No Cataclysm spoilers here, this is about the old Mount Hyjal, the instance. My guild didn't have enough people for a "proper" raid last night, so we gathered what we had and went for a trip down nostalgia lane by fighting the battle for Mount Hyjal once again.
I had a feeling that it would be a fun run when our mage discovered that there were Brewfest banners on the tower in the Alliance base.
It did indeed turn out to be a fun run; we revelled in nostalgia and so on and so forth - but it also made me think.
The feelings of nostalgia that I experienced in Black Temple not long ago for example were bittersweet. It was nice to see the bosses again, and kicking butt with ten more levels under our belts was fun in a "getting revenge for all the wipes back then" sort of way, but the realisation how much the game had changed and how a lot of mechanics had become completely obsolete was also accompanied by a certain sense of melancholy, knowing that we'd never get to experience the game that way again - because even if it had been hard and frustrating at times, it used to be fun too.
Mount Hyjal evoked almost nothing of the sort. Maybe it's the scenery, as I'm generally less prone to feeling down in a bright and sunny environment, but there was little that I felt we were missing out on, even as we were steamrolling the instance with seven people of a way higher level than intended.
Take the trash for example: Hyjal was always the home of AoE, the main difference being that this heavily favoured paladin tanks, warlocks and mages back in BC, seeing how they were the only classes with spammable AoE damage abilities. For everyone else it was just pretty dull, single-target stabbing or nuking a lot of relatively low-health mobs, while only a select few people in the raid got to bask in the glory of their unbeatable AoE dps. Going back there at level eighty, with everyone being able to make a contribution, actually felt nothing but right, and almost as if we were only now able to finally clear the content the way it was meant to be played.
Likewise all the bosses except Archimonde were always pretty much tank and spank with only one major gimmick and a couple of minor abilities - they kind of had to be that way back in the day, seeing how the trash made every single boss attempt take about half an hour, and if they had been much more difficult, nobody would've ever got very far without going insane. When coming back at level eighty this has the advantage that even though the fights are obviously still considerably easier, they don't feel completely different and trivialised (unlike several fights in Black Temple for example, which used to have lots of fiddly mechanics that can mostly be ignored these days).
The NPCs also got me thinking, as I watched them die pathetically during the trash waves because nobody really gave a damn about saving them.
Back in the day they were actually really well balanced when I think about it now, because they were genuinely valuable. We used to have people dedicated to kiting single mobs into the NPCs to get them to help out and tried to save them if they got aggro, because they really contributed - but at the same time they were nothing without the players. Jaina and Thrall were powerful, and again, strategies often included positioning that would help to get them engaged, but they still died quite quickly without the rest of the raid.
I do wish that this was something that Blizzard remembered, as I feel that they've thrown way too many NPCs at us during this expansion that were either totally useless in a fight (like the guys "helping" you to get to Valithria Dreamwalker) or so powerful that they could solo everything and made you feel redundant (the leaders in the Battle for Undercity, Tirion stealing the show on the Lich King). Friendly NPCs can be cool, but only if their power is balanced correctly against the player characters.
And then there was Archimonde, oh yeah. I know some of my fellow raiders hate him with a passion, but I still love the fight to this day, despite of the many weeks we spent wiping on him before we finally killed him. I just love fights that force you to think on your feet, where you start with a strategy but have to be able to make small adjustments on the fly depending on circumstances, while at the same time not descending into complete chaos. (Why hello there, Doomfire!)
I also felt a weird sense of pride, always timing my tears correctly so that I didn't even take the tiniest bit of falling damage. It's hardly a transferable skill, but maybe it's because of that that there is something deeply satisfying about still remembering how to do it. Shows just how much time I spent on that fight, when the right way to click is still ingrained in my muscle memory years later.