Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Lost in the Basin

Sholazar Basin has to be my least favorite zone to level in.

This, in spite of the presence of the Avatar of Freya and the amusement surrounding the "Why is everyone looking at me like I crashed the ship?" banter, and the Frenzyheart vs. Oracles quest line.

I suppose I should be happy about a series of quests that are blatant in that they're the "kill ten rats" variety --that's what you get with Hemet and Co, really-- but all I feel is "please please PLEASE just let me get through this quickly!"  At one point I looked up and checked the number of quests I'd finished in the Basin, saw it was around 15, and blanched.  I had about sixty more quests to go?

I needed a beer.  Badly.

Of all of the zones in Northrend, Sholazar is the one that feels the most 'tacked on'.  The Scourge only start to take center stage once you get through all of Hemet's quests and almost to the end of the Oracle/Frenzyheart quests.  Yes, you could skip around and head straight to Freya, but in the end there's no avoiding the Nesingwary and O/F stuff.

When I made it to Sholazar Basin the first time on Quintalan, I'd already finished up Storm Peaks and most of Icecrown, and I'd paid the (then) 7k gold to get Cold Weather Flying.  However, that did me little good in Sholazar because of the tree cover.  Having returned to it twice now, I've found that it is harder and harder to navigate because you have to fly so low to the ground.  I'm sure I'm not alone in this, but the more obstacles to fly through and constantly change directions with give me headaches.  In much the same way that first-person shooters give me motion sickness, flying through Sholazar --like Un'Goro or Feralas-- is a chore for me.  Then, when you add the numerous 'kill ten rats' quests of Nesingwary and Co, Sholazar makes my head spin.

I thought about other forest zones that don't give me such problems, such as Ashenvale and Felwood*, and two things do stand out:  the density of the foliage and the gaps in the forest.  Ashenvale and Felwood are temperate forests, and the density of the trees at flying level isn't so bad.  Or rather, you can fly at a decent level above ground and see where you're going.  You also get breaks in the forest where you can get your bearings and not feel so closed in.  With Sholazar (and U'G and Feralas), that feeling of claustrophobia can come on strong, along with the disorientation of a forest that looks alike in every direction.

Maybe with some Dramamine Sholazar Basin wouldn't feel so bad.  At the same time, however, it is pretty much a dead-end, storywise.  I'm not sure if that's what's intended, but the impression I get is that Sholazar is the odd-man out of the Northrend story Blizz wanted to tell.  Sure, there's an Avatar there fighting the encroachment of the Scourge, and you have a connection with Un'Goro, but as far as the focus on progressing the story toward the Endgame, Sholazar stands apart.  It takes you nowhere.  Normally I wouldn't mind, given that it expands the overall feel of the game world, but given that the three expansions after Vanilla got away from the "sandbox" type of game, Sholazar just feels out of step from the rest of the design goals for Azeroth.

*I would include the Ghostlands too, but you can't fly there.  Yet.


  1. Aw man, Sholazar was one of my favourite Northrend zones. To be fair though, I got sick and tired of everything being about the Scourge Scourge Scourge everywhere else pretty quickly. Not to mention that all my characters had at least one gathering skill, and Sholazar is a gatherer's paradise. I think I gained whole levels on some characters, just from picking flowers and mining there.

  2. @Shintar-- I don't mind it not being Scourge all the time, but it was the odd man out of Northrend (and Outland, for that matter).

    As for it being a gatherer's paradise, I won't dispute that it wasn't cased as much as Icecrown, but have you tried to gather in Sholazar on a PvP server? With all of the foliage, it's a ganker's paradise....

    And yes, I do know that from experience. /shudder