Fight or flight

I’m currently levelling a Tauren Paladin (unfortunately not a Highmountain as they can’t be Sunwalkers), and have just started working through Wrath zones.

It’s nice to be able to skip the Burning Crusade regions and move directly to Northrend now. I like BC well enough but have done it many times now, and only really love Nagrand. And the Wrath zones are beautiful and the story-telling top notch.

My new-to-WoW friend agrees. He’s loremastered his way to Icecrown and rates the overall story experience as the best yet, other than Eastern Plaguelands (which I re-played through on his recommendation and he’s right, it’s great). He didn’t like Outland much, surprising no one but me it seems. I figured that the initial run through would still be interesting and fun, but apparently the quest design and meandering story doesn’t work well even for a first timer. Probably also not helped by the fact the core continents of Kalimdor and Eastern Kingdoms all had their quest and story structures polished in Cataclysm, leaving Outland a rusty outlier.

Wrath is of course another level again, with a cohesive storyline driven by a brilliant villain, and probably the pinnacle of zone and art design (Mists might challenge the latter, if you like the aesthetic).

One unexpected thing I’ve found revisiting Northrend is that being able to fly from the get-go changes the experience dramatically. I feel far less involved in the landscape and lives going on below as I flit from quest to hub to quest. Being able to avoid all the ground mobs and time-sink trash makes things much faster of course, but also strangely less enjoyable.

Entering Grizzly Hills I had flashbacks of endless battles with wolves and spiders and trolls and furbolgs to get to where I needed to go, but this time I just plonked down on the quest marker and cleaned up quickly before moving on.

In some ways I wish my friend wasn’t able to fly either, as his experience is not going to have the same depth you get by being on the ground and learning the geography of the land and the people and creature inhabiting it.

I really understand now the reason for Blizzard’s flying lockouts in new expansions. Designing a levelling experience with flying would be very difficult, and likely results in similar frustrations to underwater zones like Vashj’ir. I’m looking forward to unlocking flying in BfA for alt levelling, but I appreciate being grounded for the first run through – knowing the territory backwards, from shortcuts to mobs to avoid to special and often beautiful places which you’d otherwise miss completely – makes a big difference.

Of course I could just use my ground mount everywhere for my Paladin, but the mental gymnastics to do that are beyond me – levelling fast is irresistible, and it’s hard to postpone the clarion call of the next bright thing by slowing down and hoofing around on foot.

Besides, ‘slowly’ is what Classic is for.

2 thoughts on “Fight or flight”

  1. I was just writing about flight and how it affects immersion and appreciation of the world – not specifically in WoW but in MMORPGs in general. I find it has exactly the opposite effect on me to what you experienced – nothing makes me less “in” the world than having to fight through endless wildlife/undead/bandits to get from A to B.

    Looking at the ludicrous placement and pathing drags me out of the virtual world and makes me all too aware I’m playing a game. Flying past those same mobs, seeing them vaguely in the distance below, removes all of that, leaving only the scenery, which has usually been created by artists with an entirely different agenda to the game designers who placed the mobs.

    If you go back to the old days of EverQuest or DAOC, when there were no flying mounts and travel was arduous, nerve-wracking and frequently fatal, it’s very important to remember that, while the mobs were much more lethal they were much fewer and further between and they pathed less obviously over much wider ranges. Ground travel then was involving in part because it involved strategic planning and ad hoc extemporizing. These days it almost always comes down to slaughter, with weak mobs that pose no threat but act as speed bumps, making the journey bumpy and annoying.

    1. Fair points, especially the frustration that can come of endless respawning annoying mobs. Your criticisms of Path of Fire spring to mind. I kind of enjoy ‘threading’ between pathing mobs, but not if they’re unavoidable. WoW at least has safe roads just about everywhere so that helps too. And I feel that the art team are mainly designing for the boots on the ground view, but you’re quite right that the view from above is often the most spectacular.

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