Mad Jayne(z): Beyond Eco-Dome

We came back online to see an empty experience bar waiting to be filled, and two new areas to be discovered-hooray for content patches! The level cap was raised to 70, and flying mounts (and flying mount content) were implemented! Awesome socks!

...only, the flying mount vendors were in Shadowmoon Valley, which, not being Blade's Edge Mountains or Netherstorm, was not opened. So, we could see all that pretty pretty content, but no way to get to it. Curse you Blizzard, curse you!

Well time to go see what's in store, eh? Get some experience, feel the ding... and ascend... TO THE NEXT LEVEL! Today, on Dragon Ball (jayne)Z!

Blade's Edge was open but not fully implemented-Netherstorm was where the Blue Crew obviously wanted us to go. But since I felt I had a bit of a duty to you guys to report on all the new content, I decided to check out the mountains first. So, to Zangarmarsh went I, and then North to the peaks of Blade's Edge!

Incidentally, I didn't notice that there were, in fact, two roads leading into Blade's Edge-and furthermore, I didn't notice that the road I was currently taking happened to take me through the literal middle of Orebor Harborage, an Alliance settlement in the 'marsh. I did, however, notice this after I started being mobbed by level 65 Draenei guards.

One corpse run later, I go to the correct path for us Hordies, farther to the East. The road winds up through the sharp pointed peaks of Blade's Edge, through a cavern, and then comes out into a surprisingly forested area. I was actually expecting Blade's Edge to be all red and barren like, say, the Blasted Lands or Badlands-and don't get me wrong, most of the zone is like that-but there are also some really pretty lush areas (namely around the Alliance and Horde towns, but I assume elsewhere as well).

I do think it's actually kind of neat that we see some diversity in environment within zones in Outland. The only place in Azeroth that I can think of where that happens is in Winterspring with the southern canyon that's all demon-y and stuff. I guess you could say the same thing about Ashenvale too, but that's it! And no, the Silithid hives don't count.

While in Outland, we've seen... hm. Okay, not much in Hellfire Peninsula (though Void Ridge has some snazzy visual effects, it's clearly the same zone) ... Zangarmarsh has the Dead Mire up in the north and the Sporeling spawn ground in the southwest, though the former is far more of a change than the latter. Terokkar has the Bone Wastes, Nagrand... really doesn't have too much, nor does Netherstorm (whoa, getting a bit ahead of myself here). And yeah, Blade's Edge has the foresty places. A little thing, but I find it cool.

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I pick up the flight path in Thunderlord Outpost, the Horde camp... though Blade's Edge is supposedly not really implemented, I see that there are a few quests around the zone, so I pick them up-hey, I need the XP! There ARE some quest titles that have additions like <Needs Green Reward> or <NYI>, but I'm more interested in that sweet sweet taste of experience points. I imagine that XP tastes kind of like maple syrup mixed with honey mixed with caramel and creamy milk chocolate, with a dash of Pixy Stix on top-only without the fatal sugar rush and tooth-dissolving side effects.

Let's see what the deal is, yo. Okay, so you've got two clans of Ogres in the zone, it looks like. There's a large Gronn (Ogre god-type-guy) named Gruul who rules the place, he's going to be a raid boss... there are Sons of Gruul wandering around the place, and you can quite literally run into them fairly easily. Be warned!

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The two Ogre tribes constantly war for Gruul's favor, because it gives them a zone-wide buff or something, or he gives them phat lewtz. I don't know.

Huh. That would be actually kinda cool.

Now, you've got your Bladespire and your Bloodmaul clans, and they make with the head-bashy on each other. Understandably, they're not too fond of the proud Horde or the rascally Alliance moving into the neighborhood, and we're none too fond of them either. So, we're asked to take some of them out... with extreme prejudice.

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I find it kinda interesting that the Horde and Alliance towns in Blade's Edge are pretty damn close to one another; separated by a decent-sized canyon (though there's a bridge spanning it, so that's not much of a deterrent at all). There doesn't appear to be any world PvP objective in the mountains, but these two towns in close proximity might lead to a repeat of the old Tarren Mill Two-Step. Hooray for PvP!

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There's a quest that asks me to go kill the Fey Drakes that the Alliance have defending their tree-huggin' village and collect dust from them. There's also a followup quest that talks about how the Horde brought some wolves with them and how they're swift mounts, faithful companions, really snuggly to hug, and all that jazz-so we have to protect the Alliance from killing them, so take this thing and shoot them with steroids. I can only imagine that the Alliance have two similar quests... which I think is kind of cool. Even though it doesn't directly say "Go kill the Horde/Alliance," the objectives are pretty clearly opposing, so yay for PvP.

