I bit the bullet and started leveling an undead priest; this weekend, I got the 1 – 20 stretch done, which got me all the way through Silverpine and dropped me neatly at the start of Hillsbrad. Once I recover from the trip I will bravely continue forward, but for now, a bit of commentary on the experience:

Holy crap!

I don’t think I included any spoilers, so if you’re being cautious I think what follows should be safe for you to read.

In short, nearly everything has seen some degree of change. The maps are the same, but different; things look better (Stillwater Pond, for example, is really pretty now) individual areas have been remodeled, mob groups have been lightly redistributed, that sort of thing. Many of the NPCs that used to populate the 1 – 20 stretch are still around, but they’ve been moved to different quest hubs or shifted to occupy a new space in their original quest hub – some have even been given new gear, so they look a bit different than before (that’s neat, IMO). Seeing the same people/mobs helped me maintain a sense of familiarity which (ultimately) wound up making it easier for me to take in all the otherwise glaring physical & plot-based changes.

So much has been built. The Forsaken settlements are all styled like Northrend’s New Agamand (which I think is fantastic), and tons of buildings, blockades and outposts have been added or fortified. At first I didn’t quite know how to feel about it… Am I supposed to assume it always looked that way (i.e. retcon), or is all of that actually supposed to be new? I’m a bit confused about past V.S. present, and the quests aren’t entirely helpful; some quests are very similar to quests I remember from old-Azeroth (e.g. I’m pretty sure I remember Executor Zygand asking me to kill Captain Perrin before…but I guess he’s back now), while others are totally new and clearly show the world moving on past WotLK. Makes it really tough to tell what saw a retcon and what didn’t!

That aside – and taking into account the fact that I am woefully bad at keeping plots/events straight in my mind – it’s still enjoyable. The quests are way, way more linear than before. While that may not be some folks’ cup of tea, I certainly like it (please see what I just said about my ability to record events)! All quest text has been rewritten in order to provide new/more/updated context, and you’re never left wondering where to go next. Some of the original quest chains that were either quite long or straight up annoying have been clipped or removed entirely, and the new chains they put in are entertaining. Amusingly enough, all the quest rewards have changed as well! They look much nicer now (both on your character and the actual icons for each piece), which is always a plus; smart idea, too, given that the first 20 or 30 levels (or perhaps even the first 10) is when you want players to bond with their character & get hooked – and I’d think you’d be shooting yourself in the foot if they have to perpetually stare at ugly gear.

The Silverpine quest chains are of particular note; some of them are ‘directed’ like mini-movies. Those that revolve around Gilneas and the Forsaken’s efforts there are lots of fun to work through and give you a huge chunk of story. While I’m not super-keen on taking quest after quest from my faction leader (I can’t explain why, either – it’s like, if it’s not a raid quest, I don’t want to hear from you), I suppose I can accept it for the sake of getting a decent understanding of WTF is going on in the world. I was very pleased with the information I got from the variety of quests I did while in Silverpine; I now understand the Worgen and Gilneas and all that jazz far, far better than I did before. I even know who the new Shadowfang Keep bosses are and what they’re all about! I’m actually thankful for that, ’cause there’s nothing like running an instance or a raid without understanding a single thing about it.

Despite all the learning, there are some things I’m still confused about:

  • How many val’kyr does Sylvanas have, exactly?
  • The val’kyr can only raise humans? What?
  • This deal that Sylvanas has with the val’kyr – does it apply to all her val’kyr? Why would they agree to that?
  • Why oh why was the Royal Apothecary Society not disbanded after Wrathgate?
  • How did that Darnell fellow get so big?

Something else that jumped out at me? Rep gain. It’s massively increased (or, at least, it was in the undead 1 – 20 quests). I can remember 2 quests that got me 1000 rep with Undercity – that’s wild! Back in the old days, the most I remember being awarded for any single quest was 500 (e.g, the main Scarlet Monastery quest, though the rep gain there was faction-wide). That’s amazing! I wonder why that is, though… They added home-city tabards that allow you to collect rep from instances (any), so I’m curious to know why there’s a sudden push to get people to Exalted (I’m guessing) on presumably all home factions. Hmm.

On a side note: when next you roll an undead character, pay close attention to the language used in all the quest text. Notice a lot of questionable terms? I do. I’ve seen stuff like hell, god damn, bastard and bitch (this last one was even voice acted). Personally, I don’t care and I think the grit is great (especially for the undead, I dunno – it just fits), but…don’t kids play this game? Then again, I have no clue what’s considered acceptable language in media today, so perhaps that’s all OK. I did jump out at me, though.

There are a small number of quests that contain elements that are full-on Blizzard making fun of itself/its player base. For the most part, I think these are funny, but sometimes they sort of shatter the illusion (especially when it’s a joke quest as opposed to a joke element in a quest)… I’m torn. I feel as though they should almost only be used as ‘intermission’-style quests, where they don’t interfere with an actual (story) chain and are only there to provide you with a little break before you plunge into the next chain (e.g. the cute ‘be a quest giver’ quest you get right as you enter Hillsbrad). I suppose it really depends on your sense of humor.

Overall, I think the redo is impressive. We’ll have to see how quickly it gets old/what the replay value is on it all, but for now I’m more than satisfied.

I enjoyed the 1 – 20 experience enough that I rolled a new ‘lock in the same zone; now that I am familiar with it, I can go comb the new landscape and farm it to death. That’s neither here nor there, but…did you know that pet class characters can’t (fully) control their pet ’till level 10? Does anyone know why that is?  Has it always been like that and I just don’t remember?