Visiting Sunsong Ranch

One of the first things that come to mind when I think of Mists of Pandaria is Halfhill, the bustling farmer’s market town where the clueless Farmer Yoon resides. The story behind acquiring his farm, Sunsong Ranch, is familiar to anyone who loved Harvest Moon games like me. Basically Yoon was looking for someone to help out on the farm while also showing members of The Tillers that it’s worth keeping. From there, it’s up to you to grow crops used in Pandarian recipes and upgrade the farm little by little. It’s by far my favorite thing from the expansion, and the closest players would get to their own instanced “housing” until Warlords of Draenor brought us Garrisons.

Making New Friends

The picture above shows the fully upgraded farm, with the best tools, most plots of soil, and farm animals, but starting out on the farm is completely different. Beginning the quest-line reveals that Halfhill plans to demolish Yoon’s farm for more space, and so the player sets out with the task of making sure everyone in the Tillers Union votes in favor of keeping the farm. Mists of Pandaria introduced separate reputation bars for NPCs and my goal here was to raise everyone’s reputation to “best friend” status while also getting to exalted with The Tillers, the farming group in Halfhill.

Halfhill’s central hub

Earning the trust of each farmer was a slow and steady process. Reputation, or friendship, was earned by doing quests or finding rare items scattered around Valley of the Four Winds which could then be gifted. The gifts were important because after the main story-line quests were over, my only other way of gaining friendship was through daily quests which were random each day. Each farmer had a favorite gift which would earn more friendship with that particular farmer, which added another layer of tedium to this whole ordeal. I remember spending hours flying around the zone using an add-on that scanned for the little dirt piles that hid the gifts. But what is exactly the point of becoming best friends with everyone?

The Power of Friendship

Best friend status has its own perks, the most important of which being that you have convinced them that Sunsong Ranch shouldn’t be demolished. Each farmer also gives you an addition to the farm, like animals or furniture for your little house. Lastly, you can ask any of your new besties to help you out on the farm. I think they’re actually supposed to help out with crops and stuff, but I haven’t noticed anything useful. Each farmer has their own expertise and will appear in different locations if asked to tend your farm. Chee Chee is my favorite (he’s just awesome) and his expertise happens to be sheep, so he hangs out with the sheep on my farm.

Chee Chee takes good care of the sheep

Helping out each farmer with their problems and surprising them with gifts was heartwarming, and the conclusion of the quest-line with all of us banding together to save the farm was just awesome. The whole thing was very reminiscent of Harvest Moon or similar games, which is why I think it continues to be one of my favorite things in the game ever. I still return from time to time, like I just did to take these pictures, and it always gives me the same warm fuzzy feeling that truly impactful stories do. Even so, I haven’t gotten to the best part of the farm…

I Love Dog

Yes, you read that right. Sunsong Ranch is home to the original good boy, a dog named Dog. I don’t remember quite how the story goes with him, but at some point while questing around Valley of the Four Winds you run into a dog with no home. If you choose to complete the quest (just look at that face), you befriend Dog and he comes to live with you on the farm. And from then on every day you log in to tend the farm Dog will be there to greet you. That’s really the little detail that tipped Sunsong Ranch over the edge into “completely amazing” territory.

The best part about Dog is that my reaction to him is the same for many people, in that he is a constant joy in a strange land full of Pandas. Luckily Dog makes his return in Warlords of Draenor when you unlock the herb garden in your Garrison, and in Legion he’s hanging out in Dalaran with Breanni in the pet shop. However, in Legion there’s a little secret players need to work out in order to get him to appear in the pet shop. I’m still not sure if he appears in BfA but I have hope!

Dog!
Dog’s love transcends time and space!
Dog boosts morale in the midst of the Legion invasion

Dazar’alor Progress and… Island Expeditions?

Since BfA’s second raid came out at the end of January I’ve been having a blast running through it for the first time. The bosses are fun (for the most part) and challenging, and definitely aren’t simple fights. When I think about Battle for Dazar’alor the first thing that pops into my head is Opulence. I would think about Opulence for different reasons, depending on if we had faced it or not yet. Before fighting the giant magical golem made out of the riches of Zandalari kings, I was excited to get my hands on a very specific item from its loot table. Players first meet Opulence at the end of the war campaign leasing up to the raid’s opening, where you raid Dazar’alor’s treasure vault. To be honest I loved the idea and model design for Opulence, a monster made out of loot. Finally we succeeded in defeating Opulence and, on our second Opulence defeat, I got the shiny golden crown that I coveted so much. That isn’t to say there weren’t challenges with this boss, because for about two weeks after the raid opened, we were determined to best him.

