I opened my email last week to a bit of a surprised, one I am a bit mixed about. I had been selected for the Warlords of Draenor Beta. I’m mixed because, “Oh cool, Beta!” and “Oh crap, I wanted to avoid the spoilers and I have all these level 90s I’m working on”. I ended up playing it, I’ve done maybe 2-3 hours so far total, though I haven’t been keeping track. I decided to transfer over my Blood Elf Warrior main and run her through the paces. I had a couple of motivations. I’m not sure if I want to start with her on Live, so doing her now means later I can still have the newness of running my Hunter. I also wanted to experience the changes to Warriors.
Just as a forewarning, this may be a bit lengthy and it will contain some minor spoilers for WoD. Honestly, there isn’t a whole lot to spoil, so far it’s just your basic WoW story, go do some quests and help people, and I have only been in the intro zone and first regular zone. You’ve been warned though, from this point on.
On Transferring Characters
This isn’t exactly something that will happen during live, but for the Beta, you can transfer characters from Live for testing. This also gives them the new updated models. Ramchan, being a Blood Elf, doesn’t get a new model, but Ramenjunkie, my Orc, does. The new models are reeeeallly nice. I was worried he would end up all lame and baby faced but he still looks pissed and angry and ugly.
Some odd things happen when transfering characters that are notable.
- Ramchan initially had all of her transmog gear on the character select screen. Once I entered the world, the gear reverted to normal non transmog gear.
- Initially I had my store bought two headed dragon mount, I flew around on it and everything. Later when I logged in again, it was gone along with a few other mounts. Later still, I created a new level 90 from scratch and the new testing 90 came with some 230+ super rare mounts for testing. So mounts are funky.
- I tend to run my Warrior using Berserker stance, which is no longer an option in WoD. Initially entering the world had me in “no stance” with my normal action bar configuration, minus any trimmed abilities. When I selected a stance, it cleared out all my action bar abilities. I filled them back in. Later, I did a taunt, which automatically toggled me into Defensive stance and switch to a Defensive action bar, which was empty, which really sucks when you have just pulled an enemy.
- I transferred my level 25 Monk over and went in world to see what would happen. He was still level 25, and in his normal Heirloom Gear. There are some temporary dudes in world to let you quickly teleport around the Beta zones, so I selected one and was transported to a dungeon. Alone. A level 97 dungeon. It DID scale my level and gear to level 97, but I couldn’t kill anything alone. I left the Dungeon, hoping to drop back into Orgrimmar. I ended up out in Draenor surrounded by level 90+ enemies, while at level 25….
I have not had a chance yet to explore Azeroth too much. The new Dark Portal is in Blasted Lands and there are a bunch of people fighting Iron Horde dudes near it. You get a quest to go there, completing the quest gives a “Cinematic not available” then you are in Draenor.
So far, there is no way to get back to Azeroth as near as I can tell. The Portal is destroyed in the opening mission leaving you and your band of others stranded in this new world. Your Hearthstone is automatically rerouted to a place within Draenor as well, locking you in. I may try using one of the teleport dudes and exiting the dungeons to see if I can escape that way.
The opening quest line has you working to first destroy the Dark Portal while a massive battle wages around you, then fleeing with the remaining characters through various small Orc strongholds to escape the Iron Horde to someplace safe. This also serves as a way to introduce the various Orc Warlords. Each step has you encountering one, who gives some little speech with some neat introduction effects before they run off to be fought again later.
It also serves as a way to provide up to date gear for the player through quest rewards. I did not end up needing or using ANY of the gear provided. It was all iLVL 505 or so, and way weaker than even my pathetic LFR Raid Gear. On one hand, this is nice because it means I can cash out all the quest rewards with little thought, on the other hand, new gear might have been fun. I guess there is always Transmog.
Speaking of Raid Gear, I was worried that I’d be weak, it’s really quite the opposite. I feel extremely overpowered compared to all of the regular quest monsters. It’s like being a fresh level 90, and going back and running Cata content. It’s no contest and everything dies in like 3-4 hits. I’m wondering if a secret push in this expansion will be to better normalize gear in preperation for whatever is next. MoP went on for way longer than normal and the power differential between fresh 90 gear and Raid 90 gear was already kind of nuts. I am only iLVL 530-540, I can’t imagine how much of a breeze everything is at the max iLVL of ~580.