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While riding in the canyon between the two outposts, I come across a disembodied troll head in the sand. No, seriously.

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The head is that of T'chali, a Troll who decided to come teach the Bloodmaul how to party hard. They promptly buried him up to his neck in the sand and kicked him in the head a bunch-and then stole his hookah. To avenge the hookah, T'chali has me go and thin out their numbers (and of course, bring the hookah back to him, mon).

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It's a little quest chain, but I've just gotta say that the quest name "Bladespire Kegger" is probably the best name ever. Well, okay, it's up there. But any quests where you get Ogres drunk before setting them on fire = win, in my book.

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There's a random drop from an Ogre, a "Thunderlord Artifact," with the Thunderlord Clan being the Orcs who lived here way back when. This leads to a followup to retrieve a few more artifacts from the Bladespire village-a drum, a tablet, and an arrow.

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The Drum and Tablet are in various huts, but the arrow... where is it? It turns out it's on top of this big Stonehenge-like thing that one of the aforementioned Sons of Gruul likes to climb on top of. There's another stone leading up to it, but it gets too steep at the end so you can't climb. Huh. I doubt Blizzard wants us to wait until we've got flying mounts to finish this level 67 quest, so that's a bug. But meanwhile, time to get creative!

It turns out that as a Mage, you can jump and blink and make it on top. But it's kind of finicky and we can't figure out how to get it consistently. However, if you get another Mage buddy and duel each other, and time a blink right as he sheeps you, you wander on top-and then a PvP trinket or Iceblock works.

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Hooray for ingenuity (Warriors and Rogues can then /duel you and use Shadowstep or Charge to make it up too). Meanwhile, we've got the Druids that start to hit 68 and get their Crow form.

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Buggers. Still, while it was fun to try and figure it out, I certainly hope they fix this by release!

Not too many quests here yet, so I decide it's time to head to Netherstorm.

First thing about Netherstorm... it's very... hm, what's the word? How do I say this... it's very, uh...

Purple.

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Seriously. It's all purple, the sky, the lightning, the ground... I feel like I'm at a Mage convention. Huh. Anyway, on to the Goblin town of Area 52 (heh) where Chief Engineer Fuselage (heh) is building a rocket. Certainly not because Kael'thas' Mana Forges are draining the energy out of the place and could result in a catastrophic and destructive blast, of course. Anyway, he needs my help, so I become Junior Technician 3rd Grade Jayne(z).

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Inside the inn, representatives of the Aldor and Scryers argue about the best way to go about dealing with Kael'thas and his forces, who are commanded by ol' Blondie himself over in Tempest Keep to the East.

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There's some more fleshing out of the Scryer feelings towards Kael, and many of them genuinely seem like they hate him and those who stayed with him, and even see him as a traitor to his people. Huh. Interesting.

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I mentioned Mana Forges before. The Mana Forges are these installations all around Netherstorm where Kael's Blood Elves literally siphon the energy out of the air around them and turn it into raw mana for their magic "fix."

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I think I saw something like this on Buffy the Vampire Slayer except with more lesbian witches and fewer crazy blonde waif chicks (okay, wait, there was Sarah Michelle Gellar, so nevermind). Also, there weren't any Mana Forges on Buffy. Okay, nevermind, it's not like that at all.

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I'm sent to the nearby installation, Mana Forge B'Naar, to see what's what, kick some ass, and shut the place down. Incidentally, the Mana Forges are named Ara, B'Naar, Coruu, and Duro (with Ultris being one that was destroyed earlier). Apparently, the Blood Elf alphabet goes A B C D U. Oh, Blood Elves, you so crazy.

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Apparently the shut-down process involves taking a weird crystal from an overseer, using it to initiate the emergency shutdown, and then defending for 2 minutes as they send wave after wave of really ineffectual technicians to kill me. You'd think that they'd defend their ultimate plan a bit more, but... whatever.

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The quest chain continues as I'm sent to Mana Forge Coruu to disguise myself as a Blood Elf and find out what's goin' on over there.

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Apparently the Blood Elves are having problems of their own with a lack of staff and the fact that they're running gigantic machines siphoning pure magic from the sky that could blow up at any moment and turn them all into horrible void beasts. Hope they've got good workman's comp.

