Tag Archives: WoW Legion

Battle for Azeroth before Fall, Pre-Orders Now

World of Warcraft news is always big news.

Today Blizzard put up the next WoW expansion, Battle for Azeroth, up for pre-orders at the usual price points, $50 for normal and $70 for digital deluxe, which generally nets you a mount and a battle pet.  With my current battle pet mania going on I know where I might be headed.

Battle for Azeroth

Of course, it is always the details that capture my attention, especially anything that might indicate a ship date, and the pre-order page delivers with this line:

Pre-purchase: Battle for Azeroth will be released on or before September 21, 2018.

September 21, 2018 just happens to be the last day of summer on the calendar here in the temperate northern hemisphere.  It will still be warm where I live in any case.

Next on this list is, “Why should I pre-order this today?”

Well, you get that level 110 boost.  Given how long it took me to use the level 100 boost I got with WoW Legion… I think I used it finally in December… that isn’t a big draw for me.  I wouldn’t begin to know which character to boost at this point.  I already have four characters at level 110, and two more fairly close.

The battle pet and mount may take a while to show up.

Digital Deluxe items will be available on or before the release date of the game.

That is a bit vague.  Ah well, some day.

Gilded Ravasaur and Seabraid Stallion mount plus the Baby Tortollan Pet

So the only possible draw is really the promised Allied Races.

Pre-purchase of World of Warcraft: Battle for Azeroth makes available the questlines which enable players to access the Highmountain tauren, Lightforged draenei, Nightborne, and Void elves. To unlock Allied Races quest lines, players must have a level 110 character and have met specific questing and reputation requirements on the factions that each Allied Race is aligned with.

Currently I am ready to go on the Lightforged Draenei, not that I need another alt.  The one I am interested in, the Highmountain Tauren require me to get all that rep again with a Horde character.  Fortunately, for my first time in WoW, I actually have a Horde character at the level cap, so it is doable.  More on that later.

As noted, the pre-order page is up and ready to take your money, though beware there is one small hitch.

Requires World of Warcraft and Legion.

Since WoW Legion is still the current live expansion, and has links right into Battle for Azeroth, you can’t just skip ahead if you do not have WoW Legion yet.

Anyway, you can pre-order today though, as with any Blizzard release, there might be a queue.

And for those keeping score, if the release goes on the last day that will put the time between that and the WoW Legion release at 752 days, which puts it pretty much mid-pack for duration.

  • WoW Launch to The Burning Crusade – 784 days
  • The Burning Crusade to Wrath of the Lich King – 667 days
  • Wrath of the Lich King to Cataclysm – 754 days
  • Cataclysm to Mists of Pandaria – 658 days
  • Mists of Pandaria to Warlords of Draenor – 778 days
  • Warlords of Draenor to Legion – 670 days
  • Legion to Battle for Azeroth – 752 days (estimated)

I suspect that Battle for Azeroth will ship sooner than that however, maybe another August release.  My prediction was that they would get that shipped and be done far enough ahead of BlizzCon 2018 that they could safely talk about WoW Classic with stealing any of the spotlight from the expansion.  We shall see.

Meanwhile the Battle for Azeroth Q&A broadcast has been going on, so I expect all sorts of additional details to pop up today.

A Bit More Bag Space with WoW Patch 7.3.5

I do not write about World of Warcraft patch updates the way I do the ones that come for EVE Online.  Maybe the changes, or the game itself, doesn’t mean as much to me, or maybe the changes in New Eden have more impact.

But this patch is different.  This one has a few items in which I am interested.  And, at the top of the list is something they mentioned in passing back at BlizzCon, that people who have an authentication scheme hooked up to their accounts will get a boost in the size of their default bag.

This grain of sand has been an irritant to many, that one bag slot has been eternally locked in at 16 slots.  It was a fine situation as recently as 2007, but certainly since Wrath of the Lich King and the advent of 20 slot player crafted bags, being stuck with that one sixteen slot bag has felt like a bit of a cruel joke.  I’m busy filling up the bank storage on alts with 30 slot bags, but I still have that 16 slot bag mocking me in slot number one.

So now Blizzard could turn that grain of sand into a pearl, to complete the metaphor I started a paragraph back.  Now they could make us all rejoice rather than grouse and glare at that archaic sixteen slot.

So imagine my reaction to this line in the patch notes:

Accounts protected by an Authenticator and Blizzard SMS Protect gain four extra backpack slots.

Four slots?  That’s it?  We now get a 20 slot bag instead of a 16 slot bag?  Did I mention how many 30 slot bags I have on hand already?

Plenty of 30 slot bags on hand since Draenor

Color me a bit disappointed at the paucity of this size increase.  If Blizzard wants to play the nostalgia card, 2009 bag sizes is not the way to go about it.  Or 2007 bag sizes if you want to count the Harris Pilton Gigantique bag from Burning Crusade.  The game is littered with larger bags, none of which you can put in that first bag slot.  Ugh!

I won’t grouse too much.  My main is literally hauling around so much stuff of late that four slots actually matters.  But don’t expect me to be too thankful given my overflowing supply of 30 slot bags.  I should have known Blizzard was off the mark when it came to bag size when they threw away the name “portable hole” on a 24 slot bag.

Anyway, enough of that.

Also part of the patch is something else I have had my eye on, which is the expanded zone level scaling.  Zones throughout World of Warcraft will now scale, withing set parameters, so you need not worry about out-leveling a zone you want to finish… at least not as quickly as before.

