Daily Archives: December 10, 2013

Finishing the Burning Crusade

The Burning Crusade came out quite a while ago, didn’t it?

That sounds like something of a “well, duh” question, but as I started out on this post I had to look up the ship date for the expansion, as it was in that hazy time range of “not recent, but since I got married.”

The Burning Crusade went live on January 15, 2007, which would put it about four months after I started this blog.  The blog passed the 7 year mark a while back.  That would put us back to the days when Vanguard and Microsoft Vista were both launching.  And what a problematic pair they turned out to be.  Lord of the Rings Online was in the near future, while Warhammer Online seemed ages away at that point, and EverQuest II was feeling revived after the Echoes of Faydwer expansion.  I was buying my last AGP video card.

And then there was The Burning Crusade.

Looking out from the Portal

Looking out from the Portal

This has never been my favorite World of Warcraft expansion for a number of reasons.

The first was that I simply wasn’t ready for it.  The instance group started off fresh with its weekly adventures during the October that preceded it, so that by the time it launched we were still shy of level 40 as we took on the Scarlet Monastery.  So, while I bought the expansion the day it shipped, we were months getting there.

And then once we were there, it wasn’t exactly a thrill.  As Blizzard’s first expansion to WoW, the philosophy for the overland content seemed to be, “If killing 10 rats is good, then killing 15 must be better!”  It seemed like an illustration of how to annoy an MMO player.  All the things we complain about were there.  Kill 15.  Loot 10 items that only drop about a quarter of the time.  Murder shopping lists, to kill 8 of these, 12 of those, and 5 of the other.  And everybody’s all time favorite, where you have to run back through the area you just cleared… which has now respawned… and kill the boss.  Couldn’t you have put him on the list before I went out there the first time?

Then there was Hemet Nesignwary and his first 9 quests, which required you to slay a total of 270 mobs.

Everything was a long slog and quest hubs handed you as many as a dozen quests at once.  Directions in the quest text was vague at times, wrong at others.  I remember spending a lot of time finding the right location for a number of quests in Zangarmarsh.  And if you were not paying attention to your quests, you could find yourself covering a lot of ground repeatedly.

It was not ideal.

The instance group itself did not actually get into the first instance, Hellfire Ramparts, until over a year after the expansion launched.

Hellfire Ramparts, Feb. 2008

Hellfire Ramparts, Feb. 2008

And thanks to summer vacations and a hiatus into Warhammer Online, the last instance I recorded us hitting was Sethekk Halls, the 8th of 16 instances, the week before Wrath of the Lich King launched.

After that, we were into Northrend, starting with our epic ride to Utgarde Keep, and into what I would call the peak of the instance group in Azeroth.  We dove into the expansion and played it to its fullest.

Meanwhile, Outland lingered behind us.  On short handed night we might drop back into it to run an instance over level.  At some point I did the faction grind in Nagrand, because I have all of the talbuk mounts on my list.  But I never got into the end-game dailies or even the actual end of the story.  We did get back to Outland for a bit in the horde version of our group at one point, but that stopped once Cataclysm got close.  And I have run a couple of characters through it.  But the whole expansion has remained something like fly-over content… literally, now that you can fly at level 60… on the way towards level cap.

So when I ended up with a druid spec’d for healing sitting at level 61 in Outland after my return to the game back in September, I decided to buckle down and follow the progression of the instances.  Instances are far and away the easiest route through The Burning Crusade these days and, thanks to the cross-server nature of Dungeon Finder and the propensity of WoW players to roll up alts, it is surprisingly quick to get into an instance, even as DPS, during peak hour.

So I queued my druid up for each instance in turn and leveled my way to 70.  It was quite a fun review of the content.  I am not sure that anybody would find it all that challenging.  The many reworks of classes over the years, which always focuses on the most recent expansion, has made characters pretty powerful relative to the way things were back in 2007/2008.  Death Knight tanks… and you run into a lot of Death Knights as you run through these instances… are particularly durable.  Monks also do well as tanks as do Paladins.  Warriors seem less over-powered in that role, though there were relatively few warrior tanks as part of my run.

