Monday, October 16, 2006
BC Journal - 16-October-2006
This is the first "journal" entry of my adventures in the Burning Crusade beta. While I was playing yesterday, I noted down all the small things that are new, so this is going to be a jumble of random thoughts and description of new features.
When I first started the BC beta client, my level 60 undead priest hadn't been copied yet, so I was greeted by an empty character screen. Hmmm, time to make a draenei and a blood elf, and have a look at the new newbie zones. Both the new starting areas are nice enough, having new architecture, and a couple of new monsters, besides familiar ones like skeletons or spiders. Each race gets two new zones, with the highest level monster I have seem being level 18. Think of it like a Tirisfal Glades + Silverpine Forest combo.
The blood elves starting zones are north of the Eastern Plaguelands, and can be reached by a pass, blocked by a portal, which is probably there to keep people without the expansion out. You can also teleport from a guy next to the mage trainer in Silvermoon to another guy standing in the upper courtyard of Undercity (Ruins of Lordaeron) and back. This is recommended, because for a level 18 blood elf to take the road and run into the Eastern Plaguelands, where level 50ish mobs lurk quite close to the road, might be a short, bloody, and frustrating experience.
The draenei start on islands south of Teldrassil, west of Darkshore. I haven't explored it yet, but I assume there will be a teleport to Darnassus. Not sure if there will be any other way to reach the continent. I quickly got bored with playing the new races. I did enjoy the fact that the new zones looked different than any other zone. But the gameplay was pretty much identical than leveling up any other level 1 character.
Fortunately meanwhile Blizzard had finished to copy my undead priest to the beta server. The first thing I did with him was heading towards the Outlands. The only way there seems to be the Dark Portal in the Blasted Lands. I had previously seen other portal-like structures, for example in the middle of Duskwood, or in Feralas. But I checked the Duskwood portal out, and it still leads nowhere. So I had to fly to the Swamp of Sorrows, and ride from there to the Dark Portal, in southern Blasted Lands. You arrive there at a big platform, where you get your first quest, to travel to the Horde outpost of Thrallmar, with a wind rider conveniently provided. Alliance gets to fly to Honor Hold. Right now, Hellfire Peninsula doesn't seem crowded. But this is just the beta, and I don't know how many people are on the server where I am, and how many have even finished the slow download of the 2 GByte BC beta client and copied their characters. This being the only entrance, this might be very crowdy when BC goes live.
In Thrallmar I first deleted all my old quests, I don't think I will need Stratholme quests in the BC beta. Doing that I noticed that the quest journal cap has been raised from 20 to 25, which is good news.
Next thing I did was a bit peculiar, I hit ALT-I. This is because I switched to WoW directly from EQ2, where ALT-I opened all your bags. So I had remapped the WoW function to open all bags from SHIFT-B to ALT-I, just because I was used to it. But in Burning Crusade the keybindings were reset to standard. And Blizzard had mapped a new functionality to the I key, which triggered when I hit ALT-I. The new functionality is a Looking for Group window. This window has two parts, a LFG and a LFM (Looking for More) part. In the LFG part you can list up to three things which you would be interested in joining a group for. That includes zones, quests, dungeons, and even raids. So you could for example state that you look for a group to explore Hellfire Peninsula, or to go to the Hellfire Rampart dungeon, or to do a particular quest. The LFM window lets you select the same zones, quests, or dungeons, and then shows you everybody who has himself flagged as LFG for that event. Now *IF* everybody starts using this, the LFG/LFM window could become extremely useful. Unfortunately MMORPG players are a very conservative bunch, and I saw very little activity in the new window, with most people still shouting on the LFG chat channel.
In Thrallmar I took all the quests I could find, and had a look at all the vendors and trainers. There is a Thrallmar faction vendor, where you can get items based on your Thrallmar faction, which you can increase by doing quests or killing mobs in Hellfire Citadel. There are vendors for different items, general goods, trade goods, food and drink. I noticed level 60 water for sale, which regenerates a very nice 5100 mana. There was also level 65 water for sale, which at 5580 mana isn't much better.
There are also a number of tradeskill trainers in Thrallmar. I said in my jewelcrafting post that I haven't seen the artisan jewelcrafter, but now I'm not so sure that he isn't in Thrallmar. I learned jewelcrafting later, at the time of my first visit to the Outlands I still had tailoring. So I saw that for 10 gold I could increase my tailoring skill limit from 300 to 350. And there were some interesting new recipes. The cloth after runecloth is called netherweave, and it can be transformed into a 16 (!!! not 18 !!!) slot netherweave bag. It also can be used to make a netherweave net, which holds an enemy in place for 3 seconds. This could change the dynamics of PvP quite a lot, as it seems that everybody will be able to use it. I didn't see an 18 slot bag, but I've read that imbued netherweave bags with 18 slots exist. But for the moment the number of our inventory slots isn't growing, the main bag still has 16 slots. What did grow was the bank, which instead of having 6 colums of 4 slots plus 6 bag slots now has 7 colums and 7 bag slots. Buying the 7th bag slot (already having the 6 others) cost only 25 gold. Assuming you put a 16 slot bag in there, you gain a total of 20 bank slots, which is nice.
