Reports from the Front: I Am Jack’s Complete Lack of Surprise

So, a blog post went up today about item upgrades returning in patch 5.3. Take a moment to read through it if you haven’t already.

In summary, upgrades are coming back for PvE (at a hefty discount), but mercifully staying away from PvP gear. Mercifully, you ask? Why wouldn’t you want to make your gear better? Well, this farce is a good start:

malevmalev22tyrannical

Season 13 honour, season 12 conquest (2/2 upgrades), season 13 conquest. See the immediate issue? If you earned enough conquest for fully upgraded gear last season, then you essentially have this season’s conquest set already; a 2 ilevel jump isn’t a tremendous leap. They’ve addressed this a little by upping the item level of the Tyrannical weapons, but it’s still a bit silly. Newcomers to season 13 who only have access to this season’s gear are at a colossal disadvantage until they have time to earn enough conquest for the Tyrannical set – so, for the next couple of months, everyone who has upgraded gear is massively ahead of the gear curve in PvP. It’s that old feeling of fighting someone in arena gear in your BG gear, but you get it right from the very start, this season! Previously, you could jump in to a new season and farm honour for last season’s arena set (while the people who got conquest gear were farming this season’s). Item upgrades have ensured that isn’t possible this time around.

So, yes, I won’t be mourning the loss of this system for PvP gear. This is a very positive change, really. It also means the Tyrannical set’s ilevel probably won’t need to be dropped in 5.4 to stop it being the best choice to get in to the last raid’s LFR (which will probably require ilevel 500, I’m guessing?)

And no, I couldn’t get those images to play nice. Noob blogger, l2p.

A Shanker’s Tale: Wasting Away

wastes

The last stretch, for posts tagged “leveling”, at least! Welcome to the Dread Wastes, where everything is either a bug, a tree, or an elder horror themed for a negative emotion. An eclectic bunch, all in all.

The storyline here focuses heavily on the Klaxxi, a council of Mantid formed to protect their race’s interests by any means necessary, up to and including deposing their ruler. In this situation, with Empress Shek’zeer apparently

having been corrupted by the Sha and running the Mantid’s swarms in to the ground, it seems pretty necessary!

bleaargh

These guys have seen better days.

Through the zone you’re tasked with freeing the various Paragons, powerful Mantid who have been literally trapped in amber, preserving them for a great crisis in the future. I must say that I love the idea of a culture putting it’s mightiest heroes away for a rainy day, on the off chance that they’ll be needed to fight a mighty foe in the future. It’s basically the ultimate in crisis planning. All of the Paragons have a signature ability that they grant to you as a buff, ranging from the ability to mind control enemies, to being able to double jump. For bonus points, all of the abilities are named after heavy metal songs, mostly from the 80s. Stay cool, Klaxxi. Stay cool.

Having freed most of the Paragons, you’re sent off to a Pandaren settlement in the area. There, you meet back up with Chen Stormstout, who has come to the wastes in search of more Stormstouts. Unfortunately most of the ones he locates have been killed by the Mantid, though he does eventually locate a survivor. One of the questgivers here, a brewmaster, also manages to mistake a prophecy for a beer recipe. The beer it makes is predictably awful, though the Pandas don’t seem particularly bothered by it!

Overall, questing through Pandaria was excellent. It’s by far the best questing experience to date – lots of interesting quests, and the little quality of life improvements have made finding your way through a zone to completion much less stressful than it ever used to be.

 

junk

Yeah.

Illirica is now level 90! I’m very much enjoying Roguery, and the level 90 talents have added to it noticeably. Marked for Death is my favourite so far, though Shuriken Toss is proving excellent in PvP, allowing me to keep damaging enemies even while rooted. Hitting level 90 also allowed me to address what had become known as the Junkbox Situation: the Pandarian junkboxes (acquired by pickpocketing) require a level 90 Rogue to open. Luckily they’re worth the wait, with each one containing several gold, rather than the handful of silver from previous junkbox types.

