Sunday, December 12, 2010

WoW: Cataclysm - Level 80-82 in Mount Hyjal

For those of us who remember Molten Core, we get to see some old friends in this new zone. Baron Geddon is cheerfully melting unwary players' faces early on in the zone. Ragnaros shows up later. The zone contains a variety of mini-story arcs while managing to progress the player through the overall story of Cataclysm quite well. Also, in a touching homage to Joust (a personal favorite from the past), an amusing quest line has been implemented.

Unfortunately the zone is very linear. It's a lot like a Warhammer Online: Age of Reckoning zone in that sense. "Go here, then here, then here, in this order." It doesn't help that the geography is basically one big snaking canyon which you work your way down. The quests are at least relevant to the story, though fairly tedious. There isn't much in the way of choice, say whether you want to go to this camp over here first, or maybe the one north of it.

Most quest hubs amount to a fairly even split of " kill this many" and "collect this many". You can only do so many variations of it, right? Right. Well, the problem here is the collection quests; these are generally not fun to do in a group. It takes longer for the same reward. There's no reason to do them in a group. The only "reason" is to slow people down, but it does so at such a marginal rate overall that I question if it's even worth it or not.

Alongside my beef with collection quests and their demeanor that is not befitting of a group-based game (you could just fix them by letting everyone look the items off the same corpse, which a few do), there's the simple fact that they take up space. Despite all the innovations that WoW has brought the genre, is still has a weak and archaic inventory system. Many games have adopted the idea of a separate quest inventory and sometimes even a separate crafting materials inventory. Also missing from the game-as-purchased; an automatic sorting function for the inventory. We should be able to designate certain bags to automatically receive types of items when we loot them or finish a quest. I suspect that their might be some programming issues here holding a streamlined function like this hostage, but who knows.

From the goblin area we have the continuing theme of too much and not enough with mobs. Sometimes you spend ten minutes trying to nab five kills, and sometimes you are perpetually beset by instantly respawning mobs. You may think, "Hey, I'll just move him over here and kill him..." Well, it's a novel thought. But many of the areas are so jam-packed with agro that moving the one you're fighting so you won't get his insta-replacement just results in fighting an increasing number of enemies. I understand the need to increase spawns for a newly released product - I often wish more studios did - but in this case there's a massive inconsistency with spawn rates.

The great idea and system of popup quests is just as underutilized in this zone as it is in the rest of the Cataclysm content, which I find pretty disappointing. It's such a great system for streamlining quests. I honestly think it's the way that truly next-gen MMOs handle it; always keep the player moving forward.

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