Tag Archives: Northrend

Further Adventures in Ice Crown and the Plaguelands

I mentioned the crazy nostalgic feel of the Shadowlands pre-events up in Northrend last week, how being back up in the Argent Tournament and fighting the scourge brought me back about a decade.

That feeling lasted about… three hours I’d say.  I went at it for two hours the day the pre-patch landed, and maybe an hour after that.  Enough to get the Argent Commendations, the event currency, to buy the battle pet that was part of the event.   Then I was back to playing with alts in other expansions because the level squish thing still has my attention.

But then, yesterday, Blizzard dropped the final pre-expansion patch that opened up the second round of quests, so I dropped in again with Vikund to get going on that.

Back again for the next round

I saw somewhere along the line that Blizz had upped the swan rate on the raid bosses appearing in Icecrown.  I hadn’t seen one the last time I was on, but this time they seemed to be popping up with great regularity.  They get an announcement in chat and show up on the map, at which point people rush over to get ready.

Everybody eyeing the boss

And then after a couple of minutes, the boss goes live and everything becomes a chaos of combat effects as the race to burn them down begins.

And then chaos

In between bosses, the live quest chain was a series of the usual tasks, though it did have a decent disguise and infiltrate segment that I enjoyed, and a bombing run, which is something I have liked since the first once back in The Burning Crusade.  There is a final boss fight, then you get sent back to Stormwind to report back to Greymane.

Back to Greymane

Turning in the quest got me the achievement for the pre-patch quests, so I gather than I did the essential story bits.  Now, if only I remembered them.

Death Rising achievement for the event

But Greymane wasn’t done with me yet.  He still had the quest to go out and slay Nathanos Blightcaller in the Eastern Plaguelands for me.  That was the boss a lot of people were talking about last week.  I headed out to the Plaguelands hoping that the interest in him hadn’t died down.

The beautiful brown Plaguelands

I landed at the nearest flight point and flew out to the point marked on the map.  I need not have worried about finding enough people out there.  The battle had begun before I arrived and it was chaos beyond even the boss battles in Icecrown.

He is in there somewhere

My main problem in the fight was actually being able to target him to get a hit in so the kill would count for me.  I threw out some AOE attacks in the middle of the scrum… consecrate for the win… and hoped for the best.  Then a cinematic came up with his final blow.

Nathanos about to get his

Tyrande got the killing blow in the video.  That is the way the lore will go down, though I couldn’t tell who was even hitting him during the fight.

I managed to get in and loot, which netted me a very nice sword, a serious upgrade to my own.

Nice blade

It is a pity it will be replaced pretty much immediately come the new expansion.  But I can enjoy it for a bit I suppose.

I had to loot quickly because I had the zombie taint on me.  The reason I had trouble targeting was that there were player zombies all over the fight.  Like the old days, with the WotLK per-expansion event, they pass on the zombie plague to others.  So I got my drop and then turned into a zombie myself.

Zombie time

I ran around and played with that for a bit.  Fortunately, if you’re tired of being a zombie one of your skills is “zombie explosion” in which you blow up.  That kills you and you can go back to your corpse and revive as your old self.  I did that and quickly flew away and then back to Stormwind for the final turn in.  The reward was more commendations.  I’ll have to see if there is anything else to spend them on.

Meanwhile, the zombie stuff was going on all over.  I got the taint a few more times in Stormwind as people ran around trying to infect people.  I eventually got up and out of the way of traffic and other players to avoid that.

That is a big blade… needs a transmog

I think I have finished up the minimum tour of the pre-expansion event.  I will probably work on some alts between now and the actual launch.  Just five days left to go.

The Scourge are Back in Town

Guess who just got back today
Them wild-eyed ghouls that had been away
Haven’t changed that much to say
But man, I still think them undead are crazy

They were askin’ where you were bound
How you was, where you could be found
Told ’em you were hangin’ ’round
Drivin’ all the Kul Tirans crazy

-Grim Lizzy, The Scourge are Back in Town

I’m out in Northrend, flying around on my silver covenant hippogriff, fighting scourge and doing dailies at the Argent Tournament in Icecrown, so I have to wonder what year it really is.