The basic story, which I am stealing from the Icy Veins post, is:

  • 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.

Further details, like the zone listing and minimum level requirements for specific zones are part of that post (or this one at Blizzard Watch which also has the dungeon levels) .

Why am I interested in that?  Well, on my long Azeroth “to do” list there are entries about running through some expansions on the Horde side of the world.  I’ve already done post-Cataclysm 1-60 and most of The Burning Crusade as Horde, but would like to run through Wrath of the Lich King and Mists of Pandaria on that side of the divide as well.  Being able to go straight to Northrend at 58 will be a big help, as will being able to spend 22 levels there.  I have a level 57 orc hunter ready to go on that front.

On the other hand, I am not sure how this will play out for anybody coming to the game for the first time.  There are still people who do that.  My daughter is trying to recruit a dungeon group from some of her friends, most of whom have never played WoW or any other MMORPG. (Still a niche market.)

This does change the nature of the leveling experience yet again and I am not sure if the freedom of action as to which zones you can play through will have enough structure to it to keep people on track.  But then the old “if you are level n to n+5 you must be in zone x!” system wasn’t always that great either, and Blizz has gotten better at telling you where you ought to go and all that.  We’ll see.  The only thing I know for sure is that somebody will hate the change because somebody always hates every change.

In addition to zone and dungeon scaling, all dungeons now use the “personal loot” option, where you no longer roll for loot… or have a master looter… instead the game picks people from the group at random and gives them a loot drop appropriate to their class and spec.  Again, I am sure somebody will hate this.

And with dungeon scaling all holiday dungeon events will now be available for anybody level 20 and up.  I will have even more shots at the headless horseman’s mount this year.

I was interested to see that, as part of this, Blizz also decided to simplify the whole “I have to buy yet another flying skill” issue by rolling all the simple, level gated flying options into the Expert Flying skill.  With that you’re good to go, no more Cold Weather Flying and what not.  You still need achievements for Draenor and the Broken Isles, but that unlock is account wide, so if you main has it you’re good with any alts.

With all of that there is also now Ulduar Timewalking and some achievement changes related to that, some class tweaks, a new battleground, updates to the S.E.L.F.I.E. toy (while some other toys have had their ability to cause other players to take actions restricted), and a new WoW Legion quest line that will take you to Silithus.

So that is another WoW update.  You can peruse the patch notes yourself and find analysis on all the sites that cover WoW.

I am still waiting for them to fix the spiral ramp up to the flight master in Thunder Bluff to stop it from dismounting you, the way they fixed that stretch in Stormwind that used to do the same when you were riding to the flight master, but I suspect my waiting for that will be in vain.

This being a WoW patch with some significant changes, other people in the neighborhood are also discussing it and what it portends.

Addendum: Bag space upgrade confirmed.

Four more slots

I want more, but I’ll take four.

Pet Battles – Beyond Catching Them All

When Pet Battles were announced as a feature of the Mists of Pandaria expansion for World of Warcraft I was a skeptical.  Pets had been a thing forever in Azeroth, if a bit rare.  I remember getting that worg pup and a spider back in vanilla WoW, but they were akin to mounts back then in that they took up bag space and didn’t do much when brought out aside from follow you around… though that was enough at times.

Children’s Week brought along some more pets to show off, first in Azeroth then the Outland version.  Things evolved, pets and mounts became manageable through a different interface, ceased to take up an inventory slot per pet, and became cross-wide items.  I collected some along the way, including a few from BlizzCon Virtual Tickets, because I tend to be a collector and also because achievements began to show up for them.

Grunty from BlizzCon 2009

Still, as a Pokemon player I was dubious about Blizzard attempting to graft something akin to Pokemon game play onto WoW.  When I did finally pick up Mists of Pandaria during its second year, I treated pet battles as more of a collection game than anything else.  I picked up pets opportunistically as they appears, tried my hand against a few of the NPC pet masters, but generally treated it as very much a secondary or tertiary activity.

It wasn’t until Warlords of Draenor and the need to defeat some bigger pets in order to unlock the menagerie in the garrison that I started to consider doing more than level up a few pets for a catching group.  Then I started building something of a pet army, enabled by the Pet Battle Teams addon.

At that point I built up teams to defeat the pet battle masters throughout the game as well as the daily garrison challenge.  I leveled up pets and collected the badges to buy stones to upgrade their quality, but I never quite got around to the Celestial Tournament, the big pet battle event on Timeless Isle in Pandaria.

Before I got to that I burned out on Warlords of Draenor and garrisons and did not return until WoW Legion was looming.  At that point I was more about getting flying in Draenor then the pre-launch events for WoW Legion and then the opening of the expansion itself, during which time battle pets were not a priority.  After my initial run to 110 in WoW Legion I tired and took another break.  It was only with my return late last year, after switching to the Rematch addon for pet battles, that I was back in the saddle.

The main Rematch UI

But I still wasn’t up for the Celestial Tournament.

The Celestial Tournament is a series of seven battles against a couple sets of possible foes, three battle masters and four epic pets, during which you cannot heal or revive any of your own pets.  It your Pokemon faints battle pet passes out they are out and if you need that battle pet again you had better have a dupe.

