Friday, August 29, 2008

Greetings from Sholazar Basin

Wish You Were Here

I was wandering the jungles of the Sholazar Basin when I saw a level 72 Dwarf Hunter named Brk riding by. I stopped, thought for a second, and sent him a tell asking if he was THE Big Red Kitty. Indeed, he was, and he probably thinks I'm a nutty stalker. I never really thought about how you don't ever meet prominent WoW players in game because there are so many servers out there (but only one US PVE beta server). Even if we wanted to have a WoW Blogger's summit (there are a fair number of unused conference rooms in SW keep), folks like Larisa wouldn't be able to make it from the Euro servers. I guess this is just a downside of the way servers are done, but it's really too bad.

Questing in Sholazar Basin

Say what you will about WoW's endgame and group content, but the single player stuff is as good as ever. Where Hemet Nestwaringway is concerned, I'm literally doing the same quests that I've already done for the same guy twice before now (not to mention on alts), but the change of scenery and new mobs (e.g. Rhinos that have a little birds critter perched on their horns) is enough to keep it fresh. Blizzard has also managed to make the current edition of Nestwaringway's exploits 100% soloable, providing a mammoth mount with the man himself riding literal shotgun for the big fight with the elite at the end.

In other news, it seems like the prime design goal with Wrath quests was to allow the player to ride as many different vehicles and creatures as possible. I've been on dragons, mammoths, steam tanks, planes, gyrocopters, and now crocodiles.

Was flying a mistake?

Note that my skeletal chicken mount is not ordinarily green, there's just a bug somewhere in the deep Blood tree that makes DK's and their mounts green.

Level 77 is significant because players get a simple (if annoying; the first step has a very low droprate) questline that unlocks flying mounts in Northrend. This was really Cheery's first time flying around since she left Outland at level 68 and hasn't been allowed to fly in Northrend until now. Honestly, I missed the travel speed, but I didn't miss the actual ability to fly per se. Quests where flight matters provided mounts (typically with the vehicle interface and a unique action bar). There are enough travel points in Northrend that players can reach most locations without too much hassle, and even an epic flying mount doesn't really help much with the cross-continent flights.

So, having my flying mount back doesn't really improve my gaming experience very much. It does, however, bring back all of the quirks that flight introduces to the outdoor questing game; I don't get attacked by stuff in transit anymore, and the temptation to swoop in, snipe the quest mob, and swoop out is strong. This means less exp and less difficulty, not to mention the annoying people who fly in and steal your herb/mineral while you're killing the mob that was guarding it.

I'll be keeping a close eye on how this progresses through the remaining quests in Northrend (one questline in Sholazar actually sends you back to flight-less Un'Goro), but my personal guess is that allowing players to have flying mounts may have been a mistake (which can't really be corrected, now that Blizzard asked us to spend 6000 gold on 225 and 300 flight skill). Outland didn't have to deal with flight until level 70 and Northrend is allowing it earlier (albeit with an entire zone designed for flight-only access), so this could have a big impact on the rest of the expansion.

Beware of Water-Walking
And finaly, a brief cautionary tale. Death Knights have a great ability called Path of Frost, which allows them to waterwalk (including while mounted, and you can even fall into the water, cast the ability, jump onto the surface, and mount). This greatly improves travel time since you don't get un-mounted by wading through shallow water. It also throws up a huge amount of ice in your wake. There is, however, a tragic downside. In one questline, an NPC throws you off a cliff into a lake below. unfortunately, poor Cheery had Path of Frost up at the time. Apparently this means she gets to take full falling damage. Talk to a Death Knight you know about clicking off Path of Frost today.


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