Tag Archives: Battle for Azeroth

Battle for Azeroth Pathfinder Part One Done

Well, that was pretty quick.  Last week, with the preview of Battle for Azshara and the promise of flying, I had something new to focus on in WoW.

Don’t know when it is coming, but it is coming

I was immediately looking up what I ought to get done to get myself to flying when it became available to unlock.  The prerequisite was the Battle for Azeroth Pathfinder Part One achievement, and I was a few items short on that.

Where I stood last week

I had two out of the five achievements done to get the meta achievement, so I set about over the weekend on the other three.

Exploring is always the easiest to pick up and I only had two zones left to cover on Zandalar anyway, so I set about on those as I did world quests.

Quickly done

Ready for War however, I wasn’t even sure where to pick that one up.  But I figured speaking to the guy with the orange exclamation point over his head on the alliance ship in Boralus would be a good place to start.

Actually, it ended up being the exact place I needed to go, though I only figured that out as I progressed on down the various quest chains and noted that further items were getting checked off on the list.  I moved along with Jaina Proudmoore, freed from her cell and now wrecking vengeance on those undermining Kul Tiras, with an oddly familiar cast of characters.

I’ve worked with some of these people before… that’s me in the middle

That wrapped up in not too long with me back in Stormwind speaking to King Anduin Wrynn.  He congratulated me on the work and gave me the nod for the achievement.

There in the throne room

That left the final achievement, Azerothian Diplomat, which needed me to get to revered standing with the main Alliance factions in the expansion.  Faction is not something easy to rush through.

Granted, it did help that I had been working on faction via world quests for a while already.  In fact, I only needed the Champions of Azeroth faction at revered to get there.  I wasn’t even too far off on that AND it was their turn on the emissary quest rotation.  So I ran over to Darkmoon Faire, rode the merry-go-round for the faction gain boost, then set out to do as many world quests for Champions of Azeroth as I could.

It wasn’t quite enough.  I went through all I could find as was just shy of the mark.  All I had left was a quest for my followers, but that would take 8 hours and it was already late in the evening.  I wasn’t going to be able to do it all in a day.

But when I logged in the next morning I was set.  My followers succeeded and I was done.

Mission success – no bonus, but still good

That set me up, I hope, for the Battle for Azeroth Pathfinder Part Two achievement, the gateway to flying, that we will get with the Rise of Azshara update.

In the mean time, I will just be a little faster on Zandalar and Kul Tiras.

The pathfinder bennie

I can use that to keep up with my fellow waterstrider riders on the world quest hunt.

Blizz was right on that score

Also, along the way I managed to get to exalted with the Proudmoore Admiralty.

I suspect that will come in handy at some point, but for now it let my buy another mount.

Battle for Azeroth Flying on the Horizon

We have had the World of Warcraft 8.1.5 update in our hands for a little while now, so Blizzard has started telling us about the 8.2 update, Rise of Azshara.  They had a half hour stream on Twitch yesterday that gave an overview of what to expect.

The 8.2 update splash screen

We are slated to get a lot of things with 8.2 and a 30 minute presentation gave just a brief overview of a lot of what to expect.

Rise of Azshara Features

I have not been very engaged with the Battle for Azeroth expansion.  Some aspects of it seemed almost designed to discourage and dismay all but the most determined.  And, as with Legion, it wasn’t a particularly alt friendly design to get into.  It is a better plan to pick one character and do all the things first.  And so I have pottered about, playing then falling by the wayside off and on since the expansion dropped.  But the first ray of light for alts came with this update with the announcement that the unlock for flying will be part of the 8.2 update.

Flying is Coming

We knew it would be coming, though that hasn’t stopped some people from being angry it hasn’t been in since day one.

Flying will be unlocked for your account when you finish the Battle for Azeroth Pathfinder Part Two achievement.  You will get that nice mechanical parrot mount pictured above for your efforts as well.  As for what will be required for that achievement is not yet certain, but now I at least have a mission; get the Battle for Azeroth Pathfinder Part One achievement complete.  I’m lagging on that.