While I have read that you can do the Celestial Tournament with as few as 18 level 25 pets, they do have to be the right pets.  I was able to put together teams from my 500 pets to take out the initial three masters, but the four epic pets would thwarts me every time.  Looking at guides, I discovered that I lacked most of the recommended pets for these battles.  So my goal became hunting those down and then leveling them up.

A few possible contenders, like the Iron Starlette, I had but just needed to level up.  Some candidates were fairly easy to find.  I stumbled upon an Unborn Val’kyr on my first attempt to find one, and bagged a pair of Emerald Proto-Whelps along the way.  Others took a bit more time.  I had to run through Ahn’Qiraj about a dozen times before I managed to get the Anubisath Idol pet as a drop.

Anubisath Idol up front in Pandaria

I also came up with a daily leveling routine that would take a level 1 battle pet all the way up to level 25 in five fights, which I will post about later.

In the mean time I took on the Wailing Caverns and Deadmines pet battle dungeons.  Those are somewhat easier events based on the Celestial Tournament model, where you battle a series of challenges in the dungeon environment but cannot heal or revive your pets.  Doing Wailing Caverns has a chance to award pets when you finish, while the Deadmines awards you tokens that you can use to buy one of three pets.

At the Mining Monkey in the Deadmines

Then one evening as I was killing the same mobs over and over on the Isle of Giants in Pandaria looking for one of the Zandalari pet drops, I decided that maybe I ought to go check out the auction house.  Most pets you catch can’t be traded, but some you get through other means can be caged and handed off or listed at the auction house.

A visit to the auction house and 50,000 gold later and I had filled most of the gaps in my potential Celestial Tournament line up.  (Remember when that was a lot of money?)  I wasn’t aware that quite so many pets were tradeable.  Granted, they were all level 1, so I had some leveling up work to do, and a few need to be boosted to rare quality, but I had a clear path forward.

And then, when adding those pets to my collection I crossed the 600 pet mark, which gets you an achievement and another pet.

Stormwing is the reward pet

Meanwhile, I stumbled across another achievement reward out in the Broken Isles when I did the 30th unique world quest pet battle.  That gives you a token to up your battle pet storage.

Space for 1500 pets

I was actually starting to wonder about storage.  The initial limit was 1,000 pets and, while there are only currently 946 pets you can get (Warcraft pets says that number is 917, with 960 total, so take your pick) you can have dupes.  You can catch up to three of any pet… and I have dupes of some of my more useful ones… plus any pets that pre-dated Mists of Pandaria you got one for every character that had it, which is how I ended up with five Creepy Crates in my collection.  So my total was edging up towards 800.  But now I have more breathing room on that front.

At this point I think I have all my Celestial Tournament pets at 25 and boosted to rare quality, so I plan to give that a serious run this weekend.

And collecting… that keeps on going.  My count is currently at 614 unique pets and I have a bunch I can still get if I work at it.  I’ll never get to the full 946 though.

Recount collection stats

That count includes pets that came with collector’s editions of the game and, while you can find a collector’s edition of the 2004 release of WoW still, the price is way too steep for me.

Legion in the New Year

The Feast of Winter Veil is behind us.  The decorations have been taken down, Santa and the Smokeywood Pastures vendor have packed their bags and headed home, and all has returned to normal here in the new year.

I must admit I did not do much with the Winter Veil event in Azeroth this year.  I collected my gifts and treats from under the tree in Ironforge, but that was about it.

Happy Winter Veil… yummy

Instead I have kept chugging along on my own goals, logging in daily to do a few things and occasionally pressing on into uncharted territory.

Having flying unlocked has made running alts up to the level cap considerably easier.  I don’t mind having had to walk or ride everywhere for my first trips through the zones.  In fact, Blizz did their best to make that less onerous that it might have been otherwise, especially when working on world quests for reputation, via the flight master’s whistle that would picked you up and drop you at the nearest flight master.

So very nice

As good as that was however, flying both ways is still quicker than walking one way and hitching a ride back.

With flying I now have my hunter, the traditional second character I work on, up to level 110 along with a rogue and have a death knight well on the way.  Meanwhile I have been working on exalted status with the local factions via world quests with Vikund, my main.

I have to admit that I really like the way that Blizz worked the whole daily quest routing in Legion with world quests.  Those are the primary method for boosting your faction standings and if you are dying to get there ASAP you can work your way around the map doing them.

Or, if you’re like me and don’t want to burn out, you can just do the daily emissary quest.  Every day you get a new emissary quest on the map for one of the factions.  All you have to do is travel to their zone, do four world quests, then turn in the quest with the emissary for that faction and you get a nice 1,500 point boost to your standing.  And the emissary quests persist for a couple of days, so if you skip a day or two you can still pick up the ones you missed.

This totally works for me.

I do the emissary quest with Vikund and then usually move on to something else, often pet battles.

I actually have a couple of posts brewing about pet battles, including one on how I am building up my pet battle army by leveling up a pet a day from 1 to 25 by doing just 5 trainer battles.  Again, I like pet battles but am wary of over-indulging lest I burn out, so I have a nice easy routine, after which I do something else.  Sometimes that is hunting down another pet I do not have or doing some of the world quest pet battles for supplies.

That does bring me back to my garrison in Draenor for the menagerie every day as a start.  As much as I felt the garrison was not ideal… it was not housing or personalized but it did pull people out of the world… I still end up using it.

