Cataclysm: We didn’t remake the low level zones for YOU!

brillcata Brill 2.0

It’s been an exciting week so far in Azeroth. Player numbers are way up, on my server (Argent Dawn EU) there have been queues every night stretching up to 30 mins. The lower level zones are populated and busy again. Faction cities are bustling, and Orgrimmar is already developing a reputation as a death trap (no you can’t just jump down from a zeppelin tower without safe fall, yes Gamon will kill you if you attack him.) It’s as if the whole world – the meaningful one, not just the expansion zones – has come alive.

True to their word, Blizzard have indeed redone all of the levelling zones. 1-60 is a different game, or at least a different version of the same game. There are old quests which remain untouched (usually distinctive because the drop rate for quest items is lower than 100%) but they are mixed with the new stuff. Also, travel has become much less of an issue. There are far more flight points in the game now, and questing characters are often offered a lift via the quest chains to any distant locales rather than having to run off and discover them on their own.

I took Spinks to have a look at the new Eastern Plaguelands, now greener, less plaguey, and with less Scourge. And it wasn’t very long before I decided to leave it and just level a new alt to check out the new low level stuff. Why? It wasn’t there for level 80s. It isn’t just that the quests were trivial (they may be trivial at level also) but the NPCs’ timeline wasn’t in check with mine. Tirion Fording, who fought the Lich King alongside us in ICC, is settled in Hearthglen as head of the Argent Dawn (an organisation now looking for a goal, I imagine). If you talk to him, he doesn’t have a special response for a Kingslayer, even just to acknowlege a rather important and character defining moment for him. He’ll treat you like the level 35 you are supposed to be in that zone.

Also, the storyline doesn’t make a lot of sense for a high level character. The NPCs came back from Northrend and got on with defending/ attacking places and various other tactical plans, but the high level characters who came with them are … somewhere else. (What was so important for Spinks that it outweighed defending her home against worgen invasions? Who knows, and the game doesn’t say …)

The other issue for me is that my home faction has changed in tone, and I feel as though I blinked and missed it. Up until now, the characters’ timelines had been that they started in Azeroth, went on to Outland and then to Northrend in a continuous journey. That timeline is now weird. When new characters get to Outland or Northrend now, they are effectively going back in time.

So taking Spinks through the low level zones was just going to be confusing for me. I’m not a hardcore RPer in WoW but I like to keep a sense of my character’s personal story and background and not being sure where I am in my own timeline is something I want to avoid. Also, when I first levelled her, the forsaken had a gothic hammer house of horror vibe which I quite liked. The feel now is not the same, some of the more tragic little personal stories are gone and there’s more slime. I don’t really know what to make of that.

There could have been ways round it. There could have been a new introduction/ bridging video for high level characters explaining what their faction has been doing and where they have been in the time between Northrend and Cataclysm. There could have been ways to sidekick your level down or frame the new content as if it was a story being told to you by a minion or lower level friend. But in a few months time, the majority of levellers wont’ hang around in Northrend or feel this sense of disconnect. It won’t matter to them that they’re going back in time because they won’t be killing the Lich King anyway. It would have been a lot of work just for us, right now. (Although Blizzard doesn’t exactly suffer from a lack of resources…)

In any case, on the new alt things make more sense. At least for now.

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17 thoughts on “Cataclysm: We didn’t remake the low level zones for YOU!

  1. EPL now has my new favourite quest chain, involving two slightly retarded paladins heading off to join the Argent Dawn, an ever growing caravan and an ending that made me smile.

    Also, Blightcallers quests have been distributed among the general populace. Without changing the quest text. So random people have started calling you a slack jawed idiot.

    • I think at this point the philosophy is that they know it’s an issue and they’ve decided not to sweat it. They also know that most people don’t read quest text anyway and will be blasting through levelling zones on their way to the endgame.

      But really you’re right, and this is a big issue to do with this style of game and how levels and zones fit with the idea of time passing and stories being told/ imposed.

