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Adventures in Cataclysm: Outland Calls
by Andrew Whipple III

Alright, so it’s apparent that I’ve jumped back into the constricting grasp of World of Warcraft. After tearing through the starting zones, flipping over Azshara and decimating the refined instances available, it’s safe to say that I’m having a great time. At the accelerated rate of my progression, though, it seemed my stay in the new Azeroth would end sooner rather than later.

At this point, relaying information about how each zone is drastically different is moribund. The Stonetalon Mountains, Thousand Needles, Tanaris - even that atrocious zone known as Desolace - are all bearable and actually fun. I love how the environments are varied and how the quest design has gone through a monumental overhaul, but the problem is that you’ll never get to experience the zones in their entirety.

This article is the third entry in my Adventures in Cataclysm series. If only to help get a grasp of this article, grab the first and second articles in the series to brush up on my travels!

Allow me to explain. In my last article I addressed my concern with returning to zones like Azshara with only green quests to hand in. Unless you completely skip out on the instances, and also decide to forgo a couple of professions, it’s terribly difficult to see a zone all the way through. It can also get much worse at later levels.

Increased experience gain is definitely one of the things to blame for fast progression, but it isn't necessarily a bad thing. If your only concern is to get maxed out in order to raid with your buddies, then everything I’ve complained about will have no adverse effect on you. However, if you’re like me and enjoy going through the motions of a game, exploring new content and seeing where the quest lines end, then you'll be baffled by Blizzard’s design decision. Why create all this brand new content, and then let it remain undiscovered? The only ways to salvage all this otherwise-lost content are to either not care about handing in grey quests for nil experience, or to constantly create new characters and hit new places to level up. Unless Warcraft is the only game you play, you aren’t going to do either.

Before I knew what had happened, a flashing 'Level 58' crossed my screen and I received a quest for my triumphant return to Satan’s Alley (aka the Burning Crusade). I wasn’t ready to go. Looking over the map, I hadn’t even explored half of Kalimdor and I had skipped intense areas of yore such as the Burning Steppes, Un’Goro Crater and the Plaguelands. There was still so much to see and experience. Nonetheless, I had to make my way to the Dark Portal. Upon seeing its eerie, irregular form coruscating with otherworldly power in the distance, I knew after entering my adventures were to change considerably.

After just slamming the fast progression and increased experience of the new Azeroth, I’m about to contradict my previous statements by thanking Blizzard: the Burning Crusade sucks. At the very least, the increased progression will help you power your way through this hell-hole. I’ll be fair though; if you’ve never gone through the Burning Crusade before, then you’ll have some interesting features to look forward to. Seeing the Fel Reavers stomp around in the greater distance of Hellfire Peninsula’s destroyed beauty is impressive and something the old world lacked. Ravaged skies, new monster models and imposing figures adorn Outland in its entirety. However, if you've been here before, there’s nothing much to look forward to.

It may seem arbitrary to bash Outland in such manner, but if think so, you've clearly not been through it a second or maybe even a third time. The worst part about Outland is that once you get there, it’s literally a step backwards from all the refinement you encountered in the new Azeroth. Quests can take forever, especially when you have to pick up some twenty-or-so feathers littering the landscape. You also have to quest through a greater portion of the zone in order to find quests that will take you to an instance; quest-givers will no longer be waiting at the start of a dungeon. Without the quests readily available and the increased experience available to everyone, it’s better to just quest than even think about entering an instance.

Something else that really bothers me is the absence of portals. I didn’t realise until now that there’s no easy way to get back to a major city like Orgrimmar. Instead of just catching a local windrider over to Shattrath (by the way, it’s a complete ghost town) which harboured a portal to every major city, you now have to find a mage to create a portal for you. Shattrath has a couple of portals but you can’t use them until you’re a higher level. I don't see the point in disabling easy ways to get around this gigantic world; the last thing I want to do is re-enter the Dark Portal and fly somewhere in order to get where I need to be. This wastes time and stretches your patience to its limit. Overall, it was a poor, poor design choice by Blizzard.

Thankfully, Outland hasn’t lasted very long. Once I finished Hellfire I went straight into Nagrand, the Stranglethorn Vale of Outland, to speed my way into Wrath of the Lich King. Whilst I did end up having to repeat some quests in Shadowmoon Valley, before I knew it Howling Fjord was calling. Without hesitation, I picked up my trinkets and flew as fast as possible to the icy land of Northrend. Surely it had to be a better experience than what I endured in Outland?

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- Andrew Whipple III

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