With the big squish last week came a new introduction experience for players starting off in World of Warcraft.
You can still use the old-ish race-specific starter zones, but Blizz has rolled up this whole new zone to help get people going, so I figured I would give it a look. So I rolled up a Gnome hunter… mechanical pets for the win… and chose that as my starter path.
When you load in you find yourself on a boat.
A nice boat.
And, of course, my first thought on seeing the boat was, “Oh, we’re going to do the ship wreck starter trope, aren’t we?”
Seriously, the industry needs to sit down and brainstorm some game starting options beyond “jail break,” “ship wreck,” “amnesia,” and “lets just not talk about it.”
On the boat you go through the basics of move and attack and what the UI elements mean.
This was pretty clear, though I have the problem of already knowing how to do these things, so I sometimes get ahead of the tutorial or do things that they don’t want you to do yet.
Meanwhile, the weather was beginning to get stormy… because of course it was.
And, sure enough, you end up in the water as the ship goes down.
On the beach you go meet up with the captain and start going through a series of quests and see the usual things.
It is really two series of quests. There is a main story, but you also get a series of quests related to your class. As a hunter, that meant learning how to tame and hand a pet as well as using traps.
I will say that one of the things that kept tripping me up was the fact that most of my hunter experience over the last year was in WoW Classic, so I kept looking for ammo and pet skills and stuff like that. Things have changed a lot over the years, and swapping straight from 2006 to 2020 puts the two eras in sharp relief.
Also on the odd front, when I was learning about hunter skills, I got the achievement for completing 100 quests.
That was odd, since I would say by then I had maybe done a dozen. I saw somebody else get the 50 quests complete achievement as well, so something is clearly up with the quest counter.
I made it through the hunter training, then took a break. When I came back, Ula and Skronk from the instance group were on and into experience as well. We were able to group up and share notes and finish the last bits of the tutorial.
After fighting through some ogres, the final task is to do an instance run. As with much of the tutorial, a pop up was displayed to tell us what to do. In this case, it was to use the Dungeon Finder to enter the instance.
This highlighted the problem of these pop up notifications. I had already experienced a couple of them that wouldn’t go away. If you earn a new skill or pick up some new gear, there is a pop up to inform you. But if I already dragged the skill to my action bar, or dragged it to an action bar other than the one indicated, the pop up would stay there, annoyingly telling me to do the thing I had already done.
Furthermore, I had a couple of cases where, even after having successfully satisfied the pop up’s request it came back later to tell me to drag the same skill to the action bar.
But the Dungeon Finder pop up was a special hell. Since we were already in a group, only the group leader could press the button to send us into the instance, which meant the other two could never dismiss that pop up.
Fortunately for me, with the big monitor, it was easy enough to ignore that pop up way down in the lower right corner, but it still managed to grab my eye every once in a while as we ran through the instance.
In the instance you have some NPCs to guide you as you move along to the final boss fight.
You learn to the mechanics of running an instance, including the fact that sometimes everybody gets loot but you.
We wrapped that up, left the instance, and turned in the quest for that, which popped Ula and I up to level 10. Skronk… Fergorin… was still a couple of chiclets shy of the level, so we ran around and killed orges and looked for missed quests until he made it. Then it was time to take our final, definitive leave of Exile’s Reach.
When you’re ready to go, you are flown off over the island for one last glimpse, then it is off to Stormwind.
Once in Stormwind we grouped up and followed the quest path that welcomes you to the city. You visit a few locations, get to buy your riding skill and get handed a mount. (Though, thanks to mounts being account-wide I already had that mount, plus access to more than 200 additional mounts.)
We hit a point where the quest sent us off to meet with King Anduin, which felt like the start of the BFA intro, so we ran off to find Chromie in order to choose our timeline. We wanted to go back to Wrath of the Lich King. However, Chromie wasn’t having it. So I ran back and spoke to the king and went through his quests.
I didn’t want to have to keep running back and forth to check with Chromie, so I ended up doing the full intro into BFA… which meant doing the jail break start, so two tropes in one night… up through the intro to Boralus Harbor quests, which ends at the flight point.
I stoned back to Stormwind then and rode back to Chromie. At that point I was able to choose my timeline in the way I indicated in my previous WoW post. I reported back to the others on this and they followed in my footsteps and got lined up for Northrend as well.
But I had heard other people say that you should get an option to talk to Chromie before that. So later on I rolled up a Horde character, a goblin warrior, and ran through Exile’s Reach again, both to see it from the Horde side and to see if I missed the turn-off to Chromie.
The Horde version of the island is mostly the same. Sure, you get orcs and goblins and a more sinister looking boat.
The story is 90% identical for Alliance and Horde, though I did spot at least one amusing difference that hinged on the difference between gnome and goblin engineering. I also got the achievement for 100 quests again at the same point I had with my Alliance hunter, so there is something about my account that must be incremented to cause that.
I also spotted a few more flashing help messages.
I made it through to the end… I’d guess you could roll through the whole thing in 30 minutes if you were efficient… certainly less than an hour… and flew off to Orgrimmar after finishing the instance (with strangers this time, so I was able to use… and thus dismiss the reminder for… the Dungeon Finder) and what not.
There I went through the tour. You have to march all the way over to the Valley of Honor, but it is all in a day’s intro. And when we got to the point where that seemed to be done, I noticed a dialog option with the next quest offered.
I totally did not see that option my first time through, and Ula doesn’t recall having seen it either. It is entirely possible that I just missed it clicking through to the next quest… and I guess that means if you click through too fast you have to go to Boralus Harbor. This time I took the direct option to Chromie.
Chromie looks a little out of place in Orgrimmar.
I mean, she is a dragon and all and just goes around as a gnome or something. But it still must be a bit jarring for your average orc to run across a gnome just hanging out in town.
Anyway, as starting areas go it was as good as most. It was mildly engaging and, while there were a few bugs, a lot of the problems I had were more related to me knowing the game already and getting ahead of myself. Clearly it didn’t think people would group up ahead of running the instance, for example. I suppose it was a good thing there were only three of us, because that is all the instance serves at once.
There is always the question about whether or not learning the mechanics actually teaches you how to play. I found my hunter to be powerful enough that I would just shoot via auto-attack and let my pets do the work, so I didn’t really build up the idea of a rotation. But that can come later.
And, in the end, we got ourselves pointed towards Northrend with some fresh characters, which was our real goal.