(Looks a bit less … purple …)
I must admit, I have never been a fan of Darkshore. It was a very long zone that required much running up and down. It contained one of the most hated quests in the old unrevamped Azeroth (Deep Ocean, Vast Sea). I’ve also never been fond of night elves, who never quite fulfilled their initial promise of being wilder and more savage than the priggish Tolkien inspired elves of standard fantasy fic.
But BOY have Blizzard done a number on that zone now.
Wait, I remember those hippogriffs and the flight master – what happened to them all?
When you get to Darkshore now, Auberdine is gone, swept away in a tidal wave caused by the Cataclysm. Your first quests are to try to help find and save survivors. If you’ve ever run the zone in the past, you may recognise some of their names. They’re the old quest givers and NPC denizens of Auberdine. You’re finding their bodies washed up on the beach, Some you can help to safety and … some you can’t.
The most poignant of the early quests is from one of the hunters you save who wants to know what happened to his beloved pet. (You may even remember seeing him and his bear in old Darkshore as a quest giver.) Usually in these types “Please find my lost NPC!” quests, the prognosis for the lost redshirt isn’t good. In this case, Blizzard turn the trope around on its head to provide one of the more emotional questlines in the game.
And as for Deep Ocean, Vast Sea? It’s gone of course. In it’s place a quest that cheekily makes reference to it and allows you to take out a little mining robot and blow up zillions of murlocs – revenge for that old annoying quest, if you will.
Then it’s off to fight the horde with the help of tree ancients as your allies. Blizzard haven’t changed the shape of the zone but you now get some help with the travelling in the shape of night elf catriders who let you use their cats to ride up and down the zone.
But wait, you haven’t even started on the good stuff yet!
Before you are done with this zone you will:
- Meet some of the signature racial and Cataclysm NPCs (Malfurion, leader of the night elves)
- Help fight elemental lords who entered Azeroth through the Cataclysm rift
- Explore the ruins of Auberdine and try to bring some solace to both the dead and to the surviving refugees
- Ride on a dragon.
- Fight Naga lords (ditto)
- Fight the twilight cultists and help to banish AN ACTUAL OLD GOD
In short, this zone is now the perfect introduction to Cataclysm, bringing in lots of the key storylines and introducing new players to fairly major lore concepts and villains who they will encounter again.
Not only that but it’s bitter-sweet for older players too, with constant references to the way the zone used to be, the old NPCs (both the ones who survived and the ones who didn’t) and the old quests as well, neatly tweaked to be fun in the 2.0 world. You will feel that the world really changed and that you are affected by it.
(spirits of the dead night elves help to fight off an elemental lord)
The only downsides are:
- It’s still a bit of a pain to navigate. The path is broken up in the lower part of the zone which requires a bit of climbing, swimming, and creative navigation to get around. I don’t mind this, I think it is a cool way to make you really interact with the terrain in a way which long straight roads don’t allow, but some players will hate it.
- It IS a brilliant introduction to Cataclysm. But when Malfurion tasks you with finishing the job of banishing the old god because he has to rush off to Hyjal, it’s hard not to think, “See you in …. 60 levels time …”. You will have to wait awhile to see the next part of that storyline, during which you will travel to both Outland and Northrend, even though your character knows that Hyjal is where the main action is.
If you’d like to see more of the zone, View Through Branches has a lovely photojourney through Darkshore, and covers it in more detail than I have here.