17 November 2008

Howling Fjord is Tapped

Last night, I more or less finished the quests in Howling Fjord. Sometimes, I am a completist to the point of OCD, and leveling in a new zone (one that I think is beautiful and fun) is the kind of thing that gives me the itch to get everything.

So even after I completed the Explore Howling Fjord and I've Toured the Fjord achievements, I kept working to complete the last few quest chains in the area. I finally completed just about everything last night, with the help of Firegrin and Wyrmm, when I finished March of the Giants and then Demolishing Megalith. On to Dragonblight!

I was stymied by a couple of bugged quests. The worst is I've Got a Flying Machine. It's a vehicle-based quest, where you take over a plane to haul bags of artifacts out of the Steel Gate excavation. Problem is, the bags appear to bug out over time. After a server reset, things are great, but over time fewer and fewer bags can be hooked. By the time I tried it, everything was borked.

There appears to be a similar problem with Seeds of the Blacksouled Keepers, though I was able to complete it anyway. The quest asks you to kill spores, then freeze the remains. The spores appear to progressively bug out, evading so that nobody can kill them. When I did it, yesterday around 2PM, about 70% of the spores I saw were evading. Firegrin and Wyrmm went after them around 10PM and only two spores were accessible; they had to camp those two and kill them repeatedly.

The only other quest I had trouble with was In Service to the Light. The issue here isn't bugs, it's spawn rate on the Deathless Watchers. The only spawn points I found were on the edges of two upper platforms; there's about 6 spawn points. But you need to kill 10 watchers, so everyone was running back and forth, tapping watchers instantly when they spawned. It took me about 20 minutes to get enough of the watchers to complete the quest.

Such is life in a new expansion. It's painful to run into quests like these, but on the balance it's a necessary part of trying new things. I would rather have Blizzard try new mechanics and add more quests. That added complexity comes at a cost; it's less likely that all bugs and issues will be fixed before launch. But I'd rather deal with that instead of killing a couple dozen more shoveltusks or whatever.

So, Howling Fjord is checked off. What are my conclusions? Here are my top awards for the zone:

Best quest: This one's tough, but I'll go with The Slumbering King. I also liked Sleeping Giants in the same area, which made it a lot of fun.

Best questline: The Iron Rune Constructs. It starts with The Human League, and runs several quests through Wyrmskull Village and Utgarde Catacombs. Then it heads to the Explorers' League Outpost with the Tools to Get the Job Done quest. It ultimately finishes by having you drive your own rune construct into Baelgun's excavation site. There's a lot going on here, both in lore, new quest designs, and new equipment.

Best new quest mechanic: The harpoon guns in It Goes to 11.... Though I'll give a special runner-up award to Send Them Packing. Threatening mobs with emotes, I love it!

Funniest quest: Absholutely... Thish Will Work! Note to self: don't trust a drunk alchemist.

Worst quest: Aside from bugged quests and poor spawn rates, I would vote for March of the Giants. It's fine if you're grouped up (as indicated), because the giants aren't bad to kill then. But I tried to solo it, and the frustrating thing is that I could solo it, if everything went right. I killed the first giant, no problem. But whenever I tried again, a giant would eventually break my roots, or a rune construct would get involved... I was about 1 for 5 before I gave up and sought help.

WTF? quest: The Way to His Heart.... You have to help... sea lions mate? I suppose it could be worse!

Most beautiful subzone: Ember Clutch. There's a lot of beautiful stuff in Howling Fjord, but the burning trees (using the new flame effects) are simply stunning.

Best-looking mob: The Vrykul are really amazing. As Wyrmm pointed out, it would be wonderful if player character models looked this good. It's tough to pick a favorite, but I'll go with Halfdan the Ice-Hearted, the Thane of Skorn.

Favorite NPC: Zeh'gehn, the incomprehensible troll at Scalawag Post. "Ye'll ku fer yerself with yer own deadlights, yahso." Of course!

Most amusing vignette: The "Thish will Work" quest above was pretty funny. But I was constantly giggling at the extra transport option you receive from Grezzix Spindlesnap with the Street "Cred" quest. Talk to Lou the Cabin Boy, and he'll give you a canoe ride to Scalawag Post. A tauren... in a canoe... as a taxi service? Too funny!

Now: on to Dragonblight!

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