Undercover in Warlords: A Few of my Favourite Things

Some spoilers included so look away now if you’re trying to avoid!

I’ve been spending a lot of time recently pottering around Draenor looking for bugs, exploring and generally getting a feel for the expansion. I had been feeling jaded with the game and had actually contemplated not purchasing Warlords at all. There is a lot going on in my personal life at the moment which has left me feeling extremely ill 90 percent of the time, plus I finish work in 4 days to start another University degree with the prospect of juggling that as well as personal stuff going forward into the autumn however it hasn’t taken me long to realise that this expansion hits my buttons like WoW hasn’t since Wrath.

I know a lot of people have been critical of various aspects of the game but I’m struggling to find negatives. Is Garrison player housing? No but it’s still nice to have your own slice of Draenor. Do I mind Ashran being my capital? No, it’s across between Dalaran and Theramore at least for the Alliance with a side order of PvP and personally I like that.

My new favourite toy has to be this:

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The Ancient’s Bloom is a drop from a rather nasty rare spawn in Shadowmoon Valley called Yggdrel which turns you into a miniature version of said tree for 5 minutes. Naturally you are rooted in place whilst transformed and so far at least, nothing happens when you /sleep, /cower or /dance but every so often you do a sort of roar animation to express your general grumpiness.

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Needless to say this will be one of the first rare spawns I attempt to slaughter on release but given that it was a rather messy kill with level 100s, it might prove tricky. It also goes into your Toybox meaning that acquire it once and you should have it on every character without having to lose a bag space.

My first new Draenor Pet:

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is a Teroclaw hatchling stolen from a random nest just north of Auchindoun. There is definitely a dinosaur feel to this little chap.

Finding Old Friends in the strangest of places:

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One of the aspects of WoW I like the most is the linking of content. We move from one expansion to another in search of adventure and having the NPCs do the same is a wonderful touch that makes the virtual world feel more concrete.

The Wanderer’s Festival – IntPiPoMo

We are the music-makers,
And we are the dreamers of dreams,
Wandering by lone sea-breakers,
And sitting by desolate streams.
World-losers and world-forsakers,
Upon whom the pale moon gleams;
Yet we are the movers and shakers,
Of the world forever, it seems.

Arthur William Edgar O’Shaughnessy

With so many of the WoW festivals revolving around killing and death, the Wanderer’s festival is a real breathe of fresh air. There is no big bad to slaughter, no towns to save, just a leisurely Sunday beach party focusing on celebrating exploration and dreams coming true.

The party starts with the celebrants emerging from the jungle, some carrying lanterns which they take to the water’s edge.

Once released these glowing beacons float out to sea, drifting out to explore.

I find myself returning week after week just so I can sit on the beach watching the world go by.

I love the idea of a regular festival and/or event that happens all year around and really hope it’s something that Blizzard develop further at some point. So far we have the Wanderer’s Festival with it’s hatchling and of course the Darkmoon Faire but perhaps the market at Halfhill could expand into a proper market on a Saturday with twice as many stalls, some selling unique items and recipes. Maybe those enterprising Goblins in Booty Bay could set up a Fish market to help fund the rebuilding project or the Vrykul could host a little gathering once a fortnight to help draw people back to Northrend, obviously we’d have to dress up to avoid being on the receiving end of a pointy spear but the opportunities could be endless.

A few of my favourite things: The MoP Edition

The sheer quantity of “fun” items released with Mists has me both amazed and struggling for bag space.  Do I really need a golden banana, probably not but who knows what the future holds. Throwing away a cask of beer could be risky, for all I know I might end up stuck half away up a mountain with nothing to drink at some point soon. Therefore I thought I’d talk you through my favourite silly stuff so far.

So in no particular order, here are my favourites to date:

1. Tuft of Yak Hair

This lets you summon a rather large yak and ride him around the Dread Wastes for a minute or so. You can’t control his speed, only direction.

2. Oddly Shaped Horn

This is basically a Mushan version of the Yak Hair, you get three charges which summons a very large Mushan and get to ride around on it’s back for a little while. Totally pointless but rather fun.

3. Ruther’s Harness

This is the reward  from a  Goldilocks type quest and he’s become my good look charm in battlegrounds, although recently given the sheer number of premades featuring warriors and holy paladins, he’s not been that lucky.