In addition to starting off my daily pet battle routine there I also bring my rogue back there regularly to collect hexweave cloth… and the ingredients to make it… to make 30 slot hexweave bags. I can crank out one of those about every other day so soon all my alts and their bank slots will have 30 slot containers.  I also send some to my daughter.  Bag space all around.

And I have finally moved into Argus.

Oh the places you’ll go…

I had the initial quest line for that open up to me ages ago and did the first steps, but then set that aside in favor of working on flying, the Paladin order quest line, and pet battles.  But now that I have flying and have capped off most of the order hall stuff I plan to do, I figured I ought to move forward.

Of course, there is no flying on Argus.  Ah well.  That probably means I won’t go there with a bunch of alts.  But I will bring my main out there and do all the things, so to speak, so as to see all of the expansion available to me.

Argus is interesting.  My first brush with it was a bit of a chore until I figured that bringing along one of my followers as a helper made things much more manageable.  So I am following the story line there under an alien sky… a sky with a huge object lolling about.

Hrmm, that planet looks familiar

Anyway, I continue on with WoW, still enjoying it on this return trip.

Flying Unlocked in Legion

That actually went more smoothly/quickly than I thought it would.

When I came back to WoW in late October I was wandering around in search of a goal to get me back into the game and, naturally enough, flying was my choice.  I still had to unlock world quests, do the Suramar quest chains, and get myself revered with a series of factions.  But that seems like a decent mid-to-longer term goal.

A side goal in the whole thing was not to burn myself out on the game in trying to unlock flying as soon as possible.  I could have gone after world quests in a big way, running them down constantly, and have gotten tired of the whole affair pretty quickly.

Instead I mostly just rolled with the emissary quests, the daily set of world quests for a specified faction.  You do four of them and you get a nice bonus boost of faction.  I would do those, then move on to something else, like pet battles or working on an alt.

Soon enough I had a few factions at revered, and most of the rest close.  The exception was The Wardens, which seemed to be lagging behind.  They were only just honored when I had another faction already at revered.  So I made a point of hitting a world quest or two for them every day as well.

I also used the anniversary event to boost my faction yield.  Likewise, with Darkmoon Faire up this past week I made sure to ride the merry-go-round for the one hour faction/exp gain boost before I went off to do my quests.

Riding for a faction boost!

By Friday I had the Legionfall Commander achievement wrapped up, having done enough on the Broken Shore for that and the exploration achievement.

That meant the Broken Isles Pathfinder Part Two achievement was set, save for the fact that you need Part One as well.

It was then just The Wardens left, about 2,000 faction points shy of revered.  So I decided to binge a bit, sprint to the finish, using the last day of Darkmoon Faire to boost me a bit.  That got me close, a couple hundred shy of my goal. I would have kept going, but world quests for The Wardens dried up for me.

This morning however, there were two waiting for me.  I flew off and did one that left me just 45 points shy.  The second one was in an awkward corner of Suramar, and as I was planning how to best ride out there I realized that I had my daily Vanguard of the Silver Hand token to pick up.

Get One World Quest Free!

That lets you send out an NPC squad to run one non-elite world quest every 18 hours, which is effectively daily.  I headed back to the Paladin order hall, picked that up, stood over in a likely spot for a screen shot, and sent them on their way to pick up that final run for The Wardens.

The moment

It was actually a bit too dark where I stood.  My shoulders do stand out though!  That gave me a short cascade of achievements.

The Achievements of the Day

Now I wondered if I had to do anything else.  So I went back out into Dalaran to see if I could simply fly at that point.  Sure enough, off I went into the skies of the Broken Isles.

First Flight in Legion

And of course, that also means that flying is unlocked in WoW Legion for all of my characters.  I have been working my hunter up to 110 as one of my side tasks.  Now he will be able to fly to his quests as well.

Tistann over the Broken Shore zone

Now I have to figure out what to do next.  I will carry on with pet battles and alts.  I have Argus still to finish up. (And no flying there!)  And then I have to see if it is worth getting exalted with any of these factions.  At revered they all seem to have a battle pet for sale, and I like that, but I haven’t explored what exalted might get me.  Mounts?  Are there mounts?

Anyway, I’ve walked my last mandated mile in the main part of the expansion.  Now to fly free where I can, collect those remaining hidden treasures, and probably haul my daughter around to help her get flying unlocked as well.

Timewalking to Northrend

Timewalking has been in World of Warcraft for a while now.  This is where they open up dungeons from past expansions, reworked to support players in the current expansion.

Re-using old content and making it viable in the current context/meta of the game is something I am totally in favor of.  I just haven’t participated in the whole Timewalking thing up until now.

That is mostly because I haven’t been subscribed and playing for about the last year, so I missed the previous events.  Now that I am back though I took an evening to look into what was going on.

I was lured in by the fact that the current event is for dungeons from the Wrath of the Lich King expansion, which was provably the peak of my interest in WoW.

That was the only expansion I stuck with from day one through until the next expansion drop.  Unfortunately, the next drop was Cataclysm, about which I have a list of gripes, and which started my pattern of starting expansions, go away for six months to a year, then coming back to finish them off after Blizz has unlocked all the content and fixed the more egregious issues.

(As an aside, Wrath of the Lich King was launched nine years ago yesterday.  That seems like a long time ago now.)

However, now that I am back and enjoying Legion, timewalking is also an option, of course I was going to indulge myself in the current even and travel back to Northrend and the instances I knew so well at one point.

