The Seductive Comfort of Azeroth

Blizzard sent me a note at some point early last week inviting me to come back to World of Warcraft for seven days, free of charge.  As is my wont, I set WoW to patch, just in case I decided to take them up on this offer.  After all, what else is my computer going to do all night alone?


The offer is apparently good for anybody with an account that has been inactive since last month at some point and lasts through April 2nd of this year.

That patched, I went on with my normal routine until Sunday afternoon, when I hit what Douglas Adams referred to as “the long dark tea time of the soul.”

I had cleaned up a bit around the house.  I had successfully gotten my daughter outside for a bit of sunlight and exercise.  I had completed stage one of the spring cleaning plan for my office, which determined that there was, in fact, a solid surface beneath all of those papers on my desk.  I had taken all the baths and shot all the tanks that one usefully could.  Now I was pottering around, looking for something to do.

Or, more specifically, a game to play.  I had an hour or two of calm and quiet.  I just wanted to get absorbed and carried off for a bit.  Some immersion was called for.  Generally swinging a sword does that for me.

The problem was that, as far as fantasy MMORPGs went, I was facing road blocks of one sort or another all over.

The level 15+ zones in Guild Wars 2 haven’t been cutting it.  My enthusiasm there is waning quickly.

In Rift I have found no real passion for the Storm Legion zones.  I couldn’t tell you why.  I enjoyed 1-50, but 51-60 just isn’t capturing me.  Even after the previous nights adventures, I had no interest in getting to level 52.  It feels like a grind.

In the various versions of Norrath my characters are all looking for new routes forward, which means work not play.

And… well… you know where this is heading.  But what happened when I went there?

More after the cut.

So I ended up on the WoW icon.  I hadn’t been in the game since Pandaria launched back in October.  My account ran out shortly there after.

My first thought was just to log in and see if our guild was still there or if we had been looted or stolen yet again.  Some of us have authenticators, some of us don’t.  And at least Earl was still subscribed (though he hadn’t logged in for nearly a year), so the door was potentially open.

To my relief though, the guild was still there.  The guild roster showed that nobody had logged in for months.

Already on with the closest thing I have to a “main” and one and only level 85 character, my paladin Vikund, I decided to go wander with him for a bit.  I headed out to the Twilight Highlands, which was where I left off with him.  I actually was in pursuit of an achievement when I was last playing him, the one for looting 5,000 gold over the life of the character. (Or, at least since they started tracking, which was when he was already level 60 and had an epic mount.)

At 4994 gold, that wasn’t a tough hurdle.  I was kind of surprised at how little coin level 85 mobs drop.  It seemed to be anywhere between 5 and 40 silver, which doesn’t seem like a lot when compared to what quests are handing out and the state of the auction house currently.  Still, even with that level of coinage, the achievement was mine pretty quickly.


I was also amused at how hard Vikund was hitting.  Attacks doing five figures of damage seemed… over the top?  And I had not even upgraded my gear with the Pandaria drops that no doubt litter the auction house.

Hit for 11K damage!

Hit for 11.8K damage!

That was amusing for a bit, but I wasn’t really on a path towards anything and simply grinding mobs was what I wanted.  So I logged Vikund off and looked at my list of characters.  I have a full platter of choices at various levels, from a level 83 dwarf hunter to a level 9 panda warrior.

Eventually I picked out Makarov, a late 20s warrior that I rolled up after Cataclysm launched.  I was using him to run through various zones to see what had changed in the world.  That was going to be a full series of post, but never quite came to pass.  The last point I had written about with him was about Red Ridge, a zone heavily redone with Cata.

When I logged him in he was at the inn in Duskwood, a zone he appeared to have completed.  Or, if not completed, at least out leveled.  I really have no recollection of doing that, but I had the achievement for doing the quests.  Of course, it is lumped in with Westfall, so maybe that was it.

Anyway, I had the quest pointing me to the rebel camp in Northern Stranglethorn.  I mounted up… suddenly realizing that with the mount and pet consolidation that came with Panaria that I had a lot of choices in that regard… and rode on out.

Only I didn’t actually need to.  I could have flown, as the game opens up all the flight points as you hit the appropriate level now.  There is no need to ride or walk out to discover them any more.

