Posts Tagged 'Cataclysm'

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…

A Shanker’s Tale: Hanging Out in Hyjal

firelands

Bonus points if you get the reference! Yes, welcome back to Cataclysm content, specifically the burnt-out ruins of Mount Hyjal, ravaged by the Twilight’s Hammer and, more specifically, the Firelord, Ragnaros. The zone throws you straight back in to the battle against Deathwing and his allies, tasking you with aiding the Green Dragon Aspect, Ysera, in summoning the ancient spirits back to Azeroth to help combat the Twilight threat.

The first thing to know about Hyjal is that it’s a gigantic step up from Northrend in terms of gear and difficulty. The opening quests give greens of slightly lower ilevel than Heroic Icecrown Citadel gear – for those who’ve just quested through Northrend, like Illirica, some of the rewards are twice the ilevel of what they’re replacing. Combined with a couple of early quests in very packed areas, and it’d be very easy to die repeatedly here, if you don’t have Vanish.regrowth The rewards come thick and fast, however, and it isn’t long until your gear is more appropriate for the challenges.

The questlines in Cataclysm content are broadly linear, and Hyjal is no exception. You begin by saving the three ancients, Tortolla, Goldrinn and Aviana before moving on to begin restoring some of the damage done by Ragnaros by invoking Aessina, in a very dramatic phasing change to the zone. At the end of the zone, you go undercover in the Twilight’s Hammer (in my case as “Illiricadamus”) in order to save the legendary general, Jarod Shadowsong. These quests are very amusing, as they show exactly what a shambles the Hammer is. Well, we weren’t expecting excellent organisation from an insane doomsday cult, were we?

druids

Imagine how long it took to farm all that tier 5.

Finally, with the ancients restored and Shadowsong to lead them, Ysera finishes summoning Cenarius so that we can go on the offensive and force Ragnaros back in to the Firelands.

Cenarius leads Hamuul and Malfurion, together with our hero, in to the elemental plane of fire to do battle with Ragnaros. After dodging fire waves, killing adds, and doing an awful lot of stabbing, the Firelord is finally banished to the darkest, most hellish depths of patch 4.2, never to be seen again.

rag

Rogue shown for scale.

Done with Hyjal, Illirica is at the top of level 82. Off to Deepholm next – though whether I stay for the duration, or head off to Uldum as soon I level is up for debate. I certainly want to do Uldum.

A Shanker’s Tale: The Melange

winterspring

I completely forgot to take any scenery screenshots in Winterspring, so here’s a gratuitous shot of Illirica’s sick duds in front of a rare ice giant.

As with Thousand Needles, the most important thing to know about Winterspring is that it’s full of ore. Thorium, to be precise. There are spawns all around the walls of the zone, and it was very easy to gather the 200 or so I needed for leveling Engineering, without really going out of my way for it. The other thing to know is that it’s full of goblins, only some of which want you to exterminate the entire local animal population for delicious smoked meat treats.

animals2Having asked you to kill ninety three animals in this quest chain, the questgivers don’t even eat the foot they made at the end of it. Horribly wasteful, really.

The primary questline in Winterspring focuses, as you might expect, on the corruption of the area and things that have been going wrong since the Cataclysm. You eventually track the disturbances to Mazthoril, where the mage Umbranse has been opening portals to other dimensions, making for an interesting trip through a cave, fighting demons and creatures from other worlds.

Winterspring done, I headed off to Silithus.

sillyfuss

Silithus is… Silithus. There are a lot of bugs, some extremely dead world PvP, and only nineteen quests for the zone completion achievement. It wasn’t very interesting, and didn’t get me to level 60. Blasted Lands, then.

blackmorass

snaaake

Snake? Snaaaake!

Now, this did used to all be trees. Though there are a lot more trees than there used to be, around here. The main questline in the Blasted Lands is the same as it ever was, though it’s a lot shorter, and a lot more accessible than it’s previous iteration: the battle against the demon, Razelikh the Defiler. There’s also some Alliance/Horde conflict here, most notably in the Nethergarde mine, featuring a darling quest with some obvious influences.

All of that, and a quick trip to the Darkmoon Faire, netted me level 60. Overall, I’ve enjoyed my trip through the new old world – it’s a lot better than it ever used to be, for sure. There are one or two problems (most notably those constantly stunning monsters in Thousand Needles, and a slight over-reliance on vehicle mechanics) but, in the end, nothing is perfect.

As Illirica is level 60, she gets another talent. Despite being sorely tempted by Cloak and Dagger, I’ve opted for Shadowstep. Being able to use it out of stealth is the main reasoning – the mobility is very important for PvP. If I was levelling purely from quests, I would probably pick up C&D – I may switch between the two a bit. If I go Subtlety, it’ll be with C&D. I’ve also made use of all that PvP I’ve been doing, and picked up a pair of High Warlord’s Razors. They’ll probably be replaced fairly soon, but every little helps.