We still have two bosses left until we clear the whole raid for the first time, but part of the fun (and frustration) has been learning each fight. It’s fun to watch as we make mistakes and learn from them, and it makes getting loot at the end of it that much better. I’ve watched videos on the Jaina fight and I can’t wait to experience it firsthand.

Like Uldir, Dazar’alor is visually awesome, and the music in the background is epic. It really gets me into the faction-warring spirit, even if the whole thing is just an Old God ploy…

Conclave of the Chosen
Queen Aurashot at Rastakhan’s Throne
Mech Battle in the sky

As the last picture above shows, we became Horde! This raid is unique, and confusing, in that Horde and Alliance fight different bosses in different orders. For example, both factions face Grong, but Alliance face an undead Grong once the Horde have already defeated him and Bwonsamdi reanimates him. Since the picture was taken we have defeated Mekkatorque, who narrowly escapes at the end via escape pod built into his mech suit. Mekkatorque is a cool guy, which makes Gnomes somewhat ok (I guess), so I did not like fighting him and it’s still unclear whether or not he ends up surviving the fight. His fight, however, was super cool. Jaina mentions that he’s being kept alive in a machine with magic beyond her understanding, could this be a tie in to Mechagon coming in 8.2?

Discovering Major Expansion Content

Ever since BfA came out, I had avoided Island Expeditions. I had heard that they were a disappointment and not fun, and I was distracted by other things. I kept watching from the sidelines as Blizzard added more perks to the islands – pets, mounts, and toys. Aside from the fact that you get tons of Azerite, the vanity items were more than worth it to me. This past week I tried Expeditions for the first time and I had fun. I didn’t have as much fun as I do in the raid, but I am a simple Hunter with simple needs. These cute little island scenarios chock full of enemies helped fulfill that need of running around and Multishot-ing everything in the area. I even got a little crab pet that has a pirate hat, identical to the one from that Tortollan shell matching game! I was ecstatic, and I was exciting for reset day so I could try out a new set of islands. I laughed out loud when the Horde Paladin NPC bubbled and started running away at low health. As long as it makes me laugh and wanting more, then I count that as fun content.

Trying out a new Transmog

Demonology Warlocks are Better Beast Mastery Hunters

While I’ve been having a lot of fun progressing through Dazar’alor with my guild in the past couple weeks, I’ve also re-discovered my love for a forgotten class: the Warlock. I’ve had a Warlock alt for years and have had varying degrees of fun playing her, most notably around Cataclysm with the Destruction specialization. I hadn’t gone with Demonology for a long time because Blizzard has changed it so much throughout the years, and it’s always seemed kind of boring or weird to me. I didn’t like the whole thing with Metamorphosis where the Warlock changes into a demon for a little while so I stuck with Destruction. I gave Demonology another shot when I decided I wanted a change from my main, a Beast Mastery Hunter.

At first with Demonology I was overwhelmed with the amount of spells and buttons I had to keep track of. I am, after all, spoiled with the simplicity of Beast Mastery, but I did learn quickly which abilities were most important. The power of a Demonology Warlock is in how many demons I can summon, which is a lot. When combat begins damage is a slow build-up until I start summoning demons, and then starts increasing rapidly from there. It’s just a blast to see how many demons I can get out until the enemy dies, which usually isn’t very long. While playing my Warlock I can’t help but compare her to my Hunter, and see a missed opportunity with Beast Mastery. During Legion, Hunters could call on multiple beasts in battle sort of like summoning demons. Hunters never had the choice of which types of beasts to call, or anywhere close to the quantity as Warlocks. To that end, playing my Warlock helps to bridge some gaps.

Fwoosh!

Best of all, Demonology Warlocks feel powerful and very different from what I’m used to playing. As much as I love Hunters and they’ll always be my favorite, it’s nice to take a break and play another class that is super fun.

Speaking of Hunters, Aurashot can now tame those blood beasts from Nazmir! It dropped randomly during my last time in Uldir and I was very surprised. Right now I’m running around with a Blood Crawg, which has the Tenacity pet specialization. Blood beasts have a special ability called Blood Bolt, which they cast on cooldown if the Hunter allows it. I’ll probably have my Blood Crawg until patch 8.1.5 comes out and I finish the quest to tame Hati!