But I still arrived.  And at the rebel camp I was greeted with several familiar quests.  If Red Ridge had been almost completely redone, then it looked like Northern Stranglethorn had retained a large number of its old stable of quests.  There was the one for the jungle remedy and for finding documents in the Kurzen camp along with the pointer quest to the Nesingwary campsite.  I started filling up my quest log, then ran along to add in the expected hunting quests from the Nesingwary expedition.

And I got what I expected.  There was a quest for croc skins along with the panther, tiger, raptor (10 each please) hunting quests.  The first real surprise was the Green Hills of Stranglethorn quest.  Once a wonder in its inventory clogging ability, it now needs just one drop.  It appears that only page 14 is still missing from the book, and it showed up with my first kill.

All full of quests, I ran off to the Kurzen camp, ever a place of desperate fights.  It was another point where the mobs spawned in packs and getting inadvertent adds was happening all the time.  Overall, it was a place best tackled in a group.

Fighting the Kurzen followers

Fighting the Kurzen followers

And, sure enough, my first attempt to get at the documents for one quest, which are in a house with four mobs.

That, however, appeared to be a fluke.  A remnant of the old days that somebody forgot to… fix?

The rest of the camp, buildings, and caves had been thinned out.  What used to be a nightmare to approach solo because fairly easy to approach alone.  The last named mob, deep back in the cave used to be almost certain death solo at level.  Now you can just run in, jump on his table, and stick him without much in the way of interference.  All but one of his helpers has been banished, and the remainder was out of aggro range.

Remember the fight around this guy?

Remember the fight around this guy?

Of course, that doesn’t mean some people are not dying in the attempt.

Whose skeletons are these?

Whose skeletons are these?

I have to imagine they trained a group of adds with them or were seriously under level… or were just really bad at the game.

Of course, that might not be fair.  I started off a bit over level and was getting seriously over level as time went along, which overwhelmed amazingly bad equipment.  Kills, quests, discovery, and harvesting all piled on so much experience that I popped up a few levels.  I camped out of town at the end of the day just to avoid piling more blue bar than I had to.

But did I find the fun I sought?

Most unequivocally yes.

In part I think this was because the zone is an even mix of nostalgia and Cataclysm.

Most of the old quests are still in there in some form.  I remembered most of them.  But a lot of them have the rough edges filed down.  The Nesingwary kill quests finish up and renew out in the field, so there is no running back and forth to get the quest for the next round of panthers, tigers, or raptors.  You can do all but the last step without a return to the camp.

And the new quests had some charm.  Early on you pick up a raptor hatchling who becomes the focus of one line of quests.

A new quest, now? Can't you see I'm busy?

A new quest, now? Can’t you see I’m busy?

And the whole thing played smooth and easy.  I had forgotten how slick and responsive Blizzard makes their UI.  No other MMO I have played recently is as good at those sorts of details.  Blizzard still does not get enough credit for how well their UI works, even if you don’t like how it is laid out.

Some things I found a little jarring at first.  They really want to let you know now when you are stunned or rooted.

Clearly I am stunned

Clearly I am stunned

And after exposure to a lot of more recent and graphically sophisticated games, some of the artwork is starting to feel a bit tired.  Not that Blizz doesn’t do a great job with the engine they have, but sometimes you see the limitations.

An EverQuest quality helmet

An EverQuest quality helmet

All in all I had a good time on Sunday afternoon and kept on playing a little bit each night.  My plan was to finish up the zone and get the 50 quest achievement for it.  By this point I am pretty close to that goal.

Does this mean that I am going to resubscribe to WoW?

Of that I am not so certain.  I think the past week was a pleasant convergence of old and new.  It was the right content with the right level of effort and memories at the right time.

But I am almost done with that content, and the next zones on the list are part of the heavily redone items.  There is no nostalgic attachment there.  I am not sure there is another week of happy fun in that, much less 30 days.  If the Saturday night group wanted to go back, I would go.  But I am not sure I would advocate for it, as I am not sure there is anything we would find satisfying.  Going back to blasting through three instances a night isn’t my ideal.

So, thank you for the 7 days Blizzard.  It was good and it reminded me of all of the fun I have had in the past in Azeroth.  But both WoW and I have changed over the years, and I am not sure we are a match any more.

