Yesterday Blizzard released Patch 4.2, Rage of the Firelands for World of Warcraft.
I went through the majority of the non-raid content available and had some quick impressions. (Spoilers abound if you haven't started the single player content).
The first thing that I noticed was the ability to change character position on the login screen. I don't actually need that functionality as I delete all the other toons (it is a bad habit). But I like it. When I do get another toon to 85, they won't be at the bottom of the list. Plus one points for Blizz!
I get in without issue and none of my addons break. I'm running a whole host of them, and everything seems to be fine. Decursive tells me there are bad things going on in the background, but I don't care. Addons are fine.
I go to check the mail, and my character pulls out a scroll and looks at it. I ask a friend to look at a map, and the same thing happens. Sure, my mail is a map, but it is a cool little animation. I forgot to check the /roar emotes, but I'll bet that they'll be fantastic. The only issue is going to be when some spams a macro in a BG. Yes guys, spamming a macro makes you cool.
I grab a quest from the call board and head over to the portals. I almost miss the quest offered by Naraat the Earthspeaker, that would allow me to do Thrall's quest chain. I do pick it up and head to Hyjal. There I do miss the quest to deal with Alysra. The quests are poorly placed. Blizzard should have put these quests all in the same spot. Spread out like they are, there aren't trails to them, especially the one to deal with Alysra.
I go to do the Thrall quest, because it is closer. I start up the cut-scene, and that is when I begin to complain in earnest. Alexstrasza, Ysera, Nozdormu and Malfurion are there, and they look regal. They have new models and fit in with the higher quality models that Thrall and Aggra have- although they are wearing plainer clothes- as humble shaman. Kalecgos and myself looked completely out of place. Kalecgos is still wearing some brown pants and a blue shirt from TBC and still has the standard human model. For myself, I'm not in full tier, so my gear looks roughshod.
Some villains come in, with a cool effect of fireballs. I can tell by the framework that one of them is a female nelf. I watch the cutscene, barely able to hear it because my sound options were set one way and I can't change them. While the bad guy is making his threats I get distracted for a second by one of his companions doing something. Its the female nelf and she is going through her idle bouncing animation. She later does the demure hand of mouth thing, both of which are completely out of character for a Druid of the Flame and a member of the Twilight Hammer. In addition, the lip-synching throughout the cut-scene was off. I could not get immersed at all.
I pick up the first quest and get whisked away to Uldum, talk to an Air Elemental and go up to a platform where I immediately get ganked. I ghost back up, and find a bunch of Alliance players. We have to stand on the edge, behind a Pillar, so as to not die. We have difficulty picking up quest mobs. However, you don't have to claim the mob to get credit, you just have to damage it. The issue is that you have to get 20 without dying, and if you go out in the open to grab one, at least at this point, you're likely to get blow to smithereens. You have to also go and talk Aggra, who is in the middle of the group of the opposite faction, and is hard to target. Turning in the quest is very irritating.
The next quest is in Vash'jir, which isn't too bad. I didn't have my Seahorse on my action bars, so I had to dig that up. I also forgot that I could fight in the air, so I was a bit restricted for a while. The +50% chance to crit got to be a little silly, and mobs died very quickly. The area was huge, so I didn't have any problems with the opposite faction. After you kill the 20 mobs, you have to save Aggra from some terrible fate. A /tar Aggra works and then you just ride up to her and right-click.
Third is Deepholm. Again, the area is large and you have a buff that makes you take 50% less damage so ganks aren't really an issue. Yeah- thats about it. There's nothing special here- its just "kill 20 mobs". (Also the earth elementals cast Flash Heal? The heck is that about?)
Finally we come to the Firelands. This is by far the worst offender. Here Aggra place four totems around the area and you have to kill them near the appropriate totem to get credit. The totem changes every four or five kills it seems, and you go through all the totems. The last totem I had was central and it seemed like the horde just camped it to get kills. I had to stand at max range and try to get a spell in on a mob that was close enough to the totem to get credit. With a +50% damage bonus, ganks happened faster and mobs fell before they could be targeted. Then you finally can go back to Hyjal and claim your epic cloak.
Throughout the whole event I had difficulty hearing what was happening, as I was far away from Aggra. Additionally, the quest line didn't feel epic or have any meaning for me because I don't know Thrall. Since the events that lead up to this are either Horde side or in The Shattering, I lost a huge amount of value playing Alliance. I really didn't care what happened and after a the second quest just wanted to get to the end.
To improve it, there should have been more rewards throughout the chain. Even just a silly little 5 potions would make me feel better. Also, having larger areas would be very useful. In Vortex Pinnacle, you could have had four or five islands, not just one. Having remote quest turn in would have also been a better choice, as I wouldn't have to worry about going into a huge messy pack of my enemies. Clean up the cutscene by doing even slightly better syncing (keep the mouths moving while they talk please) and removing idle animations from them, and that would be infintely better.
My final gripe is that the story wasn't very engaging. Thrall, while he is a badass, doesn't really seem to be that great. This is supposed to be an epic questline, and all it is, for me, is getting some orc chick her boy-toy back. To make it stronger, I would have had a different NPC trying to pull Thrall back. Have Jaina talk to him about his Doubt, Aggra pull him back from his Desire, Naraat/Maruut/Nobundo break his unbending patience, and Saurfang deal with his fury. That way you get a mix of both Horde and Alliance, all characters that would realistically interact with him in this manner, all characters that the player has interacted with before, and it isn't just about some lady who we don't know that said "Go talk to Maruut".
With Thrall's questline out of the way, I went to go to the Molten Front dailies (or at least start to progress to open them). They were fun, for the most part. I would go in, kill a few things and head back. It was cool to see Malorne beat off Lord Ryolith, but the quest objective was literally "Stand next to Malfurion". They didn't even ask you to pretend to help defend him. BORING. The actual dailies I've done so far are also decent. The one where I gathered materials was too easy. There are too many spawn points too close together. There were 6 out of 7 within walking distance of the quest giver- and out of range of any enemy.
The other quest, Perfecting your Howl, was terrible. After killing an enemy, I had to use an item- standard stuff. But it transforms you into a wolf and stuns you for 2-3 seconds. This means if whatever you were fighting respawns or another mob pats by while using it, you can't do anything until the animation finishes. While stunned, you can't mitigate or avoid any attacks, so the mob gets a couple free hits on you. It isn't lethal by any stretch of the imagination, but it is terribly irritating. They should definitely make it a cast time or channeled item, so you can cancel it if you need to.
I then left Hyjal, thinking I had done everything that I wanted to. Later I decided to see how far I could get into Firelands so I returned to Hyjal, and saw that I had missed a quest. I picked it up and went off to Alsyra. It was a fun quest and there were actual mechanics involved in the fight, so it was well done, and it introduced you to another raid boss, Alysrazor.
I went to the Firelands, which has Avengers of Hyjal vendors both inside and outside (so you don't need a raid group), and actually got about half-way to one of the bosses. Since you can mount inside I managed to get pretty far and may have made it to a boss if I hadn't gotten caught up on some rocks. The instance itself is really nice, as it is just this massive volcanic field. It is a lot more open than any other instance I've been in including Obsidian/Ruby Sanctum, Ulduar and Black Temple. There aren't any walls, and there isn't a ceiling, so it is essentially endless. Since you can mount up, moving from pack-to-pack isn't all that bad. Also, you can see the Sulfuron Keep/Spire from most places on the map, so you have a good idea of your destination the whole time.
In all, I like the patch. They could have made the quests a bit better mechanically, and much better story wise, but I only have to do that once and the things that I will be repeating seem like they will be fun.