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Meanwhile, there's also a Consortium presence in Netherstorm, and an Ethereal in Area 52 asks me to go kick some rogue Ethereal ass.

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This I can do. The Ethereals are to the south in the Scrap Fields, giant plains filled with Fel Reaver trash.

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I kill them and take their stuff, and am told that I should really head to Eco-Dome Midrealm to the north. Meh, I'll do it later. After doing some quests for Papa Wheeler, a goblin engineer working on the rocket, he sends me north to his "partner," Mama Wheeler, who's acting as a liason to the Consortium (and drooling over their technology). Okay, I guess I'll do it now.

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The Eco-Dome is a large purple (see, purple!) transparent bubble that separates the desolate wasteland of Netherstorm from a rich vibrant ecology inside.

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Talking to some of the Ethereals reveals that the Consortium sets up these Eco-Domes wherever they go to a particularly hostile environment, because they're wusses and made of tissue paper. Mama Wheeler is understandably indignant that her husband referred to her as his "partner," and threatens vengeance on him shortly. She tells me to go deal with the demons to the east, which I mark down to do when I feel like it.

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There's a goblin who says that he's secretly an agent for B.O.O.M. (the Area 52, uh, secret agent corps) but doesn't want the Consortium to know that. To keep up appearances, he has me go collect pelts from the various large cats in the region. It isn't until later that I notice that his name is Shauly Pore.

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Yes, Shauly Pore.

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And he's in a "Bio Dome" of sorts.

...sigh. Blizzard... (incidentally, one of the nearby Ethereals remarks that he's hesitant to trust someone who uses the word "Buddy" as punctuation. Heh)

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Another of the Consortium reps sends me to run a diagnostic on the machines that control the Eco-Dome, and it turns out that they've been damaged by nearby crocolisks, so I go and thin the herd a bit. Strange, though, that they went after the machines... they've never done it before!

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Yes, that was foreshadowing.

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I go and kill the demons as per Mama's request, and then she suggests that I go and take out their leader, Doomclaw. Thankfully, he's not elite, though he's a big n' ugly son-of-a-gun.

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He drops the "Fel Reaver Construction Manual," and yells something about the Goblins being in big trouble. The manual gives a quest (Appropriately named "R.T.F.R.C.M") to go back to Mama Wheeler... shocked, she tells me to warn Area 52 about the impending attack!

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Chief Fuselage is worried but sends me to Doctor Vomisa, a Goblin who's been working on Fel Reaver technology.

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This is a fun quest... I get control of the little Scrap Reaver 9000, who has abilities like "do 5000 damage instantly and cause a high amount of threat" or "heal yourself of X damage over 10 seconds" or "stun target for four seconds." Fun. This, of course, spawns Negatron, a smaller (but still large) Fel Reaver who mocks our attempts to control one... and then it pits my little spunky Scrap Reaver against the devilish Negatron!

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I feel like I should be on Pokemon or something.

It's not an easy fight, and ol' Scrappy is at low health by the end, but between my leet fire skillz and his damage, Negatron goes down! I solo'd a raid boss... awesome. Too bad Scrap Reaver 9000 breaks down after the fight, that'd be fun to PvP with... apparently, if you fail the quest, Negatron goes and destroys the rocket in Area 52 before leaving, threatening to return and crush the town. That happens quite often while I'm there, so I can only assume that other people suck at Pokemon-er, Scrap Reaver battling.

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Another quest line involves the dastardly Dr. Boom, one of the Goblin workers who didn't wear his Nether Helmet and was transformed into the evil mastermind he is now. You're given some "Boom's Doom" bombs...

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I die a few times before I figure out what to do, since if you get too close, Boom starts throwing 4k sticks of dynamite at you, and he spawns about 10 little bombs every few seconds that, much like Bob-ombs from the Mario series, just walk around and then explode nearby you. However, it turns out that they've got maybe 100 HP at max, and it's pretty easy to alternate between low-rank Flamestrike and Boom's Doom (which hit for over 100k damage, nifty). The crew chief laments the death of his apprentice Sparky, but recognizes that it's a better, safer place without Dr. Boom around.

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There's also a Blood Elf mage whose master is trapped in a tower to the East inside a ruined Kirin Tor village, and who needs me to go get his staff fixed.

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But before I do that, it's time to head to the Black Morass in the Caverns of Time!

There are some new CoT rep rewards, though I can't really figure out how to earn rep with the Keepers of Time... they've updated reputation rewards in general, and some of them are pretty cool.