The usual problems one associates with Dungeon Finder did come up now and again.  At off-peak hours, getting a group is heavily dependent on a healer and a tank being in the queue with you.  And if you are in a group late on a week night and your tank disconnects, you aren’t likely to get that instance done.

And the tank really sets the pace for the run.  I was in groups where the tank made sure everybody was with him and at least announced when he was starting a boss fight, and I was in groups where the tank was clearly interested only in speed.  I was on one run where the tank literally did not stop moving until we hit the final boss, leaving a trail of trash mobs in tow for the DPS to clean up.  And then he complained about the wait when we had to stop and listen to the monologue before the final fight.  At the end he said he had a bet with a guild mate about how fast he could run the instance with a random group.  I am not sure if he won the bet, but we sure did it quickly.  As healer, I just follow the rule of keeping line of sight on the tank and keeping him healed.  Good thing druids have some insta-cast heals, as I was also constantly in motion.

As things moved along, I chucked my “in order” plan, as queues for specific dungeons were starting to take longer and longer.  You can get a Hellfire Ramparts groups in seconds, but at the far end of the list people are starting to level up and into Northrend.  So I just started queuing for instanced I had not done yet and eventually got down to the last three, which according to my achievements, I had not completed with any character; Shattered Halls, Arcatraz, and Magisters’ Terrace.

It was late on Friday night when I was at that point.  I managed to pull Magisters’ Terrace first, where I got to see Kael’thas Sunstrider.

Give us your monologue!

Give us your monologue!

That happened to be the super speed run, so while we finished fine and I got the achievement, I queued for that one again so I could actually do the quests and perhaps see what was going on.  And I got another, slower run at it, which was worth the time.  The last fight is fun, though it must have been tough back in the day.

Next I managed to get into Arcatraz which also went smoothly enough.  The tank wasn’t in total “run run run” mode and I felt like I got the full tour.

And here we see Harbinger Skyriss...

And here we see Harbinger Skyriss…

Then I was left with just Shattered Halls.  I queued for that one and it took a while.  It was getting late and, though we seemed to be able to get a tank, the DPS players kept timing out when the group got called.  I suppose they had been sitting there for a long stretch and had gone AFK.  Eventually a group was rolled where everybody joined and we headed off into the last instance.  And then, after the first boss, the tank disconnected.

Do we wait an hour for another tank?

Do we wait an hour for another tank?

We waited for another tank to queue, but it didn’t seem like it was going to happen.  So I called it a night one instance shy of my goal.

The next afternoon four of us were on and working on alts when I said I was going to try to finish off that last instance.  As it so happened, all four of us had characters in the right level range.  So we formed up, one player shy of a full group, and headed to the instance on our own.  That meant finding the right entrance, which isn’t all that obvious.  But with flying mounts it was manageable.  Later, when I died and nobody else could ress, running back to the instance on foot as a ghost took quite a stretch.

The instance used to require a key to enter, but all of those locks have long since been removed, so in we went.  And, as I mentioned before, even with just four of us, we seemed a bit over-powered.  When I died it was in the middle of a “pull the room” moment where an early heal hit before Earl had aggro solidly in hand and the whole crowd switched to me and pummeled me into paste.  Fun fun.

That moment aside, we did make it to Kargath Bladefist, the final boss and one of the orc chieftains mentioned in the Warlords of Draenor presentations at BlizzCon, and managed to defeat him, which set off a chain of achievements.

Achievement Jackpot

Achievement Jackpot

In addition to the achievement for the instance itself… which got shoved off screen before I could get a screen shot of it… the guild got credit for a guild challenge, earning us some additional guild experience and gold for the guild vault and I got the Outland Dungeonmaster achievement, which means I have now done all the five person, normal mode instances in The Burning Crusade.

Which, just as capping off the last three instances in Northrend meant we had “finished” Wrath of the Lich King at last, meant that I now felt like I had finally “finished” The Burning Crusade.  It just took me nearly seven years to get there.  And now that I have a druid through that lot, it is time to work on my Death Knight.  The instances are fun, not too difficult at this point in time, and represent quite a bit of the history of the game at this point as they are mostly unaltered… aside from moving the quest givers into the instances… since back in the day.

As for the group, now all of the unvisited five person instances lay ahead of us in Cataclysm and Mists of Pandaria.