Right, what’s next? Are we ready to go after Deathwing, after running around Kalimdor and the Eastern Kingdoms fixing all of the problems his Cataclysm caused. Wait. What’s that? Oh no.

Welcome, all, to January 2007! It’s time for Outland!

A Shanker’s Tale: Tink, Tink, Tink

raceway

Once, all this was trees. Well, no. It was mostly dust and bickering Goblins and Gnomes. Now it’s water, pirates, and bickering Goblins and Gnomes. Welcome to Thousand Needles!

The zone begins with everything being overrun by the Grimtotem tribe of Tauren. Fleeing from the area you arrived in, you’re taken to Fizzle and Pozzik’s Speedbarge. Which is awesome. Goblin hijinks ensue, including putting out fires, sinking attacking pirate boats, and bribery. Notably, as the zone is almost entirely underwater, an awful lot of quests involve fighting beneath the waves. This is made bearable with a simple buff, the Speedbarge Diving Helm, removing the need to breathe underwater, and allowing you to move at 160% speed while moving along the seabed. This is perfect, and essentially the only way to make protracted underwater zones workable without driving you totally insane.

tink

Technically this is Truesilver.

Also notable in Thousand Needles are the ore veins. Mithril. Lots and lots of lots of Mithril. I took the opportunity to mine enough of it to complete the Mithril stage of Engineering, leaving me only needing Thorium before heading to Outland. It didn’t take at all long, in the end, even with some competition from level 90s farming there. Underwater speed boosts are a great leveler, against higher level competition.

Having worked through the Speedbarge’s many, many issues with pirates, you’re dispatched back towards the middle of the zone, to clear out the Grimtotem from Freewind Post and it’s environs. These quests have an NPC ally attached to you, who issues and completes quests. Theoretically, he’s supposed to help fighting as well, but mostly he stands and watches you stab things, until something actively attacks him. Luckily, nearly all of the Grimtotem have an AoE stun, which causes your helper to aggro. Being stunned so regularly does become irritating however – I’m sure there could’ve been a better way to do it.

Once you’re done with the Grimtotem, you’re sent to save their leader, Magatha, from the Twilight’s Hammer. These are the first quests I’ve found that have you outright opposing Deathwing’s forces, and they are quite spectacular, from assassinating their leaders, through to finally defeating the elemental they’re attempting to empower.

In all, Thousand Needles was… mixed. I loved the Speedbarge, but could really have done without the Grimtotem quests – there’s only so many times you can be War Stomped before it gets really old, and the NPC not doing his job capped it off. The Mithril helped, though. So much Mithril.

arteries

Done with Thousand Needles, I headed south to Tanaris. And was greeted with a whole questline of this. Amazingly, about the only thing you aren’t told to mechanically reclaim is Zhevra. It wouldn’t be so bad, if not for the Butcherbot’s colourful emotes, which range from mechanical grinding sounds to the downright psychopathic. All in all, not one to do while you’re eating.

After all that (and some Random Battlegrounds), Illirica reached the heady heights of level 50. At 45, I selected my third talent – Cheat Death for now, though I can certainly see the use of Elusiveness for the constant damage reduction. One that’ll depend on the situation, I think. Level 50 also brings another spec-specific mechanic, Venomous Wounds for Assassination. Importantly, it’s also the level Subtlety gets Honor Among Thieves, one of the main mechanics that was missing from it last time I tried, so it may be time for another swing at it.

The final stretch before Outland, now, starting in Winterspring.

A Shanker’s Tale: Results

andorhal

Sure were some spiders in Hinterlands. Having come to terms with that, Illirica finds herself on another battlefield: this time, the scourge-ravaged town of Andorhal, in what is now the Western Plaguelands. The objectives are simple: clear out the remaining Scourge, then clear out the Alliance, thereby claiming the burnt out ruins in the name of the Horde. Simple enough. You’re working for Koltira Deathweaver, here, formerly of the Knights of the Ebon Blade.

You’re ordered to engage the Scourge forces to begin with, starting with some skeletons and Abominations, and moving up to their leaders: Araj the Summoner, of olde-timey raid quest fame, The Ravenian, of olde-timey Scholomance fame, and Darkmaster Gandling of… well, he’s still in Scholomance. Araj and The Ravenian are both straightforward, but Gandling is tougher, eventually stunning you in a Shadow Prison.pact At this point, Koltira and his old friend Thassarian show up to bail you out. Having done so, they make plans not to fight one another until a later date. Koltira informs you that you are to tell no one of his agreement with Thassarian. I’m sure this’ll end well.

