Sunday, August 24, 2008

How to get around Northrend

Well, now that I've got access to Dalaran, I figured I might as well take on a favorite target of mine, travel.

Getting To Northrend
Each faction currently has three ways to get to Northrend (not counting your hearthstone). Level 74 mages can learn the traditional portal spell to Dalaran (level 71 mages can learn the self-port to Dalaran via a simple quest, three levels before other classes are allowed to access the city). Otherwise, it's the boat for the Alliance or the blimp for the Horde, sending players to the first quest hub in either Borean Tundra or Howling Fjord. (The Horde win this exchange because both of their blimps depart from major cities, while one of the Alliance boats departs from Menethil Harbor, a griffon ride away from IF; not the longest flight in the game, but certainly longer than the time it takes to get to the Horde blimp towers). One presumes that Engineers will get their traditional teleports at some point down the line, but this is not yet implemented in beta.

Leaving Northrend
The above options all allow you to leave, as do the Druid Moonglade port and the Death Knight "Death Gate" portal. The latter is significant because it deposits the player in EPL, home to the only Death Knight trainers in the game. Again, minor victory for the Horde here because the flight to the Undercity is significantly shorter than the flight to Ironforge for the nearest bank, which is the only thing Death Knights need from the old cities. (Engineers have the luxury of bank access at either Gadgetzan or Area 52 depending on specialty.) The other way out of Northrend is via the Magical City of Dalaran (yes, they actually call it that in game, sounds like a ride at Disneyland), which offers portals to all major cities (including Shattrath), restricted to cities of your own faction.

Getting Around Northrend
I'm not familiar with the Horde flightpaths within Northrend, but I'm presuming their situation is similar. In general, getting around the zone that you're in is not that bad. Most zones have more than one flight point, which allows you to get to within a reasonably short epic ground mount ride from wherever you need to be. (Remember, no flying mounts in Northrend until level 77.)

Unfortunately, the picture for travel between zones is not so pretty. The neutral Tuskarr faction also has a turtle boat line that, I presume, offers more rapid travel from Borean Tundra to Dragonblight and from the Dragonblight to the Howling Fjord. This may or may not be quicker (I don't dare brave the turtle boat after getting disconnected into limbo repeatedly by the Daily Quest Blimp), and it's certainly cheaper than auto-flight (flying directly across the continent will actually cost you 2G since individual flights are more expensive and you need several of them). On the other hand, you don't get to go AFK on boats the way you can with flight paths.

Meanwhile, if you want to get from any inland location (e.g. Dragonblight, Grizzly hills) to one of the boat/blimp locations, you're in for a lengthy flight. That's bad news because there are no trainers in Northrend (except for mages, who can teleport to the trainer of their choice anyway, so Blizzard broke down and put one in Dalaran), and Dalaran owns Northrend's only bank (well, there are two actual banks in the city, but you know what I mean), as well as its arena, battlemasters, and the usual selection of tradeskill vendors/trainers. (There are also a variety of not-yet-implemented novelty vendors, but no Auction House, as is traditional.)

Speaking of Dalaran....
Access to Dalaran from the ground currently requires that players have already been up to the city at least once. A Kirin Tor questgiver will "helpfully" offer you a quest at level 74. What's funny about this is that it's a regular old quest, so it's not like you need to DO anything for them to be let into their city (which is the only real lore justification for not letting people in). Further, the Alliance version that I did opened up in a camp that I'd cleared three levels previously, and I would have had no idea where to find it if I had not known that I was allowed into Dalaran at level 74. (I'm told that mage portals currently circumvent the whole process and let you in at any level, meaning that you're going to want to buy a portal for any and all alts in order to set your hearthstone in Dalaran ASAP for instant access to five separate locations.)

Independently of the teleporter issue, Dalaran seems to be a bit less centrally located than Shattrath was, so you're in for a decently long flight from there to wherever you're heading.

How to Hearthstone effectively
If you're not a mage or an Engineer, you're probably going to want to bind your Hearthstone in one of the boat/blimp locations until you get access to Dalaran. This will save you the most travel time in the short run, as it can instantly get you across Northrend if needed, and, more importantly, can get you BACK to Northrend after heading to Azeroth by whatever means.

Gnomish Engineers may find that their portal to Toshley's Station satisfies their once-per-level training needs via a short epic flyer flight (or autobird if you're Alliance) to Shattrath, freeing up your hearth for anywhere you want to put it. I leveled Cheery relying on the flight back to IF for my banking needs, but this was pretty darned annoying because you get so much soulbound gear that's all side-grades off of other pieces that, even with 18-20 slot bags you're going to be traveling back frequently.

Should the mage portal shortcut method to Dalaran in order to bind your hearthstone remain intact, I would probably recommend it, with the slight caveat that the flight from Dalaran to Howling Fjord/Borean Tundra is lengthy, so you may be slightly regretting it until you clear those two zones. Alternately, you can portal to a city with a boat/blimp for your training needs and use that to get back, inscribers can use the scroll of recall to get back to Dalaran after training, and other classes can simply log off for the night and hearth back to Dalaran when they get back on in the morning, if you've timed things well.

The Bottom Line
Travel in Wrath is not as bad as I'd expected. A big part of this is that each individual quest hub seems to be more densely packed than in TBC; you don't have very many quests that are one or two steps and done. Typically you'll be in one place for long enough that it's worth the travel time to get there. I'd still like speedier travel, especially if you're questing in BOTH Borean Tundra and Howling Fjord (the beta offered Walrus Captain Placeholder equivalents when I was doing this, and that trek was still painful), but I'm prepared to live with things temporarily as long as travel isn't eating up too much of my time.


Endillae said...

Thanks for the advice. I was so excited after picking up my game tonight and was like, " do I even get there?"

Green Armadillo said...

Thanks! It's funny, I wrote this post back in August during the beta, and suddenly it's one of the most popular ones on the blog. :)

Anonymous said...

Another way to enter Dalaran is to have someone there join you in a group and join a BG. Once you leave you will end up in Dalaran:)

Anonymous said...

of course this means you don't have the fp to Northrend which sucks for leaving and getting back to the Tundra :/

Anonymous said...

I thought it was funny seeing you're an alliance who immediately concluded that "The Horde win this exchange because both of their blimps depart from major cities". As if it's as easy or fast to get from Orgrimmar to Undercity as it is to get from Ironforge or Stormwind to Menthil Harbor?

I just transferred to alliance (hence finding your post) and was jealous of how easy the alliance have it getting to either side of Northrend. Grass is always greener on the other side, isn't it? :)

Anonymous said...

Thanks for this blog post! Was a great help to me!