4. Shushen’s Spittoon

It might be rather naughty of me but the second I saw this, my mind immediately jumped to possible pvp implications. If there comes a time when the /spit emote just isn’t enough, deploy this one their unreleased corpse and spit away to your hearts content (of course I’d never do something so …. bad).

5. Silversage Incense

Even angry little gnomes need to find serenity somewhere along the line.

6. Autumn Blossom Tree

You grow these on your farm once you’re honoured or above with the Tillers. Each tree only lasts 3 minutes but I think they’re rather pretty.

Right now our policy is basically if it moves (and even if it doesn’t) kill it and see if it gives shinies. What items are you currently hoarding away and why?

The Walrus and the Carpenter

When I was a little girl, my Mother would read me a story every night. I’d curl up on the sofa with a glass of milk and a bar of  turkish delight and listen. We read David Copperfield, The Children of the New Forest and a whole library of similar novels. A fair few of which probably weren’t all that suitable for a child. Out of all of them, Alice in Wonderland and Alice through the Looking Glass had a huge impact on my impressionable mind. I wanted to play croquet with flamingos, paint rosebushes and acquire a cat with a giant smile. Unfortunately none of those things ever came to pass, I’ve had to content myself with painting pictures of roses and playing croquet with the next best thing, mallets designed to look like flamingos. Thus when exploring the Pandarian coastline I came upon this idyllic slice of seaside life:

I found myself humming away,

“Will you walk a little faster?” said a whiting to a snail,
“There’s a porpoise close behind us, and he’s treading on my tail.
See how eagerly the lobsters and the turtles all advance!
They are waiting on the shingle — will you come and join the dance?
Will you, won’t you, will you, won’t you, will you join the dance?
Will you, won’t you, will you, won’t you, won’t you join the dance?

Inside the house we have the Walrus,

who when you speak to him replies with:

A warcraft parody of Lewis Carroll’s lines from the book in which the Walrus tells Alice that “The time has come, my little friends, to talk of other things / Of shoes and ships and sealing wax”. Outside hammering away at boat we find the carpenter, working hard.

It’s these little scenes which make exploring Azeroth and now Pandaria all the more wonderful. When an expansion breaks, you never know what you’ll find around every corner and this time around, Blizzard have really outdone themselves.

If you want to visit them, you’ll find their island getaway on the north coast of Kun’Lai Summit.

A second set of first impressions

Coming back to WoW after a six month absence, I feel a bit like I did when I returned home from my year abroad. Everything is the same but different. I’m constantly comparing things to the way they used to be, in the “good old days” or perhaps that should be the “bad old days”.

I mean when did DARKshore get so bright?

So far there have been positives and negatives. Finally being able to sort your characters on the log in screen is a definite plus. Having to swap mains half away through an expansion and then having your new main lurking at the bottom of the screen below a bunch of low level pink haired gnomes always annoyed me.

Other mostly positives include mailboxes in starting zones, getting a bunch of flight points straight away so you don’t have to run around getting lost/mauled by bears/falling off boats/ending up on the wrong continent.  However, whilst it’s convenient to existing players levelling alts and perhaps reduces frustration to new players, it does make the world feel a lot smaller. (Yes, I realise that this has been in longer than six months but my brief foray into Cataclysm was spent blindly levelling and gearing my priest so I missed all the fun stuff).

The biggest negative so far, (yes it’s subjective) is that fact that druids can’t shift out of “roots” any more unless they are Resto.  I imagine it was changed due to Capture the Flag rated battlegrounds but it certainly makes fighting Frost Mages painful everywhere else, especially at low levels.

The new placements of graveyards in WSG also came as a bit of a shock. So many games I’ve won in the past with the weaker team just because we kept our flag at the graveyard, relying on the cannon fodder ressing to help us hold it.

Did three low level battlegrounds yesterday though as a low level Resto druid (yes I respecced just so I could shift away from hateful frost mages) and in two of them people said thank you for the healing. More interestingly, no one was yelling, typing in caps or insulting the intelligence of their team members. Although that was probably luck more than a sign that people can now PvP without bursting blood vessels.

My other issue is the linear questing. I realise it’s necessary for phasing but I miss the old feel of being a mercenary type who picked up 15 different random jobs from a quest hub and then wandered around doing bits as and when I came across them or felt like it. That said, some of the quest chains are amazing and still have the capability to make me feel genuinely sad.

So far so good though. I was a bit negative about the whole endeavour when we started out but I’m slowly getting back into the WoW feeling.

Grand Theft Kezan!

