Some thoughts on the worgen starter zone and phasing

Due to unexpected circumstances, one of the first things that I ended up doing after installing the expansion was roll a worgen to check out their starting zone. And I do have to say, I had a blast. The levels just flew by as I pressed on again and again because I was eager to find out what would happen next. Also, even if the Twilight hype has tainted the image of werewolves for you, there's just something extremely cool about getting to play an intelligent wolf(wo)man.

That said, the worgen themselves kind of bugged me. I had heard a comment here or there that the English accents of the NPCs weren't particularly good, but I couldn't really appreciate what they meant until I had to listen to lines like "get gabbin' or get goin'" over and over again myself. I mean, English is not my first language so I'm not as sensitive to accents as a native speaker, but even I wanted to slap these guys and yell at them to stop trying to do a bad English accent and start speaking like a normal person. It's enough to drive you batty.

The worgen running animation also looked really funny to me. Maybe it's because their lack of a tail unbalances them or something, but to me their movement looked as if they were perpetually running around in very uncomfortable shoes or running across hot coals. Try saying "ow" every time your worgen takes a step and it seems strangely appropriate. I wonder if I'll get used to it through exposure over time, but at the moment I find that hard to imagine.

The thing that bugged me the most however, was how incredibly, and I do mean incredibly, linear a worgen's first ten levels or so are. I mean, WoW has had a reputation for being the "theme park" of MMOs for a while now, and some bloggers frequently deride it for having too much of an on-rails experience, but to be honest I never thought that it was that bad before. The quests certainly guided you along, but you didn't have to follow them. You could completely ignore the quest givers in your starting zone and go on to do something else, and a fair few people did.

With the worgen however, I don't think that's even possible. I reckon that you could get a warlock and two other friends to summon you out of the starter zone, but on your own I'm not sure whether it would even be possible to "escape", due to the phasing. I mean, for the first couple of levels you're not even officially a worgen yet, just a human citizen of Gilneas.

Still, that by itself wouldn't even bother me that much yet, but personally I couldn't shake the feeling that the story progression was almost being shoved down my throat. Maybe I was just unlucky with my experience gains or something, but every time I levelled and gained access to a new ability I was stuck in a phase with no class trainers. What, you want your new abilities? Never mind, you'll be just fine without them, just keep working on that story and maybe we'll let you train later.

It was even worse with professions. There was a generic profession trainer in a village where you quest around level five, and I foolishly forgot to learn both of my planned primary professions. By the time I realised that however, he had already been phased out. I then spent a fair amount of time searching every new phase I entered for another profession trainer, but never found one and was forced to continue profession-less until I was allowed to leave Gilneas at level twelve. I felt as if Blizzard was slapping me on the wrist, chiding me for wanting to "waste time" with something as silly as professions when they were trying to tell a story here, damn it! Focus on the story, girl!

From what I've seen of the new level eighty-one and up zones, they seem to be following a similar pattern, ushering you from one phased quest hub to the next. Sometimes it's cool to see the world change around you, but other times I'd just like to muck about a bit and enjoy the fantastic world around me. Unfortunately there isn't much to do there apart from talking to the NPCs that give me the breadcrumb quest to enter the next phase.

Okay, that sounds incredibly whiny and I don't mean for it to sound like that. Don't get me wrong, I'm really enjoying the new zones right now. There's a lot of interesting stuff to discover. The problem is that I'd really like this content to last and be fun the second time around as well. I ended Wrath of the Lich King with eight level eighties, and with the low-level quest areas having been redesigned, I might want to level more!

In the past I enjoyed questing in a variety of zones, picking and choosing my quests, working on professions and doing things in a different order to spice things up. But how interesting is it going to be to the follow the exact same sequence of quests a second and third time, with little to no room for deviation? Being amazed at the phasing isn't really something that you can repeat ad infinitum. But Tam already covered this subject much better than I ever could.


  1. If the Twilight buzz is bugging you, you could always go check out BBB's latest parody:


    There's something delicious about mocking Twilight while promoting WoW. ;)

    I wonder... will new players even care about things like the profession trainer phasing out? I mean, it's only a big deal if you're looking for him, right? There aren't even any tooltips pointing newbies to professions. At all.

    That's not to excuse what may well be poor planning, I'm just noting that if you're a new player along for the ride of the grand story of the Worgen, maybe you wouldn't notice those things?

  2. Yep, I saw that post by BBB and your design! That's what reminded me of Twilight in the first place, as I'm otherwise blissfully unaware of it for the most part.

    I think the goblin and worgen starter zones are intentionally designed with an eye on the experienced player who's returning or rolling up an alt. I guess they don't expect a lot of people who are only just starting to buy the base game and all three expansions at once.

  3. Flattering but blatantly untrue :P I'd be really interested on your take in Vashj'ir actually, since I think that manages to get the balance right between telling a genuinely absorbing story and not dragging the player along by the wrist.

    I'm kind of ambivalent about worgen too. It's a cool concept but have you SEEN the casting animation?! My druid looks like he's trying to try his nailpolish. It's NOT a good look.

  4. "I guess they don't expect a lot of people who are only just starting to buy the base game and all three expansions at once."

    Very true. OK, let's just call it poor planning, then. ;)

  5. I haven't done the worgen zone since the beta, and professions didn't even work there when I played, so I haven't had the phasing probolems - but I do get the whole linear thing.

    It's something that's bugged me a bit in Mount Hyjal especially where you really go from one place to another and if you miss a quest you literally can't continue because the next quest hub actually doesn't unlock.

    It's pretty horrible really, especially with the amount of people who were questing the first days. There was no way to skip ahead to make the places less cluttered, but you had to do them in a very specific order.

    I know quests always had a very specific order, but you used to be able to skip some. Especially if you leveled ahead of them, and all you'd miss out on was the possible follow-ups on the quests you skipped. Now you can't continue at all without finishing them.