Where I stand today

Still, I can wrap up part one with a little effort I think.  The exploration achievement is easy enough and I am only one faction shy on the diplomat front.  With those, and four more war campaigns to finish for the Ready for War achievement, I will be there.

Also on the topic of mounts, the 8.2 update will also introduce an equipment slot for your mounts in order to give them a special ability.

Mount Equipment

There are three options which will give all your mounts water walking, resistance to being dazed, or a parachute to deploy if you are dismounted in the air.

It was openly stated that this was in reaction to the Azure Water Strider mount, which has the innate ability to walk on water.  Putting this in the game during the Mists of Pandaria expansion was almost as big of a change as when they put in flying.  Being able to ride on water at will is such a huge boon that I use this mount all the time, both on alts and any place where flying is not available.

An alt riding on water

And apparently I am not alone.  This mount gets used everywhere and I see other people on it all the time.  So Blizz, realizing they let the water walking genie out of the bottle, is going to make it so any of your mounts can walk on water if you so desire.

What was left out was whether or not the water strider would keep its innate regardless of what was equipped.  I suspect it won’t, but if it does I don’t expect that usage of the mount will go down since you’ll be able to have water walking with that AND one of the other buffs as well.  We shall see.

Time for a Pet Battle Binge

While I have not been playing World of Warcraft all that diligently… last month EverQuest was my main focus… I do make sure to log in at least once a week to do the pet battle trainer challenge quest that pops up in fresh in your garrison every Tuesday.

(Odd aside: despite garrisons not fulfilling the housing role I still end up visiting mine regularly.  It probably helps that we were given a special hearthstone to get there, meaning that I don’t have to figure out where yet another portal is now located.)

The task is to defeat five pet battle masters out in the world, though the quest has an odd bug where sometimes just one win will finish the quest, while at other times you do actually have to defeat five.  The reward is ten leveling stones, which I sock away for later.  Otherwise I have the regular routine I run when I have a mind to… Ashlei, Vesharr, and Tarelune… which will get a pet from level 1 to 20 in a few minute, so long as I remember to wear my pet battle safari hat.

I don’t log in daily to do that routine, nor do I tend to follow on with further battles that would finish boosting the current leveling pet to 25, about which I wrote previously if you want to see the full routine.  Just getting to 20 keeps things nice and light so it doesn’t become a chore that keeps me from wanting to log in.

But this week, this week it is time to go nuts.  This week’s bonus is to pet battle experience.

Time for pet battles!

For bonus experience I can get on board doing pet battles every day for a week.  I figured this would get me pretty far on my level 1 battle pet backlog.

And then I looked at my backlog and realized that I don’t have all that many level 1 battle pets left to boost up.  In fact, I only had six left.  The whole queue in the Rematch addon, which organizes you pets and lets set standard teams, was 28 deep, but half of those were level 20 pets, which would hit level 25 in a single battle given the bonus.  The rest were scattered between levels 8 and 12.  I wasn’t sure I had a weeks worth of pets to level up.

My immediate response was to go out and catch some new pets.  Vikund, who I take out to do World Quests in Battle for Azeroth a couple times a week, was my starting point for that.  As I went out in the world I watched the map for areas with pets I had yet to catch.

Another addon does this, but I forget which

I would just do some world quests for the current factions that had emissary quests up on the map, stopping by to pick up stray pets with my catching team as I went.

Out in the field catching new pets

I also happened to get the achievement for doing 100 different BfA world quests.

Another achievement on the pile

Just doing catch as catch can I managed to pick up an easy half a dozen new pets while I helped out the 7th Legion on Zandalar.

Some new pets in my queue

That did boost my total pets caught, but didn’t give me a lot more things to level up.  Since all the pets out in the later expansions are level 25 by default… losing two levels when you catch them… each of these needed just one pet battle to hit max level, with or without the bonus experience.

I need to find some fresh level 1 pets to take full advantage of this event.  I can always spend some gold at the auction house for a few, though I am now at the point where my missing pets are getting pretty pricey.

