Questing: now mandatory

There's been a fair bit of discussion about the linearity of the new Cataclysm quests already, but the fact that considerably more quests than before are also mandatory for things other than their follow-ups hasn't got as much attention as far as I can tell.

Using quests as a prerequisite for other parts of the game is hardly anything new. The feature already existed in Vanilla and BC, and we called it raid attunements. I didn't really mind them much myself, because while they weren't without issues, I liked the general idea of making players work a bit for their endgame content.

WOTLK introduced a different kind of quest "attunement": phasing. To get access to the flight paths at Nesingwary's Safari, Crusader's Pinnacle and the Shadow Vault for example, you first had to complete some quests in the area or else they simply didn't exist as far as you were concerned. I didn't bother with unlocking them on most of my alts, but I didn't really mind either since those flight masters weren't exactly crucial to anything else I was doing.

Quartermasters that were hidden behind phasing were a different matter however: for example the aforementioned Shadow Vault quest line was also a requirement for getting access to the Knights of the Ebon Blade quartermaster. That's something I found rather annoying. The quest line wasn't terrible or anything, but the fact that it was a requirement for even accessing the quartermaster just ticked me off. Why make me jump through extra hoops when I already have the required reputation to buy the items? It's not as if they sold anything totally amazing either, why do I have to "attune" myself just to buy a jewelcrafting recipe or a piece of levelling gear?

The Sons of Hodir were even worse if you think about it, because their introductory quest line is much longer, and what with them being the only suppliers of WOTLK shoulder enchants for non-scribes, they were a pretty important faction if you were in any way trying to gear up seriously. Luckily for me I really liked the Sons of Hodir quest chain, so doing that one over and over again wasn't actually a problem for me. Still, the way Blizzard made the shoulder enchants bind on account eventually struck me as an acknowledgement that maybe requiring attunement quests for something as comparatively basic as a vendor wasn't such a great idea.

And yet they gave us Cataclysm. It's probably not as obvious if you're still focusing on your first character and eagerly ploughing through all the new content, but try getting an alt from eighty to eighty-five.

People have compared the new story-focused approach to questing to reading a book or watching a film, and I agree: the problem is, after doing either of those things I generally don't immediately want to read or watch the whole thing again the next day. Likewise I have no particular desire to repeat the questing experience on my alts just yet, but I figured that shouldn't be a problem as there are so many alternate ways of levelling now. Right?

So I start off gathering some experience by working on my professions on an alt, which involves mining. Hm, where can I go to mine these new ores... Vashj'ir is pretty! Except, I can't survive or move around there without having done the introductory quests. Balls. Mount Hyjal it is then. After I've exhausted Hyjal's supply of obsidium and want to move on to elementium I think about going to Deepholm... except that you can't even get to the zone until you're level eighty-two and can pick up the intro quest (assuming you don't have a higher-level warlock friend who'd be happy to summon you or something). Twilight Highlands? Not impossible but still very annoying to get to as Horde without the portal, and again it's something that you can't unlock until you're a certain level and have done a certain amount of quests. I guess that explains why there are so many ore farmers in Uldum - unless you're willing to invest time into questing to unlock all the other zones, there simply isn't anywhere else to go for elementium!

Okay, who wants to level up purely by gathering anyway? Let's do some instances. I open the dungeon finder and everything is locked because I haven't discovered the entrances on my alt yet. Fair enough. Blackrock Caverns is not a problem because you can simply fly there, or alternatively there's a shortcut from Hyjal. Throne of the Tides is a problem again though. Unless you have someone who's willing to summon you, you can forget about doing that one without having quested in Vashj'ir first. Without the Sea Legs buff you'll probably drown before you even get there.

Stonecore suffers from the same Deepholm restrictions mentioned above. Since I really wanted to do it however, I bit the bullet and let Aggra take me through her cut scene again while I tabbed out. The moment I'm down at the Temple of Earth, I fly up to discover the Stonecore entrance... and am still locked out, because the dungeon finder considers my ilevel too low. Never mind that I ran the previous instances for loot and that my old ICC gear is fully gemmed and enchanted, it's not good enough - go do those quests to replace all your gear with greens or else!

