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Adventures in Cataclysm: To the Instance!
by Andrew Whipple III

The Tauren starting zone of Mulgore is finished. While it was a fun experience and many of the changes were incredibly positive, it’s time to move onto the first real zone of Cataclysm. Will it be the newly conceived northern half of the Barrens, or perhaps the shores of the goblin infested Azshara?

Into the Fold...

(In case you missed it, you'd do well to read part one of my in depth experience with Cataclysm before venturing forth!)

Being the Warcraft veteran that I am, I really wanted to see the new Barrens since I had spent so much time in its vacant confines. However, I was strangely compelled to visit Azshara, a zone I loathed back in the old world. I figured that if Blizzard really put the chisel to the world, Azshara would be a great testing ground for my criticism. So off we go!

Er... about getting to Azshara. How the hell do you?

You enter Azshara from the back of Orgrimmar. Yep, you heard me right. In the old world, the only way you could get there was by crossing a bridge from Ashenvale, which was the closest point to Orgrimmar. Whilst you can still enter that way, it's likely that you’ll just die at the hands of malicious elves, and nobody wants that.

And Orgrimmar isn’t even recognisable anymore. Construction machines and new additions to the Orc capital are found everywhere. There are mailboxes next to every major building, multiple auction houses, and several towers that take you up to the wind rider master. Thunder Bluff also shared copious amounts of mailboxes and multiple auctioneers, but as far as remodeling goes Orgrimmar absolutely demolishes it.

Now, where was I?

Ah yes, Azshara. If you’ve played Warcraft before, take what you know of the zone and erase it. Azshara resembles nothing of its past glory, and it’s all the better for it. The very first quests in the zone throw you into a goblin-shredder that allows you to cut down trees, elves and ancient spirits. As an introduction to a zone, you don’t get more badass than that. There’s also a massive race track that encircles the zone, and at any time you can walk up to a hub on the track and request a rocket from the benevolent goblin engineers. Since you don’t have your mount until level 20, these rockets provide a fast way to travel across the zone.

While I was enjoying myself with the brand new Azshara, I started to feel the pull of the instances. Luckily, as soon as this feeling hit I had achieved level 15. This is important because, after levelling, the game acknowledged my feat by bestowing upon me the greatest invention Blizzard has ever created: the Dungeon Finder. This nifty contraption pools together like-minded players who are looking to clear the same dungeon but aren’t on the same server. Remember waiting for hours to get into an instance and always spamming something like “LFG STRAT 60 Rogue?” Those days are completely gone. You even receive a bonus to your statistics for the duration of the instance if you find a group with the Dungeon Finder. It’s pretty awesome.

About the instances; some have been overhauled but the rest remain largely unchanged. Ragefire Chasm, the Horde’s first instance, hasn’t seen any change while the Deadmines are all brand-spankin' new. Although, you will notice that all quests relevant to the instance you’re in will be found at the beginning of the dungeon. Rejoice; no more running across the world and wasting time! You can also press the “M” key at anytime to see a map with all the locations of the dungeon’s bosses. This helps immensely, especially when you’re unfamiliar with a particular instance.

After exiting each instance I always had a handful of quests to turn in and I’d almost always level at least once. Before I knew it, I was back in Azshara handing in green quests because I leveled so much from each instance. I should also note that with certain professions you gain experience when you harvest materials. That means anytime you pick some flowers or mine for gold you’re getting additional experience. It’s not a bad thing, but it does have me a bit concerned that I’ll be of too high a level to finish the zone since I'm a jewelcrafter (and mining is a necessity!). The last thing I want is to be handing in grey quests for no reason.

Unfortunately, upon returning from my instance binge my fears were realised. The quests in my possession were practically all green or grey. I wouldn’t get to finish Azshara after all, but I had to press on to see where this particular chain I was working on took me. I’m glad I did. Turns out, the chain was part of Archmage Xylem’s specialty quests which, as of now, are the best quests I’ve completed. Not only did I have to dodge projectiles that would fling me off the mountain, but upon reaching the summit Xylem tasked me with a series of trials. These puzzle-like quests had you do certain things like dodging fire or moving in special patterns. It’s the most unique form of questing I’ve seen in this game yet. And yes, there are achievements for these things too.

Final Thoughts:

Azshara is a pretty awesome-looking zone and I adore the changes Blizzard has brought forth. While I missed out on actually finishing the whole area, quests like Xylem's made my experience more unique and fun. Even more than that, the Dungeon Finder is something I've been waiting on for a long time. I love being able to do my standard play while waiting for a group to come together. This tool has single-handedly made the game more manageable and efficient.

That, and Orgrimmar is badass.

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- Andrew Whipple III

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