I do have one more pet I need to catch in the Eastern Kingdoms, the one that spawns beneath Karazhan at midnight server time.  Then there are three from the Celestial Tournament I still need, though any of those would take longer than the event lasts.  And there are a couple I could get if I upped my BfA factions standings a bit.

But otherwise I seem to be out of immediate access to low level battle pets that I haven’t already caught and upgraded to at least rare quality.

Darkmoon Faire Once Again Gives Trade Skill Increases

Back during the summer, back when Blizzard was ramping things up for the Battle for Azeroth expansion, some changes landed for trade skills which, in a disturbingly typical lack of foresight, broke a couple of things.

As usual, the desire was to… well… not fix trade skill levels, but to make them less onerous.  So they were changed from one continuous level grind… you have to skill up the original classic and through all the expansion to get to the current trade skill options… to a discreet, expansion based set of skills.  This allowed you to go directly to the BfA harvesting and recipes without all that mucking about in the past.

The cost was, besides the usual amount of confusion, was breaking the ability to get your trade skill backlog filled in when you did a character boost.  I just missed the window before the change so my blood elf got boosted to 110.  I suppose at least I didn’t waste my time getting him to 60 before hand.

The other item was the trade skill boosts from the monthly Darkmoon Faire quests.

Behold, Darkmoon Faire

The problem there was that the quests still told you that you were getting a +5 skill bump for doing the quest there in the rewards, but when you did one and turned it in you found out that was a lie.

Almost six months down the road now, Blizzard has finally gotten around to addressing the Darkmoon Faire quests.  They have been updated so they actually give you a boost to your trade skills again.

An engineering boost

I was worried a bit when I saw that it specifically said “Kul Tiran” with relation to the skills that it might only apply to the current expansion.  However, when I rolled out a low level alt to try it, the quests for them did not specify “Kul Tiran” and when I turned them in they added skill points to their current focus.

Just a normal trade skill boost

That happened to be at the original WoW end of the trade skill spectrum.  My characters tend to be in the current expansion or in the 1-60 content.   Still, I managed to dig through and find somebody with a skill in the middle just to see if the quests correctly reflected all the new trade skill tiers.

An alt back in Draenor for fishing

Of course, this leads to another oddity of the new trade skill system.  That particular alt only had a fishing skill of 293 back under the old reckoning.  However, having built a garrison and fished a bit out in Draenor… fishing no longer being restricted by skill level, you can dip your pole anywhere… he had acquired the Draenor fishing skill, which basically opened up his skill bar all the the way up to that point.

However, under the new system he only has base game fishing, still at 293 and Draenor fishing, which is now at 6.

Fishing levels

I cropped together two screen shots for that, since it only shows the level for each when you mouse over them.  But it illustrates how changing one thing ends leaving ripples in your system if you’re not careful.  Can I get, for example, Northrend fishing with this guy now?  If I go train it, can I level it up?  If I go train Legion fishing, will that now be the target for the quests?  I am not certain.

Anyway, I am at least happy to see that Blizzard got around to restoring the trade skill boost for the Darkmoon Faire quests.  I am not sure that this update is going to get me to jump back in the game full time, but it did get me logged in to visit the faire with a few characters I suppose.  And given where trade skills have gone since Draenor, this is about all the advancement I am getting on that front.  But some advancement is better than none at all I suppose.

Dateline Drustvar

I finally managed to get to level cap in Battle for Azeroth.

The moment hits at last

After an enthusiastic launch into the expansion when it hit, where I embraced the story and spoke lovingly about the look at feel of the zones in the expansion, I hit a wall.  Well, less a wall than some quicksand mechanics that seemed to be dragging me down the further I progressed into the expansion.

That ended up being the scaling system, which pegs off your item level.  However, difficulty climbed probably faster than your item level probably required.

The balance and speed of combat is a fine line.  Nobody wants to run around one-shotting every mob.  Well, okay, yes, we all like to do that once in a while, but it gets dull after a bit.

On the flip side, if every solo mob on the field turns into a protracted struggle that requires multiple passes through your rotation and some healing afterwards, the game can become a slog.  You kill one mob and look up and realize you need to go through that a dozen more times to get to your objective and the fun can start to wear off.