This is the end of the super-frequent Shanker’s Tale updates. I’ll probably relegate it to every couple weeks, or only when I have something notable to document. Thanks for joining me and Illirica on the trip from 1 to 90, folks!

A Shanker’s Tale: Mountaineering

summit

Did I mention Pandaria is really pretty? Even the giant outdoor raid bosses make a good addition to a scenic screenshot!

So, Kun Lai Summit. This is a bit of a fractured zone, with nothing really to tie it all together. Personally I think it suffers from it a bit, despite a few notable high points. The zone begins with a trip from the Vally of the Four Winds, through the Veiled Stair. You stop off at the Tavern in the Mists, home to Wrathion and his group of shady thugs, the Blacktalon Watchers. There’s obviously something going on with these guys, but I’m not really qualified to comment on that at the moment!

The zone proper starts as you arrive at a Pandaren settlement which is under attack from the local Yaungol tribes. The same Horde scouting part from Jade Forest is here, led by General Nazgrim, finishing up their recuperation from the battle at the Jade Serpent statue. You’re tasked with helping the local Pandaren as, as always, combating the Sha influence in the zone – this time the Sha of Anger. To this end, you help some of the local people rebuild their town, in return for their allegiance to the Horde. More Pandas are always useful, I guess!

thundrouskingMoving swiftly on, you meet up with Lorewalker Exposition, who wants to investigate some local Mogu tombs for signs of what they’re up to. The answers are simple: they’ve allied with the Zandalar tribe of Trolls, who are searching for the remains of the Thunder King, in order to raise him and rule the world together. Well, it’s one plan at least. Anyone else remember when the Zandalar tribe were good guys? Or, at least, allies of convenience. They probably could’ve had Zul’gurub, if they wanted it!

Anyway, this goes predictably, with the trolls successfully retrieving Lei Shen’s body and raising him. We’ll come back for him, I’m sure.

barrel

Barrels: a Pandarian theme

Finally, this is the zone that fully introduces the Shado-Pan, Pandaria’s main fighting force – founded by Shaohao to combat the Sha, primarily. You help them with Sha-infested Yaungol and investigate their monastery (in an instance, of course) which has been corrupted by the Sha of Violence. To cap it off, they have you roll giant barrels of flaming beer down a hill to stop an attack. It’s amusing.

With Kun Lai done, Illirica is level 89. I finished up Engineering from the massive amounts of Ghost Iron I’ve been mining (it’s pretty much everywhere), and with a couple of purchases from the auction house, made her Engineering goggles. I expect they’ll be replaced fairly swiftly at 90 (as they always used to be), but they’ll stand me in good stead until then.

Dread Wastes next, for the final stretch to 90!

A Shanker’s Tale: Wild Winds

redcrane

Krasarang Wilds is, indeed, next on the list. The most noticeable thing here is the massive variation in monsters – some have vastly high HP totals than others, some do a lot more damage. Some monsters actually have abilities that you need to avoid, which is entirely new for random quest monsters out in the world. Another hugely positive change, in my opinion, injecting a little more interest in to the simple task of killing x number of y creature for z NPC.

You come here in search of some of the monks from the Tian Monastery in Jade Forest, who are searching for the “hidden master” to further their martial arts training. They’ve split up across the Wilds and the Valley of Four Winds to look for him, and you track two of them here. The initial quest hub is full of despondent Pandaren. A strong negative emotion affecting a settlement? Surely the work of the Sha! So it turns out, with the influence of the Sha of Despair eventually exorcised by Ken-Ken creating a special mask for the purpose. You’re sent in the direction of the Temple of Chi-Ji, the Red Crane, where the Sha of Despair holds it’s lair.

