Continuing my inofficial series of belated Cataclysm zone reviews, I'd like to talk about Mount Hyjal today. Like Deepholm, it was another zone that didn't leave me with a strong impression after the first playthrough. It didn't wow me like Vashj'ir did at first, and it didn't tick me off like Uldum. It was just... okay? I guess?
Once again playing through it for a second time made it easier for me to realise what I liked and what I didn't. For example, I really liked the quests in terms of pure gameplay. I don't think I can remember a single quest in Mount Hyjal that bored or frustrated me, aside from Cindermaul being a bit buggy on my first visit and causing a huge congestion in his corner of the cave as nobody could continue without having looted his tome. I also enjoyed the jousting quest line, even if it made my fingers hurt a little.
The main thing that I didn't like was that the zone felt a bit schizophrenic to me in terms of mood. I mean, I really loved the first third of it or so. You do that introductory quest to fly to Mount Hyjal from Moonglade and oh my god, there's Deathwing and Ragnaros and everything's on fire... serious business for sure. The initial quests also put a heavy emphasis on the large scale of the battle, making you battle elementals right outside the inn, getting you involved in fighting Baron Geddon (an ordinary quest that can easily kill you if you're not careful) and restoring the Shrine of Goldrinn. Phasing is used intelligently to show that you've really "won" in certain areas, such as the shrine or "The Inferno" turning into "The Regrowth".
Here and there some funnies are sprinkled in for comic relief, such as that guy who calmly hangs from the ceiling in the cave with the ogres (I was most disappointed to find that there's some kind of bug that made it impossible for me to pick up his quests on my second playthrough) or the dryad whose only concern is saving all the wee animals, but the overall tone of the quests is mostly serious.
But then, as you start getting towards the "middle" section of the mountain, I felt that implementation was starting to get a bit lackluster. The phasing seemed to stop and even after I totally kicked Twlight butt according to the quests, cultists and dragons remained all over the place. I don't actually need phasing to show me how I've changed the world to feel accomplished, but when it's done so well for the initial quests and then just stops that's rather disappointing.
It gets worse when you get to the part where you're supposed to infiltrate the Twilight cult and there's this unbelievably huge and unchanging area that's dedicated to nothing but training recruits, and all the quests are highly silly. Again, I don't mind silly fun at all and I thought the quest where you get a crowd to riot with your public speaking skills was hilarious. But to me, it just didn't fit with the rest of the zone. One moment I'm involved in a serious battle against elemental lords, the next I'm in the middle of a slapstick comedy about incompetent cultists? Meh.
Once you're done with this chain, the zone then goes back to serious business and I actually really liked the final quest to beat Ragnaros with the help of Cenarius and the two archdruids, as it didn't feel to me as if the NPCs were doing all the work for me and there are a variety of things to pay attention to instead of your character just nuking the boss. It's just a shame that getting there involved such a long and bumpy road.
In summary: a zone with fun quests, but the heavy focus on story doesn't always work as its tone and execution are fairly inconsistent.