Archive for the ‘Cataclysm Beta’ Category

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Beta Cataclysm: New Darkshore

September 1, 2010

A Whole New Can Of Paint –

New Look Grove of the Ancients (Complete with Flightpath)

Like most zones in Cataclysm, Darkshore has gone through a major redesign.  While most other areas in the game have changed dramatically, there are some areas where old quest lines remain.   These areas have one thing in common, most of them have felt the Cataclysm and its aftermath.  The war that followed has changed many other zones.  People have died in other places, but no other zone has seen such devastation to its former quest giving NPC inhabitants.  In part because of this,  there is not a single quest left from before the world was rocked and town of Auberdine so completely devastated.

Auberdine’s Death brings a new beginning –

Your experience in the new Darkshore begins in Lor’danel, the new Night Elven homebase in the zone.  This is not much of a town in comparison to what Auberdine was.  There is only an inn, a few tents and a conspicuously empty Night Elven guard tower.  There is no dock to be found in all of Darkshore now.  If you want to go to Darnassus or Exodar, all you have to do is jump on a flight path.  (Yes, I said that correctly.  Exodar is now accessible via flight paths from anywhere in Kalimdor.)  If Stormwind is you desired destination, then its a short hop to the remains of Ru’theran Village and hop on the old boat that now docks there.

Lor’danel is a much more lush and green “town” than its predecessor, but I would hardly call it a town.  It is more akin to a forward base.  It has a great deal of amenities, but lacks at least one major one… A meat vendor.  Questing through this area as a Worgen Hunter with my default Dog pet was tedious to say the least.  Finding meat for him to eat (and he only eats meat) was impossible without going to Darnassus.  Even the fauna that has survived the Cataclysm does not seem to drop raw meat nearly as commonly as they did before the changes.  It was only because I had kept a good deal of spider bits from the Gilneas experience.

Solving the Old Darkshore’s problems –

Catpath in action

Catpath in action

The biggest complaint about the original Darkshore was the sheer area of the zone.  Questers had to traverse the length of the zone many many times during their 8-10 levels they spent there.  The long narrow zone forced players to run North and then back to Auberine, then farther North and then back to town.  After that, they had to run south and back, farther south and back.  The tedium of this fact made many players turn to Bloodmyst as the main questing area after it was released in TBC.  Bloodmyst was a well designed, far more compact zone that had far better quest rewards, storylines and a much more diverse set of enemies.  Unfortunately, the developers thought it was better to mimic the design concepts that worked so well in the Death Knight starting experience.  This means heavy usage of the big staples that became used and overused in Wrath of the Lich King.

The zone is designed for players too low to have access to mounts.  Instead of just giving mounts to players at level 10, they have given both of the overly large 10-20 zones their own system of “easy” travel.  Thusly, like Azshara and its Goblin Rocketway, Darkshore also was given a system of “catpaths”.  Situated at several key points in the Northern Darkshore there are cat calvary guards that allow you to access these “catpaths” to most of the miniquest hubs that you are directed to.  This system solves one of the two major issues with the old zone.  The changes to the flow of the zone itself solve the other issues.

The Quests –

Phased In Malfurion & Friends

Phased In Malfurion & Friends

Lor’danel gives us a whole new look on the way Blizzard wants us to play the game.  This microcosm is both surprising and disturbing.  We are given a beautiful new zone, with a wonderful quest flow.  However, like so many other new Cataclysm zones (Hyjal, Vash’jir, Deepholm) if one quest is bugged, you can not continue in the zone.  During testing this has happened many times, and the nature of the bugs it will be extremely difficult for Blizzard to continually prevent this.  As evade bugged mobs have been a problem since the first day of Vanilla.  (It actually took 2 patches and a very inventive level 83 Fire Mage to un-bug a certain NPC in the zone allowing players to continue past level 15.)

The zone has many “phasing” aspects starting with the major ones in and around Lor’denal itself.  Most of the phasing has to do with rescuing and not rescuing the survivors of Auberdine.  It is completely unclear how much time has passed since the destruction.  Long enough for other areas of the world to have been wrought with war and for Auberdine to have been overtaken by Twilight Cultists and Air Elementals.  Yet, you are still asked to rescue former questgivers, flightmasters, innkeepers, etc from the aftermath.

As you rescue these npc’s you are continually phased and receive follow-up quests.  This is nothing new.  We have seen similar questing systems throughout Northrend.  To put it simply, the system is not as large as anything in Ice Crown or the Death Knight experience.  The phasing, with one large exception, is very subtle.  Mostly we will see the results of your efforts being visible in the world.  Quest givers and NPCs will appear, disappear and move as you progress through the zone.