On the other end of the spectrum, Dungeons are not easy. They are BRUTALLY hard, at least as far as I can tell from the one I tried to run. Level and items were scaled to be equal, which was neat, but the first boss wiped us 2-3 times at which point the group all pretty much left. I have no context to comment on the dungeon content really, we were fighting some birdmen in a bird village. The boss tore through the tank and then started ripping the rest of the party apart. I don’t know if the Tank was off or the Heals were bad or if things were just too hard, but it kind of really sucked.
After the intro zone, you head off with Thrall to meet up with Durotan and the Frostwolves Clan. For anyone not familiar with Lore, the Frostwovles refused to partake in the whole corruption of the Orcs thing back in the past, so they are kind of outcasts among the Orcs. This is also where you establish your Garrison. The Garrison is one of the new big features of WoD. It’s a personal base that will gather resources and other junk for you. It’s semi customizable in which buildings you can place as well. It’s a generally neat concept, Think, the MoP farm on Steroids. Horse steroids, and lots of them.
Once the Garrison is established you head off and meet up with more Frostwolves and lead an assault on an Ogre fortress. The way quests are handles so far is really great. There are a lot of multipart auto completing steps. The effect is very much more immersive and cinematic. You are running back and forth to quest givers constantly and you aren’t gathering BS piles of pelts for nobodies to fill time. You are mostly just doing things relevant to the story and action happening around you. Both the Intro and Ogre Fortress lines have a lot of really great NPC battles waging around you.m This has been a thing before but it always felt kind of cheesy, like “here are some dudes fighting”. These battles feel like battles. It’s chaotic and fast. It’s really great. There is also a lot of phasing in and out as you complete quests that isn’t even noticeable. You may run in a building after battling through some enemies, then kill the enemy leader, only to come out and discover the rest of the battle as been pushed onward and it’s all corpses where you just were. The whole world just feels very alive.
Closing Initial Thoughts
I’m pretty excited to play the real thing after playing some of the Beta. A lot of the improvements are improvements for sure. Better pacing, better immersion. I kind of really hate that my Warrior has almost no AOE attacks now but eh, fine, I can 3 hit most monsters anyway.
I already plan to binge on WoD upon release, this early taste of things to come is just that, a small taste. I don’t think anything feels ruined at all at least. I don’t want to bounce around too much out of order so I don’t see too much too soon, but I will probably continue on at least through Frostfire Ridge to whatever comes next.
Over the recent Labor Day holiday, Star Trek Online (STO) had a promotion with free items each day. This inspired me to play a little bit more of the game. Slightly irritatingly, the free ship was only available for players level 40 and above. I’m only level 10.
I really want to like STO, and it feels like they have changed and simplified things since I last played, but I find the whole thing just… confusing and cumbersome. Maybe I’m just not used to it, but I keep having a hard time figuring out where I need to go and what I need to do. I recall before I had some trouble even distinguishing between the little mini map icons for missions and the different NPCs.
I also really have no clue how to outfit my ship or what is good and what’s not good. It almost feels like my early days in WoW, except this time I know that "I’m probably doing something wrong and need to find the right way to make it work" instead of my old WoW days of blindly running along with Cloth armor instead of Plate and whatever weapon i thought looked cool.
I did manage to find my active missions, which seemed to only be one, defend some starbase. This actually ended up being kind of fun because there were other players participating in the battle, plus like 100 Klingon ships. On one hand, a bunch of allies made things super easy. On the other hand, I’m not sure if I was being helpful or carried, which doesn’t help me know if I am doing anything right when it comes to outfitting my ship.
After defeating the Klingons I got a distress call about "Borg activity" asking if I wanted to join the battle. I figured what the hell and was dropped into another large scale battle. Things played out pretty similar to the Klingon battle, Borg were killed then a large boss ship warped in and we all fought it together. Then my ship got destroyed because "Borgs". Fortunately, like any good MMO, the ship is easily repaired in seconds and I was able to re enter the fray, blindly charging the enemy as if I know what the hell I am doing.
I didn’t end up participating in any away missions, just space battles, and I never did turn in my missions for rewards because, fuck if I know how to do that. It tells me to head for "System X" on a massive map of systems. I also feel like I’m doing something totally wrong when navigating around because it’s a lot of sitting and staring at stars rushing by. It’s not like WoW or LotROL or other MMOs where you might have to fight mobs between destinations, it’s just, stars flying by.
It’s pretty neat and "epic" the first few times but it feels like I’m missing some way to skip it after a few dozen long space flights.
