Showing posts with label uldum. Show all posts
Showing posts with label uldum. Show all posts

22/06/2011

Redoing the 80-85 quests

My focus in WoW is ever-changing as ever, and in the past few weeks or so I've mostly spent my time questing on my max-level alts. I've commented on the linearity of Cataclysm's questing in the past (and so have many others), and as a result have shied away from repeating many of the quests on my alts. I don't like reading the same book or watching the same film over and over. While my main has been a Loremaster of Cataclysm for a while now, my level eighty alts mostly levelled up by engaging in other activities: exploration, gathering, instances. I'd do the first couple of quests in each zone to unlock the portal in Orgrimmar, but afterwards I was happy to never look back.

Well, until recently that is, when I was looking at what ways I had left to progress my alts' gear without raiding and realised that my best options were really things like getting the Therazane shoulder enchants and working towards exalted reputation epics. And how do you get those things? By questing.

So I buckled down and started repeating zones. I've always been someone who at least skimmed all the quest text, even upon repetition, but with the new linearity even I just ignored most of it because I didn't really need a reminder of what I was supposed to do - it was obvious. In many ways it was also boring and tedious, though a couple of zones turned out to be not nearly as bad as I had expected, which was a pleasant surprise. I also couldn't help but be reminded of part of the original purpose of quests - to give players the feeling that they could achieve something even if they only had very limited play time - which is something that I've definitely benefited from when my real life week ended up being busier than I had anticipated.

Mount Hyjal actually turned out to have surprisingly high replay value for me. It's linear, but still less so than other zones. For example there's a point where you can decide to help out at the shrine of Aviana or take another one first. As I said in my initial review of the zone, the gameplay of the quests is varied and fun, and as far as the story goes it really feels like you are achieving something tangible, bringing the ancients back and reclaiming Hyjal bit by bit. I don't mind doing that again.

Vashj'ir on the other hand feels like a massive drag upon replay. I still stand by the good things that I said about it originally, but it really fails to impress a second time. The linearity of progression is very rigid: you spend fifteen minutes at a mini hub and then abandon it, never to return again. The story also doesn't hold up well when experienced a second time. In a nutshell it can be summed up as "you get shipwrecked and discover that the naga are working with the old gods", and it relies heavily on building up suspense about what's going to happen next. Working your way through 150 quests of "golly gosh, whatever are we going to do" when you already know exactly what's going to happen just doesn't cut it.

Deepholm is a lot like Hyjal in my eyes, with a story that emphasises that you're doing something worthwhile at every step of the way and thus feels worthy of repeating. My only problem is that the quests feel a bit too samey to me (it's all about killing earth elementals and twilight cultists really), so I tend to get bored halfway through and then the rest starts to drag a bit.

Uldum is the only zone that I've only managed to repeat once so far, and I think it's pretty much the cut scenes alone that are to blame for this. I don't mind the Ramkahen half of the quests (in fact, I love just hanging out with High Priest Amet and enjoying the view of the underwater world from inside the dam), but the Harrison Jones quest line with its constant clunky cinematics drives me absolutely bonkers. See You on the Other Side! says the quest, "follow me" says Harrison Jones, but then you don't get to do anything at all because clearly moving up the hill yourself is way too strenuous so they just show you a cut scene of your character running and you automatically reappear in the right spot. What the fricking frack. It was annoying the first time, but it only gets worse upon replaying.

Twilight Highlands was another pleasant surprise, but for different reasons than I expected. It has both slightly more lenient and more linear bits, so my enjoyment of those varied. It also had one quest that keeps annoying me in a new way every time I do it, due to having hidden quest requirements that aren't mentioned anywhere, and my characters having suffered repeated deaths due to the helpful NPCs despawning or getting lost whenever I needed them the most. However, one thing that really works in the Highlands' favour are the item rewards. Yes, all the zones shower you in quest rewards, but with how fast you level and how quickly the ilevels go up, many of them don't feel like significant upgrades and don't last very long. Twilight Highlands however offers the best rewards you can get before hitting max level instances, and it's a great way of getting characters up to speed that have fallen behind in terms of gear progression. I ended up taking both my shaman and my death knight through this zone in quick succession without feeling any annoyance at all, simply because getting both their gear sets up to speed for level 85 within an evening felt rewarding enough on its own.

Now, this is one of those topics where I'm really interested in other people's experiences. How many alts have you levelled to 85 yet (if any)? Did you repeat a lot of quests? If so, did you enjoy it? Which zones did you find the most fun to play through repeatedly?