I finally got around to playing through the Goblin start zone and whilst there were some amazing moments, I found myself wondering exactly which game I was playing. Kezan itself reminded me too much of Grand Theft Auto, as I beat people up for protection money, robbed a bank (albeit for my own gold) and ran people over, although the latter might have more to do with my truly appalling driving than design intent.

Then of course there was Chip Endale, my slimy ex-boyfriend. I have to say I wasn’t impressed. My Goblin just wouldn’t have ever dated that particular loser and nor would she have ripped his heart out. Now sure, I can imagine my Warlock doing that and then feeding said organ to her felpuppy before licking his blood from her fingers but my little resto shaman… it’s just not in her character. I realise that the whole scenario fits in with the Grand Theft Auto/Sopranos attitude and atmosphere that the Goblins have but it was a rather uncomfortable quest for me and I normally take wholesale slaughter, murder and torture quest lines in my stride.

Whilst I didn’t particularly like the quest chains, I did love the slummy, dirty and downright nasty look of the zone. From the paint flaking off the nodding flamingos in the yard to the pineapple wallpaper, the level of detail is amazing. Even though it’s basically Paradise in meltdown, I kept finding things to stare at. It look me a good five minutes to complete the quest to burn down my headquarters, just because I was fascinated by the furniture.

Whilst I found going from level 1 to 12 in the Goblin zones novel, I wasn’t left with a great desire to do it again. Racing around Kezan in a car with it’s radio blaring was fun for a while. As was exploring the dingy streets, simply because it’s pretty far removed from anything else in-game but by level six or so I found myself longing for the haunting paleness of Tirisfal or the red rocks of Durotar.

The Lost Isles too was a visual treat but the quests for the most part left me cold. Along with the heart ripping out episode, I really didn’t like Thrall of all people telling me to kill a bunch of terrified sailors huddling in their lifeboats or already drowning out at sea. I rather expected better of him, but it seems being captured by a bunch of level sevens put him in a rather bad mood.

The luring of baby naga with an inflatable sea horse also seemed to demonstrate questionable taste. Although I’d love one of these as a mount, would be far better than the sea turtle or that sea horse you get from questing in Vashj’ir.

The options for customising your Goblin on the other hand are fantastic. Mine is modelled slightly on Abby from NCIS, with a skull headband and plenty of attitude.

In a sense I feel disappointed with myself. I normally love questing yet I’ve been lukewarm about virtually all the Cataclysm zones so far. The storylines are a strange mix of being too personal and yet manage to be impersonal at the same time. It feels as if rather than creating your own reality within the game, you’re just being carried along through other people’s imaginations. Now sure, in most games there is nothing wrong with that but in Warcraft it feels uncomfortable. Whilst I’m not particularly into RP, I’ve always imagined semi back stories for my characters and having partners and crimes of passion foisted  on them is unpleasant and I believe unnecessary. Yes, obviously the zones and the creatures that inhabit them have always been someone else’s creations but this expansion has taken it to extremes.

I still have Vashj’ir, all the revamped Kalimdor quests and the Worgen start zones to finish, so hopefully they will fix some of my cynicism and general hatefilledness towards Cataclysm questing. Otherwise it’s going to be a slow and painful route to 85 for my baby Shaman.

Walking in the Air

This is Kimimela, druid number 4.

She’s shown here kidnapping a Murloc which might sound like a horribly undruidic thing to do but said murloc will be far happier being looked after by a nice Undead than shivering on a nasty diseased beach. Honest.

I knew even before 4.03 hit that I wanted my first run through the new quests to be on levelling characters rather than breezing through one shotting everything on my main. The problem therefore lay in what variety of alt to roll. My original plan was to transfer one of my three existing druids (two of which have been around since Vanilla) but then I decided I’d just start from scratch. Picking a race proved slightly tricky as I dislike both Tauren hands and Troll feet but since Kimi will be primarily a caster, berserking and huge feet won out.

She is now lv 44 and working her way through the Eastern Plaguelands, pocket healer in tow as Mr Harpy is levelling a Holy Priest. Although his idea of healing seems to be popping down Lightwell and smiting stuff.

I started by doing the Echo Isles, which left me slightly traumatised but the baby raptors and of course riding a runaway raptor were great fun. All in all, the first five levels which used to be the most painful of all 80 went by nice and fast and more importantly interestingly.

