The revamped old world is not completely devoid of group quests, but there are only very few of them. Most zones don't have any at all, but sometimes there's a lone group quest tucked away somewhere on the side, detached from the main storyline so that it doesn't end up blocking your progress if you can't do it. I appreciate that from a gameplay point of view, but story-wise it doesn't really make any sense. So you're saying that I can practically win a war on my own in Stonetalon, but you think that I should ask for help with killing that big fish in the lake? Right. To make matters worse, these group quests are what they are only in name. While levelling my rogue I could solo every single one of them with ease, without heirlooms and often without even needing most of my cooldowns. When normal mobs are tuned to die after two or three special attacks, then doubling or even tripling their health to make them elite doesn't add much of a threat.
I was in for a surprise when I met Yetimus the Yeti Lord in Hillsbrad. He looked pretty intimidating alright, so I approached him with caution, but I wasn't prepared for just how much of a thrashing he was going to give my little undead hunter. Barely a few seconds after I had sent my pet in, he did such a massive knockback that my faithful demon dog ended up being hurled so far away that he actually despawned. Panicking, I tried to kite the monster, but even though he was susceptible to slows, he was still way too fast for me even while slowed, not to mention his considerable reach and ability to stun. Another couple of seconds later I found myself at the spirit healer.
Okay, that didn't quite go as planned, I thought, let's try that again. This time I managed to avoid my pet despawning, but I couldn't keep the little bugger alive with my piddly pet mending, and even though my damage was poor I kept pulling aggro off him, all the while barely even making a dent in the yeti's health. Life is hard when you're level twenty-six and only have a fraction of your class's full skill set to work with.
After I had died about three more times and got no closer to killing Yetimus, I decided that it was probably time to do the unthinkable and actually group up for a group quest. I did a quick /who Hillsbrad and saw four or five players in the correct level range - and this was during day time! I asked in general chat whether anyone was up for killing Yetimus and quickly got a reply from another hunter, and while I was waiting for her to make it over to the right area, a mage joined in as well. I made no secret out of my previous failure and told them that I was out for revenge.
When we were all in the right place and Yetimus wandered past again, I pulled him and we tried to nuke him down as fast as we could. I got very close to dying, especially as I got aggro again and then got knocked into a stray mountain lion to boot, but in the end I survived with a sliver of health left and the yeti was dead. Hurrah!
The mage thanked us and left, but the hunter asked whether I was up for more action, as there was another group quest available east of Tarren Mill: The Durnholde Challenge. There was a bit of dallying about as I tried to figure out where to pick up the quest and whether there were any prerequesites - oh how I missed that idle grouping!
Finally we went in and did the whole chain with no problems - these guys were no Yetimus for sure, but I still appreciated not having to fight them alone. The other hunter levelled up halfway through the chain as it gave a pretty good chunk of experience. Unlike the Yetimus quest, this one also had a useful item reward for a hunter, but that wasn't really the point. When I said my goodbyes at the end, I was happy.
People often look down on pugging as something for the desperate, those who can't find any friends to help them, because why else would you want to group with random strangers? Surely there is no benefit to working with people you don't know over those you do know. The truth is, it's hard to explain because there really isn't anything similar in real life. The best explanation I can think of is that having a positive grouping experience with random strangers is something quite... profound. When your friends help you out, it's something to be appreciated for sure, but it's also not really surprising because they are your friends after all. Getting help from someone you don't know on the other hand, even if it's not completely altruistic, is the online equivalent to reading one of those positive slice of life stories in the news - it's like a reassurance that, at the end of the day, the world is full of decent people and good things. Whether that's true in the big picture is a different matter, but even on a small scale it's something that creates fuzzy, warm feelings.
From a practical point of view, grouping like this also really helps to make you feel connected. Since I don't intend to level that particular character much further, I wasn't interested in making any deeper connections and was content to part ways once we'd all achieved our shared goals, but it was good to know that the option to interact with other people from the same server was there. If I had been a newbie or someone looking to reroll on a new server, I would have had a chance to make friends right there, ask them to do an instance, or inquire about their guild. That's really valuable when you're a lonely lowbie, levelling up on your own.
I wouldn't be surprised if Yetimus became something like the new Hogger, an NPC of legend that awes the lowbies and encourages them to group up and learn how to overcome a challenge. I do wish there were more mobs like him.
Wildstar Goes F2P
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