That was starting to get to me, which ended up with me spending some time playing EverQuest II, where I flip-flopped between one-shotting things with a hard glace and getting my posterior handed to me, often without any discernible logic.

Yes, I solo’d that no problem, why do you ask?

The coming of BlizzCon though, that started to turn my mind back to Azeroth.  The WoW Classic demo was really my intention.  But after playing that for a bit, I swapped over and started back in on my main in Battle for Azeroth.  As a bit of a pack rat, I found I hadn’t discarded some of my lower item level gear.

I also found some leftover Winter Vale candy in my bag

I managed to balance myself out to be able to carry on through Stormsong Valley, which I finished up on Sunday, getting both the exploration and story complete achievements.  Having already done Trigarde Sound, that left me with Drustvar.  By that point I was already level 119 and pretty close to hitting the final level.  So it took just a few quests there in order to hit the magic mark.

Once I hit the level cap, a few new options opened up for me.  I ran off to get the next foothold on Zandalar.  I also did the obligatory island expedition learning thing, so I am starting to see what people were complaining about.  And then I got the quest that I need to wrap up in order to unlock world quests, which will open up the faction grind that seems likely to eventually make flying a thing.

That quest

Having completed two zones, I am already honored with two of the three factions I need.  I suspect that running the quest lines in Drustvar will get me the third.  At this point I am also going to run some of the dungeons to boost my gear.  Since the rewards you get are always pegged to your level, I always feel like it is a bit of a waste to get dungeon rewards that don’t really help all that much.

We shall see.

Darkmoon Dirigible and Kul Tiras

Going back to look, I think I officially started collecting Darkmoon Faire tokens with the intention of getting the Darkmoon Dirigible back in November of 2017.  I already had a bit of a jump on it, having found a character with a couple hundred prize tickets already in hand.  This was because I have been in the habit of running alts through Darkmoon Faire to boost their trade skills when it is up and I am subscribed.  This is why all my alts can fish, as I explained.

Anyway, with the coming of the Darkmoon Faire earlier this month I finally had 1,000 prize tickets on hand so was able to add the Darkmoon Dirigible mount to my collection.

Flying over Stormwind in the Darkmoon Dirigible

I would have, could have, should have gotten it earlier, except that I took a break from World of Warcraft about when the alpha for Battle for Azeroth was hitting.  I figured it was a good point for a break before the pre-expansion events came along.  I already had the allied races unlocked and what not.

Of course in hindsight I wonder if I should have stayed subscribed and just run the DMF event a few more times, as on my return to Azeroth I found that Blizzard had been messing with trade skills again.  The first thing I found was that you no longer got your trade skills raised when you boosted a level 60+ character, a bit of a blow since I went to boost a character just a week after they made this change.  An opportunity lost.

And then Darkmoon Faire came around in August and I saw that the trade skill quests were no longer giving you the promised +5 boost to your skill when you turned them in.  I figured they would have to fix this sooner rather than later.  This seems like one of those changes in one location that broke something elsewhere.  However, Blizz came back and said that they meant to do this, that those quests would only give you a boost to your level 1-60 trade skills, which seemed rather useless in the new “segmented by expansion” trade skill reality of Battle for Azeroth.

With the trade skill masterplan seeming to be arranged to allow to people by bypass the mostly useless vanilla recipes, why would Blizz then make those the only thing you can boost with the DMF quests?  That seems backwards.  It certainly killed an incentive I had to visit DMF with alt, since they are almost all past 300 at this point.  I already have all the heirloom gear and pets and mounts from the event.

But it feel like Blizz has been struggling with trade skills for a few expansions now.  Warlords of Draenor trivialized them in the extreme, the Legion attempted to revive them by forcing you to do group content to obtain recipes to advance them, and now this with BfA.

And the response to all of this sort of thing, the change to boosts, the change to DMF quests, the ilevel scaling issues, the warfront complaints, has been pretty much summed up as, “we know and we don’t care.”

