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All Good Things...
It's been a while. I first wrote "Welcome to Outland, Yo," on October 12, 2006. I write this today, January 11th, 2007. I've been writing about the World of Warcraft: Burning Crusade beta for three months now, and I just tallied it up--up to the beginning of this entry, I've written one hundred and twenty-two pages. That's a lot of writing.
To be fair, this isn't, chronologically, the last ending. The one that came, uh, "before" this one covering the crazy alpha-and-omega End of Beta, End of the World!(of Warcraft) event is, of course, the last one. Ain't no more happening after that. Still, I don't know. This one feels like more of a proper send-off, and since I want to give this journal o' mine a proper send-off... this is the one.
And to help me make this particularly entry better than any that's come before... I'm not alone! Joining me here is forum personality extraordinare, the master of all that is Warcraft lore-related himself... he talks the talka, and he walks the walka. Yep, a big thanks to Ghostwalka for helping out with this, and just commenting when he sees fit. I really appreciate it. You're the man now, dog!
Ghostwalka: 'ey bruddahs and Sistahs. I'm sittin' in for the ride dis time. I'm also goin' to be crackin' wise on and with ol' Jayne 'ere. I'll fill in some fun tidbits of lore and whatnot as well.
So! Time to get this show on the road! With an extra 30% awesome! Yes, at 130% awesome, this is 50% over the legal limit!
I'm such a rebel.
GW: ...without a cause.
Last time, I left off going to explore Outland with my trusty companion, the Tawny Wind Rider They Call Terrence. Naturally I start off by going to Hellfire Peninsula and doing some nifty fly-bys of the Dark Portal. I then head on over to Honor Hold, where I land on a rooftop and start nuking the Alliance down below. Silly level 60s. After about five or so minutes of rooftop camping, three level 72 guards spawn right behind me on the roof and kill me. I don't know if that was supposed to happen or if that was just a GM having some fun--I rather suspect the latter. Anyway, they've since added mechanisms to foil such aerial assaults.
GW: The question is... why do they have them over Area 52 and Cenarian Expedition? Its not like we can dog fight... maybe if we make trouble, some of the Goblin Death Machines or Cenarion Ravens will come down and maim us... We'll find out!
After I get my body back (and frantically escape from the middle of Honor Hold) I decide to jet on over to Blade's Edge, because there's quite a bit of land in the maze-like mountains not filled in on my map. Blade's Edge is very... spiky.
And either Black Dragons really, REALLY suck at flying, or something really doesn't like them. Since there's a Gronn up to the North-West named "Gorgrom the Dragon-Eater [Son of Gruul]," I know which one my money is on.
GW: Gronn. So imaginative with names.
However, nearby Gorgrom's little hangout, there's a cave network called "Blackwing Coven." A black drake named Blackscale flies around the entrance, and there are mobs labeled as Wyrmcult (whatevers) that transform into little Drakkisath/Razorgore-style dragonkin when low on health. Hmmm... this is certainly interesting. Doubt we'd run into Neltharion, but he did like to hang out in Outland once upon a time. Perhaps this is his legacy.
GW: Ooooh, the Blackwing Coven be veeeery interesting. I'd love to learn more about it. The only way I can see it being there, what with all the Black Dragons formerly on Outland having been transformed into the Nether Drakes... is if Neltharion himself is busy busy busy... Or a new member of his family is going to introduce themselves in the near future. Also, makes you wonder where the dragons impaled on the Spires have come from.
Since they recently opened up the Gruul's Lair raid instance, I quickly duck inside. Then I see a bunch of elite Ogre guards and quickly duck back outside to continue exploring. There are wide, flat expanses of land with no mobs that I expect just hadn't been populated yet, but should be filled with demons and other nasty beasties by the time the expansion goes live.
I also see that Blizzard has moved quickly to rectify the embarrassing lack of two-headed dogs thus far in Outland. Hooray for Wrath Hounds! They make Outland feel like home!
And then they chew your eyes out!
GW: And don't ask about the poop. We've had enough poop in Outland!
