The Road To 85

December 16, 2010

Into the Cataclysm

Exactly one week with World of Warcraft: Cataclysm, that’s how long it took for me to get to level 85. There was a lot to do so there’s a lot to say, but I’ll start from the beginning.

Like Wrath of the Lich King, this expansion has two starting zones to choose from to alleviate the initial influx of players. I decided to choose Hyjal to tackle first over Vashj’ir, since it was my speculation that the latter zone will be more popular due to the novelty of being underwater. It didn’t really matter in the end, though; the crush was just as bad. Surprisingly, the crowd did not affect my questing so much, in part thanks to the ridiculous spawn rates in some areas. You can literally spend ten minutes stuck in combat staying in one spot while mobs spawn continuously on top of you.

And overnight, it seemed as if the WoW community suddenly found its manners. Players happily grouped together for mini-boss kills, and — *rubs eyes in disbelief* — both Horde and Alliance alike lined up like civilized human beings:

Long lines are a fact of life.

80 to 81 flashed by very quickly, since the experience gain was relatively low and the quests rewarded so much experience. The item rewards were also surprisingly powerful. I replaced all my old epics with the new greens without a second thought, and was happy I didn’t waste my time grinding heroics in the last few months since my return to WoW.

With Hyjal, I was also introduced to the new “style” of questing. I’ve likened the new zones in Cataclysm to chapters in a storybook more than once, and this was no exception. Hyjal had its own “introduction” as you entered, and you’re hit with the phasing stick almost immediately. There’s good and bad things about this. The good is the quality of the storytelling, which has been raised to a level I never would have expected from a game like WoW. I don’t even mind so much the fact that is is now more on rails than ever, since this is a theme park game to begin with. And while the game has indeed become a heavily directed experience, I’ve come to appreciate the organization.

What I don’t like, however, is the feeling like I’ve been cut off from the rest of the world. I quested with my husband through my entire journey up to 85, so it’s still possible to play with others, but once you get “out of sync” it can be really irritating. You can be right beside your friend on the mini-map but not see them in game, which makes you feel really helpless when you want to lend them a hand but can’t. I also felt a sense of loss every time I saw something really cool in the environment “phase” away. Knowing that the scenery isn’t something I can go back to enjoy later on really grates me. Good thing I take plenty of screenshots.

I was also surprised by the generous use of cutscenes. I could almost always count on seeing one for a zone’s “intro” as well as “conclusion”, but there were also many scattered in between to push the story along.

And speaking of introductions, I really enjoyed the one leading into Vashj’ir. I wanted to experience everything in the expansion, so I opted to go there next instead of moving on to Deepholm. I’m glad I did. Vashj’ir is a long zone, perhaps a little too long for my tastes, but it’s beautiful with lots of very fun and unique quests given its watery nature. This also provided me tons of hilarious screenshot opportunities involving sharks:

I suppose I did just disembowel a naga with my shark, but I still think I look waaaay too happy.

This shark, swallow you whole. "Jaws" quotes for the win.

One thing about fighting underwater is, when you’re directionally challenged like me, combat with the additional axis can be pretty disorienting. Now you have to keep an eye out for high speed mob spawns above and below you too!

Deepholm was another beautiful zone, which was a pleasant surprise given that it is underground. Miners will love this place.

Pretty lights, like glowworm mucus strings I saw in a documentary once.

For all that though, Deepholm is probably my least favorite zone thus far. After the excitement that was Vashj’ir, the story and quests here felt slightly bland. The shallow part of me also compels to state that I’m not a fan of caves, canopy, or any dark, foreboding places. I don’t get claustrophobic, but I do prefer questing beneath an open sky, if that makes any sense at all.

But then we get to Uldum, which is another story.

Nothing cuter than a purple kitty sitting in the back of a caravan.

I’m not even done yet, but I think the Egyptian-inspired Uldum is my favorite zone so far, with its quirky-looking inhabitants and a very intriguing storyline. What I didn’t expect was how humorous the quests were in this area. We have the legendary Harrison Jones to thank for that, methinks. I now I have my first crush ever on a WoW NPC.