But I cannot say that I am not tempted to subscribe again based on my seven days.

10 thoughts on “The Seductive Comfort of Azeroth

  1. Matt

    Only I didn’t actually need to. I could have flown, as the game opens up all the flight points as you hit the appropriate level now. There is no need to ride or walk out to discover them any more.

    That’s actually removed in the latest patch. You probably had the paths from before, but you won’t automatically get any new ones.


  2. Wilhelm Arcturus Post author

    @Matt – Hrmm… I don’t know. I got discovery and had no map filled in when I entered the zone. Plus I have a flight point at the south end of the zone that I never made it to.

    Maybe I had it because I was already the right level before the change.

    Are they supposed to be back to discovering flight points again?


  3. wowstorylines

    Are they supposed to be back to discovering flight points again?

    Unfortunately, it appears that they are wanting us to see more of the World at the lower levels – I’m an altoholic, so, it’s going to be fun getting those flight points again unless I cheat and fly them with one of my other characters.

    Come on back and hit Panderia – it’s awesome and the graphics are just breathtaking.


  4. Wilhelm Arcturus Post author

    Oh, and I forgot to add that I did see a number of pandas in the zone with me. The female pandas look cute enough, but the males, once they are equipped, look like armored pork buns.

    And it isn’t a good look for them.


  5. NetherLands

    Not sure wether it is intended or not, but from what I heard it seems that while 5.2 removed the automatic Flight Points, it only did so for characters made after 5.2, older characters still have this.

    Btw, does this mean you’re ‘allowed’ to play a week of ED? If I remember correctly your character was nearing/at STV level, could make for some nice comparisons.


  6. Matt

    My warrior kept his auto-discovered flight paths, which at the time of the patch was about half of Northrend, but sure enough stopped getting any new ones.


  7. bhagpuss

    I remain mystified by the love for WoW’s UI. I discussed this with Mrs Bhagpuss recently, wondering if it was just me that had no idea what people mean by this but she also really didn’t get it.

    The WoW UI is fine, but to my mind it’s no better or worse than most. Coming to it late and having used many other MMO UIs, it seemed unremarkable to me; after three months using it I didn’t notice anything missing or “worse” when I moved n to other MMOs. They all have bits I like and bits i don’t like as much but the almost-universal praise WoW’s UI gets for being the ur-ui is something I just don’t get from personal experience.

    I could say the same about the “timing” and animations there, which also regularly get held up as benchmarks that other MMOs can’t match. I’d be struggling to think of any MMO I’ve played where I actually felt the animations were “off”, as people often say they are (and aren’t in WoW). I’m not sure I even know what it means.


  8. Wilhelm Arcturus Post author

    @Netherlands – Heh, my pally in ED isn’t quite there. He is still on the far side of Duskwood. But I will say that one of my plans was “subscribe to WoW and play ED if it gets tedious.”

    @Bhagpuss – The UI love… or mine anyway… is entirely about how well click and response works. It is difficult to quantify, but clicking something in WoW just feels better than any other MMO I have played. I almost sighed aloud when I got into WoW and was clicking on something.

    The layout and some of the choices are nothing special. And some of it is bad. But the responsiveness… ahhh.


  9. Matt

    Vehicles in WoW never have felt right in that sense. There’s this small lag built in to them somewhere. You have the same thing on the Pandaria farm, where there’s a lag in clicking on something to harvest it and the ‘harvest’ castbar/process actually starting. Clicking on another too soon after the first finishes will return a ‘not ready yet’ style warning. It really is annoying and I can’t imagine having to deal with it full-time as a part of the standard UI.


  10. Vatec

    @Bhagpuss – I can name at least one game where the animations definitely felt “off”: Dungeons and Dragons Online. I played it for a couple of days, but I just couldn’t get past the fact that my character always seemed to be “skating” everywhere. Intuitively, most players would probably expect that, if you take a step forward, you would move a step forward; but in DDO, I always seemed to move 1.25 or even 1.5 steps for every full leg movement cycle. It might have been lag or something (a common thread with all games run by Turbine), but it bothered me enough that I stopped playing and immediately uninstalled.


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