Welcome back to another instalment of me exploring my nostalgia. I hope you enjoyed the sights of early Horde levelling content. Today I will recount the tale of progressing into the middle of the classic experience.
Now previously, me writing this blurb before the meat of the article was to tell you a cool story about when I was younger. But this week, it's about the here and now - and about the stuff that doesn't seem to fit anywhere else - kind of.
Having played retail World of Warcraft, I do have a reference point for the Burning Crusade. I am unlikely to evaluate it fairly, as I currently still have my rose-tinted glasses on. No, it doesn't make a lot of sense to have ranks of spells. Yes, levelling is much slower. Of course, if the LFG tool existed or there were dungeon queues I could enter I would be much better geared and able to stomp my way through the content.
But I'm still having an absolute barrel of fun. Seeing all the different areas (which, when thinking about it, probably aren't that different to retail), meeting all the characters, sucking up the rich lore tapestry. What's interesting to me is that there are still lots of references to concepts fully explored in later expansions. The old ones, the Lich King - throw a rock, it's referenced. But they're treated as these reverent, far-off concepts.
It's the mystique that makes them special.
It also helps that I really enjoy the mechanical, moment-to-moment gameplay. Shaman is by no means a complicated class. Especially after re-specialising to Elemental and having my "rotation" be "Lightning Bolt until they die". It's fun to run around, pressing buttons and making things die. It's fun to chat with guildies - it's fun to explore.
And though I've messed up my UI with add-ons and I have a curated tour guide showing me through the areas, I feel like I'm seeing what made World of Warcraft so attractive in the beginning. People don't like it now because it evolved with its audience. But the building blocks can still be seen.
No doubt now after seeing it and de-constructing the whole thing, I will now have all my excitement drip out of my ears. Maybe. I'm fighting down the urge to rush through this article to play some more Burning Crusade Classic.
Critical Information Summary
Specialisation: Elemental (Re-Spec @ Lv. 33)
Level Reached This Week: 40
Current Playtime: 68 Hours
Professions: Leatherworking (180) Skinning (250)
Apologies in advance, because there are going to be some continuity problems here. I'll try my best to explain them away where I can. The reason is that a lot of zones are not structured like modern content. So Hillsbrad Foothills, for example, has some quests and levels for low to mid 20s, then scales up to 30 \ 35 \ 40. On a number of occasions I did quests on both ends of the scale. I will try and cover the zone in one large chunk and point out that I came back later.
Speaking of which:
I ended here in last week's article, killing mobs in Durnholde Keep. I freed some Orcs, killed some Bears and Spiders - had a great time. Hillsbrad, despite the Horde section being a decrepit, run-down junk-pile, is still a fun place to go on account of its natural, woodland feel.
Anyway during my first tour, I beat a hunter in a drag race as my wolf form:
And was assigned to go and smash up some actual humans in Hillsbrad fields. There were a number of quests with low drop rates, which let to me teaming up with some other players to crank the genocide meter up to an eleven:
I also poisoned their dog, Stanley. You know, for XP.
Totally not evil, I swear.
I came back to Hillsbrad and Tarren Mill at level 39 to pickup some quests that sent me to Alterac Valley - but we'll cross that bridge when we come to it.
But before all that, I moved onto the next levelling area in the guide:
Yep - there were still a handful of Barrens quests (admittedly that I was starting to get seriously overleveled for) that the guide sent me back to do. Among these was a quest to murder lots of Quillboars, including their cool leader in a tent on a mountain, Loc Orcbane:
Good thing he didn't know what to do when a troll showed up and beat him to death.
There were also some quests in the bottom end, dealing with driving some Dwarves out of a dig site, as requested by a wandering Tauren on the road.
Then when that didn't quite fix his craving for violence, I was then requested to go to the fortress overlooking the dig site to obtain materials for explosives, to commit domestic terrorism:
Which I did, then blew up the dig site's flying machine. Cop that, Bael Modan dig teams!
