It’s a new week and a different zone to review, but a lot has happened in the last seven days that is worth consideration first. Perhaps most importantly I’d like to announce to the column that I’m now Level 110, but it didn’t happen in-game. As it transpired, I dinged using XP quests from the new mobile app, which makes a potent point for someone who’s always ground out the leveling experience quite hard. This time around, my journey completed on the way to the Gym, without even needing to play in Azeroth. However, I can no longer use the app until I’ve gathered enough Order Hall resources, and to have that happen with any kind of volume will additionally require the unlocking of World Quests, which can only happen when I’ve earned at least Friendly with all the Broken Isles faction reputations. That means completing all that ‘plot’ content first like I just have in Val’sharah, you know, the stuff I should have done whilst leveling.
That’s the first point to make here: there’s more than one way to hit cap, and that’s been adequately proven by the distraction and assistance that both Leatherworking and Skinning have provided in my journey. Quite apart from the fact that completing these professions to the point they are (and that’s not even absolute) has given me several levels of XP, the running around to kill mobs or pick up items has been quite cleverly woven into the fabric of that journey. Add to that stops for rare spawns, battle pets (must go back and get that one I saw last night in the Nightmare) and mucking about under Dalaran killing other players, and it all adds up. However, I suspect that had I just focused on completing the Pillars of Creation storyline and not done anything else I’d have been ready for World Quests the moment I hit 110. This shows that Blizzard really has taken on board the criticisms of players and differing leveling styles since Legion, and this is being accommodated for the 100-110 grind.
As I’m still trying to get a sense of what I need to make my Professions viable, it came as a considerable shock to discover I’d require items from dungeons to complete the journey too. Recipes also seem to drop quite frequently, which is a pleasant surprise in normal dungeons that I had forgotten I missed. Of course, there’s a whole different set of issues to consider at 110 with my crafting, and once I have unlocked the secrets of Obliterum I will give you the inside track. For now, let’s return to Val’sharah, which for the Druids of my acquaintance has been quite the traumatic experience. I didn’t realize why until I managed to secure the Tear of Elune, accompanied by a cinematic I found very reminiscent of a particular event in Warlords. There is a lot of familiarity to the Druid enclave, but all is not well in paradise. There is immediate drama to address, and you’ll need help if you’re going to stop the rot.
Let’s be honest, there’s an awful lot of drama in Val’sharah. If it isn’t the Druids having to deal with disturbances in the Emerald Dream or the dead rising near Black Rook Hold, you’ll have your hands full and be expected to be front and center to the action very early on. This isn’t a slow build like the story in Highmountain either, you’re immediately dealing with events, consequences, and fallout. There’s also the arrival of a number of well-known lore figures (and I’m not spoiling you as to who) which somehow feels a bit jarring having come from a zone where just about everybody you met was new to Warcraft and the action. It doesn’t help that I don’t play a Druid, I think, that this zone for them is like Highmountain was for me; it is where their Class Hall is located too. They all seemed to get very excited when these ‘famous’ people turned up, and I remained distinctly nonplussed.
I’ve tried for a while to work out why this storyline is far less satisfying in terms of completion, and it could be that there’s a Raid stuck in the middle of this which undoubtedly contains further pertinent plot that I’m yet to absorb. However, I think it is those established lore figures that are the cause of the problem: believe it or not, this part of proceedings ends up jarring and not complementing my enjoyment. There’s only so many times Hemet Nessingwary’s presence is acceptable as part of Warcraft’s continual recycling process, and I think this time having him wheeled in as the ‘famous’ Hunter for my Class Order Hall is a step too far. Trying to give people characters to relate to is all well and good, but actually there’s nothing wrong with starting from scratch with new stories and directions. When it comes to the Druid’s spiritual home, the bigger issue becomes that so many old school players have demanded the Emerald Nightmare for so long, so like it or not this is now part of the landscape. That means that with the location, you’re going to get some inevitable (and possibly unwanted) baggage.
So Blizzard are stuck between the Orc and the Elf race when it comes to making the plot of the expansion move forward, trying successfully to combine the old and the new together. For the Druids I have spoken to (and there are many of them), their reactions are all overwhelmingly positive. In fact, I’m the first person I know to have a bad word about the zone and I am conscious, as a result, of making this sound more of a criticism than it means to be. There’s a decent mix of different quest types, a lovely backdrop of green that finally degrades into demonic hell as you discover the extent of the Nightmare’s taint. And there are cinematics, considerably more than I watched in Highmountain, including the one that took me back to Shadowmoon Valley which almost mirrors a set of events in both tone and composition. I can’t tell you any more without destroying the enjoyment of the moment, but for what was clearly a very emotional conclusion, I was left strangely cold. If I had played a Druid for over a decade, I can fully understand feeling differently.
However, I did enjoy the other quest strands, including those centered around Black Rook Hold and look forward to entering that dungeon in future. Darkheart Thicket was the first 5 man I tried, and that’s the logical end to the Val’sharah questline. Perhaps if that hadn’t been the case it would have helped with the immersion generally. Knowing my target gets to live to fight another day kind of blows the drama to begin with, but it couldn’t be helped. That’s the least of the concerns overall, and despite my misgivings over content, that’s two zones down and both are great in their own ways.
There is a lot to be said in this expansion for stopping and taking the time to enjoy things as they are discovered, and as is certainly true with the Profession quests, trying to double up with tasks whilst in a zone is highly recommended. For me right now that means Fishing wherever possible, capturing vanity pets to knock off my requirements for the Broken Isles Safari, and seeking out rares whose drops will now have a benefit for a freshly minted Level 110. It’s helped a lot that my Class Order Hall set’s gifted me a couple of starter pieces, but it won’t really matter that much that I’m under the requirements for ‘serious’ instancing if all I’m doing is finishing zone content.
I’m not sure where I’m going to head next either. The smart money is on Stormheim, because I quested there a bit in Alpha and know my way around, plus I’ve already done a portion of content there for Professions. More significantly, I started my Archaeology there, and having discovered that quests for this profession move on a zone by zone basis every two weeks, it might be time to get myself better organized. There are exclamation points taunting me all over Dalaran too but I’m determined not to give in and go elsewhere, having already spent so much time being distracted on my journey. Until the Pillars of Creation are collected? Nothing else gets done.
How good I am at keeping to my word will remain to be seen, but with no more mobile app missions without more Order Hall Resources? That’s at least one distraction that has been removed from the equation. Some might argue I’m not playing this game ‘properly’ as a result, but I’m having so much fun just doing this and not overloading my brain with extra information, it is utterly worth the deliberate slow down whilst taking my time. Val’sharah is a brilliant zone regardless of my lack of Druid empathy, and as soon as I’ve finished typing this I’ll be back online to try and get the last of my questing complete so I can move on.Related: Blizzard Entertainment, Legion, MMORPG, World of Warcraft, WoW Wednesday