Adorable

For those who don’t play Hunters or, more specifically, Beast Mastery Hunters, Hati is a special pet that is tied to the Beast Mastery Artifact weapon Titanstrike from Legion. During the quest-line to obtain Titanstrike Hati is sadly slain in battle, but his spirit is bonded to the weapon. So for two years I quested and adventured with my main pet, and Hati. I and many others were sad when at the end of Legion we used our weapons’ power to save Azeroth, and Hati went away. I don’t know much about the quest-line to tame Hati, only that you get him as a pet at the end. But for now, I’ll be bringing my Crawg along to raid Dazar’alor! As for my Demonology Warlock, I still have to level her up and see how the spec changes after I hit level 120.

Questing Through Zuldazar

I finished up questing through my first Horde zone over on Zandalar, and had a great time! At times during the beginning the story seemed a bit slow, but started to pick up during the middle and end parts. Zandalar, the once mighty seat of power for all of Troll civilization, has had its control limited mostly to the zone of Zuldazar. King Rastakhan sits upon the throne and is fed lies by his advisers who wish to take control for themselves.

I am glad that I picked Zandalar as my first place to quest in because it explains a lot about the problems that the Zandalari Trolls have been facing, and the underlying corruption. Mainly I worked with Rastakhan’s daughter, Princess Talanji, in finding out the source of Zandalar’s problem. While her father seems to have given up hope, Talanji has been working with the player as well as the people of Zandalar to find a solution.

Along the way I learned about Troll loas and even picked a loa for my character! I picked Pa’ku, the Lord of Winds, because those pterrodax models look awesome. We also learned that Prophet Zul, who is advisor to the king and trusted because of his visions, has been researching how a loa can be drained of its power. Later it is revealed that Zul has been serving G’huun, a mysterious Old God creature, and working with other prominent Zandalari in usurping Rastakhan’s throne.

Yazma Drains Shadra’s Power, Killing Her

When Zul nearly kills Rastakhan, we call on the Loa of Kings to help revive him and get prepared for the upcoming battle. Along the way we are introduced to more loa, Blood Troll foreshadowing, and mutiny. In the end Zul and Yazma got away, but they did not succeed in controlling Zandalar. The price of that was great…

Rezan, the Loa of Kings, fell in what was a sad little cinematic. Unfortunately he is the second-to-last boss in the Atal’dazar dungeon, which I am not looking forward to running! However, I had a great time in Zandalar and loved learning about the political struggle as well as the different loa that are important to Trolls.

On a lighter note, I also did a side quest which involved helping some apes that were exposed to Kaja’mite and made them more intelligent. This seems to me like a nod to Planet of the Apes, and I really enjoyed it.

Helping Some Peace-loving Apes

Overall, this was a good opening to Zandalar and helped me learn about some Troll lore and what has been happening to the Zandalari Empire. Next I am off to Nazmir, the dark swamp lands where the Blood Trolls make their home. I have been particularly excited for Nazmir because that is where I meet Bwonsamdi, who is a major character in the zone, and perhaps the game.

Nobody Comes Back From Nazmir…

Horde Zandalar Intro Scenario

Finally getting around to editing and posting my video for the intro Zandalar stuff! I thought it would be good timing to post it now, because I’m planning on starting to level my Horde. After getting my main to 120 I feel like I can handle leveling again, plus I’m dying to see the Horde perspective and find out what all the Bwonsamdi excitement is about.

This was a really cool scenario because I was totally surprised in regards to Saurfang. As soon as I found out I was headed to the Stormwind Stockades, I assumed I was going to be breaking Saurfang out of prison. It turns out that I’ve actually come for someone else, a total surprise for someone like me who hasn’t been paying attention to the Horde story all that much. It’s interesting that Saurfang decided to stay in the Stockades, which means that he might try to work out a deal with Anduin! I really like that he actually stays in prison rather than being broke out right after the Siege of Lordaeron and I’m excited to see what happens with him.

I also really liked stealthing through Stormwind in the middle of the night and being pursued by Greymane and Jaina. It was very dramatic and cool. Now for starting my Horde adventure in Zuldazar! I’ve heard great things about the story and quests for the Horde, so I’m excited to see what happens for myself.