J(z): Uh... yeah. Sure.
To the far East of Blade's Edge, there's a village of Mok'nathal (half-Orc, half-Ogre)... though I'm disappointed to see that they don't have a model that's really any different from the Mag'har. I hope that's a placeholder, because a village full of Rexxars would be incredibly awesome. They give me some quests to do some things to help their village not starve or something like that, but they're green to me so I abandon them. I'm level 70! Can't you see that?! Don't waste my time with little piddly quests!
GW: Well, they are larger then normal Mag'har. A bit more bulky. Rexxar's dad be there though.
Flying on, I hit auto-run and go get a drink--and come back in Netherstorm, flying around this little island to the North-West where a demon named Socrethar waits on a giant pedestal. I'm assuming there's a quest to kill him, because he doesn't look very friendly.
GW: Auto-run flying. That'll be fun. Go AFK for too long and you might end up halfway back to Azeroth and breathing nothing but cold empty space...
J(z): Hm. "Thrallmar, we have a problem?"
I fly back to Blade's Edge and notice this little sunken area in the middle of a desert-plain zone. Curious, I take Terrence and explore... and it's a big demon canyon called "Death's Door," populated with a bunch of Dreadlords and Ugly-Beholders-on-Crack.
But there's a very interesting little thing here. All around Outland, we've seen mini-Dark-Portals that are completely inert--there's one in Zangarmarsh and one in Nagrand. Possibly more, though I can't recall right now.
GW: All of Ner'zhul's little portals. Very scary. They're the ones that ripped the world apart. There are probably more... but the majority of Outland where they were is gone now.
In "Death's Door," there's one of these portals... except it's open. It's active and glowing all blue, and there's a big-ass Eredar Highlord beside it. This does not bode well for the safety of the world (of Warcraft), now does it! But there are way too many demons infesting the place for me to land and see how hard the Highlord hits, so I take off for greener pastures.
I mean that quite literally, too. To Terokkar! And then, from Terokkar to the recently-opened Shadowmoon Valley!
While flying into Shadowmoon, I pass high into the mountains separating the two zones, and find a large city of the arakkoa birdmen, called Skettis. Hm. Interesting, and as near as I can tell, completely inaccessible if you lack a flying mount.
I'd like to spend some more time in Skettis and see what's what, but there's no time! I'm running out of time! And I highly doubt that Blizzard will implement "Caverns of Time: The Impending Deadline" anytime soon.
...that's actually a really cool idea. How about it, Blue?
GW: I think that's called 'Mt. Hyjal'. Anyone want to take a bet on how long it'll take to get the first person attuned?
Crossing the zone border, I find myself in Shadowmoon Valley. I also find myself flying above a giant freakin' Burning Legion base. Not only is there a big Fel Reaver at the back of Legion Hold, but there are countless Infernals, Doomguards, Nathrezim, et cetera patrolling the zone.
This was my first look at Shadowmoon Valley, and my first thought was: "Damn, this is going to be one hell of a zone."
GW: One HELL of a zone, definitely.
I think I was pretty damn right. I'm usually not one to enjoy the blasted, hellish-type zones like Searing Gorge or the Badlands. I like the more serene areas like Winterspring or Ashenvale because I think the contrast between these beautiful areas and the impending violence is fairly striking. Also, they're more fun to look at. Shadowmoon is another one of the hellscapes, but I'll be damned if it isn't awesome.
The first impression--and last impression as well--that I got of Shadowmoon Valley was that it was a complete war zone. Not only do you have the Horde opposed to the Alliance, but there's a Scryer base, a Burning Legion fortress, a long-dead forest populated by arakkoa ghosts, Kael'thas's Blood Elves, Lady Vashj's Naga, a tribe of Broken called the Ashtongue, as well as Illidan himself in the Black Temple, looming to the East.
GW: One wonders how well Naga do in a volcanic enviroment... I mean... NAGA! Thats like seeing a Murloc in a Desert.
J(z): Fried fish-man-thing. Yummy.
