Monday, April 8, 2013

On a Clear Day, I Can See Pandaria

I may be a Wrath baby, but there was always something exciting about passing through the Dark Portal and into Outland on a toon for the first time.  When my rogue passed through into the barren wasteland of Hellfire Peninsula, crawling with demons and Fel Orcs, it brought a smile to my face.*

I've yet to figure out why starting out on the Borean Tundra or Howling Fjord doesn't inspire the same reaction out of me.

Boring Borean Tundra is vast, sprawling, and feels totally disjointed.  The Horde and Alliance outposts in the northern part of the zone seem like a clumsy method of introducing the Taunka and Mechagnomes --the Taunka outpost in the SE part of the zone does a much better job for the Horde-- and I often get the feeling that the flight point is there merely to provide a connection between the main bases in the zone and Sholazar Basin.  I like Coldarra and the Taunka village as well as the DEHTA compound, but the best quest zone in the Borean is Thassarian's quest line.

By contrast, Howling Fjord is more focused, the scenery more beautiful, and plants the seeds of the quest lines that bear fruit in both the Wrathgate and Storm Peaks.  But there are only so many Viking rip-offs one can take before it starts to get old.**  The same goes for the Forsaken, where after a while you start to wonder if the writers were using Jeremy Irons' character from the Dungeons and Dragons movie as a model.

Perhaps the biggest reason why I'm not that fond of the Wrath intro zones boils down to the storytelling itself:  Blizzard does best when it is a) being completely original and not basing storyline elements off of a real world counterpart, and b) when they are trying not to do too much.  If the storylines are too much to remember, or you're led too much by the nose, a zone loses its luster.

Look at Storm Peaks versus Icecrown.  While both have quests that end two separate storylines, the better of the two is the more original one:  Icecrown.  In Storm Peaks, while I do enjoy the zone better than Howling Fjord, the quests are an exercise in "spot the Norse myth behind the story".  The Icecrown storyline is all about the Death Knights and the Crusaders, where groaners are limited to the Valhalla and Eye of Sauron references.

In the end, these detours into Hellfire and Borean Tundra are just so I can gear up enough to press onward.  My rogue is only two expacs behind, now, but reaching L70 means I'm that much closer to my goal of leveling up to Pandaria via BGs.  The path has been painfully slow at times, but the end is in sight.

And I really hope that I'm not going to be wincing at all of the sly in-jokes when I reach Pandaria.

*The minimal level of cooperation between Alliance and Horde never hurt either.

**The biggest eye-roller isn't in Howling Fjord at all, but in Borean Tundra:  Hagar Heigarr the Horrible.  Considering Hagar the comic strip jumped the shark back when I was a kid, I can only groan when I see that name in the Tuskarr area.  What's next, a storyline with names from Funky Winkerbean?


  1. Some sort of an Air Guitar NPC maybe?

  2. Passing through the Dark Portal and arriving in Hellfire is definitely still the scariest moment in game for me. I think my recent malaise is a lack of an alt doing lower content. I need to remedy that, need to get a Panda to Hellfire. And then get to Zangarmarsh where all my favorite references to Firefly are.

    1. I think one aspect of BC that still rings true to me is that several of the zones had PvP objectives for those who wanted it, but they did so in the context of a PvE zone. If you want that Cold War to turn Hot, you can as much as you want, but you don't have to if you don't want to.

      One thing that does annoy me about BC is that somewhere from mid-Cata on they nerfed Arazzius from a group quest to a solo quest. I sure hope they didn't do that with the other group quests in BC, but I'm not hopeful.