The Face of Azeroth: Only Way to Go is Up!

So, this week Cataclysm finally launched. People can now fly all over Azeroth to their heart’s content, dig up ancient treasures and explore the new 80+ zones. On top of it all, it is the first time in a couple years that they’ve been able to level their main characters. How have I been faring?

I chose to go to Vashj’ir first, instead of Hyjal. I had heard a lot of talk shortly before the expansion came out that made it seem like everyone was going to go play around the World Tree, so I decided to go the opposite route, even though I had my misgivings about playing in a zone that was (almost) entirely underwater. This stems from some “interesting” experiences in the beta that I shall not get in to here.

However, when all is said and done, I’m really glad I went to Vashj’ir first because it has been a lot of fun, especially about mid-way through the zone, on to the end. The Battlemaiden quest chain was awesome – both in mechanics and in lore – there have been some interesting quests, which are all now artfully clustered together so you’re not running all over creation to get them complete, zipping around underwater on my seahorse is fun and the zone is just a brilliant explosion of color, light and sound.

Earlier on, on release day, the entry quests were packed, in the sub-zone Kelp’thar Forest. But, after I got out of that, even that very same night, things started getting easier. A day later it was like a normal questing zone, as I had very little trouble securing quest targets, looting stuff from the environment for quests and picking herbs.

As I was wrapping up getting this article together, I finished all of Hyjal. If Vashj’ir was a vast, uncharted, entirely new experience, Hyjal was a return to the familiar and, surprisingly, almost safe. Except, of course, for your ride in to the zone, where you nearly get scorched twice over.

One huge difference between the two zones to me was the difficulty. Enemies were downright easy in Hyjal, as opposed to the underwater expanse. I can’t really chalk it up to the new gear and levels I received underwater, either, because even the mobs near the end of questing in Vashj’ir, once I had all the gear upgrades, still had a lot of health and hit hard.

I wasn’t 2-shotting mobs in Hyjal like I did in Icecrown, but they certainly were going down a lot quicker, and with less damage to me, than those in the previous zone. However, Hyjal is dry land, where I know exactly what to expect and don’t have to deal with three dimensions of enemies trying to beat my pretty kitty face in. I really enjoy the northern part of the zone with its greener-than-average fields and sparkly, almost serene, waterscapes under and near the World Tree.

As you spread out and work your way down, though, things suddenly turn into a combination of Searing Gorge and Burning Steppes all over again. I already thought there was an over-emphasis of fire in the game, and I’m not a huge fan of it, to be honest. But, this expansion was built around fire and it seems that this is really the only outdoor location like this, so I suppose it’s alright – but I don’t have to like it. You hear that Deathwing, I hate fire. What are you going to do about it?!

Luckily for my dislike of fire, things do clear up a bit…eventually…

These come along with every major patch or expansion, however it is seemingly taking them quite a while to fix some pretty major progression issues. One of the final quests in Vashj’ir is a very well developed event that plays out, except it is horribly broken. It was supposedly fixed, but the fix seemed to break it more. I had a horrible time getting this one quest done the other day, which came only a couple quests after another bugged quest that they actually did fix with a recent round of hotfixes.

While it didn’t necessarily stop your level progression – because you could always just leave the zone and go to another, or run dungeons – it was highly annoying because of the linear nature of the quest lines. You can’t move on until you complete the previous quests. Not to mention this quest was at the end of the entire zone, had awesome rewards and an achievement linked to it.

I logged out and came back a few hours later, however, and made it through the entire quest without issue. When I went to turn in the quest, though, it seemed the NPC was out of phase – the “?” was there on my mini-map, but the NPC was nowhere to be found. A simple log out/log in caused him to show up, and I completed the quest and moved on.

I’m of the opinion that stuff like this really needs to be given priority. I can’t honestly say I’ve ever seen so many bugs after a patch or expansion anywhere compared to what I’ve seen in Vashj’ir. A total of five quests throughout that leveling experience had some major bugs right out of the box – this is after months of beta testing. These quests brought your leveling in that zone to a dead stop because you couldn’t progress without completing them. This stuff should not be happening and, if it does, it needs to be fixed sooner, rather than later.

On to Deepholm with my kitty. Rawr!

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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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