      I think I feel it particularly because I’d have liked a choice in how to respond to the various invasions. Maybe even dual questlines through the new zones — one set for lowbies and another if/when you return at high level but double looping the time-line so you can be there twice is just a bit too timey-wimey for sanity :)

      And also, there will be NPCs who you may have met and got interested in during previous expansions (frex, the two death knights in Wrath, Koltira and Thassarian). Their storyline currently continues in a zone which is not intended for high level characters. So part of my confusion is that previously we’ve tended to follow storylines as part of our pathway through the game. And what does it mean when you can’t do that?

      I’ll think more on this, I think I prolly want to come back to this topic.

      • Koltira and Thassarian was originally introducified in the DK starting area, which most characters never see nohow. So, is nuthin’ strange or differents or new about them followin’ a story what be a different path than we adventurers is following.

  2. I’ve always thought Blizzards implementation of time was slightly odd. I mean it would make perfect sense if you couldnt revisit older areas…but you can. And even in the new newbie zones there’s the odd reference to ‘KingSlayer’ etc (I think it was Spinks who mentioned this to me actualy). What with phased areas this could be got round….but then Blizz want the newbies to see the 80+ level types around.

    Still and all I expect it will sort itself out. The reason why the lowbies are left to deal with the homefront is of course that the 80+’s are off in the new content of Cata fighting the elementals and Deathwing. But we arnt yet. So in a week or two this ‘gap’ will be retconed out of existance and Spinks and the rest will have jumped from fighting Arthas to Deathwing and never paused. Right now it feels very odd. Of course my Shammy was off recapturing Troll homelands….

  3. I agree. Just looking around Kalimdor, it became clear to me that the way to experience the new zones is to bring new characters through them. So I sent my troll druid to Silverpine.

    By the time I got part way through it, I was very glad I didn’t bring a level 80 in. None of the level 80 characters I have would have been able to stomach it. :-) I look forward to hearing what you think of that zone.

  4. Big Bear Butt has a good article up also that references Dechion’s piece. The timeline really is weird and the storytelling disjointed at best. I think this is inevitable given the release schedule and game structure of WoW, though. Time advances at the speed of Plot, and there will always be conflicts between low level characters and endgame raiders. It’s nice they are tossing a big bone to the newbies, rather than always just extending the endgame, though.

    • It is nice to give some cool stuff to the newbies, but don’t underestimate the desire of a player to start a character and have some kind of coherent life experience with it.

      You could compare with pre-Sundering GW, where I think the world changing is incorporated into the storyline.

      Very soon, this won’t matter. Players will speed through levels and probably not even go to the higher level zones in Outland and Northrend (Northrend in particular will be weird because the current Azeroth starter videos make it clear that the Lich King is dead but you’ll still be able to run into him there). So newbies will get weirded out at that point instead ;)

      • Oh, I’d *much* rather there be a story to experience, rather than being told “oh, by the way, time passed”. It’s just hard to update a game piecemeal and have it be cohesive. This is but one of the interesting stresses in the game design that I’m keeping an eye on. :)

        Still, as I noted at BBB’s place, you guys are totally right, it just doesn’t play all that well in practice. Pity, really, because there was potential there.

  5. Alternate Hypothesis(TM): What if all the level 80s that came back to fight the elemental invasion were killed in the defense and subsequent burnination by Deathwing? What if we’re being treated like ghosts? Highly affulent, grossly overskilled ghosts, but spectres nonetheless? Maybe the time disjointment is supposed to feel that way because our characters are actually dead?

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  8. Just wondering what you thought was tragic in the tale of Bethor Iceshard.

    Also, I wonder if some of the other quests, such as putting the locket on the grave, survived. That was a sad story.

    • For me, it was that the other mage (Gunther, I think?) had been isolated on an island, thinking he was the only freewilled undead left in the world. I thought it was very poignant when we as players were able to put him in touch with his old friend, especially as all the forsaken up until that point had been so unemotional.

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