Time for another installment of my series about levelling through the old dungeons in a post-Shattering world! I'm not sure how useful it is but I really enjoy writing it. Especially as I'm sure that Blizzard isn't done with making changes yet and I like documenting the process.
The Scarlet Monastery becomes available a bit earlier now than it used to, with the first wing opening up in the dungeon finder at level twenty-six. Otherwise it hasn't changed much, which is fine by me as it was one of the best old world instances to begin with. Why fix something that isn't broken? I was just a bit sad to see that Vorrel Sengutz doesn't offer a quest to his fellow Hordies anymore. I guess since the devs don't want you to have to pick up dungeon quests in the outside world anymore, they also don't want quests from inside a dungeon to send you outside.
All the wings have separate kill quests for all the bosses now, which results in a silly amount of blue quest rewards from those four instances alone. On Horde side they are given by a dark ranger who's standing at the entrance with a couple of Forsaken soldiers. Somehow this bugged me. When someone in a city asks me to please go to this scary place where nobody else dares to go and defeat the evil within, I feel brave and as if the quest giver thinks highly of me. When a bunch of soliders ready for battle tell me to go ahead and throw myself into the fray while they wait at the back - it will be alright, honest - I feel like I'm being used as cannon fodder or just plainly being made fun of. Hrmph.
There's also another quest giver in several wings, an undead rogue called Dominic who wears a gas mask and appears to keep his distance from the rest of the NPCs, even though he wants to see the Scarlet Crusade go down as well. He intrigued me. Is he a rogue apothecary or something?
Razorfen Kraul has been bumped up by about five levels, presumably because things were already kind of crowded in the low twenties. Layout and bosses have remained the same however, except that I could have sworn that Agathelos the Raging didn't always have a name. I think he was just called Raging Something-or-other?
Even the goblin escort quest is still there, but people still weren't particularly interested in doing it after getting their "instance complete" pop-up, not in my runs at least. No really, Blizzard, telling people that they are done is an automatic death sentence for any content that you might still have in store afterwards.
What I found interesting is that the quests for the instance paint a somewhat different and more coherent picture of the dungeon than before. You used to go in there to kill the quillboar because... they were evil. No elaboration was necessary, nor any explanation of why they were the way they were. The largest bit of story that you used to get was that the last boss dropped an item that started a quest revealing a connection between the quillboar and the undead. The new quests however tell you to fight the quillboar because they are trying to take over the Barrens with a giant armoured boar. No, really. Likewise, the justification for Going, Going, Guano! is now that this strange bat poop "seems to send the quillboar into a murderous frenzy" and must be studied. Okaaay... an A for effort I guess. Too bad that they couldn't shoehorn the snufflenose gophers into this whole thing as well somehow.
More importantly though, you also get to talk to the spirit of Agamaggan, who is now an NPC towards the end of the instance, and it turns out that the quillboar have actually been corrupted by Charlga Razorflank. There is even talk of helping them "return to their noble roots" by killing her. I'm not so sure about that, but I have to admit that it's a nicer story than just "kill these evil guys".
One caveat: Agamaggan's spirit stands only a few metres away from the final boss, and if you end up with a group of imbeciles like I did in one run, they might rush in and pull the boss before anyone has had a chance to hand in the quest and pick up the follow-up to kill Charlga. Be ready.
Like it was the case for Wailing Caverns, the big changes that were announced for Maraudon at Blizzcon have not yet been implemented. In other words, it still consists of three parts that don't really feel quite right as instances of their own, though Blizzard at least tried to apply some band-aids to the most glaring problems.
The Wicked Grotto for example, formerly Purple Crystals, used to have only one boss, which was just silly. Blizzard decided to change that by randomly moving Tinkerer Gizlock, aka that goblin towards the end of Maraudon that half the playerbase didn't know about and the other half never bothered to go to, smack into the middle of the purple dungeon area. This feels extremely random, but then a goblin in the middle of Maraudon has always been a bit odd. I think for the time being it's a good move, as it adds some value to the Wicked Grotto and actually exposes more people to the guy. If the players don't come to the boss, the boss has to come to them!
Celebras the Cursed is now officially part of Earth Song Falls, formerly known as Pristine Waters, at least according to the dungeon map, but his placement is still problematic. Players entering this part of the instance will now spawn on top of the waterfall instead of at the bottom, meaning that they only have to turn around to get to Celebras... but unfortunately old habits die hard. In the group I was in people just ran straight ahead and jumped down the waterfall, and when the tank made an attempt to loop back towards Celebras, he was told off for going the wrong way because that boss was nothing special anyway. If you are in a position to take the lead and want to kill him - and why wouldn't you, when he's right behind you - you'll probably have to shout at the rest of your party quickly to make sure that they don't hurl themselves off the cliff prematurely.
The quests in Maraudon are now given directly by the spirit of Zaetar, which is slightly strange to say the least. It's particularly bad if you start in Foulspore Cavern, aka Orange Crystals, where he doesn't even identify himself in the quest text initially. So you just get this quest to kill some guys... out of nowhere. I would think that even in Azeroth killing people because invisible voices told you to do so would be considered slightly crazy.
That said, once you figure out who's talking I thought that the story flowed better this way and is easier to understand for someone who's new to the lore, as opposed to the old way where you'd make your way through this huge mysterious cavern and then get an infodump at the end about how this princess you just killed seduced a guy called Zaetar and blah dee blah.
Uldaman could take a leaf out of Maraudon's book there - in regards to infodumping I mean, as it still has that annoying quest at the end where your only objective is to click through ten pages of text about the titans, which I haven't actually paid any attention to in years. There's a little animation that alternates between a picture of a dwarf and a trogg now, possibly to intrigue you, but that's really not enough.
The quest givers on Horde side are a bunch of blood elves from a group that calls itself The Reliquary and looks like it's supposed to be a Horde equivalent of the Explorer's League. I thought that was interesting.
The rest of the instance remains unsplit and pretty much the same as before, except that it's a lot less confusing when you actually have a map at hand. I still managed to nearly get lost though...
I have to admit I got pretty excited about having to do Archaedas "the proper way" again, as I'll always remember him as the first dungeon boss for which our newbie group needed an explanation and proper strategy back in the day. It was nice to see him actually get a chance to execute his add-spawning moves again, even if they still didn't pose nearly as much of a threat as they did to us newbies back in the day. He also seems to have ditched the overpowered clone of himself at the end that used to serve as a sort of enrage timer.
As far as tuning goes, I'm generally unsure of what to think of these instances. Things have definitely got somewhat easier compared to the earliest levels, but that might be due to me having dual spec now. Still, there seems to be considerable variation between the difficulty of my runs and it's not always due to heirloom gear. For example I had an SM run where I literally felt completely superfluous, and the tank was just a warrior in levelling gear. At the same time there were also still runs where I needed mana breaks every now and then, even as resto. It just doesn't really add up.