I've decided to tackle the huge amount of new low-level content with (new) alts. I know that some people prefer to just do it all on their level eighty main instead, but to me that would feel cheap. All game content is much more fun at the right level, so I'll make sure that I experience it that way first, and maybe I'll go through it again on my main later on for the sake of being a completionist. Right now I just hate it when I try to do a low-level quest - and there's plenty of competition from other alts anyway - and some eighty decides to come breezing through and one-shots every mob in the area. Gee, thanks.
Anyway, the first alt that I rolled was a troll druid, native to Argent Dawn since I have no empty character slots on Earthen Ring anymore. And oh my god, troll druids are popular. I swear there were hundreds of them in Durotar last night, turning the place into the new Barrens chat. On the whole it was kind of fun to see all these different-coloured kitties bounding across the landscape, but there were certain "choke points" in the quest lines where the sheer number of players caused problems. For example the third quest or so that you get as a new troll requires you to fight a captured naga in a miniature arena, and this can only be done by one person at a time. When I finally managed to spam-click the NPC that starts the event before anyone else, someone else ninjaed the actual mob from me. RAGE! Even worse was a bit where you were supposed to kill a named guy on a hill and he had a respawn timer of five minutes or something. When I last left the place, there were no less than a dozen new troll druids camping the spot in hopes of getting there first with a well-timed moonfire. Not exactly much fun.
Still, on the whole I rather enjoyed the first five levels of new troll life, and I pretty much got exactly the opposite impression as Tobold, who thinks that the new troll starting zone is too complex and will confuse new players. I doubt many people who quit WoW before reaching level ten did so because they thought that the game was too complicated; more likely they just didn't find it very engaging or their kind of game at all. Personally I think it's great that Blizzard tries to teach new players important abilities (such as different ways in which a quest item can be used) from the start now. They might not get it right immediately, but the zone is very forgiving. You don't encounter actively hostile mobs until a few levels in (and unlike the sudden neutering of the old starting zones, having more neutral mobs actually fits the story here). When you do meet hostile mobs at last, a friendly NPC accompanies you and he's quite good at killing things, so an accidental overpull or mobs spawning on top of you isn't going to get you into any trouble.
At the end of the zone, you get into a big boss battle (yes, at level five). Tobold criticises that the strategy to defeat the boss isn't detailed in the quest text, but fails to mention that instructions flash across your screen in giant letters during the fight, raid-warning style. How often have people pointed out that WoW's single player content doesn't prepare people in any way for what they'll encounter in dungeons and raids later on? Well, here we finally have an attempt at a solution to this, by giving people a taste of what a boss fight will look like as early as level five. And it's still very forgiving as far as I could tell, as the friendly NPCs that fight with you seem to be quite good at keeping the boss busy on their own, so it's no biggie if you can't figure out what you're supposed to do right away. I didn't check my combat log, but I got the impression that I was receiving heals as well.
As I moved on to mainland Durotar, I noticed that other random mobs had also been upgraded to be more interesting: human soldiers would heroic leap at me, others dropped bombs or traps at their feet, scorpids spat poison circles on the ground... they still weren't difficult fights, but again giving the mobs abilities that players also encounter in dungeons and raids later on strikes me as a good move on Blizzard's part, as it teaches people early on to watch out for bad stuff on the floor and to engage their brains to figure out whether they have any spells that can counter a particular mob's signature move. Dare I hope that this might make the next generation of players a little smarter a little sooner?
But enough of gameplay. Let's talk about the landscape, lore and quests. I'm actually a bit undecided about the new troll starter area in terms of looks, as I felt that too much of it was taken up by the training area - surely the Darkspear don't spend all their time preparing for war? Do they always have to swim to Sen'jin Village if they want to do as much as have a beer?
Lore-wise the conversation between Vol'jin and Garrosh was a bit of a shocker. I mean, I cheer for Vol'jin saying it as it is, but at the end of the day he pretty much makes a death threat against Garrosh there! I'm surprised that trolls are allowed back into Orgrimmar at all.
Durotar as a whole hasn't changed a lot, except for the western half of the zone having been partly flooded. It was actually kind of funny - up until I got to that part of the zone I was progressing very quickly, because things mostly looked the same, but the moment my kitty felt the (new!) long grass tickling her belly, I almost forgot all about what I was doing and just started randomly bounding up and down and wasting time in this wonderful new world that I had discovered.
The quests are pretty similar to the zone's looks in terms of changes, meaning that I was initially surprised by how little certain things had changed. The centaurs are gone and humans from Northwatch took their place, but the quest to destroy their attack plans is still exactly the same. Where you used to kill Kul Tiras marines you now get exactly the same quest, only with the mobs being called "Northwatch" something-or-other. Fizzle Darkclaw has drowned in the flood, but you're still supposed to get him.
But just like with the look of the zone, you might find yourself moving on quickly because you think that you've already seen it all... and then you suddenly run into something completely new and different that blows you away.
I have since moved on to the Northern Barrens, where I've encountered a similar pattern so far. Yes, there is still a Plainstrider Menace quest, but at least the quest giver doesn't pretend that they really are dangerous this time around, and you get to ride on a caravan kodo afterwards, which is quite fun.
Having reached level fifteen, I'm keen to try out some dungeons now to see how they have changed.