Wednesday, December 9, 2020

Down The Mountain

While everyone else is out there exploring Shadowlands I'm still plugging away in WoW-as-was. Truth be told, I haven't even been doing all that much of that, what with my return to work and all these unexpected alphas that keep popping up

Plus, thanks to Jeromai pointing me towards Steam's sale on the Blackwood Chronicles, I've been playing through those as well. And to top it all off, World vs World in Guild Wars 2 has been exceptionally lively of late, meaning I've spent quite a few hours defending keeps or tearing around in a big gang, setting people on fire.

Over the last couple of nights I finally got around to playing some World of Warcraft again. I'm still subbed so it seems rude not to. I was determined to complete the Mount Hyjal story-line on my vulpera hunter and I was hoping she'd ding forty doing it. That did happen but it was hard going towards the end. 

In the high thirties quests that had once bitten a big chunk out of the experience bar barely nibbled at it. Killing mobs, even with rested xp, hardly registered. Level thirty-nine took me something close to three hours. But, hey, at least I made next to no money doing it and got even fewer upgrades!

Partly it was stubbornness that kept me at it. I'd said I was going to do it so I did it. Partly it was something simple I didn't have to think about after a long and tiring day at work. Partly it was wanting to see how the story turned out.


Ah, the story. Asmiroth was considering the way every game seems to focus on plot these days. I guess WoW has always had a more overt reliance on plot than most mmorpgs. There's an argument to be made, although probably not a very good one (BioWare would certainly give you a fight over it) that WoW was the game that brought narrative to the fore in the genre, turning stories into architectonics that carry much of the weight.

And when that works, it can be satisfying. It's not long ago I was talking up the virtues of the plot in Vol'dun, for example, not to mention the whole of the Mists of Pandaria expansion, as much as I've seen of it so far.

Mount Hyjal, though, does not have a particularly compelling narrative. It feels quite by the numbers. I'm fairly sure I've done this whole "wake the demi-gods and get them to help us in our war of survival" routine in several games before. 

A tale doesn't have to be original to be worth the telling, of course. Much of the pleasure is in the way you tell it. Unfortunately, whoever was telling this one didn't seem to have much of a knack for holding an audience. My mind kept wandering.

The best part was probably the chapter where you have to work your way up through the ranks of the Twilight Hammer cult. That was good for a few laughs. Other than that, there were a few individual quests I quite enjoyed while I was doing them, although now I come to try and recall what they might have been I find myself coming up empty on details.

Playing through the final chapter solo felt a bit off, too. I'm guessing back when Cataclysm was the current expansion, much of this was group content. It certainly feels as though it should be. There are several would-be climactic confrontations with supposedly powerful enemies but without exception they're resolved either by some gimmick ability gifted to you through a series of simple prep quests or through the help and intervention of NPCs much more powerful than you.


Maybe that's how it always was. Certainly that's how a lot of mmorpgs roll these days. And I can't pretend I don't prefer it that way. Unlike Tipa, I'm generally happier soloing than grouping these days. It's more relaxing and a lot less hassle, both practically and emotionally.

I can't pretend it's more exciting, though. Or more dramatic. It's the difference between watching a movie at home, in bed, on my Kindle Fire and going out to see a film at the cinema with a friend. Not that I'm likely to be doing that for a while. The latter is much more of an event, much more memorable, a deeper experience in just about any way you care to measure. The former, though, is easier, more convenient, and in most ways that matter, equally entertaining. Also, I find it easier to follow the narrative that way, more often than not.

Even if I'm not making much of an effort, though, I would still like the story to be worth my time. I can't say Mount Hyjal was. But... it's done now. So what next? And where next?

It is time to move on. With almost comic timing my vulpera hunter handed in her final quest to complete the last of the nine chapters in the zone story and earn herself the Coming Down the Mountain achievement, only to find herself one per cent short of the level.

All that was left was a breadcrumb quest taking her into the Firelands. She did that and ding! Forty!

And everything in Firelands was grey to her. Which was just as well, because I was already in two minds about whether I wanted to carry on there. I don't entirely know what the Firelands is (are?) but I'm guessing it was some kind of post-expansion update intended to give people something to do while the two years passed before another expansion came along.

I could look it up but honestly I've seen enough lava lakes and fire elementals for a while. I'm happy to have a good reason to move on. The question is, to where?


At forty I seem to have out-leveled most of the known world and certainly all of Cataclysm. I can either do some Legion or Battle for Azeroth zones or I could visit Chromie and pick one of the earlier timelines. 

I'd like to do more in Cataclysm but I think I'd rather do it on another character without Chromie's help. I could also do with making some money and gold seems to come far more easily the more recent the expansion. When Blizzard added scaling for experience, gear and mob difficulty I'm not convinced they paid all that much attention to the cash value of drops.

I need to make up my mind, though. If the vulpera is going to make it to fifty, this might be a good week for her to do it. Next week sees the arrival of the new EverQuest II expansion as well as both EQII's Frostfell and GW2's Wintersday events. Add that to the busiest time of the year at work and I doubt WoW's going to get much of a look-in.

It might even be time to cancel the subscription. Maybe I'll pick it up again when I have time to give Shadowlands a run. It does sound interesting from all the reports I'm reading. 

And if I leave it long enough I can write about leveling up in that expansion way after everyone else has finished. If you find a gimmick that works, stick with it. That's what I say!


  1. Yeah, Firelands came along on... the second Cataclysm patch, I believe, so it was completely separate from the rest of the zone when Cata dropped.

    Oh, and did you notice the teaser about the video about Shadowlands Season 1? (My emphasis.) Makes me wonder if they're going to do "Seasons" the way that a game such as Diablo III has seasons. If that's the case, then this expac will go off in a completely different direction --for PvP, at least.

    1. I'm beginning to get quite suspicious of "seasons". They seem to be slowly morphing into one of those revenue streams companies like because they allow them to sell us things as add-ons that used to be inclusives. I can't quite see Blizzard selling update content as DLC outside the sub in WoW but I wonder what framework they might be preparing for the future.

  2. For what it's worth, those big final confrontations were always solo content. By Cata Blizzard was firmly coming off the idea of requiring groups for anything at all that wasn't part of their queueable LFG system. I found my own original review of Mount Hyjal from back in 2010 and while I found it enjoyable enough I wasn't hugely impressed by it either.


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