Playing it cool in Icecrown

I guess my outfit matches and my glasses are not rose tinted, so it can’t be 2009.  Still, the launch of the Shadowlands pre-launch events did spark a bit of nostalgic familiarity in me.

Blizzard invites you to a scourge party

Of course, it all started with a summons.  I logged in with my main and there was a quest waiting for me.  You know they’re serious when they put the blue wax seal of the Alliance on it.

Mathias Shaw at it again

So I took the portal to Stormwind and headed out to Lion’s Rest, the final resting place of Varian Wrynn, to speak with Genn Greymane.  It seemed I wasn’t the only one to get a summons.

A crowd at Lion’s Rest

Even with the the invisible circle of dismounting around Greymane it was tough to see him.  He had a cut scene for me, which included a glimpse of Bolvar Fordragon, the former Lich King, who had his crown removed by Sylvanas Windrunner in the expansion cinematic.  He seemed pretty concerned about Sylvanas and her plans.  I guess she is the bad guy again.


But she seems to be coming for everybody, Horde and Alliance, so we seem to be back to a “patch up the differences and face a common foe” part of the relationship again.  I’ve only seen the Alliance side of things.  I’ll have to go see the Horde side just to see who goes missing there. (Nope, same video on the Horde side.  Maybe they have goblin drone cam over Lion’s Rest.)

Sure, it is Andiun and Greymane there now, but it was only Greymane when I got there

Meanwhile, I was sent off, along with everybody else, to go check in on things and gather scouting reports.  Blizz seemed to feel that only the prime quest givers needed that dismount aura around them, as a few were buried in mounts.

He’s in there somewhere

There were some scourge to slay out in Darkshire, though the main problem was getting to them quickly enough to get on a kill for the quest update.  There was a lot of firepower out there burning them down.  I’m not sure they really had a chance.

That led me back to Stormwind and then on to Northrend, to the Argent Tournament area where the Argent Crusade and Ebon Blade were running the campaign to fight the scourge.

On my way

Also, it was kind of hard to miss the massive hole in the sky as I was headed out there.  It is huge, so big in fact that it is tough to take a screen shot of it with some features to give it scale.

This isn’t climate change doing this, is it?

Oddly, or perhaps not, that hole is only visible when you’re in the Icecrown zone.  Anyway, that is the hole from the early screen shots and cinematic.

Anyway, out at the Argent Tournament there were quests to go slay more scourge, who nicely seemed be be spawning in the tournament practice area primarily.  Again, they barely had a chance to spawn before people were jumping on them.

Waiting for more to spawn

This was one of those times when it was annoying when Horde or Alliance players couldn’t share a kill, save for the big elite in the middle of everything.

The string of quests led on to a group fight to secure a foothold deeper in the zone.

Fighting the big guy at the end of the foothold event

That done, the turn in unlocked daily quests.

Consider the effort advanced

The lead-in quests and the dailies all offer Argent Commendations, which are a Shadowlands currency that can be used to buy items from a vendor who also hands out some quests.  There is an armor set, which is okay.  Somehow even a scrub like me is wearing better, so I am not sure it is worth the effort unless you want the set for transmog.  There is a battle pet though, so I’ll save up for that.

And with that, we’re off to the races with the Shadowlands pre-patch event.  The first week is just under way and the second week will have some new things.  More scourge to slay.

I only had time to get into a bit of what was going on.  WoWHead and Icy Veins both have guides to the event.  I’ll have to go through them to see if there is anything I need to do before the next round.


Arrival in a Level Squished Northrend

I suppose, given the nature of the level squish, I should call it a “level expanded” Northrend.  But it’s current status is a by-product of the level squish, so you get what you get.