I did a couple of the instances before figuring out that there was a quest for the event that would award some additional benefit in the form of vendor tokens, so I grabbed that and kept on going for a while.  Going back to the old haunts was a nice little break from Suramar, and didn’t slow me down too much.  I have been on a WoW binge for a bit now.

Slaying King Ymiron again

The event was popular so queuing for it in Dungeon Finder was quick, even as DPS.

I wasn’t sure what to expect from the dungeons themselves and how they might scale or what drops one might get.  I was quite happy with the ilevel 880 timewarped Northrend gear I got, which was both an upgrade over what I was currently wearing as well as giving me a bit of the old school WotLK look.

Vikund and the Knights who say “Ni!”

There were also artifact boosts for every boss and vendor tokens along the way, though the drops from dungeon mobs themselves were still seemed to be in the WotLK level range.

Finding the vendor took a minute though.  When I completed the event quest it told me to go find the vendor in Dalaran.  However, he was nowhere to be seen in the Legion Dalaran, so I had to think about the best way to get to the WotLK Dalaran, the two co-existing in the game.

I decided to take the portal to the Vale of Eternal Blossoms in Pandaria from the Legion Dalaran, remembering that there was a portal from there to the WotLK Dalaran.

Passing through Pandaria

That got me to the correct Dalaran where I was able to find the vendor, standing in the center of town with a crowd around him.

The vendor is in there somewhere

The quest turn in actually gave me quite a few tokens to play with, tripling the tokens I had earned along the way.

The reward

The tokens can be turned in for various bits of gear… though honestly I got so many upgrades that there was only one piece that was a semi-side-grade for me… or tokens to up your standings with various Northrend factions… not helpful since I am exalted with all the factions for which there are tokens… and some expensive things like a mount.  I’d have to run a lot more dungeons to get there.

The list of things from the vendor are over at the WoW Head timewalking guide.

It was there that I also learned that there were only six dungeons in play for timewalking, which explains why I saw some repeats.

The limited rotation wasn’t all bad.  My main worry was pulling The Oculus, the gimmick instance most likely to cause a rift in a group in the entire expansion.  Dungeon Finder groups fall apart doing that on normal mode.

What is probably my all-time most run instance ever, The Nexus, was on the list so I got to run a victory lap there.  I even remembered to jump during the last fight.

Still, I wouldn’t have minded doing Utgarde Keep or a couple of the others.

Which leads us down to the experience of running the instances now, so many years later.

On the one hand, it was fun in its own way to romp through a few old places.  I even remembered how most of the fights went.

On the flip side the problems with both timewalking and Dungeon Finder were apparent.

The ilevel reduction to make the instances something of a challenge doesn’t seem to be enough.  This is doubly so since I noticed I was getting credit for doing Heroic instances in doing these timewalking dungeons.  The power/difficulty ratio barely put these on par with normal mode dungeons at level.

And then the real problem with Dungeon Finder, which isn’t jerks or the unhelpful, who tend to be rare in my experience, but the speed.  When you’re in a group with strangers you’re not there to share an experience but get the reward for completion.  So each of these runs became races through the content, made all the more hasty by the ease with which we tore through boss after boss.

Ideally I would have liked to go through these old instances in a pre-made group, preferably the old instance group, to savor a bit of the history, to sit a while and listen to what the bosses have to say, to actually enjoy the fights.  But you go with the options you have, and random Dungeon Finder groups are the only choice some of us have, so you have to make the most of it.

Through Suramar and the Class Hall Quest Line

The Suramar zone has a lot of quests.

As noted previously I floundered about a bit figuring out where the lead-in for the zone was, eventually catching up with Khadgar and getting on the right path.  But that is quite a path.

To start with there is a whole quest chain series to run through… not a zone’s worth relative to the other zones, but maybe half that amount… to get the Nightborne up and running and willing to start you off on the actual series of quest chains for the zone achievement that is on the path to unlock flying.

Suramar itself is in the shape of a section of a circle, an arc with open countryside and ruins on the outside two thirds of the arc.

Suramar Zone Map

The outside boundaries are a bit rough, but it is mostly an arc.  It is in this outer area where you start to delve into the tale of the Nightborne, their deeds and sites, and their huge mana addiction.

Basically, the whole story is about a bunch of isolationist night elves who became junkies, slaves to their mana addiction, how they got tied up with the Legion, and the search by one underground group to rid themselves of the Legion and to find the mythical mana methadone equivalent.  You seriously have to get the quest givers a fix before they’ll talk to you if they are Jonesing.

Fortunately bits of mana are literally sitting all over the countryside and by a few quests in you’ve been given the power to see such mana nodes on your mini-map, all the better to keep your Nightborne buddies lit and sweet.

There is even a sort of mana pool game you have to play.  When you start out there is a hard limit on how much mana you can acquire, but one of the rewards you get as you move along is boosts to the total pool you can have.  Nothing like ending up in a mana rich area and finding you’re already full up, though at least some of the nodes yield crystals, good for 50 or 100 mana, that go into your inventory as a secondary storage which can be accessed later.

Once you have followed through setting things up in the outer arc, the quest line begins to focus on Suramar City in the center of the circle.

Gonna go down to Suramar City…

There you get in touch with the underground seeking to overthrow the Legion and their Nightborne allies.