RamenJunkie has finally made it, all the way to level 90. I almost feel bad for the poor Grummels up in Kun Lai Summit, as soon as I hit 90, I just abandoned them to the Hozen that were harassing them. Surely some other adventurer will come along and help them. I was going to head off and pick up Pandarian Flying then head to Timeless Isle, except Pandaren Flying is like 5000 gold. I have 5000 gold, I just, have better things to blow it on than flying around in Pandaria, especially since I don’t plan to do anymore questing in Pandaria and there is no flying in Timeless Isle anyway. I opted to just skip it.
So, Timeless Isle. I kind of blew off Timeless Isle on my main, all of the enemies are a pain in the ass to kill with my Warrior and I felt I could better spend my time questing and Raiding. Timeless Isle is intended to be a "Catch up" mechanism for players. The place is literally littered with decent though not the best gear. One time chests are all over and many Rare spawn hard to kill monsters are everywhere. They drop Account Bound Timeless Loot. Timeless Loot can be traded to alts, or used directly, and it creates armor pieces that are stat geared towards whatever class and spec you are. I’ve spent a few hours gathering all of the chests and I have gathered a full set of Timeless Mail Gear and a second set to upgrade and use later, as well as several extra pieces I threw off to my banker.
I also got lucky and won the Thundering Onyx Cloud Serpent mount on my first try (with RamenJunkie). Irritatingly, the mount requires Artisan Riding to learn, so I got to blow 5000 gold on Artisan Riding instead of Pandaren Flying. I’m just thankful it doesn’t require Cloud Serpent Riding to learn. RamenJunkie can’t ride the mount, but Ramchan can.
I plan to spend a bit longer running around TI trying to get the upgrade parts and I’ll probably run a few Raids to try to get a SoO Bow since there is no high iLVL weaponry on Timeless Isle. I’m thinking maybe a week or so more on RamenJunkie. He is at level 90 so he’s ready for WoD as it is, I’d just prefer to be above iLVL 500 before WoD. For comparison, Ramchan is something like iLVL 540. I have no intention of doing the stupid Legendary Cape trudge again either. IF the Pre Patch makes the process much much simpler I might consider it, but there hasn’t been any talk about that happening so most likely I’ll be skipping it.
I really want to continue leveling more of my alts. I want as many as possible at max level, ready for the new expansion. I’ve got roughly two months. Angus Black, the DK is around level 60, so he won’t be too bad. I plan to run him as a Tank too, so I’ll be able to run Dungeons almost instantly. Tanks and Healers tend to be in demand so there usually isn’t a 30-60 minute wait in the queue for dungeons.
I also still have my Monk and Mage to level. I’m running the Monk as a Tank too and while he is only level 25, doing one dungeon run gave me two levels all on it’s own, so I feel like it will be quick. The Mage is around level 30 or so, still a ways to go, but she’s getting there. There is also the free level 90 boost that comes with Warlords. There is supposed to be special content for players who boost after the Expansion is released, so I want to save the boost for that time. I also plan to use it on my PVP Alliance Rogue over on Illidan. Leveling on a PVP server, especially one where your faction is 1% of the population is a pain. I still like the idea of being 90 an strong though on that server, against the odds.
There is some debate about "which class is the easiest", especially when it comes to first time players. I’ve had a lot of experience with most of the classes in World of Warcraft, though my opinion is by no means definitive. Death Knights, for example, have a lot of survivability, Blood DKs do hella damage, are tanks in nature and have some kick ass self heals. Death Knight it’s an option though until you have another character at level 60. They also have some pretty complex rotations, so they aren’t really all that newbie friendly.
A lot of people suggest Warrior is easy. As a Warrior main, I can’t agree with this. I’m not trying to make what I do sound hard or anything but a lot of the Warrior’s usefulness comes from managing the Rage pool to dump it at the right times for maximum DPS. Warrior also don’t have any sort of self healing ability that is worth a crap, so without a Healer, the Warrior will eventually be overwhelmed by any heavy hitting mobs.
My recent experience playing Mage puts the right out. they do decent ranged DPS but they get the title "Glass Cannon" for a reason. Mages die like nobody’s business, which can be a pain when leveling. Rolling a Mage means learning a crazy dance of stuns and teleports to keep the enemy out of hitting range while you pummel them with spells. You can get a pet depending on your spec but the pet isn’t a tank at all and falls more quickly than the Mage does.
Rogues are fairly simple to play, though they are pretty slow since you spend a lot of time in stealth creeping around and it’s tricky to toggle between targets since your combo points are target specific (WoD is changing this mechanic so Rogues will get easier).
