Through the Dark Portal... or maybe not

My little dwarf paladin hit level sixty yesterday, less than three weeks after I decided to start playing her again, and after what were effectively only a handful of play sessions. I suppose that's hardly amazing considering that I often hear that you can take a character the entire length of the way from 1 to 85 within less than a week these days, but to me, a player who always spends a lot of time idling, exploring and faffing around with professions, it still feels huge. A month ago I hardly even remembered that this character existed, now she's my toon with the fourth highest level on that server. The zones flew by so fast it's silly.

I also thought it was kind of funny when I hit sixty about halfway through the Blasted Lands and the anti-fun team's XP penalty for "playing in the wrong expansion" kicked in. As I watched my experience bar's progress slow down massively, I actually found myself thinking "yeah, that feels more like it". I also noticed the number of experience points needed to level, something I hardly ever pay attention to, and it was less than 300k. I distinctly remember coming to Hellfire Peninsula for the first time and marvelling at the fact that my next level was over a million XP away. How times change.

Anyway, mini reviews of the zones I covered on my way - there were four of them as they were all relatively short:

Searing Gorge

Apart from Lunk the friendly ogre (who is very amusing), this zone felt very familiar. You're still helping the Thorium Brotherhood, though they become friendly much more quickly now than they used to, to kill the same old Dark Iron dwarves with the exact same names (déjà vu?) - but it's still more fun now than it used to be in my opinion, as everything has been strung together into a more cohesive story and they got rid of the need to constantly crawl down into the Cauldron and back up again. That thing used to be the bane of my existence whenever I quested my way through that zone, as I'd inevitably get lost somewhere in the tunnels or on the metal scaffolding outside, unable to find my way back up, and there'd be Dark Irons everywhere and GAH! Now they just dump you at a tunnel entrance towards the end of the zone, you antagonise the Dark Irons in every way you can at once, then you climb up again and that's it. This is one case where I'm honestly in favour of simplification.

Burning Steppes

I can't really say that I miss anything about the way the Burning Steppes used to be, because as far as I remember there simply wasn't that much there in the first place. Back in Vanilla I just remember it as this place where everyone went to farm Thorium and dragon scales. Nowadays players get to meet up with Rambo Corporal Keeshan, whom an Alliance player may or may not have met before in Redridge Mountains (a zone which I did on another character right after the Shattering). He once again concocts a crazy plan that allows the two of you to defeat a huge army on your own, and it's still funny. I was just disappointed that there was no mention of, erm... how he got from where he was at the end of Redridge to hanging out in Burning Steppes. The final quest of the zone displayed what I thought was one of the rare cases of a good use of the cut scene mechanic.

Swamp of Sorrows

The next stop in the natural zone progression was the Swamp of Sorrows, which used to be a bit out of the way to get to from the Burning Steppes. Blizzard decided to fix this by adding a mountain highway straight from the latter zone to the swamp, and it just so happens to be traversed by a random woman on a rocket mount who has nothing better to do than sit on a rock in the Burning Steppes all day, waiting for customers. Convenient, but somewhat contrived.

Swamp of Sorrows used to be a very dull place for Alliance (and actually for Horde too as far as I'm concerned) and to be honest it's still not that exciting, though at least there's something to do. There are Steamwheedle goblins, Itharius wanting to get into the Sunken Temple and a newly erected Alliance base among other things. The latter kind of bugged me simply because from what I could see of Stonard from my limited Alliance point of view, it still looked like the same old somewhat poorly equipped outpost that it's always been, but the Alliance somehow managed to erect an entire keep out of nowhere in the meantime. Developer bias!

Blasted Lands

The Blasted Lands are once again a zone that I remember as pretty boring and empty before the Cataclysm. There used to be a couple of longish quest chains that led you there for some reason or another, but there wasn't much in the way of proper quest hubs. This has been rectified and it's fun. The zone has been spiced up a bit via the inclusion of some greenery, wildlife and worgen in the Tainted Scar, but nods to the way things used to be are still around as well. For example you can run into some mobs that still use the ancient high elf model (hideous!), and the old blood mages that used to give out boring buff quests are still around, as proper quest givers this time. I also found one slightly hidden quest (read: no exclamation point or sparkles to start it), which was both sweet and sad. A good mix of story and random adventure in my opinion.

I have to admit that I felt a slight distaste at the thought of continuing through the Dark Portal after that - I don't share many people's opinion that Burning Crusade content is just horrible to play through these days, but there's definitely a big break in terms of style and story, and it feels jarring. I'll probably leave my little dwarf at sixty for a while and move on to the next alt in order to explore more of the new low-level zones. My paladin never even had to leave the Eastern Kingdoms, so there's a lot left to discover.


  1. Clearly he drove there is his tank. How do you think the Steppes started Burning?

  2. Well, I didn't want to put any major spoilers in the post, but what I was talking about was...

    --- SPOILERS ---

    that last time we see him in Redridge, he's wrestling a dragon mid-air and then plummeting to what's presumably his death in the lake.

  3. And then got up and drove his tank to the Burning Steppes. What's so confusing?

  4. Haha Kleps.

    I generally always found those zones torturous, and am really looking forward to seeing how they've changed. I just finished Searing Gorge and while I did enjoy the new quest fluidity, THEY TOOK OUT ONE OF MY FAVORITE QUESTS. Actually it's just the quest title: "Incendosaurs? Whateverosaur is More Like It." I honestly lol'd the first time I saw it. Just so awesome.

    It's funny how even the THOUGHT of doing Burning Steppes, Swamp of Sorrows and the Blasted Lands even just now filled me with dread. Haha.

  5. @Kleps: Lol. :P

    @Rades: Aw, that's a shame about your beloved quest title. Especially since there is still a quest to kill Incendosaurs. And I know what you mean, personally I used to just completely avoid those zones when levelling alts without even thinking much about it. From 40 onwards it was pretty much always Tanaris, Feralas, Hinterlands, Felwood, Un'goro and Winterspring for me (give or take some). I'm looking forward to seeing what they've done with those zones.

  6. I played through those for the first time just a couple of weeks ago, Shintar. I can't say what they were like before (well, I can for Tanaris, and I like the new version better), and I didn't need to do all the quests in each place, but they are good fun from what I saw. Un'Goro was where I spent the most time, and a handful of quests refer to what I assume were the old version, so there's that. Overall, I really liked the Crater. The Maximillian quests are great.

  7. I used to play through those zones as horde. There wasn't much to do there, but in vanilla experience was sometimes hard to come by, so you did everything.