He thinks I'm pretty! *sigh*

Is it strange that I’m proud to be Alliance just so I can learn Archaeology from the greatness that is Harrison Jones? I think it helps that I simply adore the original Indiana Jones trilogy (The Last Crusade is one of my favorites of all time, you just can’t go wrong with both Harrison Ford and Sean Connery in the same movie) and I loved all the Indy references, many of which were obvious while others were more subtle. At around level 83, the amount of experience required to level increases significantly, so by the time I was in the 84-85 stretch I was thankful for all the amusing quests to keep me going.

Crazed gnomes fail at keeping out of the way of huge, fiery rolling balls.

I hit level 85 somewhere in the middle of Uldum, so now I’ll have to finish that as well as the Twilight Highlands, which I have yet to even set foot in. A bulk of Cataclysm’s new content is in old Azeroth, but there’s still a shockingly huge amount of stuff to do at 80+, and even though I’m at 85 now, a part of me feels like I’ve barely begun to scratch the surface.

I usually throw my full attention into new games and expansions, so it’s no surprise that lately I’ve been playing a lot of WoW, but I’ve since discovered that the leveling process is what I enjoy most, especially since I do it ALL of it with my better half, and that includes alts. So it remains to be seen whether or not the game can hold me for the long run, especially since I seem to have lost the taste for endgame raiding and grinding heroics. Still, I have to admit Catacylsm is probably my favorite expansion so far, and I’m quite impressed with everything I’ve seen.


  1. Congratulations on hitting 85! I’m going to hit all the zones as well, even if I cap out early. I didn’t pay for all of that (great) content just to skip past it.

    • Thanks! And I agree, I capped out early, but I’m not planning on just leaving the rest of it. You’re doing a lot of archaeology too, so I’m sure you’ll cap out as well.

  2. You killed my flaming turtle!!!

  3. “The shallow part of me also compels to state that I’m not a fan of caves, canopy, or any dark, foreboding places. I don’t get claustrophobic, but I do prefer questing beneath an open sky, if that makes any sense at all.”

    And yet you’ve dabbled in Minecraft, no? >.>

    I’ve not gotten into Cata so I’m only going by you impressions but it seems like Cata is going for all the things I don’t like in MMOs. Being that my original experience is from the original crop of MMOs (Asheron’s Call) it grates on my nerves that the newer MMOs keep pushing away from long levels, large zones and playing into the multiplayer aspects of the genre.

    A week to hit cap on an expansion? Why even bother at that point? I wish these designers would wake up to the genre they’re dabbling in. Asheron’s Call is still around and just celebrated it’s 10th anniversary. MMO designers should not be in the mindset of “Welp, we’ve given them stuff to last a week, we’re done for the next 2 years.” I mean, really? I know that is an oversimplification of what’s happened here but far too many MMO devs seem to not realize they’re playing in a genre where play times are often measured in years, not weeks.

    Whoa, hey, where’d that soapbox come from?!

    • Even looking back at vanilla WoW, I can’t believe how different things are now. Yes, the game is much less hardcore, but I admit I like some of the changes. Whether it’s long levels or short levels, I don’t really care so long as I have content to do and if there’s a grind all I ask is that you mask it well 😛 You mentioned larger zones though, and one nitpicky thing I have with this expansion is the fact I feel so much more confined with the phasing technology. Content is gated and I don’t much like feeling I “shouldn’t” go somewhere unless I’ve done such and such first. And did you mean to say newer MMOs playing into or further away from the multiplayer aspects of the genre? Because one thing I noticed is how single-player friendly the WoW questing has gotten. I mean, it’s convenient when you’re trying to level, but I still kinda miss the odd quest here and there that makes you group up.

      By the way, good point about Minecraft. But just give me a pile of torches and I should be okay 😛

      • Actually I’m a rare MMO player who believes there is no grind. I’ll have to get into that later.