Shaman are actually pretty simple in my experience. Run up and throw down some damage and healing totems then dance around a bit to kill the enemies. The cooldown on the totems isn’t super long so they can easily be redeployed. Monsters don’t often chase down the totems anyway.
I have not played any Warlock but I get the impression they play a lot like Mages. I also have barely played Druid or Paladin, though both of those classes seem to be similar and both seem about on par with DKs or Shamans for overall versatility.
Then there is Hunter. My personal thought is that Hunter is definitely the easiest class for any new player. Partially for the same reason that I gave up on my Hunter early on, you get a mini tank that follows you around in the form of your pet. The Pet makes all the difference in Hunter play and makes it crazy easy. Gameplay for a Hunter involves letting your pet aggro and pull enemies while the Hunter lays down volleys of arrows and occasionally heals his life companion. The pets in general are pretty smart at avoiding enemy attacks and AOE (Area of Effect) attacks while being pretty good at absorbing damage.
Hunters can only legitimately play as DPS during dungeons, generally for good reason since a Hunter Pet can’t effectively survive against bosses and by extension, the Hunter can’t survive against bosses. Still, the Hunter pet package acts as a mini version of the "Holy Trinity" of DPS, Tank, Healer. The pet acts as a tank. The Hunter acts as a healer to the pet, if all else the Hunter can just spam healing while the pet deals with monsters. Chances are the Hunter will have some opportunity to lay down some decent DPS in between heals though.
The Hunter also has some advantages over other stronger DPS classes (Warriors, DKs, Paladins), in that the Hunter is ranged. A lot of enemies, bosses especially drop area damaging attacks right at their feet. This is a pain when playing a melee DPS (ie Warrior) since it means you have to keep an eye on how much life you have any pull back if it gets too heavy. Or at least hope the Tank is paying attention enough to pull the boss away to a clear area so all of the Melee DPS can stop standing in the damage afflicting space (Don’t stand in the Poo). Hunters, get to watch the fight from afar. You can see everything happening with easy since you’re standing back, this means your view isn’t covered in spell effects and damage effects of an entire raid or dungeon group. You also aren’t fighting to see what is happening among a stack of 10 monsters.
You also can see most attacks coming a mile away. There is often an obvious "pre effect" for any ranged attacks the bosses or enemies are about to lay down, so you can easily roll out of the way before even taking a hit. If you’re alone or the tank falls, you can pull up your pet’s growl and let the pet take the flack, or spam concussion shots to slow the enemy’s approach while DPSing them down to death.
The Hunter is extremely versatile at avoiding direct damage, and it’s done in a way that is a lot easier than say, a mage. Also, unlike a Mage, the Hunter can take a beating before falling. The whole Hunter rotation is simple and easy as well. You get a set amount of Focus to spend and each move costs Focus. It’s a smaller pool than a caster’s mana, but it replenishes fairly quickly. Unlike a Warrior’s Rage meter, it increases over time instead of decreasing. A Hunter standing around between fights becomes more useful, a Warrior standing around between fights is just getting more rage build up in the offline player as his rage meter in game drops. Most of the rotation involves spamming Focus Shot to build Focus faster and spamming Arcane shot to deal heavier damage. Occasionally you have some damage over time abilities to drop when they proc or on bosses.
My close out case and point is a recent run on the Shadowpan Monastery Dungeon. Just after the first boss, the Tank and one of our DPS drop out (the healer was doing a pretty crap job so they probably got frustrated and left. Waiting for a new Tank and DPS was taking a while, as it often does, so the remaining crew, myself as Hunter, the Healer, and a rogue DPS, proceeded on. We easily pushed through the trash mobs to the next boss, then after waiting another 5-10 minutes, we decided to push on through the boss or drop out and leave. With nothing to lose we pushed on. Phase one of the boss fight involves fighting off a few dozen Shadowpan trainees, which are effeftively trash mobs. Phase two involves fighting a pair of harder trainees, tough, but not too bad. Eventually we made it to the big baddie at the end of the phase. We pushed right on in. Our poor rogue died almost immediately. Fortunately, 30 tedious minute later, the Priest and I managed to down the boss. It honestly wasn’t all that hard, just reall, really, long, since I was effectively the only person doing damage to a multi million HP boss, 10-20k damage at a time. It felt pretty good in the end, but we all opted not to continue on to the final boss. The whole dungeon should have taken less than 30 minutes, I was not up to another 30 minute boss fight.
