds that it also began with an "S".  It seemed to be full of elves. I wandered around for a few minutes before deciding it couldn't be the place. 

Looking it up online I discovered it was the starting city of the Blood Elves, as I'm sure every single person reading this already knows. Being almost as allergic to elves, particularly the Azerothian kind, as Syp, I have never played a Blood Elf, nor visited their city. It's better than the Night Elves' shack, which I know all too well, I'll say that for it but not much more.


If you meant the secret portal room you should have said so!

Back in the portal room again I tried to google my way to Shattrath. It turned out to be somewhere in Outland, part of the Burning Crusade expansion. How this makes it part of Cataclysm beats me but by that stage I wasn't interested in starting over. I'd wasted enough time.

I was set to waste a little more, since nothing I read online explained how to find the portal I needed. In the end I had to watch a YouTube video, although sadly not this one, which does actually show you where you need to go. The one I watched showed you where you used to have to go before they changed it in the pre-patch.

In the end I stumbled upon a comment on a thread on the forums that mentioned you have to go downstairs to find the portal I needed. That possibility had already occured to me and I had already looked for a way down but I hadn't been able to find one. 

With the information that the entrance to the cellar was off the opening corridor I eventually managed to find it. It doesn't help that if you stand at the top and look straight ahead all you see is a wall. Only as you get to what appears to be a dead end does it become apparent that there's a ramp going down.

By this point I was already wondering to myself just what exactly it is that Blizzard think they're doing with their game. This time last year we were all talking a lot about how Classic doesn't hold your hand and expects you to work things out for yourself, while at the same time making the point that, by the standards of 2004, it was actually doing the exact opposite.

Having spent most of this last week playing it (or trying to), I have to say that a lot less has changed in the last fifteen years than I thought. Compared to almost any other MMORPG I've played in years, Retail WoW is still fabulously confusing and astoundingly user-unfriendly. If its reputation as a casual-friendly MMO was ever deserved it can only have been because all the others were so impossibly unwelcoming. Now the shoe is on the other foot.

Damn you, quest tracker!


The sheer volume of pre-existing knowledge expected of a new or returning player, not just systems and mechanics but the basics of knowing the hell where you are, is overwhelming. I've been trying not to look too much up out of game but frankly, if I hadn't I'd still be wandering around Stormwind trying to find Chromie.

In the end I made it to Shattrath, whereupon I immediately got hopelessly lost. Before I could orient myself I'd somehow acquired yet another "take a tour of our fine city" quest. I had the quest tracker up and unbeknownst to me it had already defaulted to the tour, while I had it in my head, from the original instructions back in Orgrimmar, that I needed to head out into the woods.

Consequently I spent the next ten minutes running a full circle around the outside of Shattrath before I realised the yellow dot on my map was in the middle of the city. Finally I got it sorted out, found the NPC I was looking for just along the main road out of town and settled down to what seemed to be a never-ending sequence of kill quests.

The irony wasn't lost on me. I've been sniping at new Blizzard's propensity for gimmicky quests that have you riding animals, piloting aircraft or morphing into monsters. I really shouldn't be complaining that what I ended up doing this time felt so... old school. There's a happy medium, surely?

Only a hundred and ninety-nine more like him and that's the level!
Maybe if the kill quotas had been the regular ten at a time it wouldn't have been so bad but these were fourteen, twenty, twenty-five. And there were dozens of them, or it felt like it. I killed wolves for their skins (Bad drop rate. Turned a kill twelve into more than double that.), trees for their termites (Better. Kill a tree, out pop five termites), moths for their... I don't remember what the moths dropped. Mostly I just killed things so I could go back and tell someone they were dead. 

For a long while it was utterly routine. I can't say I fnd the shaman an exciting class to play. It's far behind hunter or warlock or mage for thrills. It certainly is steady, though, and robust. Very hard to kill. 

Best drop of the day!
Most fights seemed to take about twice as long as they would for either a hunter or a druid at the same level, although that has to be perception rather than reality. When the shaman dinged twenty I checked her played time against what it had taken the hunter and the shaman took exactly an hour longer, half of which is accounted for by the problems I recounted earier.

So it's not much slower but boy does it feel it. I wish I'd picked a Warlock for my Horde character now. I'm not relishing another fifteen levels of this just to get to the point where I can get going on my Vulpera quests.