On the way, you stop off to help a Nesingwary employee kill some of the local animals. Because, really, it wouldn’t be a WoW expanion without them showing up, would it? You also meet up with a tribe of Tauren who have moved to the area following the visions of Leza, their leader‘s pregnant wife. She dies in childbirth despite the best efforts of her husband in a frankly crushing cutscene, which left me not really wanting to play for a little while. Oof.

anduinAfter that, you finish heading to the Temple of the Red Crane to face down the Sha of Despair. Here you’re given an assistant: one Anduin Wrynn, who dislikes the Sha a lot more than he does the Horde. He’ll make an excellent leader of the Alliance when World of Peacecraft launches, at least. After saving some Pandaren and banishing several manifestations of despair, you face the entity itself. It’s destroyed after a short battle, and Chi-Ji is freed from it’s influence.

There’s a little more after that, introducing the bug race, the Mantid, before the zone finishes. Valley of the Four Winds!

farm

Valley of the Four Winds is the heartland of Pandaria, where the majority of it’s people live and the majority of it’s food is grown. As such, it’s all farms, including one of your very own! Although, Illirica’s isn’t in particular good shape at the moment, as you can see. That’ll change, with time!

The quests here primarily follow Chen Stormstout and his niece, Li Li as they explore the zone. After a little traveling you meet up with hick homebrewer Mudmug. Through Mudmug, Chen discovered the Stormstout Brewery, run by relatives of his. He travels there but is turned away by it’s odd curator. After some goading, he resolves to return – this time, with beer to share. Naturally, you’re enlisted to help gather up the ingredients. Which are… less that savoury. Hops, muddy river water, and moldy wheat from a cave in Krasarang Wilds. You’ll, uh, you’ll excuse me if I pass on a mug of The Emperor, Chen.

cower

The Blood Elf /cower makes this.

Leaving Chen, you finally track down the Hidden Master that the monks have been searching for. A series of exceptionally well done martial arts training montages ensue, with no part of the genre left un-mocked. Marvelous stuff.

Finally, with both zones complete, you’re called to the defence of the town of Stoneplow, which is under siege from the Mantid of the Dread Wastes. A gigantic Mantid Colossus crashes BUGGUTSthrough the wall, threatening to totally overrun the town, and the rest of the Valley. Luckily, all of the people you’ve been helping – the Tauren, Red Crane monks, the despairing Pandaren, some farmers and the Stormstouts – all show up to help you tackle this menace. Putting your martial arts training to good use, you’re swallowed whole by the Colossus and punch it to death from the inside.

A run of Mogu’shan Palace and a couple of battlegrounds (in search of an elusive daily win) later and Illirica is level 88. I now have all of the Rogue abiltiies besides the level 90 talent, with Crimson Tempest and Shadow Blades added to my abilities. Shadow Blades in particular is an excellent (if short) cooldown, something non-Combat Rogues have traditionally lacked.

Off to Kun-Lai next. At the current rate of progress I’m pretty sure I won’t have to do one of the zones to hit 90. I imagine Townlong is going to miss out, here – I’ll get it next time around.

I’ll leave the final word on Valley and Wilds to an ability, rather than an NPC.

barrels

A Shanker’s Tale: Monkey Business

pandaria

Pandaria is very, very pretty.

It’s also very, very well put together. Having just levelled through the three previous expansions, the improvements are obvious, and massive. Even from Cataclysm, it’s night and day – the quests are tightly put together, well scripted and excellently organised. The new method of tracking zone quest progress – by completing hubs, rather than a simple quest number counter – is a particular triumph.

So, welcome to the Jade Forest, home of the Forest Hozen, Pearlfin Jinyu, and the first salvos on the latest chapter of the war between Horde and Alliance. The Horde expedition, led by General Nazgrim starts badly: we arrive on Pandaria late, with the Alliance already having had time to set up a forward base. Our airship, the Orgrim’s Hammer is shot down by ‘copters from a nearby airbase. Nazgrim states, quite rightly, that Garrosh will have his head for this debacle.