18/12/2010

Uldum and cut scenes

My boyfriend and I completed Uldum today. From what I can gather it seems to be a very popular zone, but I can't really share that sentiment after this first playthrough.

First things first though: I did like the overall look and feel of the zone, what with me being a fan of all things related to ancient Egypt. The Harrison Jones quest line bordered on being tacky at times, but personally I thought that it was quite funny. (My favourite bit was the "into the chests" line early on that made fun of the extremely dodgy start of Kingdom of the Crystal Skull.)

I also liked the tol'vir. They are basically cat centaurs, which is cool. I was just kind of disappointed that they didn't seem to have any females as far as I could tell. Not to press the feminism angle too much, but this just struck me as kind of lazy. I mean, I can kind of understand why Blizzard hasn't introduced any female ogres into the game to date for example, because they aren't something that's been frequently portrayed in fantasy art and they'd have to invest rescources into designing something that looks convincing themselves. But the tol'vir... are freaking cat centaurs. Normal centaurs already have females in the game, take that basic concept, replace the head with that of a cat and the legs with cat paws and you're golden! I just don't understand... /sigh

Quest-wise Uldum played with some new mechanics, which was interesting, but also repeated some old mistakes that Blizzard really should have known to avoid by now. Killing a trillion pygmies for some quest item with a rubbish drop rate is not fun! Another quest that I remember as impressively unfun was one where you have to pick up some items off the ground in area filled with neutral mobs that turn hostile and aggro as soon as you touch anything, with some additional mob spawns all over the ground that triggered as you walked past them.

And then... there were the cut scenes. The popular opinion seems to be that these are the greatest thing since sliced bread, but personally I really came to loathe them throughout the course of the zone.

One reason for this was that a lot of them were simply very badly bugged. I expect some bugs here and there, but I had problems with about a third of all cut scenes, most often because they would simply force my camera to look at the wall for a minute and watch... nothing. Most often this seemed to be triggered by me and my boyfriend trying to set off a cut scene at the same time, and we finally managed to avoid more troubles by making sure to "take turns" as it were if we knew that something was coming up. I just can't believe that problems like these made it into the final release. I mean, it's an MMO; surely more than one player completing a quest at the same time is not that strange a concept, is it? On other occasions I've had a cut scene fail to play altogether, or the opposite: it started playing for me again when my boyfriend completed his quest even though I'd already seen it once. Another time I saw my character randomly appear in the air and fall to the ground halfway through a series of unrelated events that I was supposed to watch.

If the cut scene was supposed to play in the middle of a quest and failed, I could at least abandon and try again (and again...), but some scenes only triggered upon quest completion, so if you missed them you were out of luck. This was particularly annoying when I was supposed to watch an important council meeting that I'd been working towards for about a dozen quests - and then I got to stare at a wall for a minute and had no idea what was actually decided in the end.

Other wonky side effects included unwanted teleportation. One quest triggered a cut scene upon picking up the last quest item and then dumped you back at the quest giver, which was a fair bit away from where you had been working on the actual quest objectives. I was rather annoyed by this because there had been loot on the ground that I hadn't picked up yet! So I started to fly back to fetch it, and just as I was about to reach my sparkles, my boyfriend completed the quest as well, for some reason I got the cut scene again and was dumped back at the quest giver again! I guess the developers thought that this would be a convenient way of saving people the oh-so-long flight back, but for me it was just a nuisance.

This sort of leads me to what else I didn't like about the cut scenes even when they weren't bugged, namely the lack of control. About half the time I felt that they added little to the story and seemed to be more about taking control away from the player by fixing their camera angle and making them watch certain pieces of NPC dialogue in real time. I just didn't really see the point. At other times, they even take control of your character away from you, most often to justify them doing something stupid, like getting captured by a bunch of random bandits or whatever. If you died to some felboars in Hellfire after having killed C'Thun that was kind of silly but at least your own fault, but now every Kingslayer gets pwned by random pygmies because Blizzard says so. This doesn't help the roleplaying experience, it hurts it.

I can't blame Blizzard for wanting to try something new, and I did enjoy some of the cut scenes. When they were used to show events happening on a greater scale or to show character animations that we don't usually see in the game... that was nice. However, especially towards the end of the zone I couldn't fight the feeling that someone just went nuts with their new cinematic tool and decided to make every bit of NPC speech into a "cut scene" just because they could. Take quest. Watch cut scene. Hand quest in. Watch cut scene. Hello, I would like to do some actual playing here!

I do hope Blizzard won't consider Uldum a successful experiment in that regard...