Even before the August in Review article was posted, I knew where our autumnal path would take us initially.
My daughter had been asking the previous week if we could go back and play World of Warcraft. It has probably been a good 18 months since either of us played it with any sort of dedication, and nearly a year since the last subscription lapsed. So, aside from a seven day venture into the game back in March, WoW hasn’t been on the menu for quite a while.
So I said that we could pick the game up again, but I insisted that we have a plan. So while I downloaded the client to her new iMac over the course of several evenings (our internet connection, still slow, is good for about 1GB an hour if nothing else is going on, and the WoW client is now about 22GB), we decided on the parameters for this outing. I especially wanted to focus on things we had not done before.
We decided to do a fresh start on a new server. That was a tough one as, unlike my time in LOTRO, which has been characterized by a series of restarts on new servers, with a new one hitting about every other year, I have played on the Eldre’Thalas in WoW since 2006. We have at least one character in our guild (a Chandigar alt, for those who know him) that hasn’t logged on in 6 years according to the status. The guild itself, Twilight Cadre, is a variation of our TorilMUD guild name, Shades of Twilight, because it was a collection of people from that guild which started it.
My daughter insisted that we roll up pandas. That was fine. I had only done the very briefest bit of the panda starting area way back when Mists of Pandaria launched. And we decided to go horde this time around, which was also good. I have not done any of the horde side of things since before Cataclysm launched. So that left us with pretty much new content to pursue up until level 60.
And we decided to stick to pandas only in our guild, to give them names based on Hawaiian cities, and to call our guild… after much debate… Kamaaina Discount. (WoW won’t allow Kama’aina.)
Finally, I added a goal for myself, which was to figure out pet battles, since that looked like something I might enjoy.
So by this past weekend we were all set to go. We rolled up on the Garona server. My daughter chose shaman as her first class, while I went with a hunter. While I declared the old hunter class, with all its now-removed warts, to be my favorite class, the current hunter class is only moderately interesting to me. I would have rolled a druid if they had been allowed under game lore. They are the most flexible class in game now, and an easy contender for my favorite in the current state of the game. I might have to sneak in a troll druid at some later date.
Lots of words about returning to WoW after the cut.
Falling into the comfortable routine.
As is typical, my daughter was impatient and, playing more than I did pretty much all weekend, stayed ahead of me in the various quest lines much of the time. But that was okay. Many of the quests do not share updates, as usual, so doing them in a group simply takes twice as long. My daughter, once ahead, would occasionally run over and critique my efforts, like telling me to stay out of the wind when it was too late to avoid dying in any case.
The panda starter zone was fun enough. It follows the latter WoW model of being very focused on story, while attempting to immerse you in the Pandarian cultural cliches.
Graphically the pandas and their starter zone are much more detailed than old Azeroth.
My daughter also wanted me to see if I could get any of my friends to come and play with us. She has been interested in and a bit jealous of the regular instance group. She wants to be a part of a guild that does dungeons and such. However, I am not sure who I can get to come back to Azeroth at this point. Potshot, as noted yesterday, is into EVE and War Thunder. I might have to work on him through his wife. Mike has limited time and Earl appears to be getting older like the rest of us finally, and isn’t as keen to start playing late in the evening as he once was.
We did get a friend of mine to show up. She has been playing WoW since launch, being one of those EverQuest raiders who looked into EverQuest II and gave it a thumbs down before moving to WoW as a semi-permanent home. She even bought in on the Hawaiian naming scheme, and we welcomed her to our scheme.
So we have one person in with us. And I would guess my mom will be in on the venture at some point as well. We shall see who else we can get to come along. We need some more signatures for our guild charter, since I refuse to run around pleading for signatures from strangers. Though, at least charters only require four signatures now, plus a founder. So we need two more.
The panda starting zone takes you through the critical transition at level 10, which means skill points for everybody. Or not.
I have traditionally been anti-skill points in WoW, primarily because the choices have rarely ever been clear in a way that you could tell what benefits really matter without doing a ton of research. That is to say, it isn’t the requirement to make a decision that bugged me, but that it inevitably had to be an uninformed decision unless I had a skill plan set in advance. But now it is a matter of picking your focus… beast mastery for me… and then getting a very shallow choice every 15 levels or so. So your decision is informed now, but how much it matters might be in debate. Ah well.
Level 10 also gave me full access to hunter skills at last. I am not sure the game spent any time showing me what to do with them. The old style got you to level 10 without a pet and then put you through a short “how to” quest line. Now you are handed the skill and off you go. Of course, you already have a decent pet, so you don’t really have to do anything. I went and dumped the turtle right away to tame one of the tigers running around the island.
The ferocity pets… DPS pets really… generally serve well enough and the tiger model was very good.
From there I managed to get ahead of the group and ran along the remainder of the quest line, which involves a giant turtle and the crash of one of an alliance sky ship thing.
That was fun enough and, like much of the zone, tries to use various quests types rather than the “kill 10″ variety that is the inevitable fall-back position. The story wrapped up and sent me back to town. I picked up trade skills on the way. I decided to forgo the idea of crafting items and picked up two harvesting skills, mining and herbalism, with the idea of just making gold from the auction house with those and then buying whatever I needed.
Then I was there, at the end of the final quest, and the NPC was asking me to choose horde or alliance. My daughter told me wait, but I said “what the hell” and hit the “horde” button.
And I was cast out of the panda starting zone, never to be allowed to return. I was in Orgrimmar.
I had to go speak to Garrosh Hellscream, who made a point of telling me, as part of his monologue, that everybody on the island, and certainly any pandas that went alliance, were dead to me now. I had chosen a new path, I had thrown in with the horde.
Orgirmmar was busy. Very busy. Busy in a way that I had not seen in quite a while. And, when my daughter finally made the jump and we moved out to Azshara, the first zone for us, we found that to be very busy as well.
Azshara appears to be one of the cross-realm zones (not to be confused with the upcoming connected realms), which means that several servers share the same zone space. It is pretty much seamless, though you get a strange update when you cross into the zone from Orgrimmar. And once in, Azshara was overrun by low level players, to the point that we were back to the “good old days” of mob scarcity as there was a mass clear cutting of any possible quest mob. We ended up having to run far afield to find things, as WoW is not as good about sharing kill credit as other games. However, special quest mobs appear to be non-exclusive now, so if you get there in time to get some damage in, you will get credit rather than having to wait for the respawn to see who can get the first hit in.
Of course, there were other games to play.
And the game certainly felt alive with all of those people.
One thing that took me a while to get used to was looting. I spent the summer playing LOTRO, and looting has been made pretty much automatic. Something dies and the stuff ends up in your bag if you have “loot all” selected. So for quite a while I was leaving a trail of unlooted corpses behind me. It pretty much took me all weekend to get back into the habit of looting, though at least WoW now has area loot, so you do not have to go through each and every corpse.
Overall, things went well and we had a good time. It is good to be back in Azeroth.
As part of our plan we took the contents of the coin jar down to the Coinstar machine and turned that cash into an Amazon gift card, which we used to buy two copies of the Mists of Pandaria expansion (and a copy of Didn’t It Rain for my wife). Those should show up this week, so I suspect that we will spend some time rolling up monks. And then there are pet battles, which I will save for a separate post.
And subscribing to WoW will probably bring down the curtain on my LOTRO adventures for now. It has been a good run in Middle-earth. I got through Moria, though I did not quite get to Mirkwood. Now back to Azeroth.