In checking out the Shadowlands pre-patch, running through the new starter area is fine and dandy, but it is only a 1-10 level experience that won’t take you more than an hour unless you’re set to explore every nook and cranny of the place.  And for us… Ula, Skronk, and I… the idea was always to go check out Wrath of the Lich King in its new 10-50 incarnation.  So it was off to Northrend!

Northrend awaits

Back in the day WotLK was a level 60-70 experience.

As the level cap grew in WoW though, Blizz started experimenting with expanding the level ranges of some of the older content so that players in a game with a 100+ level cap and an xp curve adjusted to suit that wouldn’t constantly out-level zone and expansion content.

Blizz took a shot at solving this first with the Legion 7.3.5 patch, which expanded the level ranges for expansions and made everything scale to your level within those ranges.  At that point you could go to Northrend at 58 rather than 70 and could stick around until 80.

  • All starting zones scale up to level 10.
  • World of Warcraft Vanilla (Eastern Kingdoms & Kalimdor) scales up to level 60.
  • At level 58, players can choose between Outland or Northrend (capped at level 80).
  • At level 80, players can choose between Cataclysm or Pandaria (capped at level 90).
  • Zones still have a minimum level requirement.
  • Dungeons also scale
  • Quest rewards scale up to your level.

That was not enough.  Levels were still a problem.  And last week we all dropped down to a level cap of 50 with the promise of being able to choose any of the expansions as a route to that, pending the release of the Shadowlands expansion, at which point the cap would go to 60.

I made this graphic, so I am going to use it again

So off we went on the boat to Valliance Keep in Northrend.  Our little group was:

  • Merchi – Level 10 Hunter
  • Fergorin – Level 10 Shaman
  • Mendula – Level 10 Priest

Waiting for Ula… or Mendula

Unlike the old days, one of the first quests you get sends you to Dalaran, a flight point you get by default.  You can also fly directly to Howling Fjord, as that flight point is available as well.  There would be no need to repeat our 2008 ride across the continent.

Our first ride across Northrend

One of the first things I noticed looking at the map… the real map… was that while the expansion now scales from 10 to 50, the individual zones are not all equally accessible.  There are different ranges for the zones.

  • Borean Tundra 10-50
  • Howling Fjord 10-50
  • Dragonblight 15-50
  • Grizzly Hills 15-50
  • Sholazar Basin 20-50
  • Zul’Drak 20-50
  • Crystalsong 25-50
  • Ice Crown 25-50
  • Storm Peaks 25-50

So they haven’t gone full Legion/BFA “all zones are equal” with the scaling.  They do want you to go through the content in some semblance of the original order.  And that is fine.  We didn’t have any intention otherwise.

Running through the initial content was fun.  It has been nearly a dozen years since we did this, but a lot of it remains fairly fresh in my memory.  And what I had forgotten was renewed and fresh again as we moved along.

I didn’t do a lot of posts about particular zones or bits of content back then.

When we got down to the the mist shrouded beach at Riplash Strand and the haunting music I could vividly recall the first night in the expansion.  We were all out there together and I particularly recall being held up on one quest that required you to slay a named mob, Gamel the Cruel.

Gamel, Gamel, bright as a camel…

Back in the day there was no sharing a kill with people outside of your group and there was a crowd of people showing up to slay him.  This wasn’t the happy times of the launch of WoW Classic either, with everybody lining up politely and waiting their turn. (Except Poncho! Never forget Poncho the line cutter!)  I recall standing on his spawn point and casting consecrate with my pally in hopes of getting the first hit on him.  It took quite a few tries before we got him.

But it is not 2008 any more and much has changed.  You can now get a hit on a mob that somebody on your faction has started with and get credit.  And there certainly were no launch day crowds down at the beach with us, though we saw a few other players around almost everywhere we went.

And when we went to get Gamel another player ran up after we had started… a Horde player too.  But he was able to get credit, because the faction exclusion doesn’t apply to named quest mobs.  Everybody gets credit in this happy new world.

We carried on, running down the quests, swimming through the misty water, and advancing down the quest chains.