I killed a couple of mobs in Hellfire Peninsula, and ran around a bit. But I noticed that I didn't have an xp rest bonus, so points were slow to come in. I didn't have any "stored" finished quests, and I've read that Blizzard is going to add something to the live version of BC that prevents people from handing in 20 previously finished quests on the first day of BC and level up to 61 directly. I just don't know what exactly they plan to do there.
I fiddled around a bit with the options. I had copied my addons from the WoW folder to the BC folder, but they only showed up as "incompatible", and I had to play without any addons. So I turned on WoW's own scrolling combat text, while normally I use the superior SCT addon. No biggie. But in the options I noticed a new option which enabled me to see my targets cast bar. So whenever I target another player or NPC who is casting something, I see a little yellow bar showing the progress, and naming what spell is incoming. As my priest is now spec'd shadow for the beta, and I have the Silence spell, that enemy castbar is extremely useful.
I left the Outlands and spent the next couple of hours learning jewelcrafting, with limited success. (see today's other post) Up to that point I wasn't terribly impressed with the Burning Crusade. Lots of small improvements, lots of "more of the same" good stuff, but the new zones played a lot like the old ones. Thrallmar is even using the same old orcish architecture, and Hellfire Peninsula looks similar to Blasted Lands. Except for the awesome looking sky, you might still have been on the old world.
My impression of the expansion changed when somebody in the LFG chat channel (not the new window, sigh) was looking for a healer to go to Hellfire Rampart, the first dungeon in the Hellfire Citadel. It appears that Hellfire Citadel has 4 "wings", separate dungeons, of which two are for level 60ish 5-man groups, one is for level 70 5-mans, and one is for level 70 25-man raids. I like Hellfire Rampart a lot, and I was completely awed by the loot dropping there.
Hellfire Rampart is a dungeon where you can go directly at level 60, with any half decent pickup group. It is relatively small, which makes it ideal for shorter dungeon trips. There are only 3 bosses, and a good number of orc trash mobs. The first boss is half way through the place, then at the end you reach a platform from which you can already see both other bosses, one to the left, one to the right. The group I was in had a level 58 hunter, me as level 60 priest, a level 61 warrior, and two level 62 mages.
One of the first trash mobs dropped some leather boots, +31 stamina, +20 fire resistance. That was just the green trash loot, but items like that would have been wonderful for Molten Core / Blackwing Lair / Onyxia. The first boss was easy to kill. He had two adds which would have healed him, if they hadn't been turned into sheeps. He dropped the first blue item with sockets for gems that I saw: Wasteland Stitched Leggings, mail, +22 Agi, +24 Sta, +15 Int, +32 attack power, three sockets with which you could boost the stats even further, and an additional +2 mana per 5 seconds if you filled them with the gems of the right colors. Quite powerful!
The second boss wasn't as easy to kill, we wiped on the first try. He casts a "treacherous aura" on one group member, which then hurts the other group members around the affected character. He also launches nasty shadow bolts, and summons felhounds. Second fight we used my prayer of shadow protection and stood further apart from each other, and killed him easily. When looting him my eyeballs nearly popped out! Crystalfire Staff, +34 Sta, +34 Int, +16 "critical strike rating", +46 to both damage and healing spells. That is *significantly* better than my Will of Arlokk (+35 spirit, but only +19 int, +15 sta, and +46 to healing, not to damage spells). I was afraid that the two mages both would have wanted that staff, but they both said they already had much better. Wow!
This is *serious* mudflation. If the first level 60 5-man group dungeon replaces the best staff that I could find after months of raiding, and the other blue items I saw easily beat the tier 1 raid loot, it means that the Burning Crusade will level the playing field. By the time people are level 65, they will all wear only BC items, and whether you spent a thousand hours raiding or not won't matter at all. I've seen a *green* dagger drop from a trash mob which was better than the epic Krol Blade from old WoW. If you still have bind on equip epics in the bank, try to sell them quickly. They will all become worthless the day WoW goes version 2.0.
Finally we tackled the last boss of Hellfire Rampart, Vazruden. He rides a dragon named Nazan. You "pull" Vazruden by killing his two guards, then he dismounts and attacks you, and when he is nearly dead the dragon enters the fight. Now this is a very hard fight. It seems both Vazruden and Nazan always go for the healer first, however much I tried not to produce aggro. We managed to kill Vazruden every time, but then Nazan would fry us. If you wipe at that point, Vazrudan springs back to life and you have to start over. I don't know if it is a bug or a feature, but you can loot Vazrudan when he dies, wipe, come back, kill him again, loot him again, wipe again, and so on. When we finally killed Nazan, we had looted Vazruden 4 times, each time receiving a nice blue item. And Nazan dropped a staff any feral druid would kill for, with not only very high stat bonuses, but also giving +160 to attack power when in any animal form, including moonkin.
I hadn't studied BC loot lists before, but I can see why we have problems getting 40 people for BWL together. Of course people raid for different reasons. I kind of like tackling known and new bosses in a big raid group, I'm not just there for the loot. But if the loot is the most important aspect for someone, that somebody can be excused for not wanting to go through all that trouble of repeated wiping and high potion / repair costs, if he knows he will be able to get better loot by an easier way soon.