Blackrock Depths

Our guild ran Blackrock Depths last night, the first time for many of us. Wow. They don’t make instances like that any more.

The scale and size of the dungeon is amazing – epic Dwarven architecture, of even greater ambition than Ironforge. You start in rough hewn tunnels before emerging out into majestic amphitheaters, arenas, and lava strewn forgeworks. The Dark Highway in particular is enough to make you stop and take copious screenshots. It feels like a living, breathing, working underground city.

Some of the mechanics are beautiful too – opening a wall cabinet reveals the portrait of a fallen Dwarf Lord, whose obituary message reveals the location to the Shadowforge Key. And there are many moments where you look down on somewhere you’ve been, or somewhere you’re working toward.

It’s also very complicated, and easy to get utterly lost. We did, several times, despite having copious guides, screenshots, maps, handwritten notes, and a old skool veteran in the party. We stumbled into the Grim Guzzler at around midnight, sunk a long cool Thunderbrew, and called it a night.

There are a million bosses, many which you run into before realising, and all of who seem to drop cloth blues, despite this being the only place in Warcraft where you can forge Dark Iron.

BRD is also full of truckloads of mobs, everywhere you turn. We must have killed an entire Dwarvish nation just getting to some of the bosses, so much so that we felt some kind of penance might be due. The sheer numbers are what makes it seem like a real place – spectators cheering the arena, forgesmiths at work, miners, technicians and engineers working on weapons and great siege engines. I can see why Blizzard reduced the trash on modern dungeons, and am glad they did for everyone’s sanity, but less NPC activity does take some of the life out of the newer instances.

It would have been an incredible challenge to play on level back in the day, with 6+ pulls being common. We were all hovering around 55 last night, but despite my Bear tanking being pretty rusty, all the dungeon nerfs & player buffs meant we dominated most everything, even when our healer was annihilated by 800 angry wrench throwers.

Gotta catch them all

A while back, Pike had a nice thoughtful post up about encountering genuinely new players when you’re busy on an alt (or a main visiting the old world areas during things like Hallow’s End). Unless they’re obviously sporting Heirlooms or twink gear, I tend to treat everyone as if they are a Stranger in a Strange Land, helping out and assuming they know as much as I did when starting out (i.e. nothing – being absorbed in Civ4 at the time, I spent 5 minutes trying to make my very first Dwarf Hunter move forward by right clicking where I wanted him to go. WASD didn’t even enter my head until my friend /whispered me to ask why I was still standing on the spawn spot).

Even if they don’t have the gear it’s easy to get fooled – I was tooling around Mulgore in my Heirloom Shoulders and someone asked where I got them, how you get them, etc. I was dutifully explaining that when you get to 80 you can earn tokens, which you can use to buy Heirlooms, etc. He then challenged me to a duel, at the same time as insta-swapping into his full Heirloom/Twink gear set…ouch.

It is nice when you do encounter someone who really is new to the game, and you can help out in some way. I still remember the total awe I felt when first approaching Bloodhoof village, seeing a high level toon offering free bags to the first 5 people to visit him in the Inn. Or encountering a level 70 running wild in Gol’Bolar Quarry in Dun Morogh on that same 2nd level Dwarf Hunter. I asked him why he was doing it, and he said he just wanted to come back to where it all started end exact some revenge on those tricky early mobs.

The other question Pike asks in her article is whether Blizzard have effectively closed off older end-game content (e.g. Naxx) by making the rewards from newer areas (e.g. ToC) so much better.

I think there’s some truth in that – but only for those where Progression/Gear is the goal. If you’re playing to have the best gear, and see the latest content, then sure, you will bypass Ulduar by simply buying Tier 9 epics so you can dominate Icecrown.

But if you’re playing to enjoy the content, to “see it all”, to experience the thrill of downing your first Ulduar boss, these days there’s not much stopping you. With the new LFD system, you should at least be able to easily see every five man, and if you can find a Guild that isn’t in it for the Progression, and you should be fine with the 10’s too. With the massive success of 3.3 LFD, it can’t be long before Blizzard extends that to 10 man raids too.

My old guild didn’t reach Kara until just before WotLK was released, but that didn’t stop us having a ball in there, spending hours slowly working through the bosses and honing our tactics. Maiden stalled us for weeks, but the hoots when we beat her, and the way each week we got better until she was just traffic, was brilliant.