While in the Caverns of Time, I talk to a dragon in the form of a female Blood Elf who has a gray ! over her head and tells me that they've started to see some problems in the Mount Hyjal timeline... but they can't get to it yet. Huh. Foreshadowing much?

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Apparently, after their failure at Durnholde Keep (foiled by a dashingly handsome Mage and some random other people) the Infinite Dragonflight is getting bolder and less subtle in their attempts. They're after Medivh himself as he prepares to open the Dark Portal and bring the Horde onto Azeroth, effectively setting up, uh, well, everything we've seen in Warcraft. Even though preventing this would prevent the horrible First and Second Wars, this means that the Scourge and Burning Legion would effectively pwn face with nobody to stop them come the Third War. Makes me wonder if the Infinites aren't really agents of the Legion.

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So, back to Swamp of Sorrows! Unlike Old Hillsbrad, which retains everything-including the level 25 mobs-the spiders and jaguars and crocolisks are now buffed to high 60s, and need to be cleared.

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I'm a fan of all the new Burning Crusade dungeons, but Dark Portal certainly needs work, and I'll explain why in a bit.

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The premise of the Black Morass is simple... Medivh starts opening the portal, with a magical shield protecting him while he channels.

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The Infinite Dragonflight will open portals around the place, with an elite dragonkin guarding the rifts as nonelites pour through and try to attack the sorcerer. Kill the elite while someone takes care of the steady stream of little guys, the rift closes-and after a few seconds of rest, another one opens in one of what looks like eight or so locations in a rough semicircle around the Dark Portal.

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After six rifts, you fight a boss (who still spawns little guys, so you gotta keep on those). Six more, and another boss. Seven more, and the third and final boss.

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Pretty simple, but also very flawed. For one, there's very little variation in the little dragonkin-only two types until after the second boss, when they add a third (that spams a 1k Scorch that hurts like a mothereffer...) and there's not any more variation in the elite spawns. It's never very hard (unless it starts spawning two rifts at once like it tends to do after the second boss, then it gets pretty chaotic since you never get out of combat to res or drink).

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But, if someone disconnects or goes AFK, since it's a constant event, that's really bad. I've had perfectly competent groups wipe because the tank or healer disconnected, since you can't wait for him to get back.

Also, unlike the Thrall CoT, where if you wipe you can start over at a recent "save point" if you've beaten up to a certain part, if you wipe that's it. There'll be way too many dragonkin spawned by the time you get back, and if Medivh's shield falls, it's game over. So you need to reset the instance and clear all that trash again. Which isn't bad, but they're non-elite, easy, and just boring. Once or twice is fine, but if things consistently go wrong, it gets REALLY repetitive. Which is the problem with the entire instance. I'd love it if there was more of an adventuring aspect to it-like you need to get some crystals to start the channeling in the hands of the first two bosses, and then the channeling was just a minor part for the third boss event. As it stands, it's easy (unless someone goes offline or AFK) and really mind-numbing. It's certainly cool to see Medivh doing his thang, but... I dunno. I KNOW Blizzard's capable of designing better dungeons, and I've loved almost everything I've done in Burning Crusade with the exception of this pile.

Bah. Oh well.

I do discover that these guys resist magic like hell, and due to disconnect issues, we don't complete it. Grr. Oh well, there's always another time...

Hey, why doesn't Medivh care that there are Orcs standing right next to him, anyway? Shouldn't he be all "Gul'dan, open the portal that will bring Orcs to this world of Azeroth for the first time ever, and... and... uh... uh... hey there. Hey, Gul'dan, um, nevermind. I think we're good here."

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At some point, I hit 68. Yay for me! Time to get Invisibility, which isn't really that good, to be honest. The fact that it cancels if you get hit during the fade out frustrates me, because that makes it mediocre as an aggro-wipe (say, you could never use it on Vael due to the pulse). Pretty useless in PvP too since you can't see anything (Though I guess it's a good escape tool). I will say that the "invisible world" looks REALLY cool, though. Kudos to the art team on that.

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And there was that one time where I was running a dungeon and we were gonna wipe and I popped Invis and the hunter Feigned Death... and FD was resisted. So I lived and the Hunter died. I was all "SWEET VINDICATION!"

Uh, yeah. Well, there's plenty more in Netherstorm to do, but I think this is a bit long already, so...

Until next time, keep yer cool.

-Jayne(z) out!

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(Hey everybody, it's Eyonix!)

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