I feel like talking some more about the WoD questing model, so I’ve done a little on the middle zones, Gorgrond and Talador. I found enjoyable, and they both really seemed to recapture the old feeling of ‘you have multiple areas to go’ that was a real railroading problem through Cata and Mists. The fact that you’re no longer pointed towards a specific quest helps a lot, though I felt it meant the conclusion to Gorgrond lacked cohesion in tying everything together.
Going into Gorgrond, I felt… a sense of trepidation. It was, from first glance, completely different to the Blade’s Edge of old, and I wondered how Blizzard could tie it together. They did brilliantly. Gorgrond, more than anything, embodies the ‘savage’ persona that Blizzard has been hammering us with for the last year, and it actually makes sense without being offensive in this zone. It comprises an elaborate and subtle story of a civil war, effectively, between the creatures of the wild forests – genesaur, ancients, botani and their creations; and the beasts of the earth – gronn, ogron, goren and all they command. In this ancient land, we are thrown into this war and left to do as best we can. The Iron Horde takes a significant backseat as the struggle for resources really comes into play.
Alliance-side, I loved the storylines of the Rangari and the Thorium Brotherhood in this zone. The dwarves and the draenei play off each other well, and their struggle to find their missing troops and complete the objectives they are there to do is well-structured. The fantastic landscape goes well with the questing, although Yrel and Maraad perhaps sit back too much. Thaelin and Rangari Kaalya were stand-out characters in the Alliance questline and I hope we’ll be seeing them again. On the side of the Horde, the Laughing Skull provided interesting, if a bit one-dimensional characters who just really loved bones. While there were probably better clans to ally with (given how the Laughing Skull consisted of around four orcs at this point) they were a good laugh. And the Crimson Fen, on both factions, was exceptionally creepy.
I was originally going to criticise the inordinate amount of giant elite monsters compared to the prior zones – but I realise that it makes complete sense. Gorgrond is ancient and unknown, and it’s also heavily suggested to be Titan-related – it needs guardians, and the mysterious ancient giants and genesaur that patrol the land provide an interesting perspective. I loved the fact that, unlike some past zones where the Horde and Alliance have achieved the exact same thing, here the Horde gained an artefact for controlling the magnaron, and the Alliance one for the genesaur. It adds an interesting twist, and as with the capture of the power of the Mogu in 5.2, I hope it’ll be referenced again.
My main criticism would be the finale of Gorgrond’s main questlines. While we spend a lot of time on the wilds of Gorgrond, the Iron Horde are rather irrelevant until the final quests – and they end very anti-climactically. The artefact is damaged beyond use, we kill another Son of Gronn – but why? What’s the point of the Iron Approach? We destroy the Iron Docks in the dungeon and the rest of the fleet goes to attack Talador. Was it a failure? I feel much like we did at the end of Vashj’ir – you’re not sure if you’ve won or you’ve lost – and ultimately, you have to work it out from what you do next.
Upon entry to Talador, the music was vivid and beautiful. It’s easily the best music of the expansion that I’ve heard so far. The music matches the landscape perfectly. The autumnal and earthy colours are different from Terokkar, yet the landscape is similar, and I like the way – much like with Shadowmoon and Gorgrond – that there is a hint of what will one day be Outland, but it’s something much deeper.
I’d like to know who had creative jurisdiction over naming my outpost ‘Fort Wrynn’. It’s not my own preferred choice, I have to say. I was not expecting Zangarra at all – and Khadgar being angry at Jaina is quite funny (though where she gets off on calling me an outsider after I helped purge her city and steal Lei Shen’s power for her, I do not know). Maraad is also kinda starting to grate on me, Alliance-side. Why did we take the most violent of the Vindicators with us? Seriously, first he starts beating up the homeless in Azuremyst, and now he’s advocating for genocide against the orcs. You’ve seen where that goes, buddy. It’s not somewhere to go. Horde-side, the questing was again very well-done, and I loved seeing Liadrin make an appearance. I was a bit confused to see Durotan referring to Orgrim with more affection than, you know, his actual brothers – considering Orgrim is with Blackhand, and we’ve seen nothing of him in this timeline, it came out of the blue. The absence of Thrall was also a relief.
I found the various draenei areas I went to very interesting – but each time, I felt as though it was a little short. Admittedly, everything was very dramatic – the Iron Horde was attacking and we needed to move fast – but I thought Talador was a lot shorter than Gorgrond. Tuurem, Telmor and Shattrath were all done with in a handful of quests. Still, that doesn’t detract from the fact that I loved seeing all the areas of Outland in this form.
Again, Blizzard have outdone themselves with Auchindoun and Shattrath – and again, I feel like they really go underused. It’s a pity, but there’s not much to be done about it now. However, I suppose there’s only so much story you can fit into one area. Talador definitely was a good zone, but I feel like it was missing something – there’s conflict in a great many areas and little to tie them together. You just appear to be playing whack-a-mole. Another criticism: Both my Alliance and Horde mains did not get the ‘Establishing your Outpost’ checkpoints – and I have no idea why. It needs fixing, but it was the only bug I came across here.
The final quest, if over a little fast, led into an absolutely fantastic cutscene. I loved how Yrel and Durotan teamed up against Blackhand (especially notable is how they co-opt each other’s weaponry), and I like seeing that the faction differences are lessening due to the necessity of co-operation in Draenor. Maraad’s death was.. poignant. I’m still not sure whether it was our Maraad, but it was a noble sacrifice. The triumph of Blizzard’s cutscenes is really stellar here – you can lip-read Khadgar at this point, which shows how far cutscenes have come since Wrath. The final battle was climactic and well-done. Talador was, all in all, a triumph.