Suramar City itself reminds me a bit of Annuminas in Evendim back in LOTRO, at least in its semi-circular form around a central bay/harbor and the somewhat overwrought grandness of its structures.

Gazing across Suramar City

I like how fantasy cities all seemed to have been built by one architect.  Nobody dares violate the style guidelines.

The city has an interesting game mechanic.  To those running the city you are a hostile outsider who is kill on sight, so the underground hooks you up with a disguise that mostly fools the bads.  However, some of those bads possess “true sight” which allows them to see through your disguise.  Fortunately for you, you can spot them a mile away by the glowing blue eyeball hovering above them when you are disguised.

Skirting past some true sight guards in a sedan chair

If you get too close they call you out and you have to either get away quickly or kill them.  Once combat starts… or once they identify you… your disguise drops and any other guards in the area will also join in.

And so you do your bit for the underground, avoiding true sight and recruiting allies, assassinating foes, and generally sowing discord.  It can be a nifty and immersive experience.  Also, the grapple mechanic from Stormheim is a thing in Suramar City and you can get up onto the room tops at various points… though you mostly do that to find treasure boxes and bits of stray mana to keep everybody sweet.

There is one guy along the quest chain who wants 1,200 mana to carry on, which at that point is most of what you can carry and he just asked for 800 mana a bit ago, so I spent some time just refreshing my supply.  It is a good thing that the stuff is lying about all over, to such an extent that you might wonder who couldn’t keep themselves supplied, but maybe they’re all just high and can’t be bothered.

Still, while this is all good fun, and I enjoyed it quite a bit, there are some kinks in the plan.  There are a series of solo quests that require you to run through the Moonlit Landing area of Suramar city in order to speak to people, pick up a few items, or kill a few foes.

However, what distinguishes the Moonlit Landing is that most of the guards both have true sight and are elite.

Yeah, yeah, out in the open world “elite” doesn’t mean the same thing as it does in a dungeon or a raid.  For the most part an open world elite means that you can probably solo it with some effort/competence, but that getting a couple of them on you is bad news.  The problem is that the true sight elites are packed in tight so the idea that you’re going to get spotted in the middle of the area and only have to fight one at a tight is unlikely in the extreme.

If you’re very patient you could probably get through with stealth.  If you are very lucky you could probably get through skirting the edge of detection circles while speeding through.

For the rest of us, there are alternative means.

There were a couple that I managed to do by using the good old Goblin Glider kit to jump off from the vineyard level above Moonlit Landing to glide on down to the person I needed to speak to or the dingus I needed to acquire or modify.  From there I used the whistle you get when you open up world quests… and this may be the best thing ever for those who don’t have flying yet… that summons a flying mount to take you to the nearest flight point.

And then there were a couple I did by the brute force corpse and revive method.  I didn’t start out with that as a plan, but I had to speak to three NPCs in the midst of the area and I failed at stealth and speed, so I just ran to a safe spot near the first one and died.  Then I ran back as a spirit, revived, spoke to the NPC, then ran for the next one, died in a safe spot, revived, and then again for the third one.

Finally, I had to kill some of the elites for drops.  Again, killing one is possible, but getting a group means you die.  I found a couple on the periphery and pulled them out into the water to take them down, a plan that worked three out of four times.

Fighting my pull in the water

The first time I did it I didn’t see the other guards behind something on the dock, but still managed to slay my target before dying, so I could loot him after I revived.

It wasn’t horrible, and it did provide a challenge of sorts with a few possible solutions, but I could see those quests being a real barrier to some people.  I told my daughter that when she gets there I’ll help her out, either healing for her DK if we need to brute force some of it or flying her in for some of the trickier ones.  But she might not need my help as she is generally more savvy at that sort of thing than I am.

The other issue turned out to be less of an issue than I thought it might be.  You get sent off to slay Xavius in the Emerald Nightmare raid.  On the plus side it was doable with the LFR version of the raid, so I queued up for the Xavius section of that thinking that I might be a couple hours getting through it.

However, that section of the raid is a few quick fights and then Xavius shows up.  Our group took him down without issue and I was able to run off to Cenarius, pick up the required quest item… which doesn’t drop with Xavius but is stilling next to Cenarius… and be done.

After the fight

I spent more time waiting in the queue for the raid… maybe 10 minutes… than it took to get through it.  It went so fast I forgot to take a screen shot until I was done.

The raid and that final venture into Moonlit Landing were the last real hurdles.  There were a pair of quests that required me to do Heroic instances, which I felt would be a real problem… everybody is fine with sloppy in easy normal mode, but in Heroic people start hating strangers when the difficulty ramps up… but those turned out to be option for the achievement.

So I finished out the quest chain which knocked out a couple of achievements for me, the important one being Loremaster of Legion, one of the five required for the Broken Isles Pathfinder (Part One) achievement that gates flying.

Meanwhile, along the way I also managed to complete my order hall class quest. I had a little bit of trouble figuring out where this quest was and ended up getting both of the other paladin artifact weapons… the same orange punctuation heralds both quest types… before finally getting on the right path.  That also rained down some achievements on me.

Class Hall Quest Results

You get the new champions as soon as the chain is done, and they are 110 to start with, so that is a twofer right there if you’ve kept your other champions trained up.

Now my Ashbringer seems bigger and even more glowy than it did before.

Behold My Ashbringer… which is totally not exactly the same as yours

Now I can turn undead to little piles of dust even more quickly!