Swimming in the mists

I had the pumpkin head transmog on because I had to explain how to hide your helm, which used to be a checkbox in the settings… and still is… but which now requires you do interact with a transmog NPC.  Fortunately somebody had the Tundra Yak out in Valliance Keep, so we could use the NPC on that.

And, then when I got a new helm I had to add in that transmog isn’t applied to your character, but to the individual piece of gear, so my pumpkin head was gone.

I also had to bring up… still bitter… about how the Azure Water Strider, the most OP mount in the game and maybe the best thing to come out of Mists of Pandaria, had been nerfed so it no longer let you walk on water by default.  Our mounts had to schlep through the water like suckers.

No walking on water here

We made our way along, found ourselves out at the D.E.H.T.A. camp to run through their quests, then down to the shore and the first interaction with the Kaluak.  I spent a lot of the time with the Kaluak back in the day.  Vikund, my main, still carries the fishing pole he got from reaching exalted status with them.

We finished that up and made it to the airfield.  Along the way we all made it to level 20.

Another achievement

At level 20 the list of things like battle grounds that open up to you can take a while to flash by.

The leveling is probably a bit faster than the rate you might want if you didn’t want to hit level cap before you finished up the expansion, but that is okay.  I’m not sure we’re in it for the long haul, but for now it is fun and memories and an odd mesh between how the game used to be and how it plays now.

What is that diamond? Is this The Sims?

There are still some oddities.

At one point I was standing around and decided to talk to the trade skill trainers.  I trained cooking, then got the option to train Northrend cooking.

Cooking choices

That made some sense to me because Blizz had divided up trade skills into expansion based grouping.  When I trained Northrend cooking I was then able to train up a bunch of recipes.

Then I went to the fishing trainer and that was less clear.

All the fishing

When you get fishing you get the option to train up all the expansion fishing variations.  That seemed kind of odd.  I guess it knows where you are fishing and can apply the skill up to that  area.  But I feel it might have been better to have skipped this one.

And some bugs from Exile’s Reach followed us.  In the starter area you get some skills early on, but later you choose a spec.  If your spec did not include one of the initial skill it stayed on you your hot bar and was usable… until the game tried to push a new skill onto the bar after you left the starter area.  Then the skill would just disappear, replaced on your action bar by a new one.  And it is never well received when things just disappear, so we spent some time trying to figure that one out.

But otherwise it has been a light and fun trip through some old memories.

Ula also wrote a bit about this on her blog.  Check it out.

Three Zones Through the Outlands

The Outlands occupy a strange place now in World of Warcraft.  They represent a hurdle between classic Azeroth and the current destination location of Northrend.  Most people, it seems, don’t want to get to the Outlands, they just want to get past them.

Put me on that list as well, I guess.

My daughter, my mother, and myself have been lingering in the Outlands for a couple of months.  This slow progress has been mostly because my daughter spends a lot of her time distracted making alts, figuring out how to get on top of buildings, and taming new pets for her hunter.

Once in a while though she is driven to actually concentrate on her main character for a bit.  And so it was, a couple of  Sundays back, when she suddnely declared she had hit level 68 and was now ready to venture into Northrend.

That meant there was some catching up to be done!

I was not horribly far behind, sitting around level 65.  I had been through the Hellfire Peninsula quests and was working my way through Zangarmarsh.

A diligent weekend afternoon got me through Zangarmarsh, after which I jumped to Nagrand, which seemed most appropriate for my level.  And then another couple of focused hours in Nagrand got me to 68 and ready to ascend to Northrend.

So three zones worth of content was about enough.

I did divert into Terokkar and the Blade’s Edge Mountains for a couple of “go talk to…” quests, but never ran down the follow-ons.

I also ran one and a half instances with the dungeon finder.  And the half instance was barely that, as I got kicked because, as healer, I couldn’t keep the level 61 tank alive when he pulled full rooms of mobs in the Steamvault.  The group did me a favor on that one.  Good luck to the next healer, I thought, if a level 67 resto spec’d druid running HealBot can’t keep this guy alive.

