After taking a bit of a break over Christmas, our Worgen duo is back on the levelling track. Having done a round of all the Blackrock instances meant that we entered Outland about halfway through level sixty. We then left for Northrend just after hitting seventy-one, and after only about two days or so of playing (though we did admittedly binge-play quite a bit during those days).
Questing in Hellfire Peninsula was indeed quite a break from the rhythm we had got used to in the revamped old world, with its very linear "get two or three quests at a time" formula. While there were still some mini quest chains with two or three follow-ups that needed to be done in order - generally speaking, the world was our oyster. I was strangely delighted to see a dozen quests or more in my log at once, and the whole map of the area lit up by quest markers. It was a little overwhelming, but also liberating. We had the freedom to do whatever we wanted, in whatever order we wanted to! Of course this also had the side effect that we had the freedom to make "mistakes" by doing things in an inefficient manner, such as by going into certain sub-zones before we actually had all the available quests for that particular area. I didn't find it overly annoying though; mostly I was just slapping myself on the head and telling myself that I should have known better, seeing how I had done all of this before (even if it was quite some time ago now).
As an aside, we were surprised to find that cross-realm zones had turned Hellfire Peninsula into a hotbed of PvP activity, due to that quest to capture the fortifications. Nothing like level ?? death knights one-shotting innocently flagged questers before you've even had a chance to realise what happened. Some of them also flew into Honor Hold to gank the quest givers there and then do a little teabagging dance on them while all the people actually trying to level stood around /facepalming. It was funny to me in so far as I have a screenshot from circa 2007 of Hordies raiding Honor Hold and killing our quest givers, so the whole thing certainly brought back memories. However, at least the invaders had to put up a fight back then. It's less fun when they literally have fifty times as much health as anyone or anything in the area and are just ganking out of boredom.
One thing I did kind of like was what they've done with the quest givers. I knew in theory that they moved all the instance quest givers inside the actual dungeons some time in Cata, but I hadn't actually done any instances beyond the level sixty ones since then, so all the changes from Hellfire onwards were new to me. Basically they seem to have added some quests to dungeons that didn't have many to make sure that there would be a roughly even amount in each instance, and they changed the story and quest givers to make the whole experience more coherent if dungeons are the only thing you're doing. In some way that's sad I guess, considering that many of the Outlands dungeon quests were very intertwined with the story of the outside world, but to really get the whole context you needed to do both loads of quests as well as all the dungeons, which - let's be realistic - is just not happening these days, not with how quickly the levels fly by and the convenience of the dungeon finder. Considering that harsh reality, it made sense to edit some storylines out of the quests and just focus them on the quest givers that are actually there in the instance. And there is at least some internal consistency now. For example you save Naturalist Bite in the Slave Pens (well, in theory you do, assuming you don't let him die in the naga attack like we did...) and he then shows up as a quest giver in the Underbog and the Steamvault, so even if you've done nothing but dungeons there is some sense of recognition and progression.
After a couple of instance runs we continued our questing in Zangarmarsh. This is where I have to admit that my TBC nostalgia took a bit of a nosedive. In Hellfire I had felt liberated from the linearity of Cataclysm-style questing... but Zangarmarsh reminded me that, for all the progress the Outlands quests demonstrated from Vanilla questing, they still weren't without their flaws. Too much running back and forth all over the map, too many quests to kill ten rats or gather five boar livers with little variety to spice things up. When we finally finished the zone, I was pretty tired of Outlands questing and ready to just go the rest of the way via duoing dungeons. Which we did, as they gave more than enough XP, and since Outland has so many instances we never had to repeat anything either.
Somewhat disappointed by how easy things were, we continually worked our way up from doing dungeons a little below our level, to ones the same level, to ones up to three levels above us. By that point things did actually get moderately challenging, but mostly because any mobs that my pet tank didn't maintain solid aggro on would grind me into the dirt before I could even blink. Still, duoing Black Morass at sixty-eight for example was pretty fun as we rushed from one portal to the next, remembering just how challenging it used to be back in the day to control all the little adds.
Oh, and I really wish they'd make the Shattrath cooking and fishing dailies available at level sixty. That "must be level seventy" restriction is very out of touch with the way the game works now, only giving people access to something that is effectively levelling content just as they are leaving for the next expansion.