Not that I think a company has to jump and change things the moment anybody complains.  But when they address something like the fact that leveling up gets harder as your ilevel increases… basically, you are incentivized to not upgrade your gear… by saying they are aware of the issue but they don’t think it is important enough to fix, it does give one pause.

I’m not up in arms ready to rebel against Blizzard, but neither am I feeling the warm fuzzies from them either.  They have an agenda and my own play style just doesn’t fit into that.

Meanwhile, my enthusiasm for adventuring in Kul Tiras seems to have waned.  At one point I was happily logging in every night to take on the next set of quests and see the beautiful world that Blizz had built, and then I stopped logging in.  Syp was attempting to make a virtue out of slowness by announcing that he was going to be the last person to hit level 120 in BfA.  But when he made it there with his first character my main was still 117, only a zone and a half into Kul Tiras.

I am not sure what happened there.  It wasn’t the ilevel thing.  That was easily solved by downgrading my gear.

I know I tend to hit a post-launch point during an expansion cycle where I take a break while Blizz fills out the content of an expansion.  Then, when they finally get around to announcing that flying is possible to unlock, I show back up and carry on with that as my over-arching goal.  But I don’t think I am there yet.

Always another problem to solve… with violence

I also haven’t done any of the dungeons yet.  This is because I have gotten to the point where I don’t want to do them with dungeon finder groups.  Or, rather, that I want to be able to do them with a group at least once that goes through an instance slowly enough for me to absorb what is going on and catch the details.  That is simply impossible with dungeon finder, where every group ends up an exercise in trying to keep up with the tank who is determined to get things done at max speed.  Of course, if the tank dares to slow down somebody in the group will start nagging about the slackening pace, so you can’t really blame the tank.  Players will always optimize over time, and in this case it means going as fast as possible.

I miss the old days of the instance group when we could run an instance at our leisure.

Without dungeons as a draw, it is pretty much just the overland content for me, so if my interest flags there that is pretty much it.

But I have also been distracted by other titles, about which I will write in further posts.  So maybe it is a minor break from the game.  But enthusiasm around the house for WoW has been at low ebb since my daughter returned to school.  We were both big on the expansion when it first hit, but then school started and she has been busy with that.  She is a much better student than I was at that age.

That is where I stand at the moment.  My main is 117 and about halfway through the Kul Tiras campaign.  I have a Horde alt that is hanging out in Zandalar and an Alliance alt that is in Kul Tiras, but both are still 110.  I also managed to push another alt up to level 110 by leveling up battle pets in Draenor.  And then there was the Dakrmoon Dirigible.  Not much progress after a month, but in the scope of a two year expansion cycle, not horrible either.

Honest Game Trailers Battle for Azeroth

Honest Game Trailers is back with a stab straight at the heart of World of Warcraft and the Battle for Azeroth expansion.

Honest Game Trailers tends to hit a little harder than the movie side of the house, but this one hits hard enough to leave a mark.  Still pretty funny, but oh so very honest.

Why are there Levels in Battle for Azeroth?

This is one of those question that I am pretty sure I know the answer to, but I want to ask it out loud just to see what else might shake loose.  What am I not considering in this mix?

It is here…

I am playing through the Alliance side of the expansion right now.  My paladin is already through the Tiragarde Sound zone on Kul Tiras and I am enjoying the new content.  The environments are beautiful, the quests are good, varied, and plentiful, and the various side tasks and ventures change things up.

But, as I write this (ten days before the post went live because I kept pushing it off to post something else), my pally is already past level 116 and I expect will hit level 120, the level cap, long before I am finished running him through the base content.

Not that I will suddenly stop when I get there.  But I will spend most of my time in this expansion… call it two years less the three weeks at most it will take me to meander to level 120…at the level cap.

So why bother having levels at all at this point?

The zones scale with you so gaining a level confers no special benefit.  In fact, there is a downside to it.  All the gear you get along the way is set for the level you at which you acquired it, so you have to keep replacing gear for ten levels to keep it abreast of your progress… after which you can then work on replacing gear to boost your item level.  And, as we found out, collecting gear upgrades actually makes getting through the new zones more difficult.  You are better off keeping your item level low, a seriously messed up situation that Blizzard seems just fine with.  I mean, I was afraid of what ilevel scaling was going to do when they introduced it in Legion, but this goes well beyond what I would have imagined.