Choose your own adventure? –

Questing in the Burning Strand

Questing in the Burning Strand

This fact makes the zone incredibly linear.  Which in my opinion is an incredibly bad thing.  Don’t get me wrong, the zone is wonderful and fun, but there is very little choice in how you progress.  This is a predominant theme so far in my explorations of Cataclysm in its entirety.  What was so wonderful about the game thus far has been stripped away by phasing and its resulting prerequisites.  Cool quests are fun no matter how you have to come upon them.  Yet there is something to be said about being able to choose to do 1 quest and not another.  To choose to go “here” before you go “there”.  There is basically one non linear quest hub in the area, but even it has a breadcrumb that only appears after you have completed several other tasks.  You can complete the hub without ever receiving the breadcrumb, but it’s obviously designed that you do it in an extremely linear manner.

Whats so wrong with getting our hands held through to level 20?  Well nothing really.  Yet it does get extremely old after a while.  The Worgen starting experience has improved leaps and bounds since I first played in months ago.  This time through it was much more informative and interesting from a story point of view, but I had my hand held by some unseen Blizzard developer the entire time.  This feeling continues on until you finish the zone completely.

Conclusion –

Yet Another Bombing Run

Yet Another Bombing Run

The new Darkshore is fun.  Well, fun may not be the exact word for it, but it works for this discussion.  The zone is interestingly redesigned, we get to see the little story points of the old zone leak in here and there.  The often difficult to get to Troll Village is now dance free and trying to expand into the Northern zone with the help of the Horde.  The Master’s Glaive is being excavated, and somehow the dwarf archeologist that stands 10 feet away from the Twilight’s Hammer is left untouched?  Some things just don’t make a lick of sense.  Which is what really hurts the zone.

It’s an obvious fact that Blizzard’s “timeline” for the game is completely screwed up.  Zones farther into your leveling experience in Azeroth take on a somewhat interesting view on time.  Originally it was seen as “time goes by as you level up and get ‘older'”.  With Cataclysm this is evident, as your experiences with Malfurion in Darkshore and then in Hyjal would attest to.  Time is relative as you traverse the world my friends, be wary to not get too entrenched at what came first or things will begin to unravel more than “How is the Lich King still alive when he’s dead?” quandary that most people are still harping on.

In the end, the zone was a let down.  The zone ran the gambit of quests from the “go kill 10 Twilight Cultists” to the “go fetch 10 pieces of crab meat”.  But these were fewer and farther between.  Instead we got loads and loads of gimmicks.  There are multiple vehicle related quests.  In fact off the top of my head I counted 3 and a few other vehicle related gimmicks tacked on.  These include multiple Sunwell style “on rails” bombing runs that have been so completely over-utilized that Blizzard really needs to take a huge step back and say STOP! The zone had its high points and low points.  In the end, what could have been an awesome ending with a good reward both in a piece of equipment and plotline payoff falls flat mostly because there is never any real danger.  Being lead around by a leash through 95% of the zone and distracted by gimmick quests and famous npcs does not make the zone anymore fun than it was.  Sure it is much improved.  Some of the gimmick questlines are quite interesting, but in the end the zone falls flat because of its linearity.

A few more screenshots from the zone after the break. Read the rest of this entry ?

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Beta Cataclysm: A Speedy Look At Tol Barad Peninsula

August 23, 2010

Thanks to a huge bug in the current version of the Cataclysm Beta, I thought I would highlight the bug by taking a quick jaunt around the new Tol Barad Peninsula area.  This is the Daily Quest area and it is now complete.  All enemies are now implemented.  The only thing that is currently not implemented are the actual Daily Quests themselves, some generic friendly NPCs on both sides.

Oh and there is no flight path or portal that connects the zone to the outside world.  The current thought is that this area is a glorified instanced zone.  This is more than likely the methodology that Blizzard is using to prevent any more large scale server lag issues that Wintergrasp caused for the first year of Wrath of the Lich King’s tenure.  By making this zone unflyable and only accessible through portals from Stormwind and Orgrimmar or through the Battlegrounds queue menu, they eliminate this lag.  The only problem is, that this now does not have the feel that Wintergrasp had, being a large part of the actual game world.

Is this a bad thing?  Would Northrend have been a better continent if Wintergrasp was on some island that was on a different server?