So you can waltz into a raid whenever you like now - but you can't access many quartermasters, instances and entire zones without having done the prerequisite attunement quests first. Am I really the only one who sees something wrong with this? I always thought it was worth having to put a bit of effort into unlocking a great raid instance for example, but I really don't see why all of my characters are supposed to take doomed ships to Vashj'ir just to be able to do bloody Throne of the Tides.


  1. I never had a problem with the KotEB but I really hated doing Thorim's questchain back then... when your normal flying mount was still 60% speed. going up that pinnacle and down was enough to make me hate that bastard. And later they changed his model for a unique one and ruined it, since former model showed a more realistic, crooked and depressed version of a former Titan guardian. Hodir was another issue: when you have so many top level chars, doing the dailies on all of them (of course not always doing all dailies on all chars the same day) just sucks bigtime. At least they changed the enchant to BoA.
    Now back to Cata the biggest problem for me is doing the same quests again and again and again on all chars. I'm also somewhat obsessed with them and I don't want to leave a zone until al all quests (at least the two main questlines that have every zone) are completed. By the time I'm leveling my 4th 85 I already know the drill, but I also despise it. Added to the tight linearity of the zones (you can't take the quest hubs in the order you prefer) makes things booooooring and you just lose the will to level more chars to 85.
    And Vashj'ir... I think the zone is really beautiful and the 3D navigation works very well, but the area has severe problems for "hardcore" players:
    - The place is huge. Too big, like 2 or 3 Hyjals together (or Deepholms, or Uldums...). You're going to travel a lot, at least the Sea Horse speed is 450% and not 280%
    - Miserable reputation gain. Come on... you're all the time playing alongside Earthen Ring shamans. If you choose Vashj'ir as starting zone you'll end Friendly with them. If you go to Hyjal you'll end Revered with Guardians of Hyjal. It's in Deepholm where you'll bet your biggest chunk of Earthen Ring rep, so Hyjal has a bigger advantage as starting zone
    - Earthen Ring Quartermaster. Following last point... if it's in Deepholm where you get almost all your ER rep... why the feck you place the quartermaster there? You'll also need Sea Legs and Sea Horse to reach his location (and activate the fp)
    - No go back portal. Ok, it's not the only place without, Hyjal and Uldum suffer the same problem, and Uldum doesn't even have a single mailbox (not sure if for Horde too). If you tie portal opening to questchains, like in Twilight Highlands, why don't add one in Vashj'ir and Uldum too? Even if it's almost at the end of the questing in the area.
    I think they a lot of mistakes with an area that has a great landscape (should I say seascape?), interesting quests (Jaws, Naga battlemaiden, Nespirah and the other gigantic conch shell creature, etc) and interesting lore (not much as expected) and ruined it with these details, specially the reputation one.

  2. I leveled my shammy as resto to 85 and did less than 10 quests. Painful? Not really. Slow? Most certainly.
    I didn't do Vashj because as you point out the sea horse requires about 20 quests to access.
    I had to do about 6 quests to get the Uldum portal, and one each to get to Hyjal and Deepholm. I flew to all the instance entrances to unlock them.
    I mined and herbed (and hit 525 with both in Deepholm) and healed five man runs.
    Fairly fun, not too bad - although definitely something to do on an alt, not your main.
    And in the end, you're right - quartermasters are hard to find, etc.
    Still it CAN be done. Just a bit of a different experience.

  3. Rereading the last few paragraphs:

    I didn't notice the ilevel problem.
    I guess because I herbed/mined in Hyjal for a while, each time queuing for BRC or Throne. From there I got several upgrades which (in retrospect) must have gotten me qualified for Stonecore, which turn qualified me for the Uldum instances. You must have somehow come up just short, because as I mentioned above, I didn't do any questing beyond getting portals!

  4. Here is some solutions to your issues:
    - Throne of Tides? Water Breathing Potion, Swim Speed Potion.
    - Minimum ilvl? Crafters can make level 80 ilvl 289ish gear and there are actually worthwhile green drops that you can buy. Sorry, but you are gonna have to gear up to see the new dungeons.
    - Shoulder enchants? As you noted, same as Wrath. Either take up questing on one toon in one zone or inscription.