Whatever.  If people complain enough Blizz will grudgingly fix it eventually.  Back to levels.

Traditionally levels have been used to gate content, and Blizzard does do some of that.  As you hit certain levels things are unlocked for you.  But with ten fast moving levels players will still be unlocking content after they hit 120 via various other means.  I don’t have to look much farther than the achievements to know that there will be plenty to do past hitting the level cap.  There will be world quests to unlock, new content to enjoy, faction to grind, and the groundwork to unlocking flying to start in on.

EverQuest, the king of MMO expansions, is almost six years older than World of Warcraft, has released 24 expansions so far, and has a level cap of 110 last I checked.  If you look down the list of expansions you will see that not every one raised the level cap.  You can see streaks of two or three expansions in a row with the same cap.

Then again, they do keep raising the level cap in Norrath every so often, so levels have their draw.  But it clearly isn’t a necessity.  SOE found alternate methods.

The downside is that levels are intimidating and/or silly after a certain point.  That the level cap is 120 with Battle for Azeroth has to work against it somewhat.  Purists like to say that you need to play through the whole thing, but when you are trying to collect new players, the starting proposition that you must play through 110 levels in order to get to the new/good stuff is a losing one.  Just having 120 levels can be seen as a pretty big barrier to entry.

So why have more levels when it is pretty clear you can do without them?

The answer, to my mind, is because people expect them.

Blizzard is a very conservative company when it comes to their successful properties, and none of them is more successful nor a bigger money maker than WoW.  When you have the goose that keeps on laying golden checks every month… and when you have made changes in the past they haven’t necessarily turned out well… you do all you can to maintain it with screwing things up.  Launching an expansion with a boost in the level cap… and a 10 level boost because 5 level expansions were not as popular…  is just part of the recipe for success to which Blizz feels they need to adhere.

Basically this is the way they’ve always done it and it works, so why change?

Addendum: There is a closely related post over at GamingSF this morning as well.  Armagon Live also has a post about that as well.

WoW Battle for Azeroth Sales Stacked Up Against Past Releases

Fortunately I did some of the groundwork for this post back with the WoW Legion release.

It is here and it is selling

Blizzard announced today that the Battle for Azeroth expansion for World of Warcraft, which went live around the world on August 13th and 14th, sold more than 3.4 million copies.  From the press release itself:

Heroes everywhere turned out in force, and Blizzard Entertainment today announced that as of Battle for Azeroth’s first full day of launch on August 14, more than 3.4 million units of the latest World of Warcraft®expansion had sold through worldwide—setting a new day-one sales record for the franchise and making it one of the fastest-selling PC games of all-time.*

I was a little worried about that asterisk at the end, but that just points to this:

Sales and/or downloads, based on internal company records and reports from key distribution partners.

So nothing dramatic there, just a clarification without much information.

To put that number in perspective here is how it shakes out relative to past launches:

  • Battle for Azeroth – 3.4 million
  • WoW Legion – 3.3 million
  • Warlords of Draenor – 3.3 million
  • Mists of Pandaria – 2.7 million (first week)
  • Cataclysm – 3.3 million
  • Wrath of the Lich King – 2.8 million
  • The Burning Crusade – 2.4 million
  • World of Warcraft – 240,000

That bodes well for the expansion.

Of course, you have to have some perspective when looking at that list.  Back in 2004 people had to go buy a physical box to play World of Warcraft and it has only been over the years that the process has become mostly a digital download experience.  But back then even that 240K number set a record for single day sales.  That number could have been bigger, but they effectively ran out of copies.  At BlizzCon they told the tale of the truck load of collector’s editions meant for employees being diverted to the retail channel because the game had sold out.  And that was US sales only, as it didn’t expand to the rest of the world until later.