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Beta Cataclysm: A Look at Tol Barad [Updated]

August 14, 2010

The Addition of Tol Barad…

The latest Beta Patch has brought us the islands of Tol Barad.  What is Tol Barad you ask?  To put it simply, it is Cataclysm’s cross between Wintergrasp and Sunwell Island.  It offers two separate experiences, an Open style Player vs Player interactive zone with set objectives and a Daily Quest Hub when your faction controls the PvP zone.  Both of which are in extremely early phases.  You are only able to test the Pseudo-Wintergrasp timed PvP battle system at the moment.

Wintergrasp 2.0?

The encounter is a cross between Isle of Conquest and Wintergrasp.  The goal is to capture the island by taking control of the three “flag buildings”.  These buildings seem not unlike Isle of Conquest’s areas where eventually each one will give a specific buff to the controlling team.  However, this portion of the encounter is not yet functioning.  It is obvious from the lay of each Flag building that one will definitely involve added siege engine usage.

The second objective is to destroy the three “Guard Spires” situated around the prison island.  In order to do this you need to accomplish two things.  Just like Wintergrasp you need a “Pilot’s License” to gain access to Vehicles on the battlefield.  So get to killing those Horde (or Alliance if you swing that way.)  Then you must successfully pilot a Siege Tank from the center area of the Map to one of the towers and “transform” the vehicle into an Auto-Turret.  At which time the vehicle will continually fire on the tower eventually destroying it.

Pretty simple concept at the moment.  The battle system is far from complete.  It is beginning testing purely for a feedback as they develop it standpoint.  Right now each battle lasts 30 minutes and you control it for a specific amount of time afterward.  While these are obviously placeholder numbers, the current time you possess the zone after successfully completing either the Attack or Defense goal varies depending on how many successive times a faction has owned the island.   During the time you possess the zone the daily questing hub that is made available

A Sunwell Island without the Naruu.

The island is pretty well populated for the advent of its Daily Quests.  Whether or not this is going to match Sunwell Island and its slowly phasing motif is yet to be seen, but its an eclectic selection of smaller subareas all packed right on top of one island.  It has both a feel of all fitting together and not meshing well at the same time.

Because the Daily Quests are not available until 85, this area is currently untestable.  Well, if you really want to jump in the water and get eaten by the huge elite Shark with a wooden harpoon in its side and call that testing, go for it.

Otherwise, we can see that the island is a haunted one.  Everything from ghosts ready to jump out at you and say “Boo!” on a creepy mountain overlook, to the overly common graveyard with zombies and ghouls and one big Elite in the middle.  The area is entirely too cliche for its own good.  Right down to the entirely overused mechanic of the two factions fighting in a central area.

You also have the cursed living in several areas of the island just to even out the monster types that can be found here.  The only disappointment was there were no murlocs to be found.  I honestly was hoping for some Murlocs or Naga on the island.  It would only be fitting that they would be around.  It’s a damn island after all and it’s not far north of Vashj’ir.  At the very list some Kvaldir would have been a really nice touch here as it is an “undead island” after all.  They are much more interesting than the same ghosts and ghouls we’ve been seeing since the first time we happened across Darkshire.

The the biggest thing you will notice, is there is no return to the Vault of Archavon model here.  The draw here is to gain access to the daily quests so you may purchase the first tier epic rewards.  While they are nice epics, time will only tell if its enough of an incentive to keep people competing for control over the course of the expansion.  VoA was a wonderful idea, even if it did fail in terms of execution.  One can only hope that Blizzard learned from it and improve on the formula this time.

The island itself has some potential.  I am not a huge PvP guy though and if the Daily Quest Hub area retains the Open PvP of the Wintergrasp section, this place can go die in a very big fire.

Take special note of the new default raid UI.  With it you can quickly and easily dole out Raid Marks as well as handle your Healers, Tanks and DPS simply and effectively.  You can even hide and show individual groups with a push of a button.  The Raid UI is also detachable as well as lockable to any portion of the screen you desire.  Combine that with the Compact UI format and the default UI has come a very long way.

Edit: Looks like I was premature on the “no raid” part of Tol Barad.  New datamining has pulled a map of the Baradin Hold raid.  Which indicates that there will once again be a PvP based raid dungeon in Cataclysm.

Many more screenshots of Tol Barad after the break.

Read the rest of this entry ?

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Beta Cataclysm: New Paladin Talent Trees (Finally)

August 14, 2010

Finally the day has come…

The day that Ghostcrawler promised us months and months ago.  We finally not only have new Paladin talent trees that look closer to finalized versions of all 3 trees, but we have trees that actually work.  Now please remember that these are active as of the date of this post and will probably change in someway before Cataclysm is released.  That being said, lets take a look at the new protection talent tree and see what we have in store for us.