As I make my way towards Shadowmoon Village, the Horde encampment in the area, I notice the orc guards fighting a constantly-falling swarm of Infernals. Later, I see the same thing outside the Alliance town, with Infernals constantly besieging the town and being repelled by the Dwarven guards. It's pretty intense.
There are your standard quests in Shadowmoon, "I'm interested in the wildlife. Kill them and bring their [X Body Part] to me so I may study them," "These damn monsters are ruining our [Y], go kill them!" Fairly simple fare. There's also a quest from a female Undead apothecary to go gather some volcanic ash and bring it back to her. This would end up starting one of the coolest quest chains in the game, but that's for the end of this entry.
Though I could get my quest on, I opt instead to explore the Valley.
A Tauren Shaman asks me to go find some of his comrades by the Hand of Gul'dan (a massive volcano in the center of the zone), so I think I'll go check that out. I do notice that instead of the normal red color, all the lava and fire in this zone is deathly green. No, Warlocks, you can't have any.
The Hand of Gul'dan is pretty damn cool, and I fly around it just because I can.
GW: Watch out for the Green Lava. It burns.
I see a yellow little dot on my minimap indicating the Shaman I'm supposed to talk to, so I head down. The shaman and his buddy are in front of a bunch of Spirits of the Past, forever bent in servitude. He asks me to go help calm some angry elementals of Fire and Earth (by killing them, of course)... but since I'm a Fire Mage at the moment, that's not happening.
The Spirits of the Past are all facing an Altar, with four larger spirits surrounding a fifth, central one. The four center spirits are called the Remnants of Pride, Greed, Hate, and Malice respectively, and I don't think I have to tell you who the center figure is.
But in case I do... it's Gul'dan himself. No, not the nefarious Warlock in the flesh, just a shade left by the pure evil he exuded. If there's a particular event with these spirits, I've not encountered it, but as it stands it's just a nifty (if slightly eerie and unsettling) flavor spot in the zone.
For all of you complaining that you can't interact with the spirit of Gul'dan... just hold yer horses. You'll get your treat.
GW: *grins* You can't interact with him, no... but you can curse his name right in front of him and spit on him and... well, if you're a Warlock, you might want to /kneel. This is like... your icon. The events there are... impressive to watch though.
I continue to explore and come across yet another awesome area, though this appears to have a bit more content than the dark altar of Gul'dan--the Warden's Cage. It's more than just a simple Cage, though, it's a large prison-type thing with [Servants of Illidan] patrolling around the entire area. Most of the dungeon is underground, and going into the tunnels (which are slightly if not annoyingly labyrinthine) will bring you face to face with two very familiar characters (if you played Warcraft 3: Frozen Throne, that is)--Maiev Shadowsong and Akama.
Yes, that Maiev and Akama. Maeiv, in full armor, is locked in a tiny cell (after being captured by Illidan back in WC3x) with Akama as her jailor.
However, it appears that not all is as it seems, for Akama has had a bit of a change of thought, and recognizes the fact that Illidan is absolutely freaking nuts and evil right now. He pretends to be on the Big Bad's side and guarding Maiev when in reality, he's working with the former Warden to bring his demonic master down.
GW: Try standing in the room with Akama for a while. Trust me.
It appears that there's a very long quest chain that Akama gives out, but it was bugged when I first talked to him, and instead he simply gave me the final part of the chain--go talk to A'dal about everything I've learned, and get a nifty blue in return. Sooo... I just got an awesome blue belt for teleporting to Shattrath. There's also a little bit of possible foreshadowing in the end text for that quest...
Sometimes, I really love beta. Man, I'm gonna miss this.
GW: *comfort* Same 'ere, my friend. Same 'ere.
I fly further east and come up on Illidan's Black Temple (though not before running into another giant green two-headed dog, because you can never have too many of those!) Unfortunately, there's an invisible shield that prevents me from flying overhead, so I can't really get any good looks at it--but it sure does look cool. There are two big "wings" outside the main entrance, with Blood Elves under Illidan and demons and everything else all over the place. It's clearly a fortress prepared for war, and it's very intimidating and cool.