The best part by far was when I ended up in a series of underground ruins packed with mobs. At times I had three or four of them on me at once and often I got adds on top of that. I had to heal myself a lot and at one point I ran out of mana! Really happened!

That part went faster than any of the rest. There was even an escort quest down there, which I failed on first attempt, when the extremely traditional rescuee, who would not move faster than a slow walk but had to attack every mob he saw, managed to get us about six mobs at once and got himself killed. 

And best quest reward.
I was going to leave him down there after that but it turned out I had to go back and pick up some stuff I'd missed. I gave him another chance only this time I made sure to pull things before he could spot them and that way we made it back to his camp alive.

Altogether it wasn't a bad afternoon's entertainment. It wasn't great, though. At times I did find myself musing over whether you can buy xp boosts in the store in WoW. I can see now why the double xp event Blizzard ran for a few months was so well-recieved. There's fast levelling and there's fast-feeling levelling. I know which this is.

That said, I wonder how much it has to do with the content itself? The five levels I did in Tirargarde Sound positively zipped by and I don't think that was just because I was playing a class I enjoy more. I think I might take the shaman back to talk to Chromie and try one of the other expansions for the next stage. Pandaria, perhaps.

Or maybe I should just learn to love the trolls and go back to Zandalar. I do get the sense that if what you're really after is the swiftest trip up the levels it's probably best to do what Blizzard want you to do and stick to the most recent content. Otherwise, I imagine, they're probably thinking you might as well go play Classic.

Geez! And just imagine doing the stuff I did today with Classic's xp rates... I think I'll probably give Burning Crusade Classic a miss.


  1. I got a 20 slot bag drop out in Northrend... but it had a minimum level of 25 on it. So did a bunch of the potions and food that dropped. I don't think they have the scaling algorithm quite right yet.

    1. Yes, I had a bit of that. I think the highest required level item I got was in the mid 20s when I was in the high teens. I was going to mention it in the post but I forgot.

    2. I was going to mention it in my Northrend post, but forgot as well.

  2. So wait, were you trying to do Cataclysm? Because you ended up in The Burning Crusade.

    1. I spoke to Chromie and selected "Cataclysm". She gave me a quest to go check a notice board in Orgrimmar. The quest appeared in my journal and I followed the tracker to the board. It had three options: two were zones in Eastern Kingdoms that I knew I didn't much like. The third was a forest setting I didn't recognize. I picked the forest and got the quest.

      At this point it's possible I was on some new quest. I spoke to Chromie again and something - either her quest or the new one I'd taken - sent me to the Shattrath portal and I carried on from there. I'm open to the possibility that I somehow got two quest sequences confused but at the time it very much seemed like one seamless sequence. I'd have to do it again to be sure and I'm not *that* interested to find out!

    2. I read somewhere that the selection on the command board is randomised. It may well be just another bug - I mean, unintended feature that it included a BC zone for you when you'd already expressed a preference for Cataclysm.

    3. The board gives you three (seemingly random) zones that correspond to your current level. Since you picked Cataclysm any of the old world zones should scale from your level up to 50, while the Outland zones have their "normal" scaling so Terokkar Forest will be good from something like 15 to 30. At the moment Burning Crusade zones are actually the most old school quest experience in the game (since the original zones got reworked for Cataclysm) so it's a poster child for poor quest flow and "you want me to kill HOW MANY?!" quests.

      My advice is go level in Pandaria, which is what I'm currently doing. The only downside I've found is I can only do a few quests before I get desperate for a Chinese takeaway.

    4. Thanks everyone. I'm not even sure any more what the point of using Chromie Time is, unless you're determined to do all forty levels post Exile's Reach while following the same storyline. It seems that all the previous zone level scaling is still in place so you can just use that if you don't care about the plot(s) - which I don't!

      I think I'll take the shaman to Pandaria and see how that goes. After that I'm probably going to revert to my normal playstyle on other characters and jump about all over the place as the mood takes me.

  3. Pandaria is a lot of fun. I have a slight urge to fire WoW up and check out the level squish, but I will probably hold off until they expand classic. BC and WotLK are the eras I would really like to get back to, though 1-40 in classic was also a heck of a lot of fun.

    1. I started on Pandaria last night and it was both faster and more entertaining than the Burning Crusade stuff. I'll be staying there for a while, I imagine.


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