Thursday, November 26, 2020

Fire On The Mountain

Everyone else is out there, venturing into the lands of the dead and here am I, plodding through pre-Shadowlands WoW. Not even the cool, new Chromie-time WoW, either. Just plain old no-one likes me I'm the worst expansion ever Cataclysm.

Only I do kind of like it. I finished the whole of the zone storyline in Eastern and Western Plaguelands and thought it was pretty good. That popped me over the limit for most of the expansion but there were a handful of zones that went another five levels so I picked one of those and on I went.

Which is how I ended up spending the last couple of days in Mount Hyjal. WoWHead calls it "the zone most players quest in when starting Cataclysm zones". Yeah, I wouldn't have used the word "zone" twice in one sentence there. Also, a little confused as to how they'd have started in Mt. Hyjal when Cataclysm was new. There was no level-scaling back then, right? Wouldn't it have been high-level? 

Who knows? Ancient history. Whatever. Add it to the pile of things I don't understand about how WoW works. It's a big pile.

I had vaguely heard of Mount Hyjal before but I had no idea where or what it was. I do now, having spent something like ten hours there, and I can't say it's anywhere I'm keen to see again, once I get the hell out. Half of it's on fire and the rest is so undifferentiated and bland you can only imagine being on fire would be an improvement.

The zone storyline is equally uninspired and derivative. It has none of the personality or, indeed, personalities that made the Plaguelands such a pleasure. It's all druids and nature and elemental forces and demons and blah blah blah. How many times are we going to do this dance? Seriously?

I'm tough but I'm fair.


That sounds like I hated it. I didn't. It's perfectly fine, in the usage I was decrying the other day. The narrative at least makes sense although the structure is a little unstable. As far as I can tell you can be at the end while still not having done all of the middle but I don't think it matters all that much. 

Also, could we get a moratorium on NPCs giving dire warnings about urgency when in practice you can take all the time you want and it's going to make no difference whatsoever. I mean, I really dislike quests and events with timers but if you say the clock's ticking and it's not it feels even worse.

And anyway, how bad can things be if we're taking time out to save bunnies? About the only memorable NPC in the whole timeline is the self-aware, passive-aggressive, emotionally manipulative, centaur, Mylune. She literally hugs bunnies and makes doe eyes at you if you don't want to join in.

She has a couple of quests, one of which involves catching hyperactive, terrified rabbits and squirrels in a box, the other rescuing injured baby deer. Someone was very clearly having altogether too much fun when they wrote Mylune's lines,a  few of which made me laugh out loud. Fun at whose expense, though? That's the question.

I don't want to question your priorities, but...

I'm guessing Mylune, whose first appearance this is, was a bit of a favorite at the time, either with players or developers, because I see she turns up again in every succeeding expansion. Maybe she's in Shadowlands, too, although I guess she'd have to be dead, which might not quite fit the mood.

Other than that, I couldn't tell you the name of another NPC, even though it's only been a day or two. There was an archdruid who got burned to a crisp. I remember him. He looked like a bear. Well, he looked like a charred black lump but that was after. And there was big turtle who talked in free verse. Other than that I'm blanking.

Oh, wait, there was that snarky guy on the hook! He was fun. They should have given him more screen-time. And the mortal-turned-demon who played us in the most predictable scam ever. He was... well, okay, he was straight from central casting but at least I can remember him. 

Tell me how you really feel, Kristoff.

If the plot wasn't up to much the mechanics did their best to make up for it. There was a fair bit of turning into things which, as has been discussed here before, is something I generally disapprove of but I have to say WoW probably does it better than most. If I'm going to have to turn into a giant owl and fly around blowing a whistle or climb up trees and throw bear cubs into a net I'd rather do it with one simple button to press and the UI doing all the heavy lifting.

I forget exactly what level my vulpera hunter was when she arrived in Mount Hyjal. Thirty-four? Thirty-five? With just one final part of the zone storyline left to complete she's now thirty-nine. I'm hoping to limp her on to forty before we leave but I'm not sure there's quite enough questing left in the tank. 

Still, it's pretty good going. The mobs stopped scaling at thirty five but I can't say I've noticed much of a difference. They don't seem to die any faster than they did a few levels ago. The quest rewards are still mostly upgrades although that's often because of the random roll mechanic. It seems to fire more often than you'd expect, bumping close to half of everything I get by a quality level. Sometimes two.

Wait, so you're saying all that stuff you got me to do that was supposed to help the cause was just to break your bonds and set you free? Wow! I never saw that coming...


Xp, though, that's very much beginning to fall behind. Even thought there are other 30-35 zones in Cataclysm, I won't be trying to stretch this experiment any further. I haven't decided yet whether to move to another expansion or go back and have Chromie re-fit the Cataclysmic world to my requirements. 

I'm tempted to move on, partly because I can see doing all of the Cataclysm zones on different characters, but also for the money. The biggest practical difference I've noticed between levelling in older expansions as opposed to newer ones is the amount of gold I make. 

By the time my shaman hit fifty she had around six thousand gold and that was after spending a couple of thousand along the way. She made pretty much all of it in Battle for Azeroth's Vol'Dun, which is, ironically, the vulpera's homeland. By contrast, as she nears forty, the vulpera hunter has barely a thousand gold to her name. I'm thinking maybe it's time for her to go visit the folks for a while or at least do some adventuring closer to home.

I'm feeling kinda woozy. Y'don't think it could be these flowerzzzz....