GW: Scary place. Its going to be awesome.
J(z): Too much awesome for mere mortals to handle.
Continuing on my exploration, I pass over another demon hangout, and then find the Alliance base. I fly inside and see Sky'ree! Everyone's favorite gryphon mount from Warcraft 2! Sadly, I can't go find Kurdran Wildhammer because I have a feeling that his guards inside his base might not be too pleased to see me. Aw, nuts.
GW: Aww... cute little Sky'ree--AHH! THATS MY HAND!
While leaving, I see a debuff that informs me I've been marked as a target. I wonder what it means before I see an elite Dwarven Gryphon Rider hanging out above me, targeting me and charging up a hammer throw. I panic and run, but get crit and die. Horribly. Stupid freaking Gryphon Riders. (Not you, Kurdran, you're still awesome in my eyes!)
GW: Beware of falling Stormhammers.
Around this time, I'm asked if I want to do Mechanar by some guildies. I accept! Enough exploring, let's do some killing!
I'm summoned to Netherstorm via portal, and we go into the Mechanar once more. This time, though, we have a level 70 Paladin. I gotta say, asking for a "rebuff on Salv" feels really, really weird as a Troll.
GW: But soooooo goooood!
J(z): So, as a Shaman, isn't saying that, like, the equivalent of total and utter treason?
Since we have a Warlock and two Mages, the big packs that were so annoying in prior runs are nothing. Banish one demon, enslave another, double polymorph... cake. Easier than cake, pie. Actually, easier than pie, so, uh... strudel?
We drop Mechano-Lord Capacitus pretty easily (though it's still a fun fight) and then head to the elevator, which is actually working! Although, it's bugged in a manner of speaking, because... well, when you engage in a boss fight on the top floor, the elevator gate closes to prevent zerging the encounter. Anyone who remembers the old days of UD Strat may see where I'm going with this. If you wipe while fighting Nethemancer Sepethrea or fighting Pantheon the Calculator, and you don't have a Soulstone, Ankh Ressurection, or Divine Intervention up? Reset the instance, because that gate's stayin' closed.
GW: Got to love those things... hopefully this will be fixed soon.
There are some arcane constructs here that are very annoying, because they have an ability that charges their punches, so every melee attack does an additional 2k nature AoE around him. Just some advice--do not pull those into your group.
The second boss is Nethermancer Sepethrea, a Blood Elf Mage with 41 points in Fire, apparently. She herself isn't too bad, she melees decently strong and uses Dragon's Breath to AoE disorient. The fun part comes with her adds. She summons two Fire Elementals to her side, and the elementals will randomly target people and slowly zero in on them, leaving a deadly trail of fire behind them. Sort of like Buru in AQ20, only on fire.
GW: Oh... joy...
If the Elementals touch you, they hurt. If you touch the fire, it hurts. So, it's a very mobile fight, dragging Sepethrea all over the place and dodging her elementals until she's dead or they change targets.
I suck at dodging elementals. :(
After Sepethrea, you enter the Gauntlet. The hallway leading out of her room (and incidentally above the area where you fight Capacitus) seems to be empty, but the moment you enter it, three/four Blood Elves spawn and charge you. After you kill them, one of the arcane constructs attacks, and after him, another group of three or four Elves. You have no time to sit and drink or rez in between these waves, but you do have a break time after you've killed the first group.
If you move on, you'll trigger a second group of three waves just like the first one, and once that's done, Pantheon the Calculator himself shows up.
GW: Loa, I HATE this guy. He's like the eternal 'I'm going to show up and mock you!' guy. Its going to be sooo fun to KILL him!
Pantheon is a hard fight due to the fact that you're already drained by the pull--I'd imagine fighting him on his own would be fairly simple. He will spawn two or three mana elementals which must be killed and have a decent amount of life, and he will also use Mind Control occasionally--so have some Crowd Control ready to deal with that!
Unfortunately, we were going to wipe and try again... but the server restarted. So, that was the end of that run.
