Thursday, August 7, 2008

Northrend's First Daily Quest?

I've moved onto the second quest hub in the Howling Fjord, and I've encountered what appears to be the earliest Alliance Daily Quest in Northrend.

The blimp flies in circles around the harbor. You wait for it to arrive, get on, and bomb the ships below. Quest complete.

At least in principle. This quest has a potentially fatal flaw in that, unlike the many bombing run quests in the game so far, it physically forces players to start their bombing runs at the same time (approximately every 5-6 minutes). This would be fine if you only had to hit like 2-3 targets on the whole run, but the actual number of required targets is so high that I have barely completed it on a single run with the help of a partner on the two occasions I've tried it so far. If the other people on the blimp aren't willing to group (or there are more than five of you), none of you are going to get enough kills on a single circuit.

So why would you attempt such a potentially drama-prone quest?

In the window, we see that I got 20K exp (out of approximately 700K for level 69->70), 4.7 gold, and 250 Valiance Expedition rep. The Valiance Expedition appears to be one of the main Alliance factions of the expansion, as they are present in both of the two starting zones of Northrend.

Historically, Blizzard has been loathe to award reputation all the way to exalted outside of instances. After all, reputation leads to loot, and the old school approach to WoW was that you had to group if you wanted to advance past your level cap quest reward greens. We had a partial shift when TBC went live, with several factions specifically designed to be soloed, but the five "dungeon" factions were sacrosanct. The repeatable world PVP quest in Hellfire Peninsula had its rep reward temporarily gutted to prevent players from hacking their way to exalted with Honor Hold/Thrallamar via PVP (the old value was subsequently reinstated as a daily quest, a big change from "as often as the flags change hands"). Of the five factions, only the Cenarion Expedition can be soloed to Revered (primarily via abusing Unidentified Plant Parts to Honored before you even think about questing), and one of them can't be gained at all outside of instances.

Then came patch 2.4. In the Shattered Sun Offensive, we have a reputation that IS tied to a dungeon, but solo players are actually allowed to get at the good rewards (indeed, it's possible to pull down 3000 rep per day, plus gold and other misc rewards). The question was whether this was an aberration, designed to help gear alts for the last 6-9 months of TBC, or a shift in policy.

Obviously, I have no way of knowing just yet if this rep continues through to exalted (I'm about 2/3 of the way from friendly -> honored now). For that matter, reputation rewards aren't itemized in beta, and it might turn out that the Valiance Expedition doesn't have anything worth grinding for anyway. However, the fact that this blimp quest, with its potential flaws, is a daily quest, suggests that Blizzard is at least considering allowing all players a shot at exalted.

If this is true, we're talking about a potentially major shift in the level 80 endgame. Solo players would have a form of level-capped progression beyond the last straggling questlines in place at launch. Players may potentially be able to gear up for low end PVP and instances instead of jumping into the game undergeared. This also might mean a larger jump in item quality between quested gear, level 80 rep rewards, and level 80 dungeon loot. Or, this could all mean that someone made a typo when they made this quest repeatable. ;) Time will tell....

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