WoW – 88 of 90 – Valley of the Four Winds

July was a rough month for me, professionally speaking. To make a long story short, I’m unemployed now. Consequently I’m forcing myself not to spend any money on games, so I cancelled my WoW subscription and I’m sticking to bought-but-unplayed Steam games. But before I did that, I made it to level 88.

Ding!
Ding!

Valley of the Four Winds was kind of a weird place. Lots of giant mutant vegetables and Monty Python-esque cute, furry, dangerous creatures.

Poor guy, chained to a life of giant carrots.
Poor guy, chained to a life of giant carrots.
That's no ordinary rabbit.
That’s no ordinary rabbit.
No MMORPG is complete without a giant fish statue.
No MMORPG is complete without a giant fish statue.

WoW – 87 of 90 – Jade Forest Continued

Since I’m now pretty sure I’m going to hit 90 well before Draenor comes out (I’m guessing it will be late Fall at the earliest, but I hear mutterings that it may not even make it out by December), I no longer feel the need to rush to maximize my leveling. So I’ve stuck around in the Jade Forest doing “low” level (85) quests so I can complete the whole zone, rather than rushing ahead to the higher level zones. Still, I hit level 87 before I completed the entire Jade Forest. Has anyone noticed that leveling is really fast in WoW?

They turned the baby pandaren into jade statues! This cannot stand!
They turned pandaren children into jade statues! This cannot stand!

It feels like there is a lot more “story” going on in Pandaria than anywhere else. I’m actually interested in listening to what these high-functioning alcoholic bears have to say, and not just clicking through the quest text. And the NPCs seem like they talk to each other a lot more than any other zone I remember.

I’m happy to say that I’m more-or-less back to killing mobs in less than 2 seconds, now that I’ve gotten a full batch of Pandaria quest gear. I’m still grounded though. I finally bought Artisan flying, but I haven’t found a vendor yet that will allow me to fly in Pandaria, so I have no idea how much that will cost. By the way, is there no other way to get flying mounts besides reputation vendors? My gnome really needs one of those helicopter thingys but I have no idea where to get one. (Late breaking news: It turns out I won’t be able to fly in Pandaria until I get to level 90?)

I’m not super happy about getting a lot of useless “fun” items filling up my inventory space. Like trinkets that throw carrots and watermelons and raccoons around. I don’t really want to get rid of them because their kind of funny, but my bag space is back to being very precious. And of course in the WoW tradition, getting to a bank and back is an ordeal.

So I was queuing for a dungeon on another character, and I noticed that the “Scenarios” and “Looking for Raid” tabs opened up at level 85. “Oh,” I thought. “I have a character that is level 87! I should check those out!” But when I went to look at them with my Hunter, it said there wasn’t anything available for me until level 90. What’s up with that? False advertising, that’s what!

WoW – 86 of 90 – Jade Forest

I’ve been experiencing a lot of drama at work lately, so vegging out with WoW has been pretty awesome. By the time I get home I’m not in any mood for challenging gameplay. I tried the Death Knight for the first time and couldn’t be bothered to figure out how to use all those weird rune resources or whatever. So on we go toward level 90 with the Hunter!

I was going to spend a little more time in the Twilight Highlands to see what happened with the dwarves, but then I noticed that my experience bar barely moved after I turned in a few quests post-85. That was when I realized how many XP were required to get from 85 to 86 and I dropped everything to start the Mists of Pandaria quest line in Stormwind.

That's pretty far-fetched even for gnomes.
That’s a big flying helicopter boat thingy, all right.

So I got on the big, physics-defying flying ship thingy and went off to chase somebody’s lost son in Pandaria, and ended up in yet another big ol’ war zone. Is it really necessary to fight the Horde every time? I mean, I remember seeing quite a few Horde races as quest givers in the past few expansion zones, so when are we going to have a lasting peace with these guys? It’s still rather annoying that I can’t mail things from my Alliance players to my Horde players, you know. Rift gave up those silly faction restrictions years ago. Get with the times, Blizzard!

One thing I’ve noticed right away: Pandaria is actually somewhat difficult. It actually takes time to kill the mobs. I run out of Focus all of the time now. I actually got killed a couple of times trying to harvest one stupid plant that was surrounded by packs of mobs.

