In part one I spent my time going over a few of the Alliance starting areas with an aim to seeing how well they hold up against the current game, and to refresh my memory of exactly how they played without the rose-tinted spectacles of nostalgia before Cataclysm comes out and destroys them all.
Now, the number of Horde alts I’ve had over the years have dulled any nostalgia I’ve got for these zones. I know exactly how good or bad the starting areas actually are, as I’ve done each of them atleast three times, and I’ve done Durotar more than most. Trolls are pretty much my favourite race for alts, but I never seem to get any to max level, and Orcs are my favourite race that I get to max level, what with me having a level 80 Orc Hunter, Orc Warrior and Orc Death Knight.
Meet Mojin, Troll Mage, decked out in the finest cloth heirlooms Tokens can buy. Unlike the Alliance testing I am using Heirlooms. I’ve also bought a Violet Hat just to top things off. There is method in my madness however, as this gear was bought to be sent to my Goblin Priest come Cataclysm, and rather than let it go to waste, I figured “what the hell, lets blitz through the Valley of Trials”
The Valley of Trials is one of my favourite starting areas, now I know this can be controvertial to some people, but I feel that in terms of teaching new players about the game’s underlying mechanics, the Valley of Trials has no equal, and in terms of fun value it’s not bad either.
My major gripe with VoT is that it’s rather a flavourless area. It’s all red and barren, it’s harsh and plain. Sure, it’s easy to navigate. When a quest giver tells you to go to the cave at the north of the area, it’s a simple matter of just running north, there’s nothing to get in your way, but it leaves the zone feeling flat and underdesigned (something that can be levelled at the Barrens too, pre-cata alteast)
The first quest you get is the staple Kill X of Y quest, where you gain your first level by killing boars. Yes, the first quest Trolls and Orcs have to do is an unintentionals reference to South Park.
Past this is a quest to gather apples and kill imps, with the option of picking up a collect stingers from scorpids. Couple that with one of my favourite quests, the Foremans Blackjack where you go around and wake up sleeping Peons. That’s the four main quest mechanics for most of Vanilla, flat Kill, Pickup, Loot Drop, and Item use, all in the first two levels.
The zone crescendos with two quest chains converging on the afforementioned cave at the North. Clearing out the Demon influence and collecting the foremans pick. I’d love to say that these quests were anything special, but they just aren’t any more. They were, when I first started, but now they’re just completely trivial and are patronisingly easy for one simple reason.
That’s right, everything is Neutral. You can walk right past every single demon beast in the cave and just collect the goddamn pick, walk right up to the boss mob you have to kill and dance with the bastard without him batting an eyelid.
This isn’t the rose-tinted spectacles of nostalgia either. That cave was a test for new players. A sort of right of passage. A Trial. Imagine that, an actual trial in the Valley of Trials. I’m not normally one to whine about content being tuned down but that cave is now a complete insult to any new player. Before, when you came out of that cave you knew what an enemy mob looked like, you knew that things would attack on sight and you knew to look over your shoulder and plan your pulls. The Valley of Trials used to be the perfect newbie learning zone. It had everything that would prepare a new person for questing in the big wide world, but now it’s removed the one thing that it did best.
I know that every other starting zone had all their mobs turned neutral, and yes, it saved alot of frustration being thrust upon new players, but nowhere else that I can think of right now had an area that suffered so much trivialisation from it. The Pumpkin patch in Northshire was full of once-hostile Defias, but atleast you had to go there to kill some of them, so the area was still a ‘combat’ zone, even if you instigated the pulls. Same with the Scarlet camp in Deathknell, the Blood Elf camp in Azuremyst, the Quillboar mound in Mulgore, the Troll cave in Dun Morogh. Each of these had you killing the inhabitants during the final quest, rather than just waltzing past them like they weren’t there.
The removal of hostile enemies from the starting zone is what caused the problem, but, strangely, it wasn’t the actual cause of the problem. The could have asked us to kill the felhunters, or collect some demon stones from the hunters and imps, or just something that didn’t make going in that cave a nearly pointless activity.
With Cataclysm coming, I hope I can report on a much improved Valley of Trials, with Blizzards improved quest designing crafting the perfect area for Orcs to start. There’s nothing quite like beating up Peons for the Foreman, and I hope that it stays in one form or another.
*Thwookk* “Okie Dokie”