In my last post about the new low-level areas I said that I would look at a bunch of zones in central Kalimdor next. Well, I'm sorry to disappoint, but something else came up first: my undead mage! He's yet another character that I've been playing on and off; I just never had much to say about his adventures. I mean, "cleared the new Badlands for the third time, it's the same on Horde side"? Not very interesting. However, as I made it through his last couple of levels to sixty, I encountered some things that gave me reason to pause.
I briefly wrote about levelling through the Burning Steppes as Alliance in this post. On Horde side the story is exactly the same, and I still liked it. However, I was kind of surprised by the way the parallelism was handled. When I did the zone as Alliance, I already had a hunch that Horde might be going through the same motions, but I wasn't sure how they were doing it. I only saw one Horde base in the entire zone, and no equivalent to Flamestar Post where Corporal Keeshan hangs out.
Turns out that Flamestar Post serves as both an Alliance and a Horde outpost at the same time, not by being a neutral base per se, but by phasing pretending to you that only your respective faction is present. So as Horde, I didn't even see Keshan, but instead there was Ariok the orc. I thought that was an interesting approach... it makes no logical sense to me from an immersion point of view, but it still struck me as clever in its own way.
Speaking of Ariok, he made me feel really lore-dumb.
Wait, Eitrigg has a son? (Where are all the daughters?)
Wait, Eitrigg is a former Blackrock orc? (I guess the grey skin should have given it away; I used to think he was just really old...)
Wait, Eitrigg serves in the Argent Crusade now?
What the hell? When did this happen?
This was not a bad thing by the way; I thought it was rather amusing.
Also, I ran into some mobs that even in Cataclysm's simplified levelling game turned out to be real mage killers: the various types of Obsidian Elementals. They have a chance to spell reflect, which is all the deadlier the more powerful you are. Nothing like giving yourself a pyroblast to the face! Good fun, that.
Swamp of Sorrows
Swamp of Sorrows was once again largely what I expected it to be: several neutral quest chains and then the Horde/Alliance conflict from the other side, with the quests being exactly the same only for different mobs.
However, I was once again confused by whether one side was actually supposed to win, and if so, who did. On Alliance side you get to assault Stonard and then the quest giver gives you a pat on the back afterwards, which I always interpreted as "we won, well done". However, apparently Stonard actually reverts back to its original state afterwards (I have to admit I never checked), and on Horde side I was given the impression that the assault was successfully repelled. Which is it? It would be rather odd for the Alliance to just lose with no explanation or even acknowledgement after they had the Horde on the run for the longest time. Though to be honest, I also found the experience a bit unsatisfying from Horde side because I was apparently super successful at all these quests to kick Alliance butt but somehow we were still losing the entire time, until the very end at least. It just made me scratch my head.
At the end of the zone, there was a quest that surprised me by how it was basically a clone of an Alliance quest but still ended up with a totally different feel. On Alliance side you help a draenei who's trying to heal his sick friend, but he dies anyway. This is sad, but in the end Velen himself makes an appearance to provide some comfort, which is pretty cool.
On Horde side, you help an orc lady whose husband was mortally wounded and he dies anyway... and nothing happens. Most depressing quest in the game? I remember standing on top of the watchtower afterwards, looking out across the swamp and suddenly hating the zone - not for having bad quests or anything, but for being a place where good orcs die in the dirt (after I had done no less than four quests to save him, too) and nobody gives a damn.
The Blasted Lands were a bit more samey than I would have liked, though each faction had at least a couple of unique quests. And I still like the storyline about the demon hunter regardless, as well as the way I kept finding junk that I could exchange for greens every now and then. And saving tadpoles of course.