One thing's for sure: in WoW Retail this time around, I've rediscovered my love of levelling for it's own sake. I'm having a great time bringing these characters up through the ranks but I have no clue what to do with any of them when they hit fifty. They're pretty much going straight onto the bench to sit things out while the next up takes a turn. Which is exactly how I played mmorpgs for years.

The exception is the dwarf hunter. He has a garrison to run. He comes out once or twice a day to set missions and check everything's running smoothly. I can already see why this was a feature loved by some and hated by many (or was that the other way around?). Even in its eviscerated state it's demanding. When it was current content it must have bordered on the oppressive.

The main reason I'm sticlking with it is I hear you can make bags. It seems you need to be a tailor to do it. So far I've worked out how to farm the fur and make the cloth. That much I managed by trial and error but I suspect the next stage will require research. 

I'm off to do that now. Expect more redundant news on outdated content no-one cares about any more - as it happens!


  1. Cataclysm was the era of WoW where I probably had the most fun. We still had talent trees, and leveling up was still meaningful because they hadn't added in level scaling yet. It was the era of old school WoW design that had the most content. MOP was pretty good too, but you could already see the game starting to veer off into a drastically different design direction. By the time I came back for classic, retail had diverged so much that it was pretty much an entirely different game. Post level squish retail even more so.

    In any case, I liked Cataclysm just fine. I never really got the hatred towards it, save that I guess a lot of players didn't like having the entire classic 1-50 game ripped out and replaced with something different all at once.

    1. I quit over Cata, not because of the world rework (although I did not particularly enjoy taking a bunch of idyllic settings and replacing them with ugly ones), but because they nerfed so much of my gameplay.

      I generally only play one character in an MMO, because that's plenty for me to manage. I had leveled an Arcane Mage Inscriptionist in WoW and gotten pretty comfortable with him. When they ground both of those into the dust while simultaneously completely obsoleting all my gear I went and found something else to do.

      The other big factor in my departure was that to get the next levels for my Mage required traversing a whole bunch of underwater content. I absolutely loathe underwater combat in WoW: I find it excruciatingly slow and awkward and fiddly. After picking up three levels or so there I was really done with the game.

      I tried coming back recently because Classic and started a Panda in Retail. It seemed… fine. Then Blitzchung happened and I got off the bus and never got back on.

      So yeah, for me WoW peaked with WotLK. I get that a lot of that was my personal circumstance, but from what I heard at the time it's not just me.

    2. I get what Blizzard were trying for with the whole Cataclysm revamp but I think they handled it badly and it's seems clear they don't intend to repeat the mistake. I wasn't emotionally invested ion those zones so I find it pretty interesting to compare, and of course these days we have Classic so it's not as painful as it once was, but I feel the way SOE/Daybreak do it is a lot better. They long ago worked out how to have your cake and eat it when it comes to re-writing history (and also re-using art assets). For a start, EQ2 is pretty much the idea Blizzard borrowed for Cataclysm, only as a separate game. Yes, it didn't do as well as they hoped but also it didn't totally wreck the big moneymaker, EQ, which it might well have done if they'd tried to do it in the older game.

      As for EQ, SOE went through a period of graphical revamps to existing zones with mixed success but they eventually moved to recreating whole zones in alternate versions. They've based entire expansions around it and it works pretty well. It's interesting to see how the zones could change or be done differently but the originals are still left exactly as they were so everyone's happy.

      Messing around with the way the mechanics work every two years, though, that really is a Blizzard trademark. Does anyone actually lok forward to that?

  2. Shadowlands hasn't really piqued my interest any, but the idea of being able to level through the old expansions without immediately out leveling every zone you're in sounds enticing.

    I found leveling in Cataclysm to be a bit of a mixed bag. You could definitely tell each zone was handled by a different developer. The experience was really uneven.

    Mt. Hyjal was a little bit of a let down at launch. It's a zone with huge lore implications in Warcraft, and had been teased since Wow's beta, but they didn't really do much with it. A later patch added the Firelands content to it, but it probably deserved to be the grand finale in it's own expansion.

    1. I'm aware the lore implications of pretty much everything in WoW are going straight over my head. I can only really judge by the impact individual zones, storylines or events have and so far I would very much agree that there's a "this dev did this part, another dev did that one" effect in play. YOu tend to get a bit of that in most games but, possibly because of Blizzard just having more people to throw at things, it seems particularly noticeable in WoW.

  3. Mt. Hyjal and Vashj'ir were the two starter zones for level 80s. That's what Wowhead meant. For me, Mt. Hyjal was more preferable to Vashj'ir which was an underwater zone and seemed to go on far too long. It the Cataclysm beta it was even longer, but the Devs cut something like a full third or more of the zone.

    The satyr was definitely obvious, but felt more like a nod to the one on Teldrassil back in Classic. It was fine back when all of us were starting and had no idea about the satyrs. It doesn't work well when it is in the third expansion.

  4. My ranking of the Cataclysm zones, which did not scale but there was only a five level boost in the level cap for the expansion, so the gap was not huge, were:

    Vashj'ir - Maybe the prettiest zone in WoW, though makes some motion sick
    Uldum - Get to ride on a wagon, can get a camel mount
    Deepholm - Nice and dark and under ground
    Twilight Highlands - Kind of a generic WoW zone, but sprawling
    Mount Hyjal - Less generic yet less interesting

    And yes, there was no level scaling. You needed to be level 80 to get stuck in, which required you to do 1-60 in the newly revamped zones, then 60-70 in Burning Crusade, and then 70-80 in WotLK.


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