So there were some other sources of experience, but not enough that I would have had to visit another zone.  I left Nagrand with quests left on my plate.

And so I left The Burning Crusade for Wrath of the Lich King.

I knew the Outlands had more content than needed to get you from 60 to 70, but when you only have to get to 68, you pretty much shave off a whole zone or so worth of content.

And when you can fly at level 60, even the run through those few zones goes pretty quickly.

Now just another seven levels until I can fly again.

Facing Ingvar the Plunderer

The Saturday night after Christmas found us arrayed again before the doors of Utgarde Keep for another fun run.  Our lineup was:

71 Warlock – Bungholio
71 Priest – Skronk
71 Mage – Ula
71 Paladin – Vikund
72 Warrior – Earlthecat

Only Earl had played much over the intervening two weeks, so you might ask why we thought we would do better than previous attempts if not much had changed.  Laziness?  Lack of initiative?  Determination to press on?  Insanity?

You can speculate, but we’re not telling.

We decided to skip anything that we could get past.  That meant that we only killed two of the three groups working the forge and only three of the enslaved proto-drake groups while sneaking past all the rest.

That brought us to Prince Keleseth again.

We killed his four minions and then debated as to whether we could just bypass him or not.

Watching his pacing back and forth, we thought it might be possible, but decided to take him down just to be safe.

We wiped on the first fight due to bad positioning.  We positioned ourselves off to the left, then were talking about the fight when Prince K walked into aggro range and started attacking us.  We nearly pulled it off all the same, but didn’t quite make it.

The second fight, started from a little further back, went much more smoothly and the Prince K went down.

Since last time I had installed the addon “recount” that was suggested by some people as a damage parser.  I reset it before the second Prince K fight, just to see how much a pally with a shield was holding back the group.  The results:

A pally with a shield still does pretty well DPS-wise when it comes to undead I’d say, but I’m afraid to ask what this damage output says about our group overall.

We moved on, plowing through to Skarvald the Constructor and Dalronn the CFO/Controller.

Discussing Year End Results

Discussing Year End Results

This fight took us a few tries.  We seemed to be coming close each time, bringing down Dalronn but not lasting through Skarvald.  His charges during the fight were causing too much damage, even when Earl was tanking Skarvald and Vikund was tanking Dalronn and most of the charges were hitting Vik.

Skarvald Charges, But Pays Off His Balance Every Month

Skarvald Charges, But Pays Off His Balance Every Month

Eventually we went to the web and read that Skarvald has a minimum range on his charges and that if everybody just sticks close, he does not charge.

With that bit of information on our side, we handily won the next fight.  Piece of cake.

Skalvard and Dalronn Down

Skalvard and Dalronn Down

And suddenly we were in new territory.

We fought our way up some more stairs and out into the open, the final battle taking place on the roof of the keep.

Fighting Atop The Keep

Fighting Atop The Keep

You can look out and see all of Howling Fjord around the keep.  Or at least the instanced version of it.  We fought our way onward.

Spiritualist Is A Female Dominated Profession

Spiritualist Is A Female Dominated Profession Among The Vrykul

Until, at last, we faced the final boss.  Ingvar the Plunderer stood before us.

Ingvar Awaits

Ingvar Awaits

His head would finish the last quest and end the instance for us.  We just had to kill him… twice.

You see, you kill Ingvar, which isn’t so tough, and then he comes back from the dead and you have to kill him again, which is a bit tougher.

We had a soul stone handy, so we knew we had at least two tries in us.  We nearly did it.  Both times in the second fight, one of us did not get out of the way of Ingvar’s dark smash in time, an attack that is a one shot kill if you are at all down on hit points.

After our two fights we had to release and start the run back through the instance.  However, as happened last week, we ran into respawns.

Couldn't You Have Taken The Night Off?

Couldn't You Have Taken The Night Off?

