Tag Archives: Bastion

Debut in the Theater of Pain

The making of a great compilation tape, like breaking up, is hard to do. It takes ages longer than it might seem. You gotta kick it off with a killer to grab attention. Then you gotta take it up a notch. But you don’t want to blow your wad. So then you gotta cool it off a notch. There are a lot of rules.

-Rob Gordon, High Fidelity

My first impressions of the Shadowlands expansion were colored by the contrast between the epic struggle in the Maw followed by the bland, Elysium fields of Bastion, where everybody seems to be working on their personal issues.  It felt like something of a downshift into.  I understand the Rob Gordon rules of cooling it off a notch, but Bastion felt like a few notches down.

I get that Oribos and Bastion had to shoulder the intro segment, had to get you settled and set the ground work for what was to come.  But, as I said in my previous post, one minute we’re fighting beside heroes in the Maw, the next we’re talking about our feelings and being shown where the Inn is located.

I will also grant that Bastion got better by the end, but that largely involved some invaders from another zone, Maldraxxus, which is, naturally enough, the hook to send you off to that zone.  You head back to Oribos and get sent off to Maldraxxus, flying in over a very different landscape from Bastion.

It isn’t easy being green

But the highlight of the view is flying over an arena called the Theater of Pain.

The Theater of Pain

It is huge and detailed, ringed with giant spectators, and the floor bustles with activity as you fly over it.  I immediately wondered if I would be able to go inside, and I was not disappointed.  You are pretty much flung immediately into the giant brawl that dominates the center of the arena.

The brawl awaits

If is a giant battle royale with a host of NPCs, regular and elite, with other players mixed in as well.  I have to say that I enjoyed this initial Maldraxxus  event a lot.  Part of me just likes getting in the thick of things and whacking mobs with my shovel.  It was crazy chaotic and the antidote to the tame reflection of Bastion.

As you battle your way through the event, the story of the zone comes into focus.  There is dissent between the powers of Maldraxxus, and of course, you’re there just in time, a champion who has bested the arena, to help try and set things right.

Leadership goes to the large in Maldraxxus

Maldraxxusis the land of war in the Shadowlands, but it is also a place of the crazy grotesque.  Stitches would fit right in… barely be noticed… in the landscape of Maldraxxus.  And as the land of war, there isn’t a lot of stopping to talk about one’s feelings.  Leave that to Bastion.  If you’re hear, you’re going to fight.

You are, naturally enough, the champion who can help the locals put down the rebellion and restore order by finding and activating the five runs, one for each house of Maldraxxus.

Rune Three Finished

Also, the spot in the picture above is where I, and a lot of people seemed to get stalled.  You are told to activate a rune, but it isn’t really clear how you do that at first glance.  I saw people bumping all over the place.  What you do is stand in the shiny swirl on the ground, which gives you a button to activate your current rune.

So you get to ride about visiting each of the houses that make up the zone.  There are probably mounts that fit more in with the theme, but I felt being on my chopper set the right mood in the land of war.

Riding in Maldraxxus

Also, I still like that mount more than a decade later.  And I actually saw a few of them out and about.

The passenger ability is fun as well

There are a lot of the standard quest tropes, though I was okay with them giving up on the “thow ingredients as the NPC calls them out” potion making mechanic that has been in the last few expansions at various points.  This time around it seemed to be “just throw the stuff in the pot already and let’s move on with things” on that front.

There were a couple of new things.  I cannot, for example, recall having had to play dead to get dragged off into an enemy camp before.

I’m dead, just carry me inside please

As Peter Falk said in Anzio, the living tend to lay on the stomachs in a protective fashion while the dead tend to just flop on their backs.  I don’t know if that is true, but it seems reasonable.

But there is also plenty of the same, like riding on a great big construct to slaughter the bad guys.

Going into battle on an abomination

As Bastion is light and airy, Maldraxxus does carry its dark and somewhat sickly green theme throughout most of the zone, trending towards orange, blue, or gray in places, but always dank in feeling.

Zangarmarsh meets Icecrown in a way… mushrooms and bone architecture

Before you’re done with the zone you do get to pop back into the Maw for a bit, but only to rescue on person.  You don’t see Jaina, Anduin, Baine, or Thrall, though you get a quick clip of them suffering in Toghast, a tower within the Maw.  But they are still holding out while you figure out what is going on elsewhere.  Then it is back to the portal and out of there.

Who said leaving the Maw was hard? I do it regularly.

After obtaining the five runes, you open the door to speak with the Primus… and get your achievement for having finished up the basic story line.

A three-fer

I also finally received an upgrade to the sword I picked up in the pre-launch events.

A better blade at last

Vain as I am I guess, I keep transmoging my new gear into my standard look, the green armor, Wildhammer Clan tabard, and the silver shovel as my weapon.  I just like my old look, though the transmog costs are eating into my gold.  Blizz will make you suffer, financially at least, for fashion.

All in all, great zone, 10/10, would adventure there again.  I want to get another melee class in there, maybe a Deathknight, to do the Theater of Pain intro.  That set the tone for the whole zone.  I even managed to get the exploration achievement while I was there, probably the first step towards some eventual pathfinder achievement.

explored

Meanwhile I have probably a third of Bastion still to explore.

And now the main story line has sent me off to the next zone, Ardenweald, which is said to be all nature, forests, and elves.  We shall see if my Maldraxxus high will carry me forward.

On the general game front, I keep seeing Blizz drop patches.  They claim to have fixed some of the phasing issues, though I haven’t had a chance to try that out since that patch.  Blizz does seem to have messed up chat channels though.  I have a few tabs for specific things, like guild chat.  For the moment everything seems to get dumped into the main tab and all the others are empty.  I’m sure they’ll get to it, but still… and there have been times again when the server has been a bit laggy.

