I wonder how many people besides me immediately stopped at the character selection screen and started shuffling. Being able to change the order of your characters is one of those small quality of life changes that just feels like it's been overdue forever. I don't care about visually preserving the order in which I created my characters, I just want the ones I play more often to be on top, damn it! I was very happy to finally be able to do that.
Not everything in the new patch is for max-level characters only. One of my guildies immediately found this little gem for level tens and up for example, which rewards you with a balloon that counts as a non-combat pet and has a rather amusing ending if you hang around to watch after handing in the quest.
Probably not a patch feature, but my guildies only discovered today that doing Ahune in a guild group counts as a full dungeon run for the purposes of the weekly guild challenge. We swapped alts in and out to get goodie bags for all of them and earned over a million guild experience in about ten minutes. I'm not sure that's working as intended, but if it is that's a handy way of racking up the XP in a short amount of time.
Starting work on the new dailies in Hyjal didn't feel very exciting, but I guess it simply takes some time until you get to unlock more. We'll see what things will look like in a few weeks. For now, I don't consider it a problem.
Now, the Thrall quest line was a lot more interesting. I was surprised to see Nozdormu in humanoid form for the first time and immediately decided that he must be evil. Don't get me wrong...
... he looks pretty badass for a
During the initial cinematic I couldn't help but giggle at Malfurion's reaction to the intruders basically being, "I cast roots on all of them!" Sorry mate, but I can see why Staghelm had trouble taking you seriously there.
The following quest takes you all over the world, to Uldum, Vashj'ir, Deepholm and the Firelands, which would feel quite epic except that Aggra magically teleports you everywhere. I really felt rather torn about this. Part of me was definitely glad that I didn't have to manually go to all those different places just for one quest, but on the other hand I didn't really feel as if I was going anywhere. That's the eternal dilemma with features like this, isn't it?
Blizzard's new phasing-but-not-quite worked very well in my opinion, as you could see all the other players around you and it felt busy, but the NPCs still changed for you personally, depending on which part of the quest you were on. I also thought that the mechanics of the elemental fighting quests were very well suited for the patch day crowds, as mob tagging wasn't really an issue and your "kill credit bar" or whatever you want to call it kept building up as long as you did at least some damage to some mobs. I can imagine it feeling a bit slow though if you end up doing it later when there aren't as many people around.
The only thing that really caused me any grief were other players, as lots of Alliance on my server decided to turn their PvP flag on, and as the elementals were dying in seconds and everyone was maniacally fighting to get a hit in, it was way too easy to hit another player by accident and get flagged without meaning to. I accidentally hit a draenei death knight with a smite during the Firelands portion of the chain myself, which promptly caused him to come over and gank me, so I lost my entire quest progression of what felt like several dozen kills (the bar resets if you die) and then had to take an enforced break of five minutes while waiting for my flag to wear off. Yeah, that wasn't that much fun. When I did the chain on my hunter, my pet randomly decided to go after an Ally as well, without any direction from me, and got me flagged this way, though I managed to escape death that time. It was still annoying. I guess one person's fun world PvP is another one's obstacle.
Also, was I the only one who wondered about Aggra's totems during the Firelands part of the chain? Where the hell does she keep totems that are twice as tall as a tauren? It's funny how some NPCs and items in WoW have increased in size over the years, for no apparent reason other than to make them more obviously visible to players. Most of the time I don't even think about it anymore and just accept that Tirion Fordring is a giant for example, but those totems gave me pause for some reason.
The entire quest chain gives Thrall some interesting characterisation in my opinion, as you basically find out about his most secret thoughts about a lot of issues. A lot of it wasn't exactly unexpected, but I was actually pleasantly surprised to hear that he's had doubts about Garrosh messing up the Horde as well.
And Aggra... well, I'm kind of in two minds about her. I haven't read The Shattering yet so I don't know how she gets introduced, but looking only at the game, she's basically this complete nobody that very obviously only gets shoved into our faces to be Thrall's love interest. I didn't mind her at first, but her new 4.2 voice really grated on my nerves, as it sounded unnecessarily sultry, whiny and somehow entirely un-orcish to me for some reason. On the other hand she's kind of cool, and manages to display some character even while under duress, occasionally snarking at Thrall even while she desperately fears for his life.
The only thing I didn't get was why the big ritual for which we were called to Hyjal in the first place wasn't completed after we saved Thrall. I thought it was supposed to be important?
The quest reward cloak you get at the end is very nice, though I couldn't help but feel like there was suddenly a certain cloak overload going on. Epic cloaks for justice points, cloaks from Ahune, cloaks from this quest, and did you see the first rep reward from the Avengers of Hyjal? Yep, more cloaks.
Speaking of the Avengers of Hyjal, in the evening my guild had its first Firelands raid. I took one step inside and immediately felt like I had ended up in Molten Core 2.0, with the only major difference being that it's open to the sky. But otherwise it's all there: flamewalkers, core hounds, molten giants - lots and lots and lots of them. I guess it's been a while since we last had a raid instance with silly amounts of trash, so fair enough. What with it being our first time, we didn't mind that much anyway because it was all new and amusing to find out about the mobs' different abilities, such as little turtles punting the tanks halfway across the instance.
Our raid leader decided that we should start off with Shannox, aka the guy whose face they pasted onto the tier twelve hunter helm. He doesn't actually appear until you've killed a certain minimum amount of trash, and then he keeps patrolling the entire zone, with each round taking about four minutes. This certainly made for a very different kind of boss fight, as we basically waited in the area that we had cleared out for the fight every time, discussing tactics until he came around again, and then everyone scrambled frantically to be ready immediately while the tanks had to make a good run for it to catch him in time since he moves quite fast. I can foresee a lot of whining about that on the forums and wouldn't be surprised if Blizzard ended up changing it. I think it would be a shame though, because while my first reaction was to find it quite annoying, it also feels a lot more dynamic. Why should all bosses just stand around, waiting for us to kill them?
We didn't make much progress on the fight, but considering that there are only seven bosses in there, I would have been disappointed anyway if the first one had fallen over immediately, on our first night of attempts.