Probably this is because I only had level 84 quest gear when I went in there, instead of the years of collected dungeon and raid gear that most people would have started with. (Though I don’t remember this problem in the previous expansion zones.)

I’m not pleased that I need another flying license. I’m grounded for the first time since around level 65, riding a plain old swift sabre cat. I still haven’t quite saved up the 5,000 gold for the stupid Artisan trait, and now I’m sure I’m going to need another 5,000 gold for another license on top of that. It’s madness!

One other thing I’ve noticed is an increased focus on story-telling. There are more cut scenes, and we have an over-arching mission to find somebody’s son. (Maybe there were over-arching missions before, but I don’t remember anything but localized stories for the area you happened to be in.) I’m hearing a lot more voiceovers, and seeing quests that put you in the place of NPCs while they act out a story. (“No! Gizmo!”) I’m not sure what I think about that. It’s a change of pace, but it’s also weird for an MMO.

I'll name him Gizmo!
Gizmo!

Also, seriously, why aren’t those fish people a playable race? Come on. That would be awesome.

P.S. I discovered a neat trick for increasing the amount of damage that a Frost Mage does in dungeons: It’s called reading your abilities and using the new ones. I have no idea when I got “Blizzard,” but it’s basically doubled my damage output while simultaneously reducing the number of abilities I need to use to one. It makes dungeon runs very relaxing. Step 1: Follow tank. Step 2: Cast Blizzard. Step 3: Collect experience points and gear.

WoW – 85 of 90 – Death March Continues

Status of my WoW death march to 90: My Hunter is at level 85. I finished the Deepholm zone which was quite enjoyable; it was colorful and weird and gigantic (although strangely devoid of pets to tame). I had just started the Twilight Highlands, which the “Altoholic” addon told me was where I should go next, when I hit 85. It’s not as colorful but I love the way the dwarves go on those little raids to retake their little villages. Major props to Blizzard for improving the “look and feel” of their zones with every expansion.

One of my favorite spots in Deepholm.
One of my favorite spots in Deepholm.

I’m starting to get bored with leveling my Hunter, though, so of course I’ve broken out some alts. I got out my Mage again and leveled him from 60 to 65 in Burning Crusade dungeons. I was slightly worried that BC dungeons would be more difficult and require some work, but I worried needlessly. So far they are pure tank-and-spank just like the classic dungeons. (Compare and contrast with the normal dungeons in WildStar.)

So about these WoW classes. I remain baffled by them, especially in dungeons. At level 65, the tank is still far out-DPSing every other person in the dungeon, and it doesn’t seem to matter whether the tank is a Warrior, Paladin, or Monk. I guess it makes sense that “doing a lot of damage” is the best way to maintain threat, but still, it’s weird. With my Mage, supposedly a glass cannon class, I consider it a great dungeon run if I out-DPS the healer. I’m still holding out hope that down the line the Mage will turn out to be useful in some other way than opening portals. (I’m kidding. I can also interrupt spell casters.) At least nobody yells at me. Basically as long as you don’t hinder progress, nobody cares what you do in the normal dungeons.

You might be wondering why I don’t do dungeons with my Hunter. Mainly it’s because I don’t like to manage pets in group instances, but it’s also because I am so used to killing quest mobs in less than 2 seconds that I honestly have no idea how to use my class in a prolonged boss fight. That’s one reason I like the Mage: You don’t have to worry about some fleeting resource like Focus or Rage.

Oh, one of the neat things about having a level 84 Hunter is getting to solo old endgame content. I needed a bunch of Runecloth for my mage’s tailoring, so I tore through Blackrock Spire and picked up about 10 stacks of it. (Also Worgen and Spider companion pets.) It’s really amusing to watch big groups of mobs falling down dead within seconds. I also saw a Blizzard post about the Molten Core raid, so I jumped into that and ran through it until I died from not paying enough attention. Didn’t seem that tough to me. Don’t see why you Vanilla raiders had to make such a big deal about it. :)

Molten Core. What's the big deal?
Molten Core. What’s the big deal?