The Face of Azeroth: New Beginnings

By Chad Awkerman

December 4, 2010

[The Face of Azeroth is a weekly column of varying lengths detailing interesting news, happenings and other tidbits about World of Warcraft in general and, more specifically, my adventures in the world of Azeroth and beyond.]

One “Last” Time through Northrend
I’ve had an alliance mage sitting at 70 for the longest time. She’s geared in BC-era epics and I haven’t touched her more than for a quest here or there since Wrath of the Lich King has been out. It used to be my main character – and my favorite character. That all changed, of course, when I jumped ship and went horde-side on an RP server.

However, I have a newfound interest in playing a mage, so I spent a lot of time this week trying to push her through Northrend content, post-Shattering. Why now? Because leveling from 70-80 requires 20% less experience than it did before patch 2.0.3a, that’s why. And it shows! I buzzed through Borean Tundra and Howling Fjord in a couple days of heavy playing. I’m actually not quite done with the Fjord yet, but I’m sitting solidly at half way through level 75. I’m willing to bet I will be at 76 – or nearly so – before I’m done with the Fjord, as I still have several major quest lines to go through there, if memory serves.

Needless to say, the goal is to start off Cataclysm with three level 80s – my alliance hunter and mage (both draenei) and my horde druid (tauren). However, since the druid is my main, everything gets put on hold once Cataclysm hits, to level him to 85 as quickly as possible.

Starting Anew
I was bored, and had always wanted to play a blood elf warrior. That class/race combination has never been available…until now. So, I created a little warrior named Alassiel. She started out as just kind of an “I’m bored and need something to do for one night” character, but I’m actually quite enjoying it. While playing a warrior seems like it’s going to be fun, what is really dragging me into this is the redesigned zones.

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I started off in Eversong Forest. While I contemplated for a time hitting level five then rushing off to Tirisfal Glades, I decided to just clear out Eversong and then head to other areas. I’m kind of glad I did. After Eversong, I skipped the usual staple zone of Ghostlands and went straight for Silverpine. Again, this was after another tough deliberation, as I’m typically more into the orc/tauren story of Kalimdor instead of the forsaken quest chains in Eastern Kingdoms.

After much thought, though, I did decide to take the Silverpine Forest to Hillsbrad Foothills route, simply because those zones are some of the most changed on the continent. And, I’m so glad I did!

SPOILER ALERT!!! The following details may have some spoilers for the Silverpine Forest story. I’ll try to avoid major spoilers, however if you don’t want to know anything, skip to the next subheading!

Shortly after The Shattering, a friend and I went to pick up this nifty little quest in Brill that sends Horde characters off to Silverpine, because we heard it had to deal directly with Garrosh and Sylvannas. While I’ll leave the details vague, let’s just say that at the end, Garrosh calls Sylvannas a bitch (no, that isn’t just my interpretation, he actually calls her a bitch) and goes about his business. I thought that was the end of it, because never before has Blizzard really kepts the faction leaders in a quest line to this extent.

Boy, was I mistaken. So, once my new warrior got to that point, I went through that quest…and then the rest of Silverpine Forest. I swear, the entire time I had a smile on my face. This is the first time EVER playing this game where I actually thought an entire zone worth of questing was a cohesive unit, filled with not one horrible quest, not one quest that wasn’t fun, and allowed you to build a relationship with a faction leader while advancing a story – and your character’s career – through your actions. Even the typical “menial” quests – like collecting bear guts – was tied so closely to the main story of the entire zone, and combined with other quests in that very same area that were more unusual, that they were actually fun, because you wondered where the quest chain was going next.

It was no longer some random NPC in the middle of nowhere requesting you shoot 10 boars in the head because they were invading his personal space. No, it was more like shooting 10 boars in the head because this is the first step to a much longer, more intricate and ultimately rewarding – both in lore and in gear – than anything that had come before.

There are plot twists and surprises galore, you work closely with Sylvannas the entire time and you actually quest in multiple zones when all is said and done – Silverpine Forest, Gilneas and Hillsbrad Foothills. Initially after The Shattering, many people visited Gilneas and was surprised to see a mostly empty zone, with a few non-aggressive mobs here and there. As I suspected, this is a heavily phased zone. It is, of course, where worgen players will start, but it is also phased heavily for Silverpine Forest leveling, because there is a huge quest chain that involves you spending quite a bit of time in the zone.

My favorite part of the questing experience here was when you finish up in the northern part and head toward the southern area of the zone – Sylvannas actually asks you to ride with her, and a whole cinematic plays out, with full voice acting, as she recounts to you the story of Lordaeron – from thriving human kingdom to the death of the Lich King in more recent memory. This just gave me chills, because it was so cool, and you had never gotten to really know faction leaders in this way before. Plus, it has the added benefit of inducting new players into the story of the entire region, which is a feature I hope they carry over into other low-level zones.

When all was said and done, I’m seriously hoping everything that Blizzard redesigned for this expansion carries the same impact as this zone, because if so this is a huge step forward in involving players in shaping the world and getting them more involved in the lore of everything that is going on around them.

New Pets, but For a Good Cause!
We’ve known for a while that the new vanity pets Lil’ Ragnaros and Moonkin Hatchling were added to the game and were set to appear in the Blizzard Store, for the standard price of $10 apiece. This week they actually went live, so players can adopt the cute little buggers.

It’s hard to choose my favorite of the two – Lil’ Ragnaros follows you around underground, and bursts out when you stop moving, and the Moonkin Hatchling is so cute, and will dance with you! However, I have to consider the Moonkin Hatchling as the recommended buy here because from now until December 31st, Blizzard is donating half of all proceeds received through the sale of that vanity pet to the Make-A-Wish Foundation. Last year, when they did the same thing with the Panderan Monk pet, they were able to donate $1.1 million to the same charity – that right, there is the power of WoW players, let me tell you!

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Chad Awkerman

Chad joined the DualShockers staff in mid 2009 and since then has put much of his time into covering RPGs, with a focus on the Japanese side of the genre, from the obscure to the mainstream. He's a huge fan of iconic games like Secret of Mana, Final Fantasy VI and Persona 4 yet enjoys the smaller niche titles, as well. In his spare time he enjoys experiencing new beer, new foods and keeping up with just about every sci-fi show on television. He's married to an intelligent, beautiful Southern Belle who keeps his life interesting with witty banter and spicy Cajun cooking.

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