From there we went to Tirisfal Glades to do a spot of Murlocnapping and then into Silverpine. Without wanting to spoil it for anyone, I would definitely recommend doing the whole of Silverpine. The storyline is gripping, it feels as if you are actually playing an important part in moving the events along and most importantly you get re-enact a scene from the Snowman.

Walking in the Air

I also had a quick peek into the Ruins of Gilneas. The buildings and the scenery are fabulous, I could have spent hours wandering around taking screenshots. It definitely cemented my desire to make a Worgen once they are available even though I’m not too sure about the look of them. Basically I’m blown away, I was worried about the removal of certain quest chains but so far everything I’ve seen (apart from Arathi Highlands) has been ten times better. The use of cut scenes, the humour and sometimes sadness in the quest text, the reappearance of familiar quest givers and the fact that you don’t always have to hike five miles for each quest has made levelling a far more pleasurable experience than previously.

There are however a couple of things bugging me. First of all the number of people doing these quests on their mains. It is rather hard to compete with 80s who can one shot everything, especially in pick up quests. Then of course there are the ones who repeatedly kill you over and over again. In those 44 levels, we’ve only been attacked by once by people of our own level and technically they thought they were going two v one because I was stealthed at the time. The other 10 plus times it’s been 80s and not being able to even land a spell on them is annoying. I realise why people are doing it, after all half my guild are doing the quests on their mains for achievement points and I’m a Loremaster myself so it might seem a bit hypocritical to complain. However I’m actively avoiding doing the quests on a high level character right now, it’s something I intend filling in whilst waiting for battlegrounds and levelling archaeology at some point after 85. I’ve always felt that experiencing the quests at the level they are intended for is so much better than running through them at the level cap. It’s like running the Stockades at level 80, there is no challenge, no risk and no real worthwhile reward.

Also if you are going to kill my alt and then spam spit on my corpse, please have the courtesy to hang around so my main can return the favour.

The other issue is one of respawn timers. There we were in the Hinterlands, me, Mr Harpy and a 80 mage. The only three Horde in the zone and we just so happened to all be at exactly the same point in the chain. Mr Harpy loots the box and we wait and we wait and we wait and we wait. Four minutes goes by, five and no box. By this time, we’re starting to second guess ourselves thinking maybe it spawns in different locations. The Mage starts to run around a bit and by the six minute mark, I’m starting to wonder if it’s bugged. Then, suddenly with a twinkling of sparkles, the box reappears. Me and the Mage rush for it both frantically clicking, luckily I won and we rode off leaving the Mage to wait another 6 to 7 minutes. Imagine doing that quest chain in a party of five….

So go do Silverpine, make a Horde alt if you’re Alliance as it’s well worth it,  it’s my favourite zone so far. The other thing which has to be a contender for the best thing I’ve found so far is the rollercoaster ride in Azshara.

Joyride

I could ride this back and forth all day.

New Beginnings and Sad Goodbyes

The end of the world is upon us.

I’m torn between looking forward to a new beginning and mourning the end of a world I’d come to know and love so well. On the negative side, no more Holy Word: Aspire. I will miss you. You were one of the best things about the whole chakra system.

On the plus side though, finally my Hunter can tame this little fellow.

I’ve wanted one of these as a pet ever since I first started playing. My warlock used to use enslave demon on them as I quested through the Plaguelands but now one of the first things I’ll do when the servers come up, is go and grab one.

In the minus camp, the changes of the zones I’ve come to know so well. No more Southshore, no more desolate Desolace and a devastated Auberdine.

The other side of the coin of course is so many new places to explore and new quests to find. Perhaps the biggest draw of WoW originally was the sheer scope of the world and if the Shattering can recreate even a 10th of that sense of wonder, well then it’s been well worth every penny.

Goodbye Feathermoon Stronghold, can’t say I’ll miss that boat ride. Taking a scenic cruise around the islands is fine once or twice, but every single time….

Farewell Hillsbrad Fields, I hope Stanley is somewhere safe from undead poisons now.

“This is the hour of the Forsaken”

This is Dornröschen, my undead priest who has been languishing at lv 70 mostly ignored since the  start of the  Burning Crusade. I suppose that’s rather appropriate for a character named after “Sleeping Beauty” but now she has awoken and she’s ready to spread chaos throughout Northrend.

Rawr

The server that we normally play on is down for at least 24 hours, so we decided to pick up our old PvP characters and see just how different the Horde Northrend quests and areas are.