The hour was late and we did not want to fight our way back to Ingvar again, so we called off further efforts; so close to our goal, but not quite there.

We took a portal Ironforge where we played with the Crashin’ Thrashin’ Racers we all got for the Feast of Winter Veil.  Vikund even got the associated with the racer for crashing into other racers 25 times.

We’ll be back for Ingvar soon.

The Death of Prince Keleseth

Saturday night and we got the full team into Northrend again.  The lineup was:

70 Warrior – Earlthecat
71 Warlock – Bungholio
71 Priest – Skronk
71 Mage – Ula
71 Paladin – Vikund

And it was back to Utgarde Keep for us!

A level for most of us and some more equipment upgrades along with some research and the advice people offered after our last attempt made us confident enough to go for it.

As before, the initial forge area did not present us much of a problem.   We carved our way through that to the Proto-drake stables.  Here we avoided wiping, having had much practice fighting the beasts.

Drake Fight

Drake Fight

We lost Skronk once in a fight, but otherwise did well.

We fought our way through and eventually found ourselves back at our old familiar resting place on Prince Keleseth’s door step.  We made our plans, summoned our baby blizzard bears, and prepared to fight!

Here We Are Again

Here We Are Again

We cleared his four guests and then brought the action to the Prince.  And we were close.  So very close.

He was under 20% when the wheels came off and the inevitable wipe ensued.

Dead Again

Dead Again

Yet, this was as close as we had ever gotten to killing the prince.  We were enthusiastic.  We were ready.

And we wiped two more times.

But those two wipes were due to mistakes made early on in the fights.

Finally, on the fourth run, with a little bit of tuning to our original plan, it was down with the Prince!

The Prince Is Dead!

The Prince Is Dead!

In fact, the fight felt pretty easy the last time around.  Things went right and well all knew we were going to win by the time we had him half way down.

The one change Vikund made was to go with Seal of Wisdom for the fight rather than Seal of Vengence.  I do not know how much this helped turn the tables, but in the previous fights, Vikund ran out of mana, while in the last fight he was pouring out the concencrates (for those pesky undead helpers) and exorcisms through the whole fight.

Is there a group damage parser that works with 3.0.3?  I’d like to be able to tell how much a change like that made to the fight.

The prince was down and I could take a moment to admire his table, which turned out to be a map.

Northrend - You Are Here

Northrend – You Are Here

So, at last, we were able to move on.  Further into the keep we went until we ended up facing the next boss, or bosses, Skarvald the Constructor and Dalronn the Controller.

We had read ahead in our research and knew that the trick to this fight was that whoever you kill first of the pair comes back as a spirit and continues to kick your ass until you kill the other guy.  The recommended approach is to kill Dalronn first.

Or so we read.

The actual tip that we read said to try to bring down Skarvald’s hit points first, then kill Dalronn, then finish off Skarvald.  Unfortunately, we DoT’d Skarvald up good, so when we switched to Dalronn he died anyway, then came back as a spirit and pounded the crap out of us before we could finish off Dalronn.

Still, it felt like we were close.  A matter of timing as opposed to some huge flaw in the plan.  We did not have a soulstone ready quite yet, so we released and ran back to the instance, only to find…


Spoiled by the Outlands instances, which never seem to respawn, we were surprised to enter the instance and find it held in force against us again.  We had dawldled some in our progress through the instance, stopping for snacks, bios, doggie needs, and moving small, sleeping children to their beds.

We were able to get past the entrance without having to kill everybody and were able to sneak past the forges by hugging the walls.  When we got to the proto-drake pens, the first one we killed had respawned.  It was getting late, we did not want to fight out way through the drakes and such again, so we knew, with the soulstone available again, we would have just two more bites at the apple before we called it a night.

And we blew it both times.  Bad luck early in both fights, those events where you just know you’ve lost before the fight is even really under way, like the priest getting charges by Skarvald and Shadowbolted by Dalronn in the first seconds and dying because, oops, we forgot to buff fully.