After that, you’re dismissed from Andorhal, and told to return when Koltira is ready to make his assault against the Alliance forces.

Other quests lead you around the various farms of Western Plaguelands, much as they used to. One line in particular has you tasked with killing Alliance farmers so that a Val’kyr can raise them as new Forsaken, valkyrthereby swelling the ranks of your forces in the area and ensuring that the Forsaken race continues to thrive. Ominous, all in all. Ironically, after helping a Val’kyr to create new undead, you’re sent off to help the Argent Dawn Crusade rat out the last remnants of Scourge activity in the zone, including a particularly tedious quest which involves herding spiders. You do at least get to be “helped” by amusingly incompetent trainee Druid, Zen’kiki, however, which makes it all worthwhile, in the end.

You are eventually summoned back to Andorhal to resume the battle. The delay has given the Alliance time to raise a rabble of local farmers to attack our flank – not an ideal situation. Koltira orders you to set his pet Gargoyle on them, and attack the Alliance forces in the town. Once this is complete, he orders you to bring an insubordinate underling, Lindsay Ravensun, to him. Anagrams ahoy! It’s Sylvanas. And boy, is she unhappy with Koltira’s delays. Once again she gives you a Val’kyr to command, this time ordering you to attack the Alliance’s militia, convert them to Forsaken, and use them to hunt down Thassarian. Unfortunately the delay has given him time to escape, with only the bones of his skeleton companion left behind. Returning to the Banshee Queen, she passes judgement on Koltira for his insubordination. It’s not pretty.

underundercity

 

In all, this was a great zone, despite a couple of annoying quests. I like Sylvanas a lot, and Western Plaguelands certainly delivers on that front. As I said before – you’re welcome to complain about her methods (and they are pretty ghastly), but if you want Horde general who will win you battles? Look no further.

On to Rogue stuff: Illirica is now level 40. I decided on Nerve Strike for her tier 2 talent, reasoning that it’s useful in PvP as well as consistently reducing incoming damage while questing. I also splashed out on a couple of glyphs, most notably the Glyph of Deadly Momentum, which should also make questing a little swifter. Level 40 also heralds the somewhat overdue arrival of Kidney Shot, which will hopefully stop healers being such an issue in battlegrounds. Also at level 40 for Assassination Rogues is the execute ability, Dispatch. It hits considerably harder than Mutilate (noting that I don’t have equal DPS daggers) for slightly more than half the energy cost, which should make for a nice burst on low health targets.

I’m back off to Kalimdor for the next stretch. Thousand Needles, specifically. Where’s my snorkel?

 

 

A Shanker’s Tale: The Horrors of Hillsbrad

hillsbrad

Welcome to the new face of the Hillsbrad Foothills. So hilly they hilled it twice. Also: full of Forsaken and Worgen, in the spillover from their battle for Silverpine Forest, and Gilneas itself. Mostly notably, the Worgen here are being helped in their battles against the horde by the Stormpike Guard. I love this – getting the PvP factions actually involved in the battle for the world is perfect, and sort of makes you wonder why the whole zone wasn’t about the conflict between the Stormpike and Frostwolf clans for control of Alterac in the first place.

That said, the Frostwolf Clan point blank refuse to take any part in the campaign, due to the methods employed by the forces of Undercity. It’s good to see that, despite Drek’thar’s age and physical frailty, he’s lost none of the spirit and conviction that made him interesting in the first place. That said, while you may not like Sylvanas’ efforts, it’s very difficult to argue with results, and in that department, the Banshee Queen certainly delivers, with only minimal help from outside.

boomThe main arc culminates in blowing up the four elements of the Stormpike’s forward base on the Fingers of Hillsbrad, which treats you to an impressive lightshow. The Alliance counterattack is stopped, and no one has any explaining to do about the Frostwolf Clan’s failure to help out. Phew!

The other main strand of the zone begins with the (well-publicised) quest Welcome to the Machine, which introduces several characters who show up throughout the zone. One of them, Orkus, helps you in your battles with the Stormpike forces. Another, Johnny Awesome is… less well treated. He is stereotypically ‘weak’ – he breaks down in tears when his horse is killed, rather than responding with steely-eyed determination – and is also mistaken for a “girl” by two of the Forsaken. Once for his looks, because there’s no such thing as an androgynous man, and the second time for his reaction to the death of his beloved horse, because no real man breaks down in tears over the loss of a valued companion. Of course, it’s played for laughs. The entire thing is ham-handed and offensive, and it really didn’t need to be included here. Or anywhere, for that matter.

Towards the end of the zone, you’re sent out to hunt Rampaging Owlbeasts. Owlbeasts? That sounds li-

moomins

Yep. A bad case of Moomins Moonkin. Having rid him of his terrifying affliction (and commented on the distinct lack of harmonica-wielding nomads in the area), you’re ushered off to the Arathi Highlands.