My goals complete, it was time to leave the Barrens, knowing that I'd not be getting XP from there. It had been a long time since I'd last completed anything of the sort. The Barrens has always had a sort of charm in my heart - its rugged handsomeness, diverse population of things to kill and status as the first zone after the starting area - and the area that I never managed to get past as a teenager.
But I had to press on...
Again this is one of those things where there's lots of quests all over the shop. Ashenvale is a broad levelling zone and there's lots to do for levels 18 all the way up to about 30.
I killed some rare mobs that I didn't take any shots of for the Ashenvale Hunt, I swapped a gun for some supplies for a quest I would later discard without turning in and I helped some Orcs kill some Night Elves and capture their outpost. Then I scooted around the outside of Astranaar to kill water elementals. For reasons.
So many activities!
The last thing I did before I quit Ashenvale was to kill a Druid because a magic-addicted junkie in Stonetalon Peak told me to. It wasn't easy, having to climb to the top of a strange druid tower and then deal with Ordanus and two of his mates at the same time, but I got him in the end.
I also went and read a book at the bottom of a passage between the Stonetalon Mountains and Ashenvale, on the direction of a Druid living near the Windshear Crag. Who had some choice words for the Venture Company.
That all done, I made for the next point in the guide.
This is where most of my time was spent this week. My memories of Thousand Needles as a kid are pretty few and far between as I only got here once in several plays of World of Warcraft. When I finally did cross the plane, it was as Alliance, which doesn't quest in the Thousand Needles.
What I love about Thousand Needles is how it uses verticality. Now, admittedly, using verticality in a World of Warcraft zone is not unique, but it has a rustic charm. Most of the old World of Warcraft zones do.
Visuals aside, there's a lot to do in the Thousand Needles. The Grimtotem clan have set up shop on a lot of the peaks (it is worth mentioning that the Grimtotem clan's leader of sorts, Magatha, is in Thunder Bluff and aids you in quests that send you to Grimtotem clan lands, and involve you in direct confrontation with Grimtotem clan enemies).
So that's where we'll start - we climb to Grimtotem lands and start killing them on top of their peaks:
Of course, there's another escort quest to rescue a fair maiden (you know, for being a biped cow) from one of the leaders of the Grimtotem Clan, Arnak, who had kidnapped her to be married to the Grimtotem clan leader.
So you kill him...
...and then whisk away his bride to be. As slowly as possible.
Later on you descrate their graveyard. Nice.
That all done, I made a brief sojurn back to Orgrimmar to do some handicrafts:
And then when and visited one of the more curious parts of the Thousand Needles, the Shimmering Flats, home to Mirage Raceway.
Now this is before the age of vehicle mechanics in World of Warcraft, but there is a very interesting historical footnote. The car designs are based on Podracers from Star Wars: Episode One. Which makes sense, because world of warcraft was released in 2004, and that would've been a very fresh pop culture reference at the time.
Don't believe me? Have a look at this "Rocket Car"
Culture aside, there's a ton of fetch quests and "kill X of Y" quests here, related to car parts. What fun.
There's also a dig site which turns into a cool alien lair. Reminds me a little of Turok 2: Seeds of Evil, which also has a futuristic alien bug lair thing. No firestorm cannons here though.
Later on in the piece, I doubled back to drop off some fetch quests from later levelling zones. The goblins in Mirage Raceway working closely with the Goblins in Booty Bay and Ratchet. Because they're goblins. Get it.
Desolace is not somewhere you'd recommend on the brochure. It lives up to its name being a dark and miserable place where things go to die, and creatures eke out a living to survive.
There's a Kodo (Elephant) graveyard where Kodos go to die, and you have a quest to steal bones from it, because at this point, morals are things for Alliance characters to have.
It's here you encounter your first 'reputation grind' quest, involving two warring factions of Centaur, between the Gelkis and the Magram. Now I did look into this and it's more of a soft tutorial, teaching you about reputational gains and factions, for later in the game.
The guide told me to kill the Gelkis, so I did.
