Tuesday, December 7, 2010

WoW: Cataclysm First Impressions (Goblin Area)

Since everyone I knew flaked out on logging in at midnight, I found myself alone with little to do in game. So I rolled my Goblin Warlock a little ahead of schedule and set off with a 'newbie mindset' to take some notes. I'll do this list-style for organization.


+ Good story progression throughout the Goblin racial area
+ Great environment, colors, textures and theme
+ Plenty of amusing quests


- Inconsistent pace between sections of the starting area
- Low density of certain quest monsters
- Too much running for a starting area
- Lacks 'quest grouping' in certain areas
- Inconsistencies in risk between areas
- Too high of respawn rate for monsters in some areas
- Terrain bugs/issues

Let's talk in detail about some of these.

By inconsistent pace, I mean that in 'section A' you might be rapidly turning in quests, sometimes multiples at a time, and then in the next area you suddenly find yourself with one or two quests to do at a time that take much longer to do. I don't know what to make of it, but time-to-level-10 is significantly faster in older starting zones, to the tune of taking about 75% as long. Onwards...

Too much running around and/or a lack of multiple quests to do at once. They start you out doing up to three at a time, but then you find yourself making long runs back and forth along the same road several times just to do a single quest. I found myself using autorun quite a bit throughout the Goblin starting experience.

The inconsistencies in risk of certain areas wasn't so much a problem as it was something I noted. For the most part, you're safe and there's little risk of dying. Then you find yourself in a spot, or on a quest, where a pack of even-level monsters jump you and make you take a dirt nap.

Now, as for the low density of quest monsters... I don't know when games will start getting this right, if ever. The areas weren't even all that populated by players (being 4am and all), but I still found myself waiting for respawns or running to the outskirts of a quest location in search of things that weren't there. On the flipside, at times I would be killing a random creature that was in the way or even a quest monster, and they would instantly respawn as soon as I killed them, and attack me again.

Lastly but never least; terrain bugs. Either I'm pro, or they just missed a whole bunch of them. They weren't anything unusual, just the oldies; getting stuck on tiny objects and NPCs freaking out after walking over said tiny objects, getting stuck in geometry, that sort of thing. My crowning find for the night was passing through a piece of terrain that was obviously there to keep people out; it took a little work, but I made it through. Then I couldn't get back out. Woops! I was stuck between a lava death, or a recall. Well, I didn't get to choose... because I found a falling death after wedging myself between two pieces of terrain! Just like old times. Unfortunately, the graveyard put me further away from where I needed to be. The best part of all this, was that having been on the quests I was on, I'd activated some sort of phased event, which I would have to try to run through to get back to my quests (because hearthing to the town put me back in an older area). So I got to die a handful of times just getting back to where I should have been.

The Verdict:

I'd call it standard Blizzard fare. Quirky, enjoyable, silly, but still housing a variety of issues in both design and on the technical side. As a veteran MMO player none of what I encountered surprised me and I still enjoyed it, but most likely won't do it again. The environment and atmosphere is beautiful, as always, and the characters and monsters are notably higher quality texture-wise. It keeps the status quo just fine but does nothing, so far as I have experienced, to advance the genre.

As a new user experience I think it fell short. At times you're blazing through quests so fast that you scarcely know what's going on, and then moments later you're spending more time running down the same road four times than actually doing quests. The story aspect of it was good, but all the negatives pile up and can make for a fairly unpleasant, or at least uneven experience.

Next up I'll be talking about 'the new 1-60', having just taken a Tauren Paladin through it in very short order.

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