Monday, November 17, 2008

Wrath First Impressions

Let's get this out of the way: when I logged off Sunday night, my rogue was two bars from level 76.

I cleared Howling Fjord first, then did the standard (is it insane that four days in I'm using the word "standard"?) Dragonblight -> Grizzly Hills ->Zul'Drak progression. I've only done about half the quests in Zul'drak because I've spent about 1/3 of my time instancing.


Zones: Breathtaking. Seriously. You won't believe it until you see it. Which, if you are a WoW player, you already have. So this is kind of redundant.

Quests: Half-and-half. Either you are doing a boring grindy "kill 10 deer" or "bring me 10 deer intestines", or you are doing an epic, enormously fun quest with lore implications that has you doing things you have never done before. Or, in the middle, are new spins on some of the old quest paradigms with new surprises or prettier graphics put in. So far, my favorite (not counting the Wrath Gate, which is in a class of it's own) is the questline where you disguise yourself as a ghoul, then do a series of quests for a scourge lord in order to gain his trust. Once you've discovered his master plan, the questline culminates with you revealing your true identity and turning his own master plan against him. As part of the questline, you even come face to face with the Lich King himself. It's genius.

This was where I was really blown away. Aside from the opening instance, Utgarde Keep, these places look great and tend to have unconventional or nonlinear layouts with actual variety to the environments you're visiting inside the instance. Gone is hall after hall of red stone, or hall after linear hall of blue, mossy caves, or hall after hall of grey stone, etc. Now, in one instance, you'll find yourself battling on platforms suspended high above the ground, then fending off waves of spiders atop a giant network of webs, then leap down into a glowing cave that leads to a dark, sinister inner sanctum. And it all fits together seamlessly. Even the trash mixes it up, so while there are still a lot of boring trash pulls, there are also plenty with unique abilities that require a specific strategy to overcome. Once you know the trick, it's easy, but it's also fun to figure out and execute the tricks as a team.

The instances vary in length, with some seriously taking 20 minutes while others border on an hour at maximum. Blizz delivered on the promise of bite-sized instances, a claim that I was very skeptical about. So far, I have not encountered anything like Shattered Halls or that miserable room in Shadow Labyrinth. Instancing is fun, rewarding, and can fit in your pocket! (or in a play session that actually fits with a real human life!)

And that isn't even mentioning the bosses. Some of the boss fights in the leveling 5-mans require more strategy - and have more scripting and epic feel - than many of the old raid bosses I've faced. I have so many new favorite bosses that I can't pick one. If I had to pick two:

-The boss that sends every party member into their own delusion where they must each kill what they believe to be everyone else in the party in order to set themselves free.

-The boss that turns the entire party, including tank and healer, into skeletons with a new action bar for half the fight. During this phase, you can't use normal abilities, you just have an attack, life drain, shield, and taunt available to you.


I've only replaced 3 pieces of my gear with blues: ZA helmet (which I just discovered I forgot to enchant) replaced by drop in Drak'tharon Keep (level 75ish instance). Tier 5 gloves replaced by quest reward from Azjol-Nerub (72ish instance), even though the tier 5 was enchanted, because the new blue had no stamina on it. And finally, my stupid, ugly, FALCON PUNCH!!! mainhand fist weapon was replaced by a comically oversized mace from the new version of the Ring of Blood at 75.

So hopefully that gives you an idea of how quickly you are going to replace your gear.


Overall, I am loving the xpac so far. Sure, it's not perfect. The "stop the ascension" quest is still bugged, it sucks to have to wait 10 minutes in a crowd of 15 people all hoping to tag the same quest mob, there are still too many "kill x boars" quests, some of the coolest lore questlines (particularly the two major lore points in Grizzly Hills) are severely truncated (at least for the horde) and should have been given more room to breath, and there are a lot of other problems. But honestly, I can barely remember them. All I can think about is how much actual JOY I've felt playing WoW for the past four days. And that's something the game hasn't made me feel for years.

So, bravo Blizzard.

Now go back to playing!

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