There's also some other spots where you kill cultists belonging to the Burning Blade - the mob of dudes you deal with in Ragefire Chasm when you were level 10.
And there's a colorful Satyr hideout in the top corner of the region, which is a nice palette cleanser from the misery of most of the area. It really added some colour to the murder.
Now with most of the quests in the center area taken care of, I then moved toward the Horde-friendly settlement in the area, Shadowprey village. Again, it's a nice break from Desolace's main color palette of dark greys and muted greens.
It's also full of literal trolls:
The quests from this area all concern the coastal area of Desolace, called the Sar'Theris strand. That means aquatic creatures, fish, and Naga. But at this point, being a master Shaman (*loud, awkward cough*), I used Waterbreathing to stay under for an extended period of time.
World of Warcraft's visuals when underwater are pretty striking. At this point I was an Elemental Shaman, so blasting stuff with Lightning Bolts underwater felt pretty good.
I cracked open some clams and killed a stack of Naga for keys and because I was told to.
I reached their island... fortress?
Then summoned their leader out of a statue, killed him and took his book to give to an Archmage from the Argent Dawn. Yeah, been a hot minute since they were relevant, hey.
On the way out of the zone, I stopped in at the Ghostwalker Post in the centre of the region and participated in the vision of one of the characters. He saw a scary daemon who operates the Burning Blade, who spoke in a language I didn't understand.
I assume that means "Big Mac and Large Fries, thanks."
All that wrapped up, it was on the road again.
This is where the quests from Hillsbrad Foothills sent me. You know, the zone we talked about at the start of the zone re-cap.
I also returned here right at the end to do some additional quests. So, I'll try and make the distinction.
First things first, Alterac is where we find the Alterac Valley battleground instance. This was the last battleground of World of Warcraft classic. If you could dominate there, you could dominate anywhere.
I was turned away as I was not high level enough. Makes sense.
The first thing to do when I got to Alterac was to kill Yetis. I went into the caves (technically in Hillsbrad, but, it makes more sense this way) and zapped lots of Yetis for a stick that belonged to an old Archmage.
Then after recovering the Stick, I then charged it at three sacred points. Killing a special enemy I was told to kill by the Tauren of Thunder Bluff. Hooray for multi-tasking!
I then showed up at a Dalaran, which is impenetrable at this point. And will be until the next expansion.
I then visited an internment facility belonging to the aforementioned Dalaran... militia? Wizard covenant? Dalaran something.
I killed guards and three inmates (if they can be called that, the gate was open and I just bust in and hacked them up) who had stolen stuff. I recovered the stuff and killed the guards as proof.
Later on, near the end of this week I returned to the derelict, Syndicate controlled town of Strahnbrad to rescue another Orc held captive, an ally of Krusk in Tarren Mill.
There were lots of invisible Syndicate dudes hanging about, which meant that instead of roasting and toasting dudes from afar with lightning bolts, I had to wait until they popped out. Then roasting and toasting them.
I returned to Tarren Mill, told Krusk his mate was fine and then refused any more quests. Now at this point, I progressed to Dustwallow Marsh, but first I paid a visit to the next levelling area.
My memories of "STV" are of an instance filled with enemies that are way too high level, being killed endlessly in the jungle and being permanently terrified of even trying to level in there.
When I finally hit STV I was overleveled for most of the starting quests, so the ghosts of Stranglethorn past went away in a hurry.
First, you meet the famous Hemet Nesingwary, beast hunter extraordinare. Him and his compatriots want you to hunt down various flavours of wild animal - Tigers, Panthers and Raptors.
Except for one guy who wants you to make a story book. Ok.
When I landed in STV it was raining. Which meant that I captured some beautiful B-Roll of the jungle in the rain. I know it's not top tier triple A graphics, but my gosh, such a beautiful zone.
Along the way you have an encounter (several if I got all the quests) encounters with the Venture Company, including assassinating the foreman in his office:
You kill Bloodscalp trolls in various settings - beaches and not beaches:
I even got a happy snap or two from near Zul'Gurub - but not too close, as I got run down and murdered by Gurubashi Trolls, who are much, much stronger than Bloodscalps.