Overall, I very much enjoyed the Alliance and Horde conflict in Hillsbrad Foothills. I just wish it had come without the baggage.

seal

The most important level 30 ability

Illirica is now level 30, owing to a Battlegrounds binge and several dungeon runs. Notably only one of the dungeon runs had a tank. In one, a DPSer had queued to tank, in another (Stormwind Stockade), the tank left immediately after loading in. I guess you’re free to pick and choose which dungeons you do, if you get instant queues. Level 30 means a second talent, which I haven’t picked yet – I’m genuinely unsure which I want at the moment. It also means the option to unlock a second talent specialisation, which I’m going to do sooner or later. The second spec will be Subtlety, primarily to see if I prefer it in PvP to Assassination. I have no glyphs at the moment, but that will change as I can afford them. Defias Brotherhood has an, uh, “well developed economy”. Which is code for “everything is extremely expensive”. Selling cloth and spare metals will raise enough gold to buy the glyphs I want, sooner or later!

I’ve realised I didn’t actually talk about my first talent choice, which was Subterfuge. I’m confident this is one of the best talents in the game, for low level PvP at least. The ability to double Ambush people is huge, with many cloth-wearers dying instantly if either of them crits. If not, the forthcoming Envenom tends to finish them. Honestly at the moment I can’t really see the appeal to either of the other tier 1 talents. Now, with Cheap Shot unlocked as well, it’s really useful, with Assassination’s improved energy pool allowing you to put out three four-second stuns before stealth breaks. I’m looking forward to the interplay with forthcoming talent Cloak and Dagger.

Next up is the Hinterlands, though I’ll probably skip out on that early. I’m looking forward to seeing what the Forsaken are up to in the Plaguelands, these days…

A Shanker’s Tale: Waging War on Wildlife

A hop, skip and a swim from Orgrimmar, Illirica arrives at her destination. Welcome to the Northern Barrens!

barrensvista

An oasis! With trees!

Huh. Less barren than I remember. Anyway, down to business: stabbing things for money. Most of the issues people need dealt with in the Northern Barrens revolve around three main issues: 1, Quillboars Are Hitting Me, 2, The Cataclysm Ruined Everything and 3, Goddamn, All These Animals Are Annoying. As such, the zone has you exterminating anything with fur or feathers, starting with the ever-dangerous Plainstrider, and working up through Lions and Raptors, with the occasional diversion to kill some Quillboars.

STAB

The face of Northern Barrens questing.

Most of these quests are fairly standard and very straightforward – nothing out of place for a low level zone. Most interesting are the quests Crossroads Caravan Pickup and it’s follow up, Crossroads Caravan Delivery. There’s something very satisfying about sitting on the back of a Kodo, blasting away at Quillboars (and, later, cultists). Those deposited me at the Crossroads, where the opportunities to slaughter the local fauna continue apace. The lines out of Crossroads also have you branching out a little, with several quests taking you to various spots of the zone in search of Centaurs to kill.

The overarching story of the zone is the encroaching corruption from the Wailing Caverns – several quests involve helping Druids in their attempts to investigate or combat the issues that plague the area in the aftermath of the Cataclysm. Tonga Runetotem makes a reference to it being worse in the south; I might end up investigating that later on. When you aren’t fighting fauna or investigating suspicious flora, there are opportunities to fight an Alliance incursion to the south of Ratchet, including scuttling one of their warships. Naturally, I obliged.

In the end, though, one of my main lasting memories of Northern Barrens will be the realisation that Orcs get all of the best insults:

maggotfarms

Horsefaced maggot farms? Really? Zing.

I took a break from questing to indulge in some Battlegrounds (with mixed results), and, once the Dungeon Finder feature opened up, a run through Deadmines and another through Ragefire Chasm. It was quick and efficient, but low on any real engagement – mostly the tank gathered a whole bunch of mobs and and we stabbed them a lot. Nothing much to it at this level. Still, it was worth the time. I got a nice belt from the reward bag, which is always welcome.

At the end of the day, Illirica is now level 20. A very nice level for Assassination, as I now have Envenom instead of Eviscerate. Particularly useful as my daggers are terrible, so most of my damage is being done by Deadly Poison for the time being. I also now have Crippling Poison, which will be useful for any creatures that enjoy running away, like all of those Quillboars.

Hitting 20 also mandated a trip to the Eastern Kingdoms for riding training and a hawkstrider mount. I also stopped over to work on my professions a little, and now have a stack of bombs to throw at people.

As I’m in the area already, I think I’ll head in to the Forsaken areas next – Hillsbrad Foothills, to be precise.