My boyfriend and I completed Uldum today. From what I can gather it seems to be a very popular zone, but I can't really share that sentiment after this first playthrough.
First things first though: I did like the overall look and feel of the zone, what with me being a fan of all things related to ancient Egypt. The Harrison Jones quest line bordered on being tacky at times, but personally I thought that it was quite funny. (My favourite bit was the "into the chests" line early on that made fun of the extremely dodgy start of Kingdom of the Crystal Skull.)
I also liked the tol'vir. They are basically cat centaurs, which is cool. I was just kind of disappointed that they didn't seem to have any females as far as I could tell. Not to press the feminism angle too much, but this just struck me as kind of lazy. I mean, I can kind of understand why Blizzard hasn't introduced any female ogres into the game to date for example, because they aren't something that's been frequently portrayed in fantasy art and they'd have to invest rescources into designing something that looks convincing themselves. But the tol'vir... are freaking cat centaurs. Normal centaurs already have females in the game, take that basic concept, replace the head with that of a cat and the legs with cat paws and you're golden! I just don't understand... /sigh
Quest-wise Uldum played with some new mechanics, which was interesting, but also repeated some old mistakes that Blizzard really should have known to avoid by now. Killing a trillion pygmies for some quest item with a rubbish drop rate is not fun! Another quest that I remember as impressively unfun was one where you have to pick up some items off the ground in area filled with neutral mobs that turn hostile and aggro as soon as you touch anything, with some additional mob spawns all over the ground that triggered as you walked past them.
And then... there were the cut scenes. The popular opinion seems to be that these are the greatest thing since sliced bread, but personally I really came to loathe them throughout the course of the zone.
One reason for this was that a lot of them were simply very badly bugged. I expect some bugs here and there, but I had problems with about a third of all cut scenes, most often because they would simply force my camera to look at the wall for a minute and watch... nothing. Most often this seemed to be triggered by me and my boyfriend trying to set off a cut scene at the same time, and we finally managed to avoid more troubles by making sure to "take turns" as it were if we knew that something was coming up. I just can't believe that problems like these made it into the final release. I mean, it's an MMO; surely more than one player completing a quest at the same time is not that strange a concept, is it? On other occasions I've had a cut scene fail to play altogether, or the opposite: it started playing for me again when my boyfriend completed his quest even though I'd already seen it once. Another time I saw my character randomly appear in the air and fall to the ground halfway through a series of unrelated events that I was supposed to watch.
If the cut scene was supposed to play in the middle of a quest and failed, I could at least abandon and try again (and again...), but some scenes only triggered upon quest completion, so if you missed them you were out of luck. This was particularly annoying when I was supposed to watch an important council meeting that I'd been working towards for about a dozen quests - and then I got to stare at a wall for a minute and had no idea what was actually decided in the end.
Other wonky side effects included unwanted teleportation. One quest triggered a cut scene upon picking up the last quest item and then dumped you back at the quest giver, which was a fair bit away from where you had been working on the actual quest objectives. I was rather annoyed by this because there had been loot on the ground that I hadn't picked up yet! So I started to fly back to fetch it, and just as I was about to reach my sparkles, my boyfriend completed the quest as well, for some reason I got the cut scene again and was dumped back at the quest giver again! I guess the developers thought that this would be a convenient way of saving people the oh-so-long flight back, but for me it was just a nuisance.
This sort of leads me to what else I didn't like about the cut scenes even when they weren't bugged, namely the lack of control. About half the time I felt that they added little to the story and seemed to be more about taking control away from the player by fixing their camera angle and making them watch certain pieces of NPC dialogue in real time. I just didn't really see the point. At other times, they even take control of your character away from you, most often to justify them doing something stupid, like getting captured by a bunch of random bandits or whatever. If you died to some felboars in Hellfire after having killed C'Thun that was kind of silly but at least your own fault, but now every Kingslayer gets pwned by random pygmies because Blizzard says so. This doesn't help the roleplaying experience, it hurts it.
I can't blame Blizzard for wanting to try something new, and I did enjoy some of the cut scenes. When they were used to show events happening on a greater scale or to show character animations that we don't usually see in the game... that was nice. However, especially towards the end of the zone I couldn't fight the feeling that someone just went nuts with their new cinematic tool and decided to make every bit of NPC speech into a "cut scene" just because they could. Take quest. Watch cut scene. Hand quest in. Watch cut scene. Hello, I would like to do some actual playing here!
I do hope Blizzard won't consider Uldum a successful experiment in that regard...
D&D Multi-Edition Adventures
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