Monday, August 18, 2008

Borean Tundra Complete

Cheerydeth has cleared out (to my knowledge) all the outdoor quests in the Borean Tundra, including one that requires a cheap new Engineering item (which I had to buy off the AH for 200G because the Grand Master trainers are only located in Dalaran, where my Engineering Pally cannot yet venture). She is currently a third of the way into level 73 (had she entered Northrend after the exp nerf, she would be just starting level 73), which means that the current state of EXP in the beta allows a level 68 character to reach 73 by clearing BOTH of the two starting zones AND some of the earlier quests in Dragonblight. She is currently halfway from revered to exalted (!) with the Valiance Expedition, halfway from honored to revered with the Kalu'ak Tuskarr, and halfway from friendly to honored with the Kirin Tor.

Scripted Events Abound

Like the Howling Fjord, there are many more scripted events in quests than ever before. A typical quest might enlist a small flight of dragons to bombard foes from the sky while you swoop in to complete an objective. Also, I never cease to be surprised to turn in a quest and unlock yet another followup. These followups aren't necessarily difficult (though one quest line leads to a showdown with one of Arthas' minions and a very nice blue weapon reward), but they're worth the time due to the 20K exp rewards.

New and interesting incentives

One corner of the zone features an interesting look into Murloc culture courtesy of Druids for the Ethical and Humane Treatment of Animals, complete with a convenient excuse for Blizzard to reuse the Blizzcon Murloc costume as part of a quest (the costume is strictly limited to a single area, but I suspect that won't stop people from abandoning the questline so they can take it for a spin in the future). It's also got an interesting new mini-grind: the [Winterfin Clam].

While completing this random set of murloc-related quests, you'll have the opportunity to loot clams from the ground and/or from enemy murlocs. These are a soulbound currency that I presume will be going into the new Token storage page when Blizzard implements that feature. Anyway, the clams are good for some swimming-related comsumables, hats for Cloth and Leather wearers, and a trident (Cheery's first Polearm). The Polearm was actually a bit pricey (100 clams), but the hats are priced at 50 clams, which is maybe 10-15 above the number of clams you're likely to collect while doing the quests in the area. So, you've got the option of grinding out a few more clams if you're interested in getting something, and it allows Blizzard to include some interesting but perhaps slightly below top notch items (e.g. Polearms, not the most common weapon choice out there). And it's optional in a way that many Outland rep grinds weren't due to the sheer number of rewards; there was almost bound to be something you want on any given faction quartermaster.

In short, it's kind of a light version of a rep grind, not as immediate as a quest but not as involved as grinding thousands of whatever. I hope they'll use this system more.

Dead End at the Dungeon

Cheery snaps a few pictures while falling to her doom, thanks to a quest that fails to provide a teleport back down from the platform with the boss.

Unfortunately, one thing that hasn't changed from vanilla WoW to TBC to Wrath is that major questlines tend to lead into 5-man dungeons. In fairness, there is a lengthy questline in Borean Tundra that leads to an encounter with Arthas that can be beaten by 2-3 players, but there's an entire corner of the zone (surrounding the Nexus, home to some 5-mans and the raid against Malygos) where ALL the questlines dead end outside that blue portal. I only had one dungeon quest from the Howling Fjord, but I've got three in Borean Tundra. It's a bit frustrating to have put in all the work to see the story unfold but then be forced to join a PUG (which are increasingly hard to come by if you're not a tank or a healer) to get at the final chapters.

Vehicles Need Some Work

Finally, I'd like to touch on vehicles for a minute. The good news is that the basics are in place on vehicle quests in various zones of Northrend and the new DK starting area. In some cases, the "vehicle" interface comes up in situations that you might not traditionally think of as vehicles, such as riding a Mammoth into battle against poachers. The bad news is that the system still needs some work. In other zones, I've frequently had problems with bugged or unresponsive controls (the Mammoth wasn't a problem, but it was a comparatively easy quest). The good news is that the new code allows Blizzard to code many more diverse things to ride on (including several kinds of planes, tanks, dragons), and these new rides get a lot more tricks than the old "throw a bomb over the side" versions. I think it'll be a good system over all, but it's clearly not ready to go live just yet.

Parting Thoughts and Moving On
The Borean Tundra is an interesting zone and the quests are well-crafted. I still prefer the Howling Fjord, but this thing is better than any single zone of Outland. Obviously, I can't comment much on difficulty, since I was over-leveled for just about my entire time in the zone.

From here, I've got some open quests in the Dragonblight and some in the Grizzly hills. I'm half tempted to jump ahead into the Hills for now so that I can actually tackle even level content again, but I guess it'll be a mood thing. I'm also looking at essentially permanent rested exp state from here on out (I can't spend the stuff fast enough), so that alleviates my earlier concerns of running out of quests. More Northrend (and the city of Dalaran) awaits!

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