The Burning Crusade number is probably the most impressive on the list, since it is made up of people who went out to a store and bought a physical copy on day one.  I went down to Fry’s on launch day… not at midnight for the launch party event… that used to be a thing back in the day… but closer to noon, to find pallets of the expansion out in the front of the store.  Blizzard was not going to run short like they did with the initial launch.  The cashier told me that people had been lined up outside the store for a copy earlier, so it was a pretty big deal.

I think the last time I went to the store to buy an expansion was for Wrath of the Lich King.  It has either been digital or Amazon discounted pre-orders since then.  WotLK was also a big seller considering how much of it was physical boxes.

And then there is Mists of Pandaria in the middle there, which they extended out to the first week of sales because it had to fight against both the sense of betrayal that some felt after Cataclysm and the lightweight perception that people had about it because it featured Pokemon-like pet battles and pandas as a race.  It turned out to be a fine expansion, but it had some work to do to overcome that.  I didn’t buy a copy until almost a year after it launched.

Anyway, the 3.4 million number is impressive, though the there ought to be an asterisk after it as well to remind people that the number includes all pre-launch digital sales.  You’ve been able to buy a copy of Battle for Azeroth since late January, so they have had a lot of time to pack in the sales, making the “fastest selling” claim a bit dubious.  (I am pretty sure that title really belongs to The Burning Crusade.)

But there were reasons to buy the expansion early, aside from the usual max level character boost (and mounts and pets if you bought the digital deluxe version).

There were four allied races to unlock (for which we received four more character slots per server) and level up, with special transmog gear if you hit level cap with them.  So, as a “giving people something to do” option it had some additional pull relative to past expansions.  And even that was only worth an additional 100,000 sales I guess.

The real number we’d all like to know, how many people are actually subscribed to World of Warcraft, remains hidden.  Once a staple of the Acitivision-Blizzard quarterly reports, they have kept it hidden since the dark days of late Draenor, when the number dropped to 2006 levels.  I suspect that if the subscriber base passed 13 million they would issue a press release, but the days of being able to track that quarter by quarter… or even pick out WoW‘s revenue from the financial statements… are long gone.  The irony of being a public company; they are required to report important data, but they get to decide what is important.

We will see how Battle for Azeroth does in the longer term.  A lot of people are very happy with the open world story and quest lines and the look of things in general.  But there is still the whole question of Sylvanas, a story line that upset some people in the pre-launch events. (#notmyhorde) And then there are the recycled bits from WoW Legion that pop up pretty quickly.  Those aren’t bad, but they aren’t new either.  Blizzard has had time to learn how to keep people engaged with an expansion.  They did well enough with WoW Legion, even if they did open up the Battle for Azeroth pre-orders seven months before it was done.  They will get to show us what else they have learned I suppose.

My Horde Battle for Azeroth Boost Plan

As has been a thing with the last few expansions, I was wondering how I should use the level 110 boost that came with the Battle for Azeroth expansion.  And, as I suggested in that post, I decided to go the Horde route.

I already had a level 110 Tauren druid, but wasn’t happy with the druid thing in Legion.  The only class with four specs and still I wasn’t happy, eh?

And while I thought about something new, like maybe a monk, in the end I copped out and went with a class I knew I would enjoy.  So now I have a level 110 Blood Elf paladin.

My new pally out in Uldum

Even the name was less than original.  I was running through names to see what I get and I put in the name of a friend who still plays on TorilMUD… and that name was available.  So now I have Nilan the Blood Elf pally.  I’ll have to apologize to the original if he finds out.

I had started working on a different pally with an eye towards getting to level 60 so I could get the trade skill boost along with the level boost… but then I found out that the trade skill boost went away with the 8.0 patch, when they redid how profession skills are distributed.  I was bummed on that.

On the other hand, during my nosing around to figure that out I ran across a suggested plan for how to boost a character.  Apparently if you roll up a fresh character and use the option to try it out at level 100 and then boost from there, you get more stuff.  An extra set of 22 slots bags is always appreciated, but better still you get a level three garrison in Warlords of Draenor if you go that route, with some key buildings already setup and a suite of followers.