My main problem though seems to be not being able to see the quest giver question mark floating over the heads of giant mobs.  I keep turning around looking for where the quest is, only to find that I need to look up.

A Smooth Slide into Shadowlands

I expressed some concern about the launch of the Shadowlands expansion in my post on Sunday, wondering if the server problems I had been seeing might impact the new experience.

But when it came down to it, at least on the Eldre’Thalas server, things seemed to go pretty smoothly.  (Though there were problems elsewhere I hear.)

I had read that the starting hook for the expansion hook would be out in front of the fountain before Stormwind Keep, so set myself up there early in the day.

The fountain, with some people beginning to gather

A little before 3pm local time, the hour of the launch for me, I logged in to gather with the other early birds to get right into things.  Ula had some free time as well, so we grouped up and waited around the fountain, which by that point was quite crowded.

The early crowd is ready

Moments after 3pm hit there was an announcement in the area by Highlord Darion Mograine.

Hear ye!

And then a death gate opened up before the fountain and people started piling in.

If all your friends jumped into a death gate, would you do it too?

It was through there to Icecrown and Bolvar Fordragon who had a few feats of strength for people to go through before he sent them off into the Maw to go find the people scooped up by Sylvanas in the pre-invasion.

So why am I dragging your little bits around the ceremony again?

And then it was into the Maw, the so-called crucible of the damned.

Welcome to The Maw

And it was a grim, dark hellscape with some of the tormented to fight and some of the regulars to find.  You end up with Jaina Proudmoore and Thrall to start with and end up on an exciting run through the place.  You find Anduin Wrynn and have to work to free him, and then Warchief Baine Bloodhoof.  The place is a torment and everybody wants to get out, and has been struggling to do so since they were taken.

Together you work your way to what my be a way out of the place, a portal that seems to respond only to your presence.  So they cover you while you escape.

Jaina, Baine, Anduin, and Thrall while you fiddle with the thing

And then, hey presto, you’re teleported to Orbios and your first achievement.

I fought the Maw and the Maw won…

There you meet the locals, talk about what is going on, get a tour of the place, and generally take your time, heedless of the fact that your recent pals are still being tormented.  But they have a way of doing things.  There is apparently enormous red tape in the after life.

From there you get sent off to Bastion to ingratiate yourself with the locals and run through their bright and shiny lands, the polar opposite of the Maw when it comes to style, and help them deal with their personal issues.

Seriously, Jaina, Thrall, Baine, and Anduin got themselves recaptured covering your escape, and were clearly unhappy about it.

Anduin is not at all happy

And now you’re farting around with really some of the most annoyingly chirpy mobs in the game who all sound like they’re in a cult if you start paying close attention to what they’re saying.  It is like being in the 70s.

Still, when in Rome… so you go along with the initiation, fight your personal demons manifested, relive past events in brief, and haul around their anima, the precious resource that drives things around there.

At first I thought they said “anime”

You get some armor, spar with some initiates, dust, tidy up, and attend some more lectures on the whole thing.

Ula and Vikund at another seminar

Doing all the fetch and carry and introspection gets you a level pretty quickly.  I was level 52 before the evening was out, and well on my way to 53.  The first person made it to 60, the new level cap, in just three hours.

But I gather that the level grind is not the big deal in Shadowlands.  Once you get to the level cap you have to pick a covenant and start earning your way into that as an alternate advancement method.  Something beyond just a rep grind so far as I have seen, though I haven’t looked too closely yet.

You get some new gear naturally, though I was surprised that it took a while for the first pieces to show up.  They were not in a hurry to replace everything you had in the first half dozen quests.  And some of it wasn’t good enough to replace what I had.  While I didn’t work very hard on the Heart of Azeroth in Battle for Azeroth, the first neck slot quest reward wasn’t cutting it as a replacement.

Heart of Azeroth wins today, even if it is cut off from its life force

Likewise, the big sword I got from Nathanos Blightcaller was better than the first weapons that came my way as drops or rewards.

My blade remains viable

And while the server seemed solid and I did not see any queues later in the evening when I logged back in, things were still a bit off.  I tried to group up with Ula again later on and we got stuck in different phases even though we were on the same quest.  We tried the dreaded “party sync” option, and while it did indeed get us onto the same quest again, we remained in different phases.

And perhaps some of the quests are meant to be solo, but it would be nice to have some indication of that.  Later, when we tried to add Skronk to the group, we had similar issues.  He couldn’t join the group at first, then he was in a different phase, and even after the part sync put us onto his quests, we still couldn’t all get into the same phase and visible to each other.

And that was on top of the usual factional annoyances.  This is one of the expansions where the Alliance and the Horde have identical experiences, so we’re all out there mixed together in Bastion.  But if a fellow Alliance member tags a mob, I can still join in and get credit, but if somebody from the Horde tags it, it is now gray to me and gets me no credit.  If we’re essentially fighting on the same side this round, maybe adjust that?  I don’t know.

But the advancement is going quickly enough that hopefully Bastion will be in the rear view mirror before too long.  It the sort of environment that brings up thoughts like, “I’m not saying Sylvanas is right, but looking at this place, I am not saying she is completely wrong either.”  Hell, one event involves a bunch of the locals sick of the routine and rising up against the status quo.  I had to go help put that down despite my sympathies.

Vikund ready to enforce conformity

But it is just a zone, and some zones you like and others you don’t, though the narrative in it feels like an extended intro that I kind of want to wrap up but never quite gets there.  Will I want to go through this with alts?

I will admit that the place looks pretty good.  A lot of work went into things.  I just have to get through Bastion and get back to rescuing people from the Maw, right?

Other first night posts: