A New Chapter Begins

I meant to write this post a few days ago but, well, I was too busy playing the game. I’ve been having a blast playing Shadowlands so far and while it isn’t the perfect expansion and I have some gripes, I already love many things about it.

The Launch

The launch was relatively smooth in that I can’t really remember a better one save for the Legion launch – and even then lots of players on the EU servers did not have a smooth launch. For me, the transition to Shadowlands was pretty painless, except for the fact that the world server was down and players couldn’t teleport from Boralus to Stormwind (or from anywhere else) to start the beginning quest for about 30 minutes. Even so I was among the lucky ones as I had been logged into the game about 2 hours prior to the release, Guildies who were attempting to log in right at launch were having the familiar “character list not found” problem.

Some players were able to log in after an hour, while some continued to have login issues days after launch. It wasn’t pretty, but I’m almost positive I can recall worse launches (I’m looking at you WoD). One of the reasons this launch had minimal issues is due to Blizzard’s use of sharding, a relatively new instancing technology that allows them to break up realms into smaller groups of players to lessen the load. This was very apparent during the introductory quest in the Maw, where I only noticed a few other players in the zone with me at a time. A couple days after the launch, they relaxed the use of sharding which has helped make the world feel real again.

The leveling and zones

I planned on writing separate posts that analyzed each zone and the story found therein, but I was surprised to find how quickly I reached level 60. I may have rushed a little, since I need to be ready to raid in a week, but leveling is just really fast this time around. A nice touch is that the main story quests are highlighted both on the map and over the questgiver’s head, but that leads to some interesting results. Several people in my Guild reported running out of main story quests around level 57 and needed to level up before continuing the story. I’m not sure if this is a result of plainly marking the story quests so that’s all most people will go for, or if the leveling experience is unbalanced. Something about it felt awkward, but I still enjoyed each zone.

Bastion is a beautiful depiction of Blizzard’s version of the ideal heaven, with rolling golden fields and inhabited by actual angels – the Ascended Kyrian. My favorite thing about Bastion is its nod to Greek mythology and how each Kyrian NPC has an ancient Greece-inspired name. The adorable Stewards are a very close second; delightful owl servants who work as helpers to the Kyrian – every single one of them is just the best. The story was focused on the trials and sacrifices new souls must overcome when sent to Bastion, as well as the doubt rapidly spreading among the aspirants. It was a great story but even so my least favorite of all the zones, but did a great job of introducing players to this new world.

Maldraxxus had the most memorable opening quest for me, as I was thrown into the Theater of Pain arena and fought my way to victory. I felt like a gladiator fighting for my freedom, it was just awesome. While the landscape is barren and kind of gross, the Maldraxxi are a vibrant and kooky bunch. The story here is centered around the different Houses, and their fall into civil war. The quests ended with learning some very interesting information about the Jailer and his origins, definitely a good setup for plotlines in the future.

Champion of the Arena!

Next I was sent to Ardenweald, the wondrous moonlit forest of my dreams. I love everything about this place – the lovely trees and glimmering waters, the mischievous fairies, the music. The whole place seems to be inspired by a Midsummer Night’s Dream, and also Ori and the Blind Forest somewhat. The quests involving the Drust are fascinating and the last questline with Ysera made me cry. Ardenweald is my favorite Shadowlands zones and perhaps one of my all-time favorites, and I couldn’t be happier by choosing it for Aurashot’s covenant.

Lastly was Revendreth, yet another fantastic zone. Revendreth and the sinful Venthyr differ from Ardenweald in pretty much every way, yet I loved exploring this zone as well. The vampiric architecture, music, and personalities of the NPCs remind me of Castlevania and Dracula – another fun theme. The dredgers with their accents are among my favorite new things, and I actually had a hard time picking between Revendreth and Ardenweald for my covenant. The story went into detail on the process Venthyr use to punish the worst souls, serving as a last chance before spending eternity in the Maw. Revendreth is also home to the expansion’s first raid, and thus had one of the stronger campaign stories. I look forward to returning to Revendreth for world quests and exploring, and I can’t wait until one of my alts joins this covenant.

the Covenants

I had high hopes for this major Shadowlands feature and so far I am not disappointed. Ardenweald feels like my home, and it gives a similar sense of belonging as the Legion Order Halls. While this is still week 1 and many things such as renown levels and covenant story quests are being time-gated, I enjoy what I’ve played so far.

My induction to the Night Fae covenant was THE BEST
Torghast and the maw

I’m enjoying the Maw and how it truly feels like a dangerous place. You do your dailies, get in and get out. The story unfolding with Ve’nari is intriguing and I look forward to finding out why she’s been in the Maw and how she has eluded the Jailer for so long. The place is huge, even more so because we can’t use mounts, and only half the zone is explorable right now.

Torghast has also been super fun, even if I don’t fully understand its purpose yet. I mean, I get that we need to clear floors in order to collect Soul Ash to give to the Runecarver to use to craft our legendary armor with. Other than that, it just seems like a blast killing bad buys and seeing how far you can make it. I hope they add more incentives to it – like mounts, pets, and possibly gear to collect. For now, I’m enjoying the unfolding story of the Runecarver.

The Upper Reaches level is so cool

Besides everything else, I’m excited to raid Castle Nathria. I’ve only done a couple normal dungeons so far, but I like what I see, and I’m very eager to get back into the routine of raiding.

Battle for Azeroth Retrospective

Tomorrow Shadowlands will be here, and I’ll be on my way to uncover a new story in a world unlike anything on Azeroth. There will be new stories, favorite characters, and the new endgame to discover. Today, however, I’m taking the time to reflect on everything I’ve experienced in the past two years. I’m a nostalgic person and, as always, I look forward to these kinds of posts.

Story

BfA made several advancements and improvements in storytelling that I loved; including the use of more cinematics in the middle of quests, and cut scenes that show your character being directly involved in the story. There was more focus on narrative and story that was improved on in Legion, which had excellent storytelling as well. The first thing that comes to mind as an example of this is the storyline with Jaina on the Alliance.

We are introduced to Kul Tiras for the first time through Jaina; feeling her shame and embarrassment after attempting to return to her homeland and heal old wounds. It doesn’t quite go as she planned – her own mother, Lord Admiral of Kul Tiras at the time, sentences her to prison. Though Jaina isn’t present for our questing experience, we see Kul Tiras for what it had become in the aftermath of the Second War. Broken, and its ruling houses in shambles.

Only through our deeds in Kul Tiras and eventually freeing Jaina does everyone begin to heal. We see the conclusion to Jaina’s story arc when she ultimately overcomes the demons haunting her, and reconciles with her mother who names her the next Lord Admiral. Blizzard did a great job with that, and the overall theme and feel of Kul Tiras. Even today I can sit idle in Boralus for hours and listen to the amazing music or take in the buildings and scenery.

-War Campaign

The war campaign was the major quest chain that spanned most of the expansion. It served to be the backbone of the power struggle between the Horde and Alliance – a narrative that would eventually shift into Old God territory as the true plot of the expansion revealed itself.

Even though the war campaign was no substitute for the awesome Suramar story in Legion, it served its purpose. Its job was to fill in the gaps leading up to the first raid Battle of Dazar’alor, and showing the battles and telling the stories of characters who participated in the Fourth War. It was shorter, but it peppered in content that prodded the players to explore Zandalar and uncover secrets and treasures in the hopes that the war would turn in our favor.

While plundering Dazar’alor’s vault with Shaw and Flynn, Aurashot was going through her Goth phase
-Questing

Questing was awesome during BfA, and was an improvement to the already-awesome questing of Legion. Questing through Kul Tiras on Alliance and Zandalar on Horde was a smooth experience, and was very fun. Drustvar was fantastic and just knocked it out of the park, while Tirigarde Sound had many memorable moments and was almost as good. My favorite questlines include the Norwington Estate, stowing away on a pirate ship with Flynn, and pretty much all of Drustvar.

I didn’t enjoy Stormsong Valley to the same extent, and still think that there was some wasted potential there. During the last chapter of the Tirigarde story we meet Brandon Stormsong, son to Lord Stormsong, who has been charged with overseeing Anglepoint Wharf. The Wharf has fallen victim to a group of corrupted Tidesages led by Lord Stormsong himself, but after we help Brandon escape and defeat the threat we never see Brandon again. The story was building him up to be an important character in our journeys though Stormsong Valley, and I was sad we never got to continue that story. I already have posts on Tirigarde, Drustvar, and Stormsong Valley, so I won’t continue to ramble on here.

My experience questing through the Horde continent of Zandalar was just as good. All three zones were amazing and the first zone I chose, Zuldazar, did a great job introducing me to the story. My favorites were Vol’dun and Nazmir. In Vol’dun I teamed up with the Vulpera to fight against the Vulpera across a beautiful desert backdrop, and in Nazmir I braved Old God horrors in order to meet powerful Loa to aid us. I also have posts on Zuldazar and Nazmir, but I somehow missed Vol’dun (I had a great time there though).

My favorite Loa
Leveling & Zones

The pace of leveling in BfA was great, and as always Blizzard continues to improve this process in every expansion they release. I continued to enjoy leveling on my alts and didn’t find it to be an experience that dragged on. I don’t have much to say about leveling, but I thought it would be important to note that it continued Legion’s trend of great leveling experiences.

Kul Tiras and Zandalar were designed beautifully, and I always found something new to explore every time I revisited them with alts. Both capital cities are just astounding and massive areas on their own, not to mention the lands they are nestled in. The first time I went to Zandalar as part of the Alliance war campaign quests, flying mounts weren’t added in BfA zones yet. I remember wandering through the jungles and getting lost, just like what would happen in real life. It’s a world all on its own and, especially as a fresh level 120 with low level gear, dangerous. Just like in Legion, all of BfA’s locations are places you want to spend time in, whether it be doing world quests or gathering herbs. As I write this I feel sad that after tomorrow I won’t visit them as often anymore. Not because I’m bored of them, I’ll just be distracted by the new areas Shadowlands has for us.

-Mechagon & Nazjatar

These two zones were introduced in patch 8.2, and served as a place for max level characters to quest and continue the expansion’s story. Nazjatar was a direct tie in to the upcoming raid, The Eternal Palace, where players finally confronted Queen Azshara. Nazjatar was an important zone because during this patch, the expansion took a notable departure from the Horde vs. Alliance theme and further highlighted the underlying Old God threat that was introduced in patch 8.1 with Crucible of Storms. Besides that, Nazjatar is a beautiful zone with lots of secrets. It was, after all, where Azshara made the deal with N’Zoth after her empire was lost under the sea. As someone who loves Night Elf lore, it was a dream to finally see Nazjatar in the game. The music that plays as I approached a section of the ruins of Zin-Azshari was emotional and told the story of an ancient tragedy.

While the zone looks amazing, it feels kind of empty at the same time. After completing the new war campaign chapters there, I didn’t find much reason to stay. Nazjatar was built up in my mind so much that when I finally saw it, part of it felt disappointing. I wanted more story; more Night Elf stuff, whatever that may be. If you’ve read part one of Aurashot’s history you’ll know that returning to her former home would have been hard for her. I wanted something more, and I realize part of that is my personal feelings towards it, something Blizzard couldn’t have given me.

On the other hand, Mechagon blew me away. I wasn’t expecting much from it, and didn’t fully understand what it was about until I went there. I love the goofy personalities of the Mecha Gnomes and their unique voice lines. The quests were great and the junkyard crafting feature was a lot of fun. I enjoy content that involves rare bosses and awesome loot, and that’s what Mechagon turned out to be – a small island filled with lots of different things to do. I’ve spent way more time in Mechagon than in Nazjatar, and found myself flying back to the island whenever I was bored but still wanted to play WoW.

Warfronts

My experience with Warfronts is mixed, and part of that comes from some confusion on what a Warfront was supposed to be. When they were announced, they were described to be a strategy game kind of like Warcraft 3. Players would command troops and send workers off to gather resources, and upgrade buildings. Those things still happened, except you had to join a group and the players themselves fought against the enemy and gathered the resources. It ended up being cool, but it was different from how it was initially pitched to us at BlizzCon. In particular, I found the Stromgarde Warfront to be boring.

When the second Warfront, Darkshore, came out it was greatly improved from the first one. The fact that the Darkshore Warfront took place in Kalimdor and was focused on the Night Elves’ struggle against the Horde might also have something to do with it.

Island Expeditions

Sadly, I didn’t really start running expeditions until the end of BfA. Island Expeditions didn’t seem very interesting in the early days of the expansion, but I wasn’t paying attention to the fact that Blizzard was working to improve them. I tried expeditions again with my guild and had a blast with them; little scenarios where you kill as much stuff as you can and take their loot. What’s more is each island had its own little story playing out, and even then a single island has a set of random scenarios that play out. The primary reason for doing expeditions is to get Azerite to level up the Heart of Azeroth, which in turn unlocks more traits on Azerite Armor. The other reason is to collect mounts and pets, and I’m all over that. I only wish that I spent more time doing expeditions, but I hope Blizzard will introduce a way to continue farming them after the Shadowlands launch.

Dungeons & Raids

BfA was a special expansion for me because I joined a raiding guild, which is something I haven’t really done before in this 16 year-old game. I got to experience raids and dungeons in a way I haven’t in the past, and what a great expansion it was for raiding. My favorite raid of this expansion was Battle of Dazar’alor, and we spent many hours running it and perfecting the boss fights. To me it has the most memorable boss fights, ending with an epic fight against Jaina Proudmoore herself. Set in Dazar’alor, capital of the Zandalari, it was golden and brilliant. I had so much fun editing the videos for this raid.

The other raids were all great, even if I did want a little more from the Eternal Palace. I wanted more lore-inspired boss fights, and even the fight against Azshara herself felt lacking. The raids were all wonderfully designed and had fun fights. Because of my experience in BfA, raiding Castle Nathria in Shadowlands next month is one of my most anticipated activities.

The dungeons this time around were no less amazing. From Kul Tiras, my favorite is Waycrest Manor; and Atal’Dazar over on Zuldazar. Waycrest Manor is one of those dungeons that I’ll continue to run just for the fun of it. I love that the whole dungeon takes place in a gigantic haunted mansion that reminds me of playing Luigi’s Mansion. It sums up the theme of Drustvar perfectly. Atal’Dazar is sunny and gold, and I love it for the same reasons I enjoy Battle for Dazar’alor. I’m looking forward to what the designers create in Shadowlands.

visions of n’zoth

Visions, introduced in patch 8.3, gave players re-playable scenarios that scaled depending on the amount of players participating in it. Running a Vision can be done solo, but is usually much more fun in small groups. I had some issues with Visions that caused me to stop running them after a while, but I love the direction Blizzard is going with content like this.

I really like the idea of being able to run content that is dungeon-like, yet have the choice of going solo or in a group of up to four other layers. What I don’t like, however, are things that are timed. The major mechanic in Visions was basically time, and how long players could withstand the corruption levels before they had to evacuate. I was also pleased when I discovered one of the major mechanics in Shadowlands is Torghast, which is re-playable content that can be done solo or in a group but without the time element.

Systems

BfA’s systems mostly branched from the theme of collecting Azerite. At the beginning of the expansion, players were given a quest that rewarded us with the Heart of Azeroth. The Heart would increase in power every time we gathered Azerite from quests, rare bosses, dungeons/raids, or island expeditions. We needed to level up the Heart in order to unlock Azerite traits on our Azerite armor, special armor for our helm, shoulder, and chest slots. Azerite traits increased the power of the gear, and boosted players’ stats and gave additional passive abilities. As the expansion progressed, more systems that worked with Azerite was introduced.

-Azerite Traits

Azerite traits were in the game from the beginning, and aren’t complicated or difficult to understand. Every time you get your Heart to a certain level, that will unlock a trait on a given piece of armor. The item level of the armor and how you acquire it determines how many traits the armor will have. Armor that drops in a raid will require a higher Heart of Azeroth to unlock the traits, but the traits will also be more desirable. Each “tier” of traits has three different choices so that there is a degree of customization – even though most players pick the trait that benefits their class and specialization the most. Traits were simple to use, but found that I always picked similar traits. It wasn’t particularly exciting, but it was a good system for enhancing gear.

-Azerite Essences

Essences came later, and could be added to the Heart like sockets rings and armor. Essences were found through raiding, quests, and PvP. You could set both a Major and Minor essence. Major ones often had a spell that could be added to a rotation, whereas Minor essences had passive effects. My personal favorite is the Concentrated Azerite Beam, which fires a beam of Azerite energy in a cone and does tons of damage. Plus it looks cool and it’s fun to use. I got used to having essences and I’ll miss them in Shadowlands.

-Mission Table

Missions played a smaller part in BfA than in Legion, and had less features. This time around, Blizzard made the mission table almost unnecessary besides running missions for a chance at Azerite or other small rewards. I actually enjoyed missions during Legion, where we leveled up our followers and gave them better gear and items that gave them various abilities. Missions have always had a mini-game feel to them, and lots of people don’t like that. I like having that idle content and having missions running in the background while I’m questing or doing other things in game. Missions definitely shouldn’t be a main focus, but I like them for what they’re supposed to be. I’ve heard good things about their replacement in Shadowlands, and can’t wait to learn them.

-Corruption

Corrupted armor was introduced in the last major patch to BfA, and added a risk vs. reward element to the gear system. Corruption worked independently from the Azerite system. Any gear you got from quests or the Nya’lotha raid in patch 8.3 had a chance to be corrupted with Void energy, and granted players increased power. At the time time, building up corruption had consequences. Reaching certain levels of corruption had adverse effects for your character. What starts as a small annoyance builds into multiple enemies spawning and killing you. I was pretty good about balancing my amount of corruption. but many people would take all the corrupted armor they could in order to get all the benefits.

Conclusion

Battle for Azeroth was a great expansion, for many reasons. One of the most subjective being that I joined a raiding guild, and had tons of awesome experiences I’ve never had before. I enjoyed the dungeons, questing, and the story of Jaina overcoming her tragic past. The zone design on both Kul Tiras and Zandalar is amazing, and it was always fun to revisit them whether it be for herbing or leveling new alts. The continuation of the story of Azeroth the dormant Titan World Soul and the threat of the Old Gods was nice, although the Old Gods part did seem sort of rushed. There are things that I didn’t like so much, but that’s normal with every expansion. I look back at the last two years of WoW and remember the great times I had playing the game, which is the true test of a good expansion to me.

Looking to the (very near) future, I hope Shadowlands is just as entertaining as BfA if not more so. I can’t wait to pick up raiding again and choose my first covenant – Aurashot will be going to Ardenweald, but I haven’t locked in choices on my alts. Even though I’m eager to start a new journey, I’ll try to slow myself down today and appreciate all of the awesomeness already in the game.

Shadowlands Pre-patch Week 2

Zombies and Scourge Invasions are back! This week’s events conclude and wrap up the transition into the new expansion, coming in just a few days. This week’s content is a throwback to the WotLK’s Scourge Invasions and although Blizzard has apparently rehashed this event before, this is the first time I remember participating in it since WotLK.

The invasions this week are just pure fun, and its great seeing so many people working together to either spread the invasion or fight against the zombies. The Horde invaded Stormwind and even Goldshire, which was almost entirely populated by zombies when I was there.

The Stormwind portal room is a popular haunt

There really wasn’t too much new this week besides the invasions and a few new quests in Icecrown, which investigated the mysterious Valkyr-like creatures that descended from the sky. It’s been good fun, especially with the turn out of players enjoying the new content alongside me. I have some idea of the things that are coming since I got a beta invite a while back, and I’m psyched for them to be in the live game soon.

“Hello fellow cultist!”

Since PvP is automatically enabled in capital cities during the event, I’ve been reminded of why I stopped queueing for battlegrounds. It’s fun at first, but quickly raises my blood pressure. I much prefer to experience PvP in small doses, like what the Scourge Invasions are providing. Although, having seen the PvP sets for season 1 in Shadowlands, perhaps my opinion can be swayed, and I can learn to like it again…

With most of my characters geared up for Shadowlands, I’m slowing down on farming gear from the rare bosses spawning in Icecrown. I’ll enjoy these last few days of BfA being the endgame, and continue to prepare for the beginning of something new.

Shadowlands Pre-patch Week 1

Shadowlands is finally on the horizon and as such Blizzard has released the real pre-patch event which leads us into the story of Shadowlands. This time the pre-patch only spans two weeks instead of BfA’s three week event, but that isn’t necessarily a bad thing. When I wrote about BfA’s pre-patch I commented that there really wasn’t enough content to warrant three weeks, and I still agree with that statement. BfA’s pre-patch had some great stuff in it, but I think it would have been received better if the quests and story wasn’t stretched as thin as it was. Shadowlands seems to be a short and sweet event, with a gear catch-up system that involves killing Scourge in Icecrown – a location from a fan-favorite expansion.

I started the event by accepting a quest from Genn Greymane to kill Nathanos Blightcaller, who was sighted at his home in the Eastern Plaguelands. He was apparently waiting for all of us adventurers to stop by and take his loot, a challenge I happily took.

Nathanos is there somewhere, under all the magic effects

After a pretty cool cinematic involving Tyrande and Nathanos’ neck, I left for Icecrown to help with the Scourge that are quickly getting out of control. On the way there I couldn’t help but wonder what Nathanos’ plan was – he’s no doubt on his way into the Shadowlands, but why didn’t he just tag along with Sylvanas to begin with? Questions that will most likely be answered in just a couple weeks.

The rest of the content for this week involved a funny quest where you help a Gnomish engineer (it’s always a Gnome) test out his mind control device on a Ghoul, dailies that reward currency which can be turned in for gear, and timed spawning throwback WotLK bosses throughout Icecrown.

The new customization options for Night Elves are insane!

Even though there hasn’t been a ton to do during the event yet, I’ve been having fun with what we have. I had so much fun flying around Icecrown to get to the next world boss, and hanging out with TONS of other players while we wait for them to spawn. There is palpable excitement and energy in the game leading up to a new expansion launch, and I’m happy to be a part of it every time. I expect that things will get even crazier next week when the Scourge invasions unlock, and players will be able to turn into zombies via crates of infected grain in capital cities. I remember taking part in the zombie mob back in WotLK, and I look forward to the hilarity it’ll cause this time around.

Waiting…

Keeping the other things I mentioned in mind, possibly my most favorite update from the pre-patch is the addition of map pins! This is a feature that is common in many other games, especially those with large maps or lots of places to explore. It’s a welcome and overdue addition to WoW, and I love that players can link their map pins in General chats. For instance, when asking where the next world boss will spawn in Icecrown, people will just link their map pin which creates one on your own map. It’s a small feature, but it makes a huge difference.

I look forward to Tuesday and the chaos that the weekly reset will bring, if only for a short time. When it was announced that Shadowlands was going to be delayed, in the back of my mind I knew there was a possibility that it wouldn’t release this year. I would have been fine with that if that’s what it took to polish the game enough for release, but I’m also pretty impatient and pretty happy that we’re at the 10-day mark. I’ve played some of the beta, and while I avoided most of the spoilers I could, what I saw looked pretty good. I couldn’t help myself from trying out Torghast, and I’m glad I did. It’s a blast and I expect it’ll be even better in the live game.

Soon!

Shadowlands Delayed… But We Got a Pre-Patch Release Date!

It was announced today that Shadowlands isn’t going to make it here on time for the global October 26th/27th release date initially planned. As sad as I am about waiting longer to play the latest stuff, in the same blue post Blizzard confirmed that players will have access to most pre-patch features on October 13th! While we won’t be getting the scourge invasion event that will be occurring much closer to whenever Shadowlands is going to release later in the year, soon we will have access to features such as the new leveling experience and level squish, and the revamped character customization UI and options.

It’s a relief just to have a date for the pre-patch and, let’s be honest, to have the new customization options on the live servers. Playing around with all the cool new combinations you can make on the Beta is fun and all, but it won’t feel quite right until I can give Aurashot a makeover. I’ve been planning on starting a new character as well and have been waiting for the leveling overhaul to do so, so it’s nice that won’t be on hold for much longer. Plus I’m hoping that these shiny new features will be what I need to distract me long enough until the expansion is here.

I had a few posts lined up that all mostly hinged on content released in the pre-patch – including an analysis of my favorite and least favorite parts from Battle for Azeroth. I’m anxious (in a good way) to write them, and looking back at my last two years of game time is especially fun and nostalgic.

Release it when it’s ready, Blizzard!

Clearing Ny’alotha and the Conclusion to Battle for Azeroth’s Raids

What an expansion it’s been. I joined my guild at the end of the Uldir, the first Battle for Azeroth raid, and I’ve been having a blast ever since. Raiding (not in LFR) has added more flavor to a game I already enjoy playing, and it’s strange to think I’ve played this long without joining a raiding guild. Nonetheless, fighting – and dying – our way through the great raids in BfA has been frustrating and an absolute pleasure. Progressing through a raid and refining our strategy until it almost becomes like a dance is satisfying and fascinating to watch in these videos. I’m psyched for Shadowlands and for Castle Nathria to open in November, the first raid in the upcoming expansion – with a gothic Dracula theme!

Back to the current tier though, Ny’alotha was a great raid. From Maut, the boss whose demands for Mana were reminiscent of the cookie monster to The Hivemind, who doesn’t want you to forget that your veins will blister, there were lots of good fights. It’s easier for me to pick out my least favorite fights, which would probably be Drest’agath or Il’gynoth. The fight against N’Zoth was suitably intense and many hours were spent perfecting our strategy until we finally got that sweet Ahead of the Curve raid achievement, which is for players who managed to beat the last boss of a raid in Heroic difficulty before the next raid is available to play in game.

While I eagerly look forward to a new expansion with new encounters to master, I welcome a break for the time being. I’ll enjoy looking back on all the memories I compiled in these videos, but I look forward to what’s to come even more.

2020 Isn’t All Bad

After struggling through a long period of time marked by lack of motivation, in no small part due to the current pandemic (but also pure laziness), we got some awesome news that Shadowlands – the eighth expansion to World of Warcraft – will be here on October 26th! With the upcoming pre-patch most likely coming in a month and the expansion itself just about two months away, I have some some posts to tie up beforehand. Funny how a new expansion announcement and amazing new cinematic can provide the energy boost I’ve been lacking for months.

Most Anticipated Expansion Features

I’ll start with the obvious addition that I’m excited for – tons more customization choices for all core races (Allies Races have some new options, but the focus is on the main races.) I’ve been hoping for more customization – hairstyles/colors, face shapes, jewelry options – for years and when Ion Hazzikostas finally announced it on stage at BlizzCon 2019 I yelled at my TV with glee. I’ve always though Night Elves were particularly lacking, mostly because I play NE characters almost exclusively and after a while it’s easy to run out of unique looks. All of the new Human options showcased at BlizzCon are amazing, and after getting an invite to the Shadowlands Beta I’m happy to say that it’s even better than what we were initially shown. Humans were given the most attention seeing as (as far as I know) only Humans play World of Warcraft, and being able to create a character in game that looks close to their real-life counterpart is really exciting. Plus being able to have more unique-looking characters in the game is just more interesting.

I also tested out the new starting area, Exile’s Reach, which will be required for brand-new players to quest through for their first time but players with existing accounts will be able to choose between Exile’s Reach and their race’s starting zone. I went through the entire zone’s questline and it’s fantastic. So nice to finally see an updated new player experience, and it does a great job teaching the game’s mechanics. I can’t wait to try it again on the live servers.

Aside from spending most of my time customizing new characters – the UI got an overhaul and there’s animations specific to each class too! – I did create a level 50 pre-made character and start part of the introductory questline into Shadowlands. The first quest you get is to run into the Maw after several Horde and Alliance leaders are thrown in there (I’m going to keep this broad since I didn’t read much of the quest details to avoid story spoilers.) I did some of the questline before forcing myself to stop before something really important was spoiled. My original goal was to take a look at Bastion, but I didn’t realize that players were stuck in the Maw for so long before escaping and making it to Bastion.

Although I didn’t spend much time in the beta and being that we don’t know much yet about Shadowlands, it’s really hard to tell if it will go into the books as a “good” expansion.


Brief tirade on “good” expansions – it’s taken me a lot of years playing this game to realize there is no expansion that is the ultimate good or bad. I have found enjoyment and boring/uninteresting parts in each expansion. For example, Warlords of Draenor is infamous for being a “bad” expansion, but the more I think about it the more I realize I have been too harsh on it. I played the game a lot during the WoD era and still remain a huge fan of the garrison feature. There were flaws with it, being that pretty much every resource was gathered in your garrison with no incentive to leave it often. Or the first implementation of the mission table could have been handled better. But it was also a turning point in terms of art, animations, and overall technology in the game. It felt like a big step up in ways I didn’t notice in other expansions. When I go back to farm transmog in WoD dungeons or I start leveling a new alt in Draenor I still notice it. Yes, the months without a big content patch or, even worse, the shipyard update, was pretty bad. But I also have very fond memories. I hope that Blizzard didn’t scrap the garrisons feature for good because of backlash and that it finds its way back into the game in one form or another. Ok, rant over!


Putting Shadowlands into my “Favorite Expansions” list remains to be seen and I probably won’t be able to make a reasonable decision until the end of Shadowlands, around two years from now. But with the Afterlives cinematic showcasing the new Bastion zone and starring classic Warcraft lore character Uther the Lightbringer, it’s hard not to get butterflies. I mean, those animated shorts they release are always top-notch but man. I got teary-eyed the first time I saw Uther being delivered to what is basically Warcraft heaven. And if that wasn’t enough, I caught the feels again when Uther hesitates dropping his former pupil, a boy he has watched grow up into a man and train into a Paladin, into the darkest depths of the Maw. The look on Uther’s face when he takes one last look at Arthas before casting him away is heart wrenching. When a cinematic makes you feel bad for Arthas Menethil, former Lich King, purger of Stratholme, murderer of Uther and Sylvanas Windrunner and countless others, you know the cinematic was good. I have great hopes for Shadowlands and, even though I’ve only seen glimpses of what’s to come, everything I’ve seen is good.

The Story of Aurashot – Part One

World of Warcraft has been a lot of things for me over the years, whether it be a place to escape to or a way to bond with family and friends. It’s also been an outlet for me to express my passion, and when I was about 14 I combined my love of the game with my love of writing through creating a comprehensive backstory for my main character, Aurashot. For a while I didn’t write anything down, only keeping it stored in my head and making mental notes when I thought of a new story development or neat detail to add about her life. I think having a story and motivation behind a video game character has contributed a lot to the reason why I’ve played WoW for 14-ish years. This post is a bit of an experiment as I’ve always been too shy to share these stories with anyone, but if these turn out to be fun I’ll share the stories of some of my other characters in WoW.

chapter 1 – life as she knew it

Aurys “Aura” Nightbloom had a happy childhood living with her mother and father in a comfortable estate in Zin-Azshari. As the youngest generation born into a Highborne Magus family, she knew only a bright world of happiness, magic and opportunity. She was even old enough for her father to begin teaching her simple spells, and every day she looked forward to sitting with him in their garden and learning something new. Little did she know that in the background Night Elf society would unravel and fall into disarray as Azshara, Queen of the Night Elves, plotted to bring the Burning Legion to Azeroth as part of her plan to gain more power. The Nightblooms were different than most Highborne in that they did not blindly follow Azshara and were aware that something was changing when the Queen locked herself inside the palace and no longer held an audience with her people. Something was changing, and their plan was to ensure their daughter’s safety at all costs even though they didn’t know what they would have to protect her from yet.

Alben and Indris, Aura’s parents

The terror started when demons poured from a portal opened in Azshara’s palace, and a great battle that would later be known as the War of the Ancients began. When it was clear that the demons were on the verge of overtaking the city, Aura’s parents arranged passage for their daughter to board a transport fleeing to a faraway village. One night, her mother and father kissed her on her forehead for what would be the last time. Aura saw her mother weeping while she faded into the cloak of night, and couldn’t understand why. Indris and Alben Nightbloom were good people, heroes even, and knew that they had to stand against the ruin the Highborne had brought to Azeroth and face responsibility. To protect the world for the future of their daughter. If they were successful, just maybe, they would find her again and be content to live a quiet life. They never got that chance when the Well of Eternity collapsed in on itself, finally cracking under the magical pressure after so many years of the Highborne using it for greater and greater feats of the Arcane. Everything that Aura had known or loved was swept away beneath a newly created ocean along with the Burning Legion. The world that her and everyone around her had known was gone; changed forever.

What Zin-Azshari looks like today

Aura had caught the attention of a group of nomadic Hunters, and they took her with them when they escaped on the backs of Hippogryphs to seek higher ground at Mount Hyjal. Life in Hyjal is a memory that Aura doesn’t like to reflect on even today, as she was plagued with nightmares of demons and being crushed beneath impossibly heavy waves. Aura’s once idyllic life became a distant dream that was so far out of reach she wasn’t even sure if it even happened. Her surrogate family was her only reminder that hope still existed, and she channeled her sorrow and anger into the hunting lessons that they taught her. They knew that Aura was Highborne and had an innate connection to create magic, but they urged her not to develop her skill and to hide it from the other Night Elves. Most Night Elves blamed the Highborne for the War of the Ancients and were not quick to forgive, even though Aura was still young and had no hand in what happened. So she took up the bow to distract herself from the curiosity and drive to learn magic. Archery became therapeutic, and every time she loosed an arrow it was like removing troubled thoughts from her mind. She grew up this way, living a life of solitude in the forests of Hyjal, and as she got older she would spend more and more time by herself focusing on her Archery skills.

Aura training in the forests of Hyjal

By the time Aura had grown to adulthood, she had demonstrated mastery over the bow and could best even the most accomplished Hunters in her family. She poured her whole being into learning archery and mastering the hunt, and she found that the world was easier to understand from the perspective of a quiet forest. When she was there, it was easier to silence the doubt and fear that seized her mind. The Night Elves were blessed with immortality through the world tree Nordrassil, which was planted in order to stop the efforts by Illidan Stormrage to create a second Well of Eternity. For ten-thousand years, Aura passed the time by further mastering hunting and archery until the Humans of Lordaeron caught her attention.

The Humans were particularly interesting to Aura because they were so young. Night Elves were jaded and held centuries-old grudges and were set in their ways. Even then, if anyone knew she was Highborne she would be exiled. Humans were more curious and adventurous, and above all had a spirit that was unusual to the elder races. After living in one place for so long, she was ready to experience all that the Eastern Kingdoms had to offer…

The World of Treecraft

World Trees, trees grown massive through the help of magic, are important to the Night Elves for a variety of reasons. Aside from just being a beautiful thing to behold, they help connect Azeroth to the Emerald Dream and the first World Tree granted the Night Elves immortality at one time. Elves and Druids alike rest under their massive branches and, as we’ve seen with Teldrassil, one was once the seat of an entire race’s civilization. Battle for Azeroth started with the burning of a World Tree that was supposed to symbolize the dying of hope but, as Saurfang said, you cannot kill hope.

Nordrassil

Nordrassil as it stands today

Nordrassil translates to “Crown of the Heavens” and was the first World Tree. Nordrassil was planted after the War of the Ancients, the huge war that began after the Burning Legion was drawn to the Well of Eternity and invaded Azeroth through the help of Queen Azshara. In the ensuing battle the Well of Eternity imploded, but before that Illidan Stormrage managed to fill a few vials from the Well. After the War of the Ancients was over Illidan went to Mount Hyjal, a sacred Druidic land, and poured a vial filled with waters from the Well into a large lake, intending to create a second Well of Eternity.

When the other Night Elves found out they were furious, and decided to plant a tree in the middle of the lake that would eventually soak up the lake. That tree, infused with Arcane energies from the Well of Eternity, grew so large that its branches seemed to touch the heavens. The great Dragon Aspect Nozdormu, Lord of Time, blessed the tree with immortality. And so, the Night Elves were immortal for around ten thousand years until the Burning Legion made its second invasion during the Third War. Archimonde the Defiler, one of Sargeras’ most trusted lieutenants, sought to once again claim the Well of Eternity’s power. In order to defeat Archimonde, Nordrassil’s power was unleashed and, in doing so, the Night Elves’ immortality was lost. After the Battle of Mount Hyjal, the Night Elves struggled to pick up the pieces and return to their lives.

Teldrassil

I couldn’t fit the entire tree in one picture

Seeking to restore the Night Elves’ immortality, a Druid named Fandral Staghelm took a seed from Nordrassil and buried it deep in the ocean off the shores of Darkshore. Indeed, the tree grew to a massive size and Night Elves built their capital city of Darnassus atop its branches and resettled there. This new World Tree became a stable home for the Night Elves, but their immortality was not restored. Teldrassil is the starting zone for new Night Elf players and the first area of the game they become accustomed to.

Rut’theran Village, a village among Teldrassil’s roots

Teldrassil was burnt and evacuated at the start of the Battle for Azeroth, during the War of Thorns. Night Elves and Gilnean refugees alike fled the burning tree, but in the end there were massive casualties. Night Elves are now living in Stormwind City and again trying to pick of the pieces of their lives and continue on. Many have joined Tyrande Whisperwind’s Army of the Black Moon, where they have turned to the more vengeful side of their goddess Elune. The Night Elves’ future is uncertain, and there is definitely a lot of story left to tell with what happens next. I personally would like a newly remodeled and updated Teldrassil that serves as a questing zone, where players help replant a new World Tree.

Teldrassil post-War of Thorns

Vordrassil

This one was another failed World Tree, except it couldn’t even be used as a home. Vordrassil was planted in Northrend long ago, where an Old God also slept deep below the earth. The Old God Yogg-Saron corrupted the tree’s roots and ancient Night Elf Druids could sense the corruption taking hold in Vordrassil, and they ultimately destroyed the World Tree. Players that journey to Grizzly Hills in Northrend can still see the remains of Vordrassil strewn across the zone. In fact, the stump of Vordrassil is home to a tribe of Furbolgs and at the very bottom of the tree there appears to be a World Tree sapling taking root.

This tree has been growing since 2010, it should be much bigger!

The first time I went to Grizzly Hills and saw Vordrassil I was awestruck by the scene of a broken World Tree. However, with a sapling growing in the center of the dead Vordrassil there may yet be hope for Teldrassil.

Shala’drassil

Another World Tree located in Mount Hyjal, this one had a much worse fate. Shala’drassil once served as a link to the Emerald Dream and was much beloved by Night Elves, like all World Trees, but it became corrupted after the emergence of the Emerald Nightmare. Now it appears as a gnarled, nightmarish shadow of its former self.

Nordrassil is considered the only “true” World Tree since it blessed the Night Elves with immortality and every other tree since has failed to do so. Yet, the stories and history behind these other trees are intriguing and important in their own way. The Battle for Azeroth began when Sylvanas Windrunner gave orders to have Teldrassil burned. My hope is that since the Fourth War has ended in peace (for now) between the Horde and Alliance, a new sapling will be planted and Teldrassil’s story will come full circle.

This post is my way of remembering what happened and hoping that Blizzard will create a cool story for the Night Elves with all of this extra material. I am especially excited for BlizzCon this year, with a new expansion announcement among other games seemingly also getting big announcements.

Azshara’s Eternal Palace Wings Two and Three

My guild’s progression through Eternal Palace has been a blast, and this video has more fun and interesting fights. From this (long) video, my favorites are Orgozoa and Lady Ashvane. Part of the excitement of Orgozoa’s fight for me is that his model looks really cool, and he’s one of the neatest-looking bosses yet that I’ve pried loot from. I like the second phase, where the boss takes off down the ramp, and players have to quickly yet deliberately run through a mine field of eggs and magical projectiles. We started making it into a competition to see who can run down the ramp the fastest, and I’ve found that usually I’m one of the last. Slow and steady doesn’t always win the race!

Lady Ashvane is a weird one for me, because on Heroic difficulty it’s totally different. So even though I bring mixed feelings from the time we struggled with Ashvane on Heroic, it’s a fun fight on Normal. I like the part when random players get symbols above their head and go break the coral that spawns around the boss room. The other fights in this video were all great, it’s just that some of them were way more intense and I had less time to appreciate them. Namely, the last two fights with Za’qul and Queen Azshara herself.

The fight with Azshara is long and dramatic, and filled with lore tidbits, as could be expected. It was a good fight, I just think the first phase (with Aethanel and Cyranus) was unnecessary and could have been replaced with something cooler. Like, say, Azshara showing off her magical prowess. You might not know it from the fight alone, but Azshara is one of the most gifted sorceresses on Azeroth. I was disappointed that she spent much of the fight attacking the raid with her spear, instead of doing some cool magic stuff like the Jaina Proudmoore fight from Battle of Dazar’alor. Despite this, the fight was still epic and defeating Azshara was an accomplishment.

Overall, I really enjoyed this raid. It looked beautiful and all the boss fights were really well done. I do wish that more of the bosses were call-backs to old Night Elf lore, but who would they have chosen for this raid? Xavius, once the advisor to Azshara, has already been defeated in last expansion’s raid (The Emerald Nightmare). This raid felt different than Battle of Dazar’alor, though, as it seemed to hold less lore significance in a way. In BoD the whole raid was telling the story of the progression of the War Campaign, through the perspective of both Horde and Alliance. The whole raid felt like an epic battle, and ended on pretty epic notes.

To be fair, BoD and Eternal Palace had different stories to tell. BoD told the story of the Alliance (from my perspective) charging into battle together to confront the King of Zuldazar. There was a real sense of togetherness in BoD. In Eternal Palace, it’s the complete opposite. We are infiltrating this dark, nightmarish place deep in the inky ocean to confront a Queen who has long been hidden from us. In a way, we all stand alone as N’zoth is released from his prison despite our best efforts. At that moment our story becomes one of solitude and fear, each of us now living in a world with a freed Old God who could be anywhere. The ending of Eternal Palace is a stark contrast from the bright lights and shining gold of the previous major raid.