That also knocked out another section of the first Broken Isles Pathfinder achievement, leaving me with two to go.

The first is Variety is the Spice of Life, for which I have to run 100 different world quests.  If you look on the side of one of the screen shots above, you can see that I am tracking that achievement and sit at 71 out of 100.  I should be able to knock that out.  The only issue is remembering which world quests I have done before.  I’ve done some I could swear I was hitting for the first time, only to not see the number go up, while I’ve done others I know I’ve done and they count.  There is some confusion possible as a lot of world quests seem to be re-worked versions of normal quests.  Either way, if I run enough I know I’ll get there.  I still have not done any Broken Shore world quests, so those will boost that number.

And I know I will be running world quests because the last bit of the Pathfinder achievement is the Broken Isles Diplomat achievement which requires you to get revered standings with a list of factions.  I have a ways to go there.

Broken Isles Diplomat standings

The Nightfallen is our Nightborne friends in Suramar, and I managed to squeak into revered with them on the last quest in their chain, so I am covered, there.  But as for the rest, it will be world quests ongoing.  Lots of work to do on The Wardens as they are only Friendly at this point.

And that is just the Broken Isles Pathfinder Part One.  There is the Part Two portion, which extends things to the Broken Shore.  Fortunately that seems to be a single zone worth of exploration and a quest chain to do along with another faction to revered.

Anyway, some progress made and I continue to track myself as I go over at WoW Head.

Lost in Legion

I did it.  The cool weather and the longer nights had already triggered within me the desire to get back to the serious business of playing a fantasy MMORPG.  I had just been debating which one, all the while averting my gaze from World of Warcraft.  Why go back to the obvious one?

But there I was on Saturday afternoon, looking at Steam and wondering if I wanted to open up RimWorld yet again to eat up a few hours.  I had a couple of colonies established that I could pick up, but they had entered that mid-to-end game state of being established and secure and on an obvious path forward where it is just a matter of dialing up the speed and reacting to events now and again.  As SynCaine noted on my post about RimWorld, “A game design problem as old as (Civ) time itself.”

So I wasn’t feeling it.

I like the idea of a goal, but I don’t necessarily want to micro-manage my way forward.  Workers have automation in Civilization games for a reason… except in Civ VI, where they only last through a couple of improvements.  What the hell?

And, as noted, I was feeling the fantasy MMORPG urge.  So it came down to me listing out which candidates I could get back into and have a viable goal to pursue.  Being on the outside looking in for the last year or so on that front has left my knowledge of goals… goals beyond just “level up”… pretty hazy.

But then there was World of Warcraft sitting there saying, “How about unlocking flying in the Legion expansion?”

It was speaking right to my need with that.  And, after all, hadn’t I done the same thing with Warlords of Draenor?  I played that at launch, burned out on garrisons and not much else to do, then came back later once the flying update had dropped and settled down to pursue that, enjoying it quite a bit.

Seemed like a plan.  I mean, how hard could it be?  This was just WoW after all.  So I activated my account, logged back in, and found Earl logged on and working away.  Amongst the people I know who play WoW, he is the most dedicated.  Everybody else logged out and went away nearly a year ago, but he carried on.  He has more fully upgraded alts than anybody I know.

Anyway, activating your account again is easy enough and soon I was logged in and standing around in Dalaran wondering what in the hell to do.

This is always the problem with returning to an MMORPG, at least for me.  It is like the knowledge gap that opens between seasons of Game of Thrones, where you go away with most characters solidly in mind only to show up a year later having skipped the “previously on…” segment and wondering who half the people getting lines and screen time are.

I left myself in a state with most of the initial zones done, save for Suramar, but a dozen or so quests dangling in various states of progress.  That gives me something to “do” but not the feeling that I am getting on track to make progress on the whole flying thing.

I started off by just trying to pick up threads left dangling in the form of quests.  This didn’t go horribly, though my attempts to go straight across country to a couple of locations sent me off in odd, sometimes bad directions.  At one point, thanks to me being clumsy, I managed to vault over a barrier no doubt placed there to keep people from falling off of what looked to be the highest waterfall I have ever seen in WoW.

Of course, I couldn’t get back over the barrier and, bowing to the inevitable, went over the falls.

Such a long way down…

There was a respawn point very close by however, clearly anticipating the falls of fools like me.  If only I had that engineer parachute thing… or remembered that I was an engineer and could make such a thing before I reached this point.

Also in my attempt to pick up threads I managed to get the paladin tank artifact shield.

Guards you from the Truth at least as well as CNN

I wasn’t actually trying to do that.   It was just another quest I had started on already and thought it might have been a class order quest or something that would further my way forward towards flying.

Eventually I stopped trying to just wing it from memory and breadcrumbs.  I was starting to think that just starting from scratch in the Broken Isles with another character might be the best plan.  But then I started looking stuff up on the internet.  That led me to WoW Head as usual, which reminded me of their tracker for getting flying in Draenor, which they have updated to include Legion now.

That started me off in a more constructive direction… like getting to Suramar to do the quest chains there.  I never quite got there before.

Missing bit: Suramar

Even that had me stumble a bit as I had done the first couple of steps for the lead-in quest chain for the zone, but then for some reason dropped it.  Fortunately Khadgar was holding it for me and once I found him again in Dalaran I was off to Suramar and on track.

Okay, this is the right path now…

That got me through the introduction story and into the actual quests for the zone.

