Saturday, November 15, 2008

Early Impressions

I've played through the DK "campaign," got to 71 on my druid on Howling Fjord, and about halfway to 71 on my mage on the Borean Tundra. Some quick impressions, because I'm tired:

The Good:

1) Artwork. Man, these two starter zones blow the art in all of TBC right out of the water. Northrend looks and feels positively epic.

2) Quest clumping. So far, I like how they've centralized their quest hubs. I feel like in each area there are like 10 quests to do, but not too much long-distance travel yet. There are a ton of quest hubs though (see the bad).

3) The Deathkight sendoff. Anyone who reads this blog (haha) who hasn't started WotLK yet, DO the Deathknight area first. It definitely sets up the overall plot for this expansion, reintroduces you to Arthas, and the overall quest design and progression is marvelous. The whole innovation of having the locations change in activity and appearance as you complete quests seems so simple on the surface, and it is superbly executed and implemented. Furthermore, this change may very well sow the seeds of the "next big thing" in MMOs ... finally implementing genuine change in locations as players progress through it.

The Bad:

1) The grind. It definitely is taking a lot longer to level in Northrend than in the previous expansion. 70-71 took me a lot longer than 60-61, and I bet my main characters are better-geared than their pre-TBC counterparts. While this is fine for my first character, by my third or fourth leveling is going to be a tremendous disincentive.

2) The zones are massive, almost too big. While the zones are well-designed so far, there is so much real estate, so many spread-out quest hubs, and quite a number of long traveling "cutscenes," I almost wish these zones were subdivided a little bit.

3) The DK questline was so great, I have no idea where I'm supposed to go now since there are no further orders, and it would've been great to have a "Cakeordeath, go here!" quest to direct my efforts.

The Ugly:

1) Server queues. I'm on a fairly high-pop server, and it has taken me as long as 30-40 minutes to get in during peak times. I wish they'd add Aerie Peak to the free transfer list so some of the detritus would leave my realm!

2) Our server's first level 80 just capped this evening, only about 2 days after the expansion was released. Even if you're account-sharing, that's sick.

3) The whole falconer questline in HF is stupidly designed. On first read it sounds like it's going to be great, who wouldn't want to be a falconer? But between foraging for reagents to do the early quests, to the horribly time-consuming second part of the chain, to the poor quest description for the third part (it took me ten minutes and finally going to wowhead to figure out that you had to stand next to an object to start the third part of the chain, even though I was *literally* standing on the eagle eggs needed), it's just sloppy. Plus the final quest in the chain is written in a way that makes people try to navigate some dangerous cliffs, where you can fall and have an irritating ghost-walk back; I know this because I saw another guy beginning to make the same mistakes I did before I figured it out (I saved him the frustration by sending a whisper). Here's the first part of the questline, to see what I'm referring to.

more to come!

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