First Thoughts

Undercity still sucks. I spent about five minutes riding around in circles trying to figure out how to get to the reagent vendor. The elevator tried to eat Mr Harpy’s Tauren but spat him out just in time (obviously didn’t like the fur).

Frostwolf Howlers are beautiful. I had forgotten just how much I loved this mount. Please Blizzard introduce a programme in which my Nightelf can get work experience with the Frostwolf Clan. Experience suggests that Drek’thar would welcome a personal healer with open arms.

My windrider cub suddenly looks a lot more at home here.

Northrend

We decided to start with Howling Fjord, mainly because of the Forsaken architecture which I’ve been admiring from afar. Have to say I much prefer the practicality of the zeppelins, they take you there and they drop you off. After all time is money, none of this scenic drifting past icebergs for 10 minutes that the Alliance go for.

I then spent the next five minutes or so running about Vengeance Landing on the pretext of exploring, getting excited. I love the Inn with it’s coffins and then I found this guy.

So the Horde get the Head Judge of Top Chef to teach them cooking and the Alliance get… a dwarf. Not fair Blizzard, not fair.

The other thing which interested me was the fact that when the Alliance arrive in Howling Fjord having taken a mini cruise around several icebergs, a couple of penguins and the bay, our entire focus is on the Vykrul. Learning more about them but mainly killing them and of course trying to rescue our own people at the same time. Compare that with the Horde, arrive in Vengeance landing and right away it’s the Alliance you are fighting. It feels like a war zone rather than the slightly relaxed, we had time to sort out our potted plants approach of the Alliance. Whilst the Alliance are learning how to Harpoon Surf, the Horde are dropping dirty bombs on their reinforcements, there seems to be a huge disparity between quests.

Then of course, there is the amazing looks of the Forsaken buildings.

I’m sure Doctor Frankenstein and every other slightly dubious scientist fiction and non fiction alike, would adore buildings like these. The coffins in the basement would just be the icing on the cake.

All in all, I’m actually glad that our server is down for 24 hours. Without heirlooms, without flying mounts, suddenly I feel like I did when Wrath shipped. Excited, wanting to push on, to see what’s around each and every corner. It’s as if I’m playing a completely new game.

I came, I saw, I explored!

I am an Explorer! Finally. Ok, it’s taken a while but now Erinys has another new and shiny title which she won’t use.

I have a bit of an allergy to titles. The whole concept seems a little odd to me, plus they make it harder to hide behind stuff in PvP. Then there is the stereotyping I’ve seen attached to certain ones. For example in my Battle-group at least both Jenkins and The Patient seem to come with negative connotations.  If you turn up in a dungeon or battleground displaying either, at least one person will try to make something of it. Whilst I wouldn’t use either (can’t imagine a Night Elf being called Jenkins and I’m most certainly not patient), I don’t like something as frivolous (in the sense that it’s intended to be fun) as a title being used to bully people.

On top of that, the majority of titles really don’t mix with the personalities I think my characters  have. When I close my eyes, I imagine my Night Elf priest to be some what lacking in the sense of humour department. I can’t help but think she’s cold, austere and terribly sensible, not the sort of person to be running around with The Love Fool displayed over her head (bet she wouldn’t approve of bright pink ink either). In fact she probably thinks that wearing that one in public  is a smiting offence. Now if there was a Priestess of Elune perhaps, but the current options leave her cold.

I would really like to see the implementation of class related stuff. The Benediction chain was amazing as was the Druid swift flight form quest, why can’t we have more stuff like that, ending possibly with a class and race related title amongst other things. These chains could be like the modern Quel’delar one, where everything is either soloable or done in 5 mans to make it accessible to all.

On the other hand, my shaman still uses her Hand of A’dal, probably because she’s a Draenei and my Undead priest wears her General with pride (I farmed the vast majority of it through PuGs and I still get numb thinking about it). All my other characters, despite having access to at least one title each display nothing. Having said that, if Nest manages to do all the Winter’s Veil stuff this year, she may become the Merrymaker. I think it may go with her sprout hairstyle, plus the gnomish giggle.

So which titles do your characters and why? If like me you don’t partake, what titles if any could be added to make you change your mind?

Why did I do the explorer if not for the title? A couple of reasons really, the first being I can’t stand a list with everything bar one last little trivial item ticked off and the second, well Azeroth baring a few little blips like the Searing Gorge is a beautiful place. We should all explore it at least once.

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