So, tonight my guild went to tackle the new Zul'Aman. I ended up tanking on my druid instead of healing this time, due to us having different people online - and really, I just wanted to play with my guildies, I didn't care that much about my exact role. And finally those months of gearing up my druid paid off! I sometimes feel silly upgrading my alts' gear as much as I do, especially if I then hardly ever end up playing the role that I geared for, but occasionally you get a moment like this, where you suddenly need a reasonably geared character for a specific purpose and it feels all the sweeter to be able to provide what's needed.
Where Zul'Gurub feels inspired by its previous incarnation but otherwise features a whole host of completely new encounters, Zul'Aman is almost exactly the same as it was before. Bosses have been tweaked to accommodate the smaller group size, and the last boss is called Daakara instead of Zul'jin now (and he's got two eyes and two arms, shocking), but the core mechanics of the instance have stayed the same.
I have to say, in some ways it felt good to wipe on the last trash pull before Nalorakk again, or to fail at stopping one of Jan'alai's scouts in time. It always hurt me to see people steamrolling this content from patch 3.0 onwards, and it's nice to see that the mobs have levelled up and demand respect again. However, at the same time there is no way of going back to how things used to be. The trash has been thinned out considerably and I kept looking for patrols and hidden pulls that simply weren't there anymore. The patrols in the dragonhawk area don't keep respawning anymore, so you don't have to constantly huddle close together or risk aggroing something from behind. The bosses also felt a lot easier than the ones in Zul'Gurub and we one-shot all of them except Nalorakk, where we had a mess-up with one of the new mechanics at first. To be fair though, I don't know how much of that was due to the fact that I ran the place to death back in TBC and thus knew how to handle all the unchanged mechanics in my sleep.
One thing that really gave me food for thought was the Akil'zon fight, which was the first one we did. This one kept all of its original mechanics... and had a new one added. Think about that for a moment. Level 70 Zul'Aman was a pretty high-level raid, about on par with the tier five twenty-five-mans. Now it's been downsized to a Cataclysm five-man, and apparently they actually had to add mechanics to keep it interesting. I always scoff when people complain that instance bosses are getting too complex, but that one boss fight really highlighted the truth of it for me, when what used to be a reasonably challenging raid boss a few years ago is now considered too simple even for a five-man and needs to be upgraded. The mind boggles.
Similarly I realised that Nalorakk really used to be nothing but the tanks standing on top of each other and taunting back and forth. With only one tank available in a five-man, the developers added something to make the rest of the party move around a bit. Same thing with Halazzi really, who used to be all about standing still and sharing the saber lash damage. Now he drops a healing totem instead so the tank has to keep moving him.
Janalai was kind of funny, because I only told the dps to kill one of the hatchers but didn't think of reminding them that, if we were still following the same tactics as at level 70, they'd eventually have to kill the second hatcher too so that we'd have time to AoE down the dragonhawks he had spawned and to give the flame buffet debuff some time to drop off. As it was, the second hatcher kept running around freely and a steady stream of hawks kept on coming until they were all gone. I just ran in circles maniacally, spamming my AoE abilities whenever they came off cooldown, but we seemed to survive just fine. Back in the day that never would have worked simply because few classes had strong AoE abilities.
The last two bosses felt like a bit of a letdown, considering how hard I still remember them being. Daakara doesn't even call upon all the different animal spirits, only two of them. And most importantly, they didn't bring back the cool music at the end. :(
In summary I would say, I think that Blizzard did a good job updating the instance for the new level cap, and to someone who never did it back in TBC, running it now should certainly be a much more rewarding experience than just soloing the entire place in fifteen minutes used to be. However, as someone who got her Amani War Bear back in the day, running this new Zul'Aman kind of made me feel like a middle-aged woman who's having a midlife crisis and desperately trying to recapture her youth. The instance has nothing new to offer me, other than a couple of new pieces of loot. I'll probably run it a couple of times with guildies, but other than that I don't think it'll interest me that much. There is no way to turn back time, not even in a computer game.