As the days count down until Cataclysm and we get ready to move from the icy chill of Northrend to the heat of Deathwing’s molten lava hide, it’s worth taking a look back at the past two years to see what has happened during this time. At this point most players seem burned out and are ready to move on to the sunny oasis (ha!) that is Azeroth, but it’s worth remembering that at one point in time we were as excited to get into Northrend as we are to go back to Azeroth now.
Pre-WotLK: I think anybody who was playing WoW during that time remembers the epic nastiness that was the Scourge event. Blizzard was wanting players to feel a serious vendetta against the Lich King and to show players how he could turn their worlds into chaos, but unfortunately all it really seemed to do was make players angry at Blizzard. I was one of the folks who really, really enjoyed the event, especially considering that it was something short-term and that would never happen again.
There were reports that some 7-11 stores were carrying the WotLK expansion and had actually put the boxes out a day or two early. My husband, God bless him, drove around to every 7-11 store in a 20 mile radius looking for one that had those boxes out, and finally found one that sold him two boxes. We were patched up and ready to go several hours before the changes went live at midnight, and we were the first two people on our server to get into Northrend. It’s silly I know, but at the time it was a bit eerie to be all alone in Northrend.
The sad thing was that since we had been playing the launch of WAR in the months before WotLK, we never pre-ordered the WotLK Collector’s Editions, so we were unsure if we would be able to get them. We finally ended up getting them later at a Best Buy; apparently somebody didn’t pick their pre-ordered copies up.
WotLK Launch: Looking for a new start, we transferred our characters back to our “home” server (Steamwheedle Cartel) a week or two before launch and joined a raiding guild there. The first few weeks were pretty wild. Our guild wanted to run Naxxramas as soon as possible so the first 10 people to hit 80 would be the starting raid team. Every day we would get leveling goals from our GM and we were pushed to level as quickly as we possibly could. I ended up missing much of the story and lore in the content the first time through, because I wasn’t even reading quest text or taking time to enjoy the zones. It was all very mechanical. Also, the day I hit 80, I hit that final ding at 5pm and we started raiding at 7pm. I was still in quest blues and greens, whereas most of my raiding guildies were still wearing Sunwell gear. These days most folks laugh about the difficulty of Naxx, but at the time Naxx was actually a pretty good challenge. I think we only got down 2 or 3 bosses that first night.
Unfortunately the combination of the straight-to-raiding approach and the drama that seemed to fuel the guild ended up burning me out in a bad way. I actually took a break from WoW about a month or two into the expansion, because it just wasn’t very enjoyable at that point in time.
I came back a few weeks later, and together my husband and I left the raiding guild, and looked for a more casual and drama-free guild. Thankfully we found one: Thunderbrew Guard. I can’t say enough nice things about these folks. They’ve been our in-game family for nearly two years and to be honest, if it weren’t for them, I don’t know if I’d still be playing WoW right now.
Leveling: Once I got my head screwed back on straight and found a good guild, I decided to switch mains back to my dwarf priest, which was also my first 60 during Classic WoW. I was able to level her slowly and methodically through Northrend, and finally got to really experience the quests and see all the great lore.
Howling Fjord was amazing. Grizzly Hills, with what we know now is it’s *seeding* of the worgen race, was excellent. Dragonblight was my favorite zone. It seemed like the coldest and the most classic-like zone in WotLK, probably due to the presence of the Scarlet Onslaught and Wintergarde Keep. The Wrathgate was epic and actually having it cut to a cinematic in the middle of the game was an excellent way to tell that part of the story. I also loved seeing Muradin’s story and the ghosts of Arthas’ soldiers at the burned boats.
Speaking of Arthas, he was certainly the most social villain I’ve ever seen during this expansion. It was great fun that first time in Howling Fjord, when he killed you with a snap of his fingers. Eventually it became a bit overdone though, as it most always became an “I’ll get you next time, Gadget!” moment. I had a hard time really taking him seriously due to this. He seemed all bark, no bite.
My most hated zones: Borean Tundra (ugly), Zul’Drak (sorry, I’m not a troll fan), and actually, Icecrown. I really enjoyed the first portion of Icecrown where you help the Argent Crusade fight through an invasion and take over the camp on the hill. Because of phasing that felt epic and like you were really changing the game world. But mostly I found Icecrown very dark and gloomy (as well it should be) and tried to minimize any time that I actually had to be there.
Next time: Ulduar! The debut of jousting! BlizzCon! And the Fail of the Lich King.