This, and the changes to professions so that they are now served up per expansion rather than as one long, 800+ point single continuum, made up for the lack of trade skill boost.  The only reason I wanted the boost was to be able to make some 30 slot hexweave bags.  I am pretty much on track for that now.

All I need are the materials and I am set

Covered on that front I, ran him through the pre-expansion events in order to see them from the Horde side then, when the expansion actually hit, I ran off with Vikund, my alliance paladin and the oldest character I still play, and went to Kul Tiras with Jaina.

Having gotten stuck into that a bit, and impressed with the lay of the land, I decided I wanted a peek at Zandalar.

There are some spoilers about the Horde starting event past this point.  Not a lot of details, but key events are covered.  If you want to stop here, just know that if you’re going to run them both and you want to do them in chronological sequence, you should do the Horde first, then the Alliance.

That starts off the same way on the Horde as it does the Alliance.  You have to run off to Silithus to wrap things up and get the Heart of Azeroth so you can play with azerite.

Still looks like a magic pocket watch to me…

Then you’re back to Orgrimmar where Sylvanas has a new task for your.  She wants you to go on a raid to Stormwind to break out some prisoners from the stockades.

In the Stockades you visit Saurfang who, like many players, is still bitter about what happened during the pre-expansion events.

In Saurfang’s cell

He won’t escape with you and talks on about honor and seems prime to be the resolution to the Horde Warchief problem at the end of the expansion.

Also on the list of prisoners of interest are a couple of high ranking Zandalari trolls.

They don’t stand out at all in Stormwind…

Sylvanas wants the Zandalari as allies, just as Jaina went to Kul Tiras looking for allies, so these two were a bargaining chip.

As we broke them free we were discovered and ended up in a running battle with the 7th Legion, who dogged our every step as we tried to slip down to the docks where a boat waited to carry us off.

Eventually even Jaina stopped by to say “Hi” to as as we tried to get to the docks.

Not the Jaina I remember from Kul Tiras

However she had other fish to fry… or fires to put out.  It seemed that Stormwind was having a flammability issue.

Seriously, is there anything the Horde won’t try to burn down?

That gave us the breathing room… sans smoke inhalation… to make it on to the boat and set sail.  However the locals set out in pursuit of us.

Stormwind Navy is in hot pursuit…

However, as we sailed through a fog bank and closed in on Zandalar, we met their navy.  They made short work of the Alliance ships, with only one surviving to escape.

The Zandalari open fire

This I recognized from the Alliance starter story.  As you speak to King Anduin Wrynn he is interrupted by a report from the surviving ship about what happened here.  This is what sends the Alliance looking for allies in Kul Tiras and has Jaina back home with her very unhappy mother.

So yes, as I noted above, if you want to do this in chronological order, you should do the Horde starter first, then the Alliance.

After that I was into Zandalar and… and… it was everything I hoped for.

Welcome to Zandalar!

And when I say, “everything I hoped for,” what I mean is something like a Blizzard homage to The Emperor’s New Groove, one of my secret Disney favorites.

I mean, it isn’t blatant… and the city is amazing and beautiful… and it takes itself as seriously as an Azeroth setting can.

With King… and I am not making this up… Rastakhan

But the city is also very over the top, with stairs and giant carvings and images, and when the possibility of the King throwing me out the window came up if he was displease, I will admit I laughed.  It is very much an Andean civilization setting in its way… only with dinosaurs.

Even flying dinosaurs

Anyway, you get yourself setup in the city without the inconvenience of having to escape from jail or anything.  Portals are opened to the Horde cities so you can get back home, you get a tour of the location and can check in with the profession trainers to get the current starting level for the expansion.

Then it was time to choose a zone to start in.  As with Kul Tiras, there are three zones on Zandalar to choose from.

The zone choice map

I did not make a choice yet, though there is a story for each zone.

This is the reason I wanted to boost a level 110 Horde in a class I enjoyed, so I could see all six of the initial zones and run through the stories within.

Of course, it turns out that just because you’re Alliance it doesn’t mean you won’t be running around on Zandalar.  Vikund had already been for a visit.

Warning: Heart of Darkness references ahead…

But that is a tale for another post.