Unlike a lot of places from vanilla World of Warcraft, I do not have much in the way of fond memories of Darkshore.
I wouldn’t say it was horrible, but it occupied the same level range as Westfall and Loch Modan, both of which were better zones. (Reality check on leveling speed: Back in vanilla I used to finish up Westfall and then go do Loch Modan, finishing that zone up while quests were still green.) Westfall stood out especially, not so much due to the quality of quests… oh, there were a few horrible “kill many of thing x, y, and z” in there… but because it had a central story that integrated with the Deadmines instance. You were officially done with the zone only when you turned in the final quest and had your name shouted across the zone by Gryan Stoutmantle.
And Westfall was a reasonable size. You had to run around as much as in any other quest chain, but the square-ish shape of the zone. Likewise, Loch Modan was also squared off, though it had that lake in the middle.
My memories of Darkshore though, they tend to center around running up and down the length of that zone over and over for this quest and that quest, along with a couple of quests with rather vague directions that ended up with me lost as to where to go and what to do. But mostly running.
The one flight point was in Auberdine (one flight point per zone was all a you got most of the time back then) and hoofing it back and forth for progressively more distant quests, first to the north and then to the south was wearing. I tried running the zone a couple of times way back when as an alternative to Westfall, which I had done so many times, but ended up with the impression that it was much better to just repeat Westfall.
And then came Cataclysm, which brought changes to a lot of the old world of Azeroth.
While I still grumble about the changes to Westfall… though in truth, aside from some awkward phasing and the death of old Blanchy, whose blanket we used to wear with pride, isn’t all bad… and remain unconvinced Loch Modan is better for the change, Darkshore is another story.
And Darkshore was one of the zones hit hard by the events of Cataclysm, so there was a chance to make it a better zone, or at least one that flowed more smoothly. Or maybe just some more interesting scenery.
I know I have run at least a bit of Darkshore post-Cataclysm. The worgen starter zone dumps you in Darnassus and points you towards Darkshore as the next zone to run. But that might have been back during the Cataclysm beta. Right now I only have a single worgen character on my account, and he ran through Westfall with the instance group during our Cataclysm re-roll. I could have deleted a character (possible), or ran it on another server and have lost track of him (slim, but possible), but beta seems like the most likely answer.
Now, with my Loremaster summer project under way, I have the chance/opportunity/obligation to run through the zone again, in full. So I took my new night elf rogue, fresh from the starter zone and finally wearing long pants.
More after the cut.
You even start the zone in a new location.
Auberdine is gone, or ruined at least, and the zone now starts of in Lor’danel, which is a ways north. The inn… and the grounds around the inn… look very much as I recalled Auberdine, but there are only so many building models in the game. As in the old days, quests start off close at hand, directly south, and start radiating out counter-clockwise as you advance until you are trooping northward towards the top of the zone, before starting on the southern end of things.
Two things start to develop as you move forward north. First, you start hitting small quest hubs so each quest isn’t a long round trip back to town. Instead you get sent to a quest hub where you complete several tasks, then end up with a quest sending you back to town. That cuts down a bit of traveling, and boosts the number of quests you end up completing. The achievement requires 90 quests total, and this is how you get there.
And then there is the transportation system. I missed the NPC telling me aloud in chat about it, but there is a set of nightsaber NPCs about… one just outside of Lor’danel and one at several of the major quest hubs… that will send you too and fro.
You appear to be limited to where you can go from the one at Lor’danel. It will only take you to your current quest hub destination. That is good I suppose, in that you are not offered a series of confusing options. But it isn’t public transit like a flight point or that Goblin rocket way in Azshara. It only works to send you out when you are on the right quests. Still, you get to ride… at about the speed of your first mount.
But it also makes me wonder about waiting until level 20 to give people a mount. When you are going to be riding from 20-90… and riding faster and flying much much faster… it does make that first 20 levels on an alt seem a bit plodding. I am sure Blizz has its logic as to why they won’t hand you one at the end of the starter zone, but it does make a big zone like Darkshore plod at times.
Darkshore itself has been thoroughly trashed by the events of Cataclysm. Various bits of the zone are on fire or flooded or washed away or about to be sucked up in a tornado. (There is something very epic about the trees flying out in the tornado that makes it feel spooky real though. I cannot explain why.)
Even the usual bad guys are suffering. There is one small set of quests that ends with you building shelter for homeless murlocs.
The zone itself does feel a little more held together by a story line than I recall from the vanilla version. With 90 quests though, there are a lot of off topic items. As you finish up in the north and start to head southward in the zone there is a definite feel like there is a break in the story. After the trolls in the north, things are focused on the Twilight Cultists… the Defias of Cataclysm… in the south and their various schemes.
This leads to Azshara herself amongst the naga.
So I ran through the whole thing, ended up pointed at Ashenvale as the next zone, but was one quest short.
What did I miss?
I had not skipped any of the main quest line. I had gotten quest starter drops from a number of mobs. I had chased down any yellow exclamation point I saw on the mini map. I had even jumped down the whirlpool in the zone for the hidden quest down there. (With an achievement.)
By that point I had hit level 20 so I was able to mount up and start riding around the zone looking for any side quest I might have missed.
I realized part way into my ride that I did not have low level quests showing on my mini-map, making my search up to that point. When I finally hit Lor’danel, I found a fishing related quest just outside the inn.
I am not sure how I missed it before, unless it requires you to have trained fishing. I only trained that up when I went back to get the basic riding skill as well. Unfortunately, I didn’t do much with fishing up to that point, so I had to skill up for a while before I started catching fish. Somewhere just past skill level 40 I caught the first quest fish, and caught the fourth and final one at 55. Then I turned in the quest, which got me the achievement for the zone.
All in all, not a bad zone. It isn’t as unified in its store as Redridge became. I wouldn’t trade Westfall for it, but I think Cataclysm improved it, relative to my less than fond memories from vanilla. The quest trail has its share of interesting variations, and the gear rewards kept my up to date, if not always happy about how they looked.
I am not sure what it is about the early zones that attracts Blizzard to short or, in this case, underwear for gear models. Those in the picture were enough of an upgrade that I wore them for a bit, but I was very happy when I was able to replace them with something less revealing.
Playing as a rogue helped a bit I am sure. This is my third or fourth run at a rogue in WoW. I went combat spec this time, having always opted for subtlety in the past. So I was able to stealth past a lot of things that were not related to a given quest. I certainly didn’t miss the exp that killing more mobs would have given me. I was level 22 by the time I finished. The only thing I had trouble with was sneaking up behind naga for an ambush. They seem to jink and turn about constantly… like they suspect somebody might be sneaking up on them.
Anyway, that is one more zone off of my list. Next up for my rogue is Ashenvale, another zone about which I have vaguely negative recollections.