I don't seem to be very good at keeping up with writing a series of posts, but as far as my project of writing about levelling alts through the new low-level content goes, I haven't given up on it yet - I just took a break from it.
Last time I wrote about how I had taken my human rogue through the Southern Barrens and Dustwallow Marsh. After that I continued to Thousand Needles, but something about the story in that zone confused me (more about that later), and I found myself wondering whether the alternative available levelling path through Desolace and Feralas might've explained events better, so I decided to take my warlock down that route before writing about Thousand Needles, to make sure that I had all the relevant info.
Before the Cataclysm, Desolace was a zone with a less than stellar reputation. I always thought that the quests themselves weren't too bad (though I only ever finished the Magram/Gelkis rep grind once, while working on Loremaster at level 80 - that definitely wasn't one of Blizzard's brightest ideas), but there were two downsides to the zone that I definitely took note of as well. One: it was ugly as hell. I'm not saying that everything has to be lush and green (though I love those zones myself), but there is barren... and then there's Desolace, which is seriously nothing but a depressing grey wasteland. Two: it has always felt somewhat out of the way to me, especially whenever I was playing Alliance. Even with the accelerated levelling speed I wanted to return to a capital city once in a while questing there on my warlock, and the return trip always took bloody forever. Before the Cataclysm I mostly just ended up getting my levels elsewhere during that level range, often not even due to a conscious decision or anything. I'd just kind of automatically make my way through Stranglethorn or Arathi and not even realise that I had completely skipped Desolace until I was well into my forties.
When the Cataclysm promo video first came out, it included a shot that had the camera panning across a rejuvenated Desolace, and to me, that was easily one of the most exciting sights in that video. Unfortunately, the reality didn't really live up to the dream. Yes, there's a lush glade in the centre of the zone now... but all around it, the place is still the same it's always been. Also, the Cataclysm hasn't really made the zone any more accessible.
The quests were enjoyable enough, but then as I said before, to me they've always been pretty decent. The zone seems to offer a pretty even split between quests that are completely new, quests that are based on old ones but have been revamped a bit, and old quests that have pretty much been left untouched. I honestly don't know how I feel about that. In some ways it's an awkward mix. Then again, I kind of enjoyed running out to some lonely hut without having any kind of breadcrumb quest, and finding that it was still inhabited by the same old goblin wanting me to round up kodos or gather ghost-o-plasm. On the latter quest I even managed to get myself killed once, not a mean feat in today's levelling world. But at the same time it doesn't really fit. When all the other quests have been streamlined into one big storyline (the naga story in this zone is quite interesting by the way, as is the new centaur plot), then those others just stick out like sore thumbs. I couldn't actually find a follow-up quest to lead me into Feralas, which was a first for me in the post-Cataclysm world, but I continued down there anyway.
I have an old post somewhere in which I declared my love for the old Feralas and how it continued to surprise me even after years of playing. Obviously I can't say with any certainty that the revamped Feralas will never surprise me in the future, but considering that it follows the new linear quest model, I'm not getting my hopes up.
This is also one of the two neutral zones that I've already done on characters of both factions (the other one was Stonetalon), and I have to say that, in that regard, it's been rather disappointing. One of the biggest appeals of rolling an alt of the other faction in the old world was that it gave you access to some very different content. I'm not saying that there was never any overlap, and neutral quest givers have always been available to everyone, but if you had separate camps for the two sides in a zone, you could generally count on being tasked with different things. For example, while both factions used to be sent to the Ruins of Ravenwind to kill harpies, the Alliance would be sent there to assemble the staff of something-or-other, while the Horde was out to kill the leader of the harpies. The night elves wanted to save fairy dragons, some orc in Camp Mojache just wanted the horns of Grimtotem. On Alliance side you discovered the local silithid hive while on a mission to rescue a lost elf, on Horde side you followed the trail of the gnolls' aggression back to the silithid. And so on, and so forth. They were separate stories.
Not much is left of that, and I find that quite sad. The vast majority of the new quests are identical across factions, down to even the basic ones to kill x amount of dragon whelps, stags, ogres, gnolls, silithid or what have you. Once again Blizzard seems to be operating under the principle that everyone has to see all the content, and thus we couldn't have any quests on one side that might make people on the other side feel as if they are missing out on anything. In some cases this felt quite forced too: For example the Alliance now also gets the same quests as the Horde that have you killing mobs east and north-east of Camp Mojache. While the Alliance has a flight path much closer to the Horde base now, it was still fricking annoying to have to run through tons of gnoll camps in order to sneak past Camp Mojache over and over again, as the quest chain had you running back and forth about four times. In the old days I never had any quests to go there, and you know what? It was not a bad thing. I do hope that not all zones have become like that.
That said, the quests themselves are still enjoyable enough, and there's some interesting lore that has you meeting Ysondre and Cho'gall. Also, if you're a herbalist, this place will drive you crazy with how many herbs it's got. I kept following the golden dots on the mini-map and would always find myself in a completely different place than where I had intended to go. By the end I simply had to force myself to ignore most of the herbs or I never would have got anything done.
Now, Thousand Needles. This zone is weird now. Not bad, just weird. I did it on my rogue, and as I mentioned at the start, I came here after doing the Southern Barrens and Dustwallow Marsh. The breadcrumb quest leads you to the very western edge of the zone, where the night elf outpost supposedly needs help, but then they only ask you to kill a few attackers and immediately send you away to the local luxury speed barge owned by a gnome and a goblin. Because that's the logical thing to do with desperately needed reinforcements, send them away on holiday. Bwuh?
So then you get sent to the very eastern end of the zone, where you get quests to work your way west again, and then back east again. This didn't feel like good flow to me. Also, everything being covered in water didn't help. The quests are partly on land and partly on water, and like in Vashj'ir the designers tried to make the latter as painless as possible by giving you increased swim speed, underwater breathing and a mount. Except that the mount isn't actually a mount, it's an item in your inventory that you have to use to activate a boat vehicle, and it still feels depressingly slow in the vastness of the sea, especially compared to the insanely fast and mysteriously powered night elven speed boat that initially takes you to the barge.
The quests themselves are almost all entirely new, mostly good fun and quite memorable. Among other things, there's a gnome who wants to open an ice cream emporium in the middle of nowhere, and you run into Tony Two-Tusk again, whom Horde players might remember from the Northern Barrens. However, as Alliance I was also quite confused that I was told to help the Horde fight back the Grimtotem that had taken over Freewind Post. I mean, excuse me? You just spent the better part of three zones telling me that the Horde is my mortal enemy, in Stonetalon I had to work on forging an alliance with the Grimtotem, and now this? Unfortunately Desolace and Feralas didn't explain this sudden development either. On the border between Feralas and Thousand Needles there is talk of the Grimtotem suddenly attacking for no reason, but that's still quite a 180 degree turn. Helping the Horde after all they did to us... /grumble. (And that's coming from someone who mainly plays Horde.) If anyone could enlighten me about why that's supposed to make sense, I'd appreciate it.
Towards the end of the zone you also forge an unexpected alliance with a not particularly friendly lore character (I don't want to spoil it), which once again left me wondering where this particular story was going, as the ending is somewhat open.
I have to admit, so far my trip across Kalimdor has felt less exciting overall than the revamped Eastern Kingdoms, but I still have zones to cover, so we'll see how it goes.
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