Once there was a zone called Stranglethorn Vale. It was a place of jungle and raptors and trolls and missing pages from books and that bastard Hemet Nesingwary who would continue to haunt our existence through every expansion with his wildlife slaughtering requests.
It was a large and somewhat controversial zone… though some appreciated the quest design… that would try your patience for endless running (you didn’t have a mount when you got there back in the day) and managing your bag space.
It was where the Horde and Alliance really started to merge. Before Stranglethorn Vale, each side had most zones to themselves. Afterwards, everybody ran down the same list of zones.
And it was placed right in the middle of the leveling curve, in that danger zone when the fun of the first twenty or so levels had receded from your rear view mirror, but the level cap of 60 (way back when) was still somewhere over the horizon.
At one point I had five or six characters stuck somewhere in their mid-30s, bags full of pages from The Green Hills of Stranglethorn and logs full of quests with horrible drop rates, congested “kill a single named mob” choke points, or more variations on slaughter for hire, unable to progress due to a desire never to see that jungle again.
From the rebel camp to Booty Bay, from the Vile Reef to the Venture Company sites, from Kurzen’s Camp to the Nesingwary Expedition, from the Gubashi Arena to the pirates off the the southeast coast, Stranglethorn Vale has a lot going on. And while you can blue sky daydream about the good old days in the Vale, you have to remember that Blizzard felt it had to boost the questing experience in Dustwallow Marsh, adding in Mudsproket and a whole range of additional quests around Theramore and Brackenwall. At the time this was pretty much a mea culpa from Blizzard that old STV might be a bit more of a pain than the expected.
And then came the Cataclysm. The zone was split into two, with the top half becoming Northern Stranglethorn Vale and the bottom becoming the Cape of Stranglethorn, which strikes me a bit like having North Carolina and the Carolina Strand as states… you tend to call out “north” only if there is a “south” right… but then the whole continent is called The Eastern Kingdoms, which is a vague, hand waving description more than a name in my opinion, so my problems with the geographic naming conventions of Azeroth are long standing.
I had already wrapped up the Northern Stranglethorn achievement with my warrior, Makarov, way back in March of last year when I was back in the game on a seven day pass and still not over my post-Cataclysm malaise.
But for whatever reason, Makarov moved on to the Plaguelands (of which there is an East and a West, so there), leaving the Cape of Stranglethorn untouched. And so it remained, until I decided to go for the Loremaster achievement this summer.
More after the cut.