While the tree does not look hugely different than what was in the last build, there are sweeping changes to just about every talent in Protection, and a few more in Ret that directly effect us as Tanks. Read the rest of this entry ?

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Beta Cataclysm: A Strange Disease…[Updated]

August 12, 2010

A Strange Disease has stricken the Alliance –

In interest of equal time, I bring you news of the great plague of the Alliance.  It is fast sweeping the beta realm but it seems that the youth of Azeroth are immune.  As you can see the Prince has not been infected.

Seriously, there is something going on here.  There is no actual debuff to be seen on any of the infected NPCs.  If I would hazard a guess as to whats going on here, I would have to say this will be part of the opening event for Cataclysm.

Update: Added a screenshot of a large brown orb that seems to be the source of the infection.

I really wanted to have a decent discussion on the state of the Paladin tanking build.  However, seeing as we are at least one Paladin talent build behind what is actively being developed and currently you can not choose Shield of the Righteous when talenting at the moment.

Not to say the current Protection Talents make the class impossible to play, but it just doesn’t feel adequate.  Its not the class that it used to be.  Without Consecration and Shield of the Righteous in the rotation and with a nerf-batted Hammer of the Righteous, its far from the same tanking class it currently is on Live.

Ghostcrawler has eluded to some big changes recently in a few posts.

The paradigm shift that Ghostcrawler is eluding to is quite nice.  Shifting from their proposed Holy Power = Mitigation into a Holy Power =  Threat First, Mitigation Second is a huge step in the right direction.  Moving towards a system where we can use our Holy Power for multiple applications based on the situation is where the new resource system needs to move towards.

We can only hope that when they hit, there is still not the “You can not learn this talent” bug is fixed so we can actually do some testing.

An interesting link for all you Achievement Whores out there.  (You know who you are.)  A Hunter Blogger by the name of Lyraat has created a decent little “Guide to 9000 Achievement Points“.  Its not super indepth but it does give you a good idea on how and where you should be looking to gain those achievements the easiest way possible.

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Beta: Again Into The Breach

August 11, 2010

Again …

Recently I have been able to delve back into the world of several of my old favorite MMOs. Ones that have been “on the shelf” so to speak for a while now.

Most notably of these has been my first love, Final Fantasy XI.  Now I know that there is a bit of “Love it or Hate it” when it comes to this gem of a game, but I am definitely in the “Hate to Love it” category.  I came back for a few reasons.

1) World of Warcraft has become boring and predictable.
With the advent of 15-30% ICC raid buffs, the raiding game just became a chore that had very little reward at the end.  I am not saying that I accomplished all that I would have hoped to do so.  I mean, I have not been a member of a “real” raiding guild in a long time.  I fell back on my “leftovers” roots from back in the end of TBC (and throughout Wrath) and joined the local GDKP run in order to accomplish things, make some money and get some gear.

This was fun at first, but once the 20% buff hit and we were routinely defeating 8/12 HMs with a bunch of scrub alts, it just became a bit… Well, a bit uninteresting.  The challenge and the fun had left.  I ran a few times in Ruby Sanctum and at first that place felt like a challenge, but the encounter design was hackneyed at best.  The trash however, is probably the first decent calibre trash in the entire expansion.

2) A Chance at the Final Fantasy XIV Alpha/Beta.
Well not the beta itself, but I came back to XI because I restarted my account in a vain effort to obtain that elusive invite to the XIV Alpha back in March.  You see, I am one of those nutty people who had never really canceled my XI account.  Square-Enix canceled it for me a few months before, due to their new “Verified by Visa” requirement on accounts.  (Not a bad policy in trying to stave off the number of Fake/Stolen CCs being used to farm gold/gil/ in MMOs today mind you.)  Yet, for a chance to hop into a beautiful new game, I was paying for XI anyway, so…. one thing lead to another.

3) Nostalgia weighs heavily in every decision I make.
Well at least it does these days.  There is something about playing a character that I lovingly and painstakingly developed over the course of 6+ years.  (Yes, I did play off and on in a minor way even while playing WoW, Warhammer, AoC and other games over the last decade.)  You just can’t put a price on that.

In the end, I am back in XI for the time being.  I am in WoW as well (just not as often anymore.)  Yet thanks to a couple of friends, I have been spending most of my gameplaying time inside Eorzea or in post Cataclysmic Azeroth.

Thanks to the recent removal of the NDAs for BOTH of these tests, you can look forward to seeing news and notes, impressions and rants about both games as the days and weeks to come.