So I want to talk about the world event that started with the latest patch, partly to simply record my thoughts on the matter so I'll be able to remember them later, but also to share them with others. This post will be pretty spoilerish, so if you haven't participated in Zalazane's Fall or Operation: Gnomeregan yet and want to be surprised once you do the associated quests, don't read any further.
I started off with Zalazane's Fall since I mainly play Horde and my main is a troll as well. They also happen to be, if not my single favourite race, then at least tied for first place with the tauren. I also really like Vol'jin and hate how he always seems to get treated as nothing more than Thrall's appendix, so this event had me pretty thrilled. I even put on a set of roleplaying gear before I went to Sen'jin, something I hadn't done in a while.
The first quest for the trolls has you collecting frog critters and imbuing them with magic at the local shaman's sentry totem. I can only assume that this was meant to be a nod to shaman players and their love/hate relationship with what's undoubtedly one of the least useful abilities in all of WoW. That made me grin. You then get to ride a bat and "deploy" the magic frogs on the islands to work as spies. Frog-bombing... I thought it was funny.
Meanwhile the local captain also sends you to Razor Hill to gather some troll volunteers for the cause. I was childishly delighted by the fact that the NPC followers I collected were clever enough to mount and dismount in accordance with what I was doing.
Back in Sen'jin you get a quest that imbues you with a tiger spirit, which makes you look like a sort of were-tiger and allows you to walk on water. In this form you discover a hidden troll druid on the Isles who agrees to join your cause. One of my guildies complained about this, saying that he thought it was a "lame" way to introduce troll druids. I'm a bit undecided - I liked that Blizzard bothered to give them a lore introduction at all, but does this mean that these druids won't join the Cenarion Circle? Since their shapeshifting was apparently learned elsewhere... would be a bit of a shame.
Finally you were supposed to consult the spirits for support, but I hadn't even figured out what I was supposed to do for that quest when I already got a "completed" message. Apparently the point is just to trigger some NPC talking, but he was just finishing up from someone else starting it and I got credit automatically. Oh well.
And then came the actual battle: it was a lot like the Battle for the Undercity, which is a quest that I consider overrated, as I mentioned before. I have to give credit where credit is due though and admit that I liked this quest better, and not just because it's about trolls. I think the main thing that made a difference for me is that due to this being a limited-time event, everyone is doing it at once and you're likely to almost always have quite a lot of people around. This means that everything dies quite quickly, so the event doesn't take as ridiculously long as the Undercity battle, and being surrounded by lots of other players generally makes the whole thing feel more fun and like a real battle (as opposed to some NPCs soloing everything while you can pick your nose).
That said, I still didn't feel like I was making a meaningful contribution, especially as a healer. I was actually trying to heal people at first, but with the massive survival buff nobody needed it anyway. And throwing piddly smites at zombies just didn't feel very satisfying.
Eventually I decided to just lean back, run along and try to enjoy the story being told. There were considerable NPC walls of text (though they were fully voice-acted also, which I found commendable), and those are always a mixed bag. I mean, I was absolutely willing to get into it and tore up a little when Vol'jin emphasised that he was asking the help of the spirits only for his tribe, not himself, but other players interjecting with random comments about how bored they were (one guy felt the need to yell "BLA BLA BLA" for example) was rather off-putting. And this is with Earthen Ring supposedly being a roleplaying server! It was rather shameful.
Still, overall I enjoyed the experience and I'm looking forward to seeing what the Echo Isles will look like in Cataclysm, fully taken back so to speak. Operation: Gnomeregan had a lot to live up to.
I started the Alliance version of the event with a slight sense of embarrassment: the letter in my mailbox told me to help the gnomes in Ironforge and immediately got annoyed when I couldn't instantly figure out where in Ironforge the quest givers were. Where are my easymode quest markers to show me where to go? /cough. The quest starts in Tinker Town, which makes sense of course.
The gnomes start off with a recruiting quest like the one for the trolls, except that, being gnomes, they use technology to "convince" people to help out - and typical for gnome technology, it doesn't always do what it's supposed to do. One of my potential recruits got turned into a rabbit for example. It made me laugh. This trend continued when the next quest sent me to participate in "brutal and rigorous" gnome training, which consisted of things like emoting /cheer at the drill sergeant in unison.
Gnomes being gnomes, all the rest of their quests were about doing something or other with their machinery: testing ejection seats, controls and weapons of their tanks. Nothing special but not boring either. There was also a "bombing" quest to measure the radiation coming out of Gnomeregan's vents. Gnomer has vents? Since when?
Finally you're supposed to test some drafts of a speech for Mekkatorque, which is again pretty amusing, as some of them are quite silly. Then you deliver the final speech to the High Tinker near Gnomer and get ready for the Alliance version of the second Battle for the Undercity.
Now, I kind of liked that this one felt more fast-paced as there was less NPC chatter going on, and the messages you did get from Thermaplugg were pretty amusing. However, it did have one big disadvantage as it bugged out just as we were about to go underground; the High Tinker just stood at the entrance for ten minutes or so until he finally reset and anyone with good sense suddenly had to make a run for their life, being faced with respawned elite mobs and no invincibility buff. If one raging player who apparently experienced this before was to be believed, it's caused by people running down into the tunnel too early. I don't know if that's true, but there you go.
On the second attempt I managed to complete the event, but the ending was a bit disappointing in a way. Unlike the trolls, the gnomes don't actually get to kill their big bad, and Mekkatorque's pride in having taken back the surface feels hollow, considering that said area only contained a couple of buildings with leper gnomes in them. I can understand Blizzard wanting to keep Thermaplugg around so Gnomeregan can remain an instance, but couldn't they have allowed the gnomes to retake most of the city and at least push him back into deeper tunnels or something? As it is I feel kind of sorry for the gnomes; they definitely got the short end of the stick here (no pun intended), only being able to retake a really small area while their archenemy continues to hold most of the city and in fact managed to take the radiation levels in it to new heights.
All in all I think I liked the Horde version better, but that's probably largely due to my racial bias and the annoying bug in the Alliance version. I also think that the trolls tell a more engaging story, but I do have to give the gnomes credit for making me laugh. What did you think of these quests?