Yellow punctuation is all I really need, right?

That also got me introduced to the Nightfallen faction, residents of the zone, so I could begin working on reputation with them for one achievement and to unlock world quests for another.

That was all I needed, a nice solid foundation from which to work.  A zone of quests to follow and some reputation to grind works for me.  I still have to figure out the class order quest thing, but at least I am making progress.

Meanwhile, some things surprised me a bit on arrival in Azeroth.

When I left I was bitching about how I was getting drops for 50 to 250 artifact power to upgrade my copy of Ashbringer, the ret pally artifact weapon, because I had hit a point where the cost to unlock had jumped up to an incredible 8,000 power.  So imagine the look on my face when I started seeing drops and quest rewards that included artifact power boosts like this:

One BILLION artifact power!

So my Ashbringer went from being miles to go to being fully upgraded in fairly short order, with no doubt enough left over to upgrade the artifact weapons for the other two Paladin specs.  Achievement unlockd and all that.

Anyway, I seem to have found a path to follow.  After a couple of evenings flailing about and falling off of things, I am no longer feeling lost in Legion.  I think I have made it over the usual hump that comes with returning to an MMORPG and trying to figure out where you left off.

Onward towards flying!

A Barrier to My Eventual Return to Azeroth

As I mentioned in yesterday’s post, what I am playing is driven as much by what I am in the mood for as anything.  No amount of “I should be playing…”  will get me to launch a game.

And moods come and go.  Today I am playing a lot of Pokemon.  Next week I might tire of that and move on to something else.

But mood alone can only go so far.  Mood gets me to log in, sets up the scenario.  Then I need a task, a direction, a place to go.  I can be very task oriented, so I need a plan or a goal to work towards.  I was in the mood for EverQuest II back in December, but the plan for progress never solidified and I walked away.

All of which brought my thoughts to World or Warcraft.  I am not playing it currently, but I expect that I will eventually.  Curse has been keeping my addons up to date.  The Legion expansion lost my interest after running through all the zones and finishing up the quest lines.  Beyond that and hitting the level cap I ran out of goals there.

But the 7.2 update introduced both new content and a good goal.

now running in Azeroth

Unlocking flying in the Legion expansion is the sort of task I could see myself coming back to the game to run down.  It requires a lot of work, but the tasks themselves are not insurmountable on their own… they were even reduced in scope… and knocking them out as I went would provide a feeling or progress.  Progress feeds the soul of the MMORPG achiever.

The problem is that Blizzard threw a monkey wrench in the gears for me with the 7.2 patch.

The new feature where mobs scale to your item level seems bizarro world bad.

Yes, I know they cut it back a bit.

And I even understand the problem they are trying to solve, a problem I have bitched about myself, the trivialization of content.

You can see that issue just by starting a new character in WoW and running up to level 30 or so.  If you insist on running all the quests… which is to say, you want to consume the actual content and see the various zone story lines through to their conclusion… you will soon find you have out leveled the quests as they go gray on you while any foes are now so weak in comparison that Blizzard actually made a piece of gear that was effectively the “false swipe” move from Pokemon that would not kill mobs so you wouldn’t sneeze and slay an NPC you needed alive. (I think it was the toy foam sword, though I could be wrong.)

So there is an issue there.  This was addressed to a certain extent in the Legion expansion at launch by making the initial set of zones auto-scale to your level.  After you were done there, everything else would be at level cap.

You still had to keep up with gear progress.  But that wasn’t so bad, and gear progression is one of the things in WoW that makes you feel good, especially in the case of weapons.  Few things make you feel like you’ve grown stronger than being able to smite down a foe more easily than before.

But now when that hot new piece of gear drops and your item level count goes up, your foes get tougher as well.  That effectively kills the good feeling you get with gear progression, at least out in the open world.  If you’re running instance or raids it is a different story.  And, as somebody with a strong achiever streak in them, this rains on my achiever parade.

In an attempt to solve what I will cop to as a legitimate problem it feels like they have just made a new one.  It reminds me of the tale where a guy gets cats to chase away the troublesome mice, then dogs to chase the troublesome cats, and so on until he ends up with elephants and has to get the mice back to rid himself of the pachyderms that are literally knocking his house down; it feels like a solution that just changes the problem rather than solving it.

Of course, I haven’t actually resubscribed and logged back into WoW to give it a try, but the feeling that this may suck makes that less likely to happen.  And all the more so since I haven’t seen much about the topic of late.  Maybe it wasn’t that bad.  Maybe people quit and left over it.

So how bad is it, or is it that bad at all?

Flying Comes to WoW Legion

Today is the day, the day that the Tomb of Sargeras update, Patch 7.2, goes live in World of Warcraft.

Available now!

The update has been a while coming.  Blizzard was talking about it back at BlizzCon in early November.

But the patch delivers quite a bit of content.  The release notes are full of details.  The Broken Shore is now available, there is a new dungeon, pet battle dungeons, new incentives to grind reputation, new class campaigns, and, most of all, flying.

I haven’t played WoW for a while now.  I tapped out of WoW Legion before BlizzCon, having done all the main zone story lines and being otherwise uninterested in the daily rep grind or queuing up for random dungeons.  Flying makes me think about going back, but then I think about all the items on the list to get there and any thoughts of whipping out the credit card to re-subscribe fades.

Still, for those who remain invested, there is a bunch of new content available now.