The initial problem is sorted through the medium of killing everyone in blue in the area, claiming the airbase in the name of the Horde (in a neat little quest where the banners are changed). Having dealt with that, you turn to subjugating thecho natives – namely, the local Hozen tribes. You start by killing their leader, the alarmingly named Dook Ookem. That done, you’re approached by Lorewalker Exposition Cho, who explains that the loyalty of the Hozen can’t be won by simply killing their leader. He also explains some of how Pandaria, and it’s main inhabitants, the Pandaren and the Mogu, coexist. Having bribed the Hozen with some fish (sorry, slickies) and done some more good deeds for them, they agree to help you in your battles against the Alliance. Through the various quests aiding the Hozen, it quickly becomes clear that they’re all played by Andy Serkis.

At this point you’re left to explore and help the various Pandaren communities in the area, protecting them from Mogu and proving yourself to the island’s denizens. This leads you to meeting the Jade Serpent, Yu’lon, who explains the life cycle of Celestials, and the purpose of the impressive jade statue the Pandaren are constructing.

Once done around the zone, you’re called back by Nazgrim, who informs you that we’re ready to make our push against the Alliance. The battle begins…

… and goes horribly wrong, as the Sha of Doubt, empowered by the conflict, rises from beneath the Jade Serpent statue, shattering it and ending the battle. Maybe we should’ve listened to Taran Zhu.

Done with Jade Forest, Illirica is level 86. I’m very impressed with Pandaria so far, and looking forward to continuing – Krasarang Wilds next, I think! I’ll leave the last word on the zone to an NPC:

ears

Why indeed, Curious Cub. Why indeed.

A Shanker’s Tale: The Doom in Uldum

udumb

Next on Illirica’s journey is an extended trip through an Indiana Jones movie Uldum, another of the lost titan areas on Azeroth. Back in the day I was expecting this to be a vault – similar to Ulduar – if they ever got around to finishing it. Instead they went completely the other way, turning it in to a beautiful mountainous desert full of Egyptian themes, including animal-head armour, giant statues and pyramids aplenty.

defence

I’m sure I’ve played something like this before…

There are two main plotlines here. The first is earning the trust of Ramkahen and it’s inhabitants by aiding them in a number of different ways. They can’t wage open war against their enemies, the Neferset (who, like every other malevolent force in Cataclysm, are in service to Deathwing) without a vote from the various leaders of their people. Of course, they all want something doing in return for their vote. Eventually you meet up with an incompetent Tol’vir soldier Salhet who, through his questline, is revealed to be something of a military genius. With his aid, you’re able to turn back the Neferset attacks and attack them on their own ground, slaying one of their leaders in the process.

The other, longer, strand in Uldum is the aforementioned Indiana Jones movie: investigating the Titan secrets in the zone, in search of the fabled Coffer of Promise. Hijinks ensue throughout, including a segment where Indiana Ford Harrison Jones brings down four giant statues simply by swinging from them with a rope. He’s that awesome. The quests lead you through various set pieces lifted directed from the movies, and are amazingly good fun.

schnottzThe villain of the piece of, naturally, a Goblin with an outrageous Hollywood German accent. He’s also working for Deathwing, searching for the Coffer so that he can destroy it, allowing the Aspect of Death to activate the planetary re-origination device located in the Halls of Origination. It goes badly, with Schnottz suffering a predictably face-melty end.

A brief note on re-origination – hasn’t that become a bit of a common threat, by now? I’m hoping they’re done with that particular method of ending the world.

Finally, with a little help from Brann Bronzebeard (played here by Sean Connery), the Coffer of Promise is restored and opened, providing Brann with another set of titan discs and rejuvenating part of Uldum.

I loved Uldum, and, conveniently, it dropped Illirica right at level 85. Off to see what all this Panda fuss is about…

Reports from the Front: This Happened

ugh

… and we all have to live with that fact. Remember to focus fire those healers, folks!



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