Before moving on, I took advantage of Waterbreathing again and descended into the vile reef to murder Murlocs for heads and a tablet in their temple.
Stranglethorn looks just as beautiful underwater, by the way:
The guide wanted to push on in STV, but told me I needed to go elsewhere to get stronger. So, I did - and headed in the direction of:
Ahh, the highlands - a beautiful sight. Colourful, vibrant and hilly, it's a microcosm of Australia's own Southern Highlands. Just without the meth. More Gnolls, Raptors and Spiders, though.
Here I visted the town of Hammerfall - seeing an old Orc with a death wish, a Troll who wants to make him happy again by using squishy animal parts and the last stop of my pre-outlands First Aid quest.
I met Dr. Gregory and participated in the "Triage" quest, which saw me bandaging up horde troops to prove I could use bandages. Which, is a bit redundant considering I can heal myself, but, you never know when it might come in handy.
I passed, letting only lots of Horde troops die. Just call me Dr. Nick Riviera.
Along the way I killed some Ogres at Boulder'gor and Boulderfist Hall:
Visited the Arathi Basin forward HQ:
Visited some rings and killed some Elementals, which is extremely difficult because they're immune to all my damage:
I climbed into the mountains to kill some Gnolls:
And killed some Trolls by a pictureseque lake.
Finally after some chunky and delicious XP, it was time to motor and land at the final stop before the week was out:
It's dark and foreboding - and also the Alliance outpost in the area has been destroyed in... I dunno, I want to say Battle for Azeroth, or something. But it's still here in Burning Crusade (and also Classic and Probably WoTLK)
I actually came here a long time prior to collect the manual for advanced First Aid. But I forgot to get the flight point, so I had to walk here like a schlep.
That does mean I got all the quests from the burned down Shady Rest Inn:
And also be ordered to collect Murloc heads for a hungry Ogre, before he eats me.
I snuck into Theramore to get some reports as instructed by the master of Brackenwall village, which involved swimming in some very interestingly coloured water.
And as I made my escape from Theramore, that's where my questing this week ended.
Another classic part of World of Warcraft. Scarlet Monastery is still part of World of Warcraft, although you cannot run it anymore unless you physically go there and run it.
I did Graveyard and Library, as I was not high enough level to do Armory and Cathedral.
I healed using my Elemental spec, which wasn't too difficult, only running out of mana once and dealt damage on other occasions, which wasn't too much of a pain either.
I got some ok gear, but I'm holding out until I make it to Outland where dungeons are much easier to organise on account of players being there and thus easier to organise.
Now on the way out I did see Sylvanas before she got all crazy in Shadowlands - and before she was one of the key components of Wrath of the Lich king:
And she also brought her Dreadlord friend with her.
I also met this strange little fellow on the way to hand in some quests.
And of course the Undercity has its own mad scientist lab. Now that's flavour!
First things first, Astral Recall is awesome. Having a hearthstone on a fifteen minute cooldown (which is what retail has, but, shut up) is amazing for getting around.
Secondly, apparently the dude operating the Shaman Quests at Blizzard took mercy on the class after making them run between six different spots in a quest that takes an hour and a half and crosses three continents, and replaces it with a single quest chain that involves speaking to someone to get your last totem.
I'm not complaining, but, why did you make the third one so hard to complete and this one so mundane. Is it because water is such a good totem and air is so rubbish?
Lastly, and I was too slow to get a screenshot, but we had a Cobalt Crusher drop for us during one of our Scarlet Monastery runs. As a warrior, I dreamed of having one of those drop for me. One of my earliest memories is begging people for enough gold to go and buy one.
But I passed on it, because, as a Shaman, I don't need it. Funny how that works.
So that was my journey this week. I'm only thirty levels from getting ready to grind into the end game, so we're at about the midway mark. Kind of. I've been really enjoying my time and that doesn't look like it's about to change.
Catch you next time,
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