Last time around I found my progress towards the Loremaster achievement in World of Warcraft… well… if not thwarted, at least delayed. While I did a lot of quests in Nagrand, I found myself 12 quests shy of the achievement, and for 11 of those 12 quests I need a group or to be level 70.
Not the end of the world. It isn’t like I will lose that progress if I run off and do something else. But I had hit a stride of having racked up at least one more achievement each week as I pressed forward towards my goal, only to have my streak broken. It was a minor hit to my morale.
But what are you going to do?
I wasn’t going to give up, so the only thing to do was to press on to the next zone. For Outland, that would be the Blade’s Edge Mountains.
I did not have an intro quest for the zone, and I do not think I had actually run a quest in the zone since maybe 2008. So the first thing I did was head off to Stormwind to turn my experience bar back on.
I had turned the bar off at Nagrand so as to not out-level all of the content into complete triviality. Now, with Nagrand behind me and the zones ahead pretty much okay for up to level 70, it was time to resume leveling.
Then it was back through the Dark Portal to Outland.
It was time to find my way to the Blade’s Edge Mountains.
More after the cut.
But where to start?
With no lead-in quest, because even the Hero’s Board in the various capitals haven’t heard about Outland it seems, and only a vague recollection of having done the zone at some point in the last decade, I was on my own finding a start point. (Ignoring the whole “Google it” aspect, because I sometimes like to just see where the game will send me if I just follow the flow of things.)
Through the portal and into Outland, I decided that I ought to pick up the flight points on the way there. That would give me some time and guide my approach. So I took the bird to Shattrath and then got on my own flying mount to head through Zangarmarsh.
Zangarmarsh was maybe the first zone I was ever in that broke the Blizzard tradition of “nobody needs more than one flight point per zone.” I cannot think of a zone in old Vanilla that had more than one… did Feralas maybe have two? Anyway, zones now have three, five, or more flight points, linking up every major quest hub. Basically, if it has an inn keeper, it probably has a flight point these days.
Zangarmarsh has two flight points, and always felt like it should have a third for each faction at their starter hub. But whatever, that was 2007 and old Blizzard thinking.
I picked up the flight point at Telredor and then flew on to the second one at Oreboar Harborage.
Now it was time to head north. I decided that I should follow the road north into the zone rather than just lofting over the spikes that infest the zone. Seriously, this is the spikiest zone ever.
Is there something in the lore that describes how the Blade’s Edge Mountains ended up with its “giant hedgehog of stone” nature? Those spike are huge and everywhere and are often at angles where they look like they couldn’t be able to to support their own weight unless they are made out of styrofoam or papier mâché… or rendered data displayed as pixels in the medium of light.
Following the road turned out to be the right choice as, low and behold, there was a quest waiting for me just where it hit a cave through the mountains. From there I was sent to kill some spiders, the first of many kill quests to follow, and pass through the cave and on to the first quest hub at Sylvanaar. Is that a night elf name or what?
And there began my assault on the total of 86 quests to secure the zone achievement. Going through the quest progress would be tedious, so I will generalize about the zone itself.
The Blade’s Edge Mountains are not Nagrand.
Nagrand is a bowl, with wide open grasslands and a few canyons, surrounded by mountains. There is a considerable amount of freedom of movement in the zone, even if you do not have a flying mount. This openness allowed the devs to scatter quest mobs and lets you ride around serious danger.
The Blade’s Edge Mountains, as a zone, is chopped up into a series of very focused pockets. If Nagrand is the end of the Fulda Gap, which opens onto the central plains of West Germany, ripe for a war of maneuver between masses of tanks, then The Blade’s Edge Mountains are the Bocage, the fields surrounded by dense hedgerows that turned that battles near Caen into a series of small unit actions over tiny bits of acreage. You are constantly constrained by mountains, tunnels, bridges, and paths as to where you can travel… or you would be if you were stuck with ground transportation.
It is difficult for me to imagine how I had the patience to do some of these quests back in the day. Then again, I will likely say the same thing about some of the zones in Pandaria a few years down the road.
There are a couple of points where the zone helps you out. There are a three strategic flight points, a serious boon back in the day, and there is the gnomish transporter system at Toshley’s Station that will launch you towards certain quest objectives.