GW: Bah. Curse you, Server! Always ruining our fun.
After the server came back, I decided to do something fun and wacky--come on, it's Beta! So, what could be more fun and wacky than complete and total genocide, eh? I decide to finish what the Orcs started... and wipe out Exodar! Kill Velen! Make those purple bastards pay for crashing into our planet! Today... we celebrate our Independence Day!!
GW: You're not Will Smith, bro. But we DO get to punch them in the face and say... 'Welcome to Azeroth!'
J(z): Actually, I think that was Bill Pullman. Still, your plan has merit.
Unfortunately, I can only find three other people willing to go. Damn. Oh well, you make do with what you have, right? The four of us head to Ashenvale where we slaughter Darkshore and hijack the boat to Exodar. Damn, I'm one sexy pirate.
We explore around the outside of the Exodar and find the Draenei Elekk vendor, who has little to no health but respawns instantly. We have fun killing him over and over, making a little pile of his bodies on the floor.
After enough of that, we decide to head down into the very purple and crystal-y Exodar. It's pretty trippy, and I honestly believe that either the Draenei or the Naaru were on drugs when they made it. Or both, it could be both of them.
GW: Both. Definitely both.
Our foray into the heart of the Exodar doesn't actually go as smoothly as we've planned, because it seems that there's a steady stream of city guards that spawn, and it is literally impossible for four Horde to kill them before they call another one to help. So we die and run back to our bodies before deciding to just mount up and make a break for it.
Unfortunately, we don't really communicate where the hell we're breaking TO, so we get scattered and slaughtered by dozens of NPCs. Eventually, though, we make it into the Vault of Lights, an area with lots of holograms of various evil demon types. It's relatively NPC-free, so it's a good staging ground.
It just so happens that up the stairs is the Prophet Velen himself! That's kinda weird, because the Vault of Lights is where the rear entrance to Exodar is, and it's kinda off to the side. It'd be like putting Bolvar Fordragon randomly in the Park or the Dwarven District, or having Thrall chill out in the Valley of Spirits or Cleft of Shadows. Why the hell is their faction leader so... in the middle of nowhere? On the other hand, this makes it easier for Horde to have a back-door to a faction leader, finally.
GW: Mweeheehee... Revenge is a dish best served cold...
We charge Velen for fun and predictably get owned. Yeah, I didn't see that one coming. I'm also being ludicrously sarcastic.
Now that I've had my fill of PvP bloodshed (read: getting owned by city guards repeatedly because there weren't any Alliance coming to defend the city since the PvP beta server is a ghost town >.>) I decide to head back to Shadowmoon Valley and get some quests done.
GW: To Shadowmoon! *zoom*
There's a nifty quest from Shadowmoon Village that asks me to go spy on the Burning Legion down at Legion Hold. However, there are a bunch of demons there that would find me awfully crunchy and good to eat with ketchup, and I certainly can't find out anything if I kill them all. So, this calls for some subtlety (for once). He gives me... a box. To hide myself in and eavesdrop on the conversation.
GW: (Random Demon) What's this Box doing here?
I'd be pissed at how incredibly low-tech and simple this scheme is if it weren't so completely awesome and appealing to my inner Metal Gear Solid fanboy. I fly to Legion Hold, setting a few demon patrols on fire to appease my bloodlust--because a quest without any killing at all is a quest not worth taking, in my humble and slightly violent opinion.
GW: Mine too!
And then, uh, I hide in the box. I must have wonderful timing, because then immediately a cutscene begins with the demon lord talking to his commander about the preparations and the battles against the Horde and Alliance. He's ordered to step the attacks up, but protests that Legion Hold will be defenseless--but to no avail!
There's a tense moment near the end where he asks the commander "What's in this box?" but the situation is defused when the commander responds "Box? I didn't send you any box! Forget it already!"
I'm so glad that the demon lord is really really obedient, or really really gullible. Works out for me.
GW: Now you see that Good will always triumph... because Demons are Dumb.
To Be Continued...