We think we can manage it though, next time.   In the mean time Earl is going to go out and get level 71, upgrade some of his remaining gear such as his weapon.

We won’t be back this coming Saturday night however.  We’ll be short two players, so Keleseth, Skarvald, Dalronn, and friends will have to wait until the following week to get theirs.

My First Northrend Level

While I have been impressed with life in Northrend and how things are going with Wrath of the Lich King, I have not been playing a lot.  Non instance group nights have been mostly spent in EverQuest II, exploring Norrath from the Freeport perspective.

Still, I do find myself in Azeroth now and again, chasing down quests that do have a bit more spark and flair than your average “kill 10 foozles” routine.  Among other things I’ve been bombing pirates from a captured horde airship and out hunting with a train falcon.

And, amongst the fun, I found my hunter, Tistann, suddenly level 71.


Of course, a few minutes later I ran into a level 80 death knight.  There was somebody who managed 25 levels in the time I did one.

It isn’t a race, however… well, not since all the server first achievements got finished up.  I’m just enjoying the time I spend in Northrend.

The Ride to Utgarde Keep

The first Saturday night for the instance group after the launch of The Wrath of the Lich King found us wondering what to do.  With a brand new continent to explore and ten more levels to grow, plus as yet unfinished content in the Outlands, the options were wide open.  The line up for the night was:

70 Warlock – Bungholio
70 Warrior – Earlthecat
70 Priest – Skronk
70 Mage – Ula
70 Paladin – Vikund

We thought we should stick with our usual mission, though in the new lands of Northrend, so we decided to take a look in the first instance, Utgarde Keep.

This was a bit presumptuous of us, given that we had only upgraded some of our gear so far and we were struggling a bit back in the Outlands.  But the new expansion smell was intoxicating, so we thought we would give it a try.

We met up in Valiance Keep in the Borean Tundra and started digging around various information sources to figure out just where Utgarde Keep really was.  The expansion being fresh, information was somewhat sparse, but we eventually figured out where we needed to be.

Valiance Keep Harbor

Valiance Keep Harbor

Northrend is shaped somewhat like Australia and we were in Valiance Keep (Perth) and needed to be in Utgarde Keep (Canberra).



(The above image was taken from Wikipedia who in turn took it from the CIA World Fact Book.)

Which, frankly, was a bit out of the way.  But, again, the spirit of adventure was upon us, so we decided to follow the roads east and see where we ended up.

That is very much the way we used to do things in the old days, in EverQuest; just saddle up the horses and ride… except we didn’t have horses back then.  All we had back then was Spirit of the Wolf, and we were happy to get that!

So on we rode!

We ended up on a very nice tour of… south Northrend? … Southrend? … the landscape.  As we went, we tried to pick up the flight points so we would not have to make this long ride again.  We did very well at first, but we missed one or two in the middle, so we do not have cross-country, non-stop service as yet.

The ride was a lot of fun, and my reference to the days of EverQuest and seeing new things was not idle.

There was the Borean Tundra.

See the Aurora

See the Aurora

There was a beautiful snowy area that looked something like the night elves might end up with if they got snow.

Do Those Hooves Melt Snow

Do Those Hooves Melt Snow?

There were areas of icy  tundra with great fissures running through it and a giant tower in the snow.

Do Not Put Your Tongue On The Tower

Do Not Put Your Tongue On The Tower

And, in the usual jarring environmental change common to Azeroth where deserts and tropical forests exist mere steps apart, we ended up in a lush green forested hills, beautiful scenery and fjord turkeys.


Rustic Scenery

Eventually, after making it all the way to the coast and then past the Plain of Jars and back to the center of the Howling Fjord province, we found Utgarde Keep.

Charting Our Course

Charting Our Course

As usual with our navigation, we ended up around on the wrong side of the place, at Utgarde Pinnacle, which you need to be level 75 to enter.  A few minutes and only two falling deaths later, we made our way to the right summoning stone and portal.

Once we were there… and revived… there was nothing for it but to get into the instance.