In case playing World of Warcraft on your PC isn’t enough, there is also a trading card game option available as well, so you can play when not on the computer. Technically the TCG has been discontinued since Blizzard has Hearthstone now, but the cards are still available. I have been avoiding these cards because I really have no desire to play the TCG and I don’t have anyone to play it with anyway. Unfortunately, my curiosity got to me finally and I ended up buying a few packs.
Why would I buy packs if I don’t care about the game? Simple, the packs also include "Loot cards" which can be redeemed for TCG exclusive items in the game. I figured, I could crush the itch for loot cards by buying a few packs, ending up with nothing or garbage, and then I’d be done with it.
Unfortunately, this didn’t quite happen. I ended up with an ok pet and a really neat mount, thing. The mount is the War Party Hitching Post, which honestly is one of the two things I knew was available via loot that I actually wanted (the other is the rare Giant Chicken). The Hitching Post is not an actual in game mount but it allows you to spawn a temporary mount.
So, unfortunately, buying these packs has had the opposite effect and now I want to buy more, which is an ugly rabbit hole to start running down. Fortunately the places I can buy packs locally are pretty limited (Target) and they only have so many available (maybe ten).
The cards themselves are nice I suppose. A lot fo my TCG interest is in the fancy card art anyway. I have no idea what the rules are but there seems to be some sort of system around completing quest cards to make your heroes and units stronger. I have around 44 cards now, which probably isn’t enough to make a deck (the TCGs I know of and have played all usually need 60 cards for a deck) and I have no idea how interchangeable 60 random cards would be in a deck in the first place. As near as I can tell there are no resource cards (Energy, Mana, Land, Force Power) so I have no idea how cards are played.
That can all be learned I suppose. If i get enough cards I’ll probably look into it.
RamenJunkie, Champion of the Orc cause, has arrived in Pandaria.
While RamenJunkie was my first character, I got tired of playing Hunter and switched to Warrior with Ramchan, who became my "Main". A Main is a primary character with the most effort put into it, an Alt is a secondary character. An Alt can become a Main, but it can be a bit tricky to overcome the time investment in a Main.
Also, the little backstory one may create for your characters. I’ve got some vague backstory to most of my characters, it more or less relates to their actions and path through the game, but there are little liberties to flesh out a character. While Ramchan is Horde aligned, she is also Bloof Elf aligned, and cares more for their needs than the Horde or Orc needs. Her main story also revolved around destroying the Lich King for revenge against the destruction of the Sunwell. All of the stuff after was just supplemental adventures. Pandaria for the Horde was never an issue. For Ramchan, Pandaria was an adventure, but it became obvious that the Horde were helping to destroy the wonderous land of Pandaria, and Garrosh had to be stopped.
RamenJunkie is Horde all the way, and Orc all the Way. Even his path through the game put him directly under both Garrosh Hellscream and General Nazgrim repeatedly. RamenJunkie, Orc Hunter is fiercely loyal to the Orc cause, and does not care about the land of Pandaria beyond conquest.
Running through with RamenJunkie has been considerably more efficient than my run with Ramchan. I am much wiser and more attuned to how the game mechanics work mostly. When leveling Ramchan, the only stats i cared about were Armor and DPS. I hate to imagine what kind of cloth, plate, and leather mish mash I was wearing without realizing that Int is meaningless to a Warrior. I do know for a while I was emphasizing Stamina, but that is mostly for Tanks and a lot of Mail Hunter gear using Stamina. At least that would have been closer. Now I’m maximized and tweaked for maximum Crit and Hit like a good Fury Warrior.
with RamenJunkie, it’s considerably easier. For starters, there are way fewer classes that use Mail, so I can generally just "pick the mail quest reward". I also went through a lot of the game in Heirloom Gear, which meant I mostly just picked the quest reward with the highest vendor value. I also understand iLVL and how it relates to stronger Gear, so when my Heirloom Gear stopped being useful at level 80 and 85, I knew how to drop a few thousand gold on the auction house to replace it with good gear that will last until I can grind Timeless Isle and run LFR.
I also was way less obsessed with exploring and questing for the sake of story. I’ve been there done that, so I could just cut to the chase more easily and get on with leveling.
It’s just, easier the second time around.
A Day Late but for pretty good reason. All of the new Warlords of Draenor announcements happened today.
Like this awesome part one for Lords of War, a series of videos that give some background on the Orc Warlords.
Or this amazing opening cenimatic that makes Garrosh Hellscream seem like a total bad ass and makes me feel kind of bad for kicking the crap out of him at the end of Pandaria.