        And I have no idea what I meant there. It’s a list. Oh, no, wait, I got it now. They are getting away from playing into the multiplayer aspects. IE, modern MMOs are trying to hard to be a single-player MMO. IE, the player is the center of the world and the protagonist of the central story. Just like the other thousands of central characters of the story. MMOs shouldn’t be about the player being THE central character but rather the player being a part of something larger than they are.

        With your impressions of Cata that was meant to address the phasing. Phasing is there to address a common problem that exists in MMOs. We’re told we’re changing the world with these quests except the world never changes. Now the world changes but, not for everyone. It’s a symptom of trying to make the MMO into a single-player RPG and shows how, at least to me, it is the wrong tack to take.

        If I wanted to play a single-player MMO I’d not be paying $15/month for an MMO. I don’t want to be the central character, just like everyone else. I want to be part of something larger, just like everyone else.

        I think it is that feeling of camaraderie which made MMOs like Planetside and World War II Online work far better than the single-player storyline ever does. I wasn’t THE soldier fighting off the bad guys. I was A soldier fighting off the bad guys.

      • I’m the opposite, as much as I like MMOs I do still see a lot of grind, though on the other hand, it’s not always unpleasant if you can distract me long enough to forget it’s there 😛 Then in essence, is it still a grind? Blah, I’ll get into that some other time as well.

        I’m pretty much flexible in regards to my character being central vs. being a part of something larger, as long as the game still offers me plenty of opportunities to interact and play with other people. I see what you mean though, it’s not just about the mechanics but also the way the developers build the story around the player. I do agree that current MMOs are moving more towards this trend, but then the present MMO playerbase is also very different from what it was a decade or so ago.

        I completely agree with you over the phasing though, I think you hit the nail on the head why I felt so “cut off” from “the rest of the world.” It’s by no means a deal breaker for me, and I’d still be willing to play future games that utilize phasing, but you’re right, in an MMO it’s a very jarring sensation to feel suddenly alone and cut off from your peers. I still think it’s possible to get the feeling of being a part of something larger with WoW though, just definitely not through questing, which is the point I’ve alluded to. It has become diminished in this sense, but I often still experience that feeling of camaraderie, but then again I make much of that myself.

      • I love a good storyline as much as the next guy (or gal), and I did like the phasing of certain parts of WotLK, but there were also times when I could not help guildmates in their questing because they were in a different phase of Icecrown, for instance.

        I agree with you completely, Grey. The reason I have grown to like MMOs is the idea that stuff goes on without my having to be there. The world is persistent, much like the real world, where stuff is going on all around me that I just drive past. Heroes of Another Story.

  4. so how long do you think cat is going to keep you entertained? I’m curious.

    • I think until I can finish up the rest of the content and take my worgen a little further, so at least a couple more months maybe? But my husband’s already dragging me into dungeons, ugh. He can grind the same dungeons many times over with multiple alts, I don’t know how he does it, but that is the premiere cause of burn out for me. At the very least, once SWTOR comes out I’ll probably have to drop this and every other game to give it my full attention, at least at the beginning.

      • *Whispers* Guild Wars 2… Guild Waaaarrrs Twooooooooo

      • That too for sure, and a great many other games farther off 😛

  5. I found the additional axis more difficult in Vash too. Also finding the opening to the Alliance gotto’s, whether that be at the top of the rock formation, and then on what side of said formation, ugh!

    But it was fun, beautiful, and interesting.

    took me 1 week to 85 too!

  6. Vashj’ir clearly had a great story and also a very long zone. Deepholm wasn’t as long and a bit less captivating story wise yet i still had fun there. Uldum as you said i agree was enjoyable and a huge zone yet also short on quests overall.

    When i came to Twilight Highlands I really had allot of fun and enjoyed the story there as well. From 80-85 on my Paladin only zone never really did was Mount Hyjal.

    Curently leveling up my Shadow Priest a bit, so instead of starting out in Vashj’ir i went with starting out in the zone i didn’t do the fisrt time around in Mount Hyjal a bit different to being completely underwater in Vashj’r the first time around.

    So far i can say questing overall was enjoyable and less grindy of quests of past Azeroth in old WoW.

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