Tuesday, July 10, 2007

Druids, Azeroth, and some other Things

I've been leveling an alt. I'm level 38. A druid. A feral druid. (I was a balance druid for a while, but even specced full balance with balance gear on I was -far- more effective in cat -or- bear form than as a caster, so now I'm a feral druid. Probably just my style, although I don't know how much going out of mana after every single fight is a style thing.)

Anyway, the last time I did most of Azeroth was two years ago, so it's not like I'm sick of the place, and I don't have the 'ugh, I just did this' feeling. However, I -did- just do Outland, and Azeroth is a hole compared to Outland.

Wander into a new zone. Grab the flight path and reset your hearth to the new inn. Get six quests that all take place in that zone, as well as two others that send you to the other quest hubs in the zone. Receive mucho experience and intelligently itemized quest rewards. Most quests will have a reward you can use, and you will want to use many of them. For every quest reward, it is very easy to imagine who would want to use that reward.

Wander into a new zone. Maybe there's a flight path. Maybe there's an inn. Get two quests, one of which is green to you and one of which is red. Wander around the zone until you find a dwarf sitting on the base of a cliff. He gives you a group quest that you can't really do because you're the only alliance player in the zone. You finish the green quest, which has no reward, and it either chains into a zone on the other continent that you just finished off or it chains into Uldaman. You also get Darnassus reputation, which has no function since you've been honored with them for ten levels. When you do eventually get a reward, it will either be your choice of two weapons your class cannot use, or some items that look like someone was deliberately trying to make an item that nobody would want. There is +Spirit on everything.

It's clear that with Burning Crusade, Blizzard deliberately cut out many of the things that were a hassle. Quest rewards that nobody would ever want are gone. Quests that chain helter-skelter into other zones, while noble in their intent (getting players to explore the world and showing players to other level-appropriate zones) are gone, as they do nothing but create un-fun travel times for players who already know the world. There are multiple flight paths in every zone to save travel time.

The most obnoxious part of leveling through Azeroth, in my eyes, is all the travel. Travel is completely and totally non-interactive, but unless you just grind or only run a fraction of the quests, you end up doing a lot of it, whether it's running across zones or making flights. Grinding doesn't excite me and it feels like circumventing the game rather than playing it, plus it's rumored to be somewhat slower. At the same time, it's a heck of a lot more like playing the game than flying from Ashenvale to Theramore is. (As an aside, I find it strange that a feature that would seem terrible and absurd in virtually every other game genre - one to ten minute periods of just waiting - is an accepted part of the game.) There are a ton of 30-45 zones, but most have a frightfully small number of 'native' quests that start and end in that zone. (Though some are much worse than others, with Dustwallow Marsh being the most egregious offender I've come across.) Unsuprisingly, the recently-implemented Forest Song is by far the most elegant quest hub.

In a grand-picture sense, Azeroth is more complex and less linear with lots of options for the player (Wetlands, where I spent a huge amount of time on my pally, was totally skipped by my druid), which are noble traits, but in practice having globe-spanning quests just results in a lot of traveling, which is almost by default the least fun part of the game. If a zone has only four native quests and they're spread across eight levels, you end up with a bunch of unsatisfying visits to that zone.

On my way to level 38, here's my favorite zones so far. Bear in mind that I'm on a PvE server.

Ashenvale - This is entirely on the merits of Forest Song. Astranaar - and the rest of the zone - is a textbook example of how not to do it, with only a few quests scattered across a wide level range.
STV - STV takes a lot of flak, but it has a bunch of doable quests with usable rewards, plus it's crowded enough that you can group with people.
1K Needles - This is practically like an Outland zone, with lots of doable quests all in one place and all in the same level range (at least until they start sending you all over the world.)

And my least favorites:

Dustwallow Marsh - Ick. I didn't do this zone on my Pally, and I'm really glad. If this zone has any redeeming qualities, I'd like to know what they are. Theramore could be a major cool quest hub, but it's not. Only the chef has any use for you.
Darkshore - I did not realize how heinous this zone was compared to Loch Modan and Westfall, each of which I've done at least twice. (I have a variety of level 20-ish characters.) It's like they used all of their clean, cool ideas on Loch and Westfall and Darkshore got what was left. This zone is the reason my druid stayed abandoned at level 17 for two years.


Megan said...

Yes, some zones make me cry out "genius!" and others make me wonder how good the funny looking pills that Blizz took tasted that day.

Michael said...

If you need some help grinding through level's 30-60, I'd recommend
Jame's Alliance Leveling Guide:


It guides you through what quests/zones to do and when, the big thing it eliminates is much of the travel-time that the mid-range quests have. He also filters out quests that have no real useful reward.