    About the only quests you are absolutely required to do is getting into Deepholm.

    I don't see the problem. Especially with a game so dedicated to questing.

  5. @Kurnak: I'm glad to hear that I'm not the only one who misses Thorim's old model! I don't really mind the new one, but it always feels somewhat out of place to me in Storm Peaks (not in Ulduar itself). That withered old Vyrkul-lookalike with icicles on his beard seemed a lot more appropriate, I agree.

    @Hinenuitepo: About the gear ilevels: you might have had a slight advantage as a shaman since the gear checker uses everything in your bags that you can wear, which in your case could have included green random drops and greed-to-vendor loot up to mail level, so you might not actually have had to upgrade your gear as much as long as you somehow came across something "wearable" for that slot and had it in your bags. The lower your maximum armour class, the more of a disadvantage you have on that front really.

    @Bill: You're right that many things aren't completely impossible, but they are very clunky workarounds. (Repeated visits to the Earthen Ring quartermaster and trying to herb in Vashj'ir just by use of potions? Eurgh.) And while you can call WoW very dedicated to questing, it has rarely actively punished people for choosing to level some other way instead. Now I feel like I'm encountering massive road blocks everywhere that tell me to quest or else. It's a big fun sucker if you are forced to repeat the same annoying chain of quests on every single alt.

  6. I think you're underestimating the value of having the new equip... Stonecore is a lvl 82 instance, and you should gear up at least a little bit before entering, the ilevel requirement is here for a good reason.
    You already have discovered the entrance to Blackrock Caverns, start doing it and buy some green/blues from the AH (people leveling their professions are dumping things at incredible prices! Everything is very cheap).
    If you also do just one quest in Vashj'ir you won't need to breath there...
    You don't have to worry about the underwater mount: when you've done the first quest, swim to the surface, fly low on the sea until you have ToT before you and then you'll just need to swim at normal speed for the last part.

    Have you tried archaeology? You can do everything in the old world and it gives a good amount of XP. Maxing it will take you half-way through level 83 if you start at level 80... If you are at level 82 you'll probably get at least to level 84.
    Anyway, at level 83 go to Uldum and discover the entrance of the 3 instances there. Buy the gear you need for your ilevel and start queuing for those.
    If you have a tabard, use it while doing these instances, they'll give rep even if they aren't just for lvl 85 characters (the tooltip of tabards can be misleading). The only tabard I'm sure you can take without nearly any quest (except those needed to get to the zone) is that of Mount Hyjal... The Ramkahen's one requires lots of cutscenes, but not lots of quest (5-6 I guess).

    Anyway, I find questing so easy that I don't really see the point in trying to avoid it with such a great care. Other than my main (obviously level 85) I have an alt at 83 which was raised with a mix of questing and gathering and another alt, just level 82, that I'm leveling just with archaeology... But that is just because getting XP from archaeology makes me feel a little less bored by this profession. None of the two has actually seen any new instance yet, when I have time for an instance I do an heroic with my main ^^''''

  7. Thanks for the advice, Kreaton - I did actually get my pally to Throne of the Tides like that today, only ten minutes of NPC blather to sit through, yay... but the actual levelling up part is not the problem. As you point out there is plenty of XP to go around from things like archeology. The "problem" is that the entire 80-85 content seems to be designed around the assumption that everyone will want to do all the quests everywhere, and that annoys me. You can still level up using other methods, but sooner or later you will run into some kind of roadblock because you haven't done certain or enough quests. Sometimes you can work around it, but the point is that it's still an obstacle. I don't mind questing on the whole, but when I want to run an instance for example, I want to run an instance, not go and do half a zone worth of quests to gear up first, play the AH or whatever.

    As a bit of an aside, I think that the gear requirements for levelling instances are rather silly. I understand why Blizzard wanted to put them in place (the gear curve is extremely steep at the high levels now, and they don't want people to attempt Stonecore in their level 70 levelling gear for example) but I think the actual numbers are way too high. By the time I'm "allowed" into Stonecore for example I feel like I've already outgeared it.