But a lot of the time, on the ground, it would have been a matter of slogging through a pile of mobs to get to one objective, to turn around and fight your way back, and then be sent back to the first spot yet again to pick up the named guy you were next to the last time you were there. And this hits you right away, as you end up with a series of quests that take you back and forth between Bloodmaul Outpost and Bladespire Hold. And you kill a lot of ogres along the way, even if you have a flying mount.
There was one point of serious déjà vu when Ruuan Weald to slay a named ogre in one camp and as I headed in I realized that this named mob was in the same place, using the same model, in the same building as another named ogre I had killed in another camp, to the point that I wasn’t sure if this quest was a literal redo of an earlier quest or if it really was in a different location.
And while ogres were usually in plentiful supply, the constrained nature of the pockets in the zone tended to limit how many of a given mob there was in any location. There were a number of points, as with a series of quests at Forge Camp Anger, where there were just enough mobs for one person to get through the quest chain, but if two people were there, it was a quick-draw match in the fight for mobs. I showed up there and everything I needed was dead. Luckily the guy ahead of me was two steps ahead and nobody else was in line, so I caught the respawns and was able to get things under way. But once I was two steps ahead, somebody else showed up and all of the mobs for the first stage were dead again. I had killed most of them because they were mixed in and guarding things for a later stage.
And while grouping up could be the answer for a bit of it, at least one stage required drops, which is always the bane of WoW questing.
The questing was indeed old school. No named mob icons on the mini map. No indicators at all for some quest mobs. I had to go speak with Overseer Nuaar, who does not appear on the mini map, not having a question mark over his head until you actually talk to him. The quest text isn’t very helpful as to where to find him, mentioning something about the road.
And then, after flying up and down the road in search of him, I found him wandering off the road into the woods.
They made you work for your quest updates back in the day.
I generally did not have a lot of problems with quests. Most were manageable, though a I did die on a few. Some of the ogre assassination quests required you to kill a named guy guarded by a pair of elites. Getting in and killing the target was generally no problem thanks to stealth. But then there was the whole getting away bit. Sprinting mostly worked, but I got caught out on a couple such quests, being the over-eager rogue and forgetting that, at level 67, my aggro radius was bigger than I figured on. Doing quests over level makes you soft in that regard.
Death generally put me in an awkward location, where I could spend 10 minutes or more trying to get back to my corpse, in the middle of all the bad guys who just killed me and, thus, might simply do so again, or just revive and go get a snack while I waited for the 10 minute penalty to wind down.
The only quest I could not complete in a couple of tries was one over by Death’s Door. You get a series of quests and, for once in the zone, you don’t have to travel all the way back to camp to get the update. Instead you get a signal to bring the quest mob, a druid with flight form, to you. That looked quite progressive. But then the chain leads to a quest where you have to take over a cannon to destroy a portal at each end of the pit that is the area around Death’s Door.
Sounded easy enough. I cleared the mobs around the cannon and started in.
You have to hit the portal seven times with the cannon to destroy it, and the cannon has a couple of modes. Shooting the portal has a 15 second cool down, so you it will take you the better part of two minutes to kill the portal. However, after the first shot, an endless stream of mobs starts to pour out in a conga line headed straight for the cannon. You have to defend the cannon. And while the mobs are pretty much soap bubbles, they do take a bit of killing, you take damage from them as they die at melee range, and they keep coming and coming. Meanwhile, the cannon itself is pretty low on hit points, and if any of the local mobs respawn it is easy to lose focus.
The cannon died on the first couple of attempts, and then on the third the local mobs I had cleared started to respawn just after I kicked off the event. This time around I died, which put me at some distant point in the zone where I decided it was better to just revive and wait rather than walk back as a ghost.
After failing a couple more times, I set that quest aside and went after some other targets. Over at WoWhead, the main advice related to the quest was to “bring a friend.” If I need to go back and get that quest in order to fill the quota of 86 quests, I will do that.
However, I am not close enough to the final number to know if I will need to finish up that quest yet, as I only managed to get through 54.
That is more than half way, but still too far from the mark to tell how things will play out.
It is tough for me to say if my Pokemon binge last week caused me to fall short of the mark, or if the Blade’s Edge Mountain zone encouraged me to binge on Pokemon.
Either way, another week with some progress but no achievement.