Zereth Mortis at Last

It's hard to believe that Zereth Mortis was released in February, considering it took the husband and me this long to finally check it out, but that just seems to be how we roll. Part of his initial hesitation to jump into it was caused by the fact that we'd levelled as a warrior and monk duo until now, but he had come to enjoy the demon hunter play style more and wanted to make that his new main (yet at the same time didn't feel quite ready to do so yet).

In the end it was last week that we finally set out as monk and demon hunter duo to check out the last zone added for Shadowlands. It took us about two weeks of real time to get through all the story (and to do the weekly twice while we were there), with one particularly intense play session on a Saturday afternoon taking up something like six hours.

And it was enjoyable! I quite liked Korthia until we got dispirited by the grind, and Zereth Mortis functions in a similar way but in a prettier environment. Now that I've finally seen the basic workings of Warlords of Draenor, I can really see how Blizzard's approach to these zones evolved over time: Burning Crusade first added the concept of a faction offering daily quests, which remained their go-to way of keeping players busy with only relatively minor changes for the next three expansions, until Mists of Pandaria caused backlash with its "daily overload". This in turn then resulted in Blizzard trying something completely different with the Timeless Isle and just letting people look for treasures and rare mobs with little to no direction there.

As that got what I think could be called a mixed reception, they went back to dailies with WoD, but left in the treasures and rares, and also experimented with these things called "bonus objectives", which were basically story-less area quests that just magically deposit rewards in your bags if you killed enough mobs in an area to fill a bar on your quest tracker. As these proved pretty popular, they decided to merge dailies and area quests into world quests for Legion and BfA... though there seemed to be some demand for dailies to make a return, as they did so in the later half of BfA, meant to work with world quests in a synergetic way. And that's kind of where we are in Shadowlands, and I have to admit it works.

In Zereth Mortis, a small number of dailies and world quests provide a basic framework to answer the question of "What should I do today?" when you first enter the zone on any given day, and then the dynamically popping treasures and rares provide additional busywork to extend your time in the zone. As an example, today I arrived in Zereth Mortis with the intent to just do the puzzle world quest and nothing else, but just on the way there I found myself stopping multiple times to loot chests, then a big rare popped and I flew over there to kill it, so all in all just "doing that single puzzle quest" actually ended up taking up quite a bit of time, but in a fun way.

Of course I say all this, having unlocked flying. The flying unlock for Zereth Mortis is pretty reasonable by the way: Just running around and doing the story we ended up ticking all but one of the boxes for it - the thing we were missing was an achievement to find a number of hidden scrolls (of which we had only found a few), but it was easy enough to look up a guide for where the remaining ones were hiding.

While we were still ground-bound it was a bit more of a mixed experience, not because I have any issues with ground-bound adventuring in general but mostly because of how many chests were only accessible by overcoming jumping puzzles of various difficulties - if you were a monk like me that is... my husband's demon hunter would just double jump and be done, which caused a fair amount of friction between us.

I got a pair of gloves early during our questing which had a special on-use teleportation effect that helped a little, but it also had a very limited range and a cooldown, so there was more than one occasion when I was waiting for that ability to come off cooldown to be able to make one final jump, just to have the chest I'd been working towards despawn. I have to admit this really made me miss the way SWTOR has a larger variety of tricks available to help other players overcome obstacles like that, as there my husband's character would've likely been able to pull me up in a similar situation.

There was also that one time where I died after a quest had teleported me to a location high up in the mountains, and since my ghost could neither fly nor use the teleporter, I was initially a bit lost as to whether it was even possible to revive without talking to the spirit healer. Fortunately a quick Google search revealed that I wasn't the only one to ever run into this problem, and I learned that my character's corpse had automatically been deposited in a different cave at ground level.

But anyway, that's all behind us now... here are a couple more things I really liked:

The overall zone story was surprisingly enjoyable. WoW rightly gets flak for the sometimes nonsensical nature of the plots for its big NPCs, but the more down-to-earth questing has always been at least okay in my opinion. I liked the concept of the Enlightened as these ultra-capitalists having found something close to religion, and I liked the little side story of that one Broker trying to get his friend to come back and slowly gaining insight into why she doesn't want to leave. Firim is a fabulous character too - great voice acting, and I liked the combination of a scientist character full of awe and love for the objects of his study.

Pocopoc, the little robo-dude that becomes your companion throughout the zone, is basically a Disney animal sidekick and I'm okay with it. He's cute and I love the little customisation options.

Have I mentioned yet that I also really like the zone as a zone? I appreciate the combination of pretty greenery with a bit of desert (which is attractive in its own way), and I also like that there are quite a few neutral mobs, meaning that there are areas where it's quite safe to roam without getting attacked every two meters. I still think the devs deserved to be memed on to some extent for hyping it up as being this alien and exotic place (e.g. water "unlike any water that we've seen before"), but it is a pretty zone.


  1. Do you get these alerts for dailies/rares/whatever whenever you enter the zone, or do you have to search them out? Or maybe a better way of putting it is "can you turn off those alerts?"

    1. If it's anything at all like things in the past, you'll see something in chat, maybe a general announcement and then people getting excited, but it's over quick.

    2. Sorry, that was concerning rares. Pretty sure the rest is either stuff you stumble on (whatevers) or at the zone in at the hub (dailies).

    3. Some of the bigger rares trigger emotes in chat, like "XYZ emerges from its cave in search for food", but mostly it's just markers on the map. I don't think there's a way to turn those off though. And world quests... well, they are world quests, which means that you get a little text box and voiceover every time you run through or fly over the relevant area, until you complete it. I found these very annoying when I first encountered them in BfA, but at this point I've learned to tune them out to some degree.

    4. So they eventually become more like the scrolling "announcements" that you find in Star Trek Online and Neverwinter, the ones where the game announces "so-and-so just got a ship upgrade"? Oh well.