Getting Ready with the Usual Buffet

Getting Ready with the Usual Buffet

Again, more great artwork.  I have not been a huge fan of the Tesla-inspired electro-plasma dungeons that you find in the Outlands, but here, in Utgarde Keep, I felt at home.  Skronk said it felt very much like a D&D location, and I could not help but agree.  There was even Vulcan’s own forge there to warm us when we got going.

Now There Is A Forge

Now There Is A Forge!

Warily, we started to work our way into the instance.  And things went surprisingly well for a while.  Our only wipe before the first boss due to line-of-sight issues when trying to heal.  Things were looking good.

And then we hit the first boss, Prince Keleseth, and he just worked us.  Not enough equipment upgrades, not enough hit points, and probably the wrong tactics meant that the prince wiped the floor with us five times running.

Prince Keleseth Thinking of New Ways to Kill Us

Prince Keleseth Thinking of New Ways to Kill Us

By that point, after the cross-country travel, we were tired and decided to call it a night.  Soundly thrashed but having had a good time all the same, we left the keep.

Looking for a way out, we headed south a bit and ran almost immediately into Valgarde which, from the looks of it, is the OTHER starting zone for Northrend.

We grabbed the flight point then saw a ship pull up at the dock.  It turns out that ship runs between Valgarde and Menethil Harbor.

Utgarde Keep in the Background

Utgarde Keep Very Close in the Background

So the right path for us would have been to take the boat from Menethil Harbor to Valgarde in Howling Fjord, then run 30 seconds to Utgarde Keep.

That information was not on WoWWiki on Saturday night.

Of course, not having that information made the night an adventure.

I think there is a lesson in that for all of us.

A Peek into Northrend

Of course, we had to get into the game and take a peek at the new expansion.

There were the usual first night queues.


741 people ahead of me ended up being less than a 20 minute wait.

Once in, Skronk, Ula, Bung, and myself headed out to Northrend to scout and run a few quests.

Northrend looks like… well… it looks like Azeroth.  There is a warm familiarity to it.  There are new models for buildings and creatures and the like, so it isn’t just a rehash, but there are cues throughout that remind you that you are no longer on the other side of the dark portal.  There are sections of land right off the dock that feel a bit like Westfall or Tanaris or stretched of Darkshore.

This is a good thing.  Running around an area that has a flavor of Westfall, for example, has a really positive mental association for me.  Westfall was good times.

We ran through quite a few quests, starting the process of equipment upgrades.  Our progress was only really hindered by the occasional quest that required us to slay a named mob.  The location of the named mobs were easy to spot.  They were the points that were being camped by a dozen or so players.

Politeness and waiting your turn quickly went out the door and it became a matter of who could tag the mob first.  We did invite solo players to fill out the empty spot in our group when they were available to try and help out, but having been shoved aside by “Ownage!” shouting reprobates, we were not keen to let others go first.

After over a dozen quests and almost a quarter of a level before we decided to give the questing a rest.  The equipment upgrades were, as expected, significant for non-raiders like ourselves.  Blue socketed Outlands gear was quickly replaced by green quest rewards.

Bung, Skronk, and I decided to quickly roll up Death Knights just to see what that starting area looked like.

Name selection was probably the biggest chore, though I actually got my first choice.  Varsoon, which I felt was totally in character for a  Death Knight was available on our server.

We did the first couple of quests then took a screenshot of ourselves with the Lich King.


It is like getting your picture taken with Mickey Mouse when you visit Disneyland; you just have to do it.

So far the expansion looks good.  It is, of course, crowded like crazy and I suspect it will only get more so come the weekend.  A look around the rest of the game showed Shattrath to be a ghost town but the main cities like Stormwind looked to have a reasonable number of players still hanging out.  The Auction House looked to be quite active, though with the in-game mail system woes, I’m not sure who in their right mind is listing or bidding.

We still have to decided what we’ll do on Saturday night, but I imagine it will involve some time in Northrend.