Friday, December 31, 2010

Top Five: Video Games Of 2010

  • It is that time of year again. It's time to look at the games that I played in 2010 (even if they did not come out in 2010) and decide which were the Top Five of the year. Keep in mind that this list is completely subjective. I'm even listing them in alphabetical order to avoid any problems. Let's see which ones had the biggest impact on me.

  • Borderlands - I don't think there has been another game that I have tried harder to play more than Borderlands. I initially bought the game in a Steam sale. When my video card crashed out and I had to swap in an underpowered substitute, I gave it up for a while. But then the GOTY edition came out on Xbox 360 and I bought it again. And then replaced it when the first didn't come with the DLC codes. The reason I tried so hard is because Borderlands is just fun. That's all it wants to be. The story is not compelling, the gameplay isn't deep. But it's fun as hell and actually got me playing a shooter this year.

  • Dragon Quest IX - As a long time fan of the Dragon Quest series ever since the NES era, I was looking forward to this game for quite some time. I was not disappointed. There is a vast world to explore, crafting and gathering, multiple jobs to level up, and a full endgame in place. But the main story is told almost episodically, so the critical path is not overwhelming. Although I was concerned that the move to the DS would hurt the game, making it portable was a godsend. Dragon Quest has never been about pushing polygons, so they did not lose anything by shrinking it. In fact, I probably played it more because I could play it anywhere.

  • Limbo - When the Xbox Summer of Arcade launched, I didn't have any idea what this game was. But one Giant Bomb Quick Look later convinced me that I had to buy this game. And although it only took me a few hours, it was one of my favorite games of the year. I'm not very good at puzzles, so I did have to hit the FAQ a couple times. Even so, I had a blast figuring out how to navigate Limbo's dark world. But it wasn't the gameplay that won me over. Instead it was the mood and tension that bored into me like one of those disgusting brain worms. Even now I can recall the feels the game gave me, from hopeless despair to moments of triumph. That is why it made this list.

  • Mass Effect 2 - I loved Mass Effect. It was far and away my favorite game Bioware has made (just ahead of Jade Empire). ME2 was the perfect follow up. From the first tense moments through to the harrowing climax, I was hooked by this game and its story. It was great to step into Commander Shepard's shoes again and guide her (oh yes, Shepard is much better as a woman) to victory against the Collectors. If I have anything negative to say about the game, it's that now I can't wait for Mass Effect 3.

  • Red Dead Redemption - I like the idea of Rockstar's games a lot more than I can play them. Usually I run into some wall that I just can't overcome, so I give up in frustration. Which is sad because the stories their game are unusually excellent. Red Dead Redemption has the excellent storyline that I was looking for along with great gameplay and an amazing world to explore. RDR's deconstructionist western hit all of the right notes with an amazing lead character, confident story beats, and a mood that effected me long after I finished the game. And finished and finished because you aren't done playing until the final credits roll, no matter how the story goes. I'm embarassed to say that I put the game down at the wrong point and had to go back later when I realized my mistake. And I'm glad I did go back because RDR has one of the most satisfying endings ever.

  • Although they didn't make the top five, I want to give Sid Meier's Civilization V and Costume Quest some honorable mentions. It's like some people asked themselves "What would Anjin like to play?" and made them just for me. Thanks, everyone.

Thursday, December 30, 2010

Random Shots: The Year That Was 2010

  • Last year I was inspired by Blue Kae give some thought to the games I was looking forward to in the coming year. This year I'm going to revisit those expectations and see how they matched up with reality. Tomorrow is my Top Five games of the year. Then Monday I look into the year ahead and think about where my gaming will go from here.

  • World of Warcraft: Cataclysm - I listed Cataclysm and the one MMO I was looking forward to this year, and I was almost right. However, I also expected it to be a "just enough" expansion. And although the high level content seems a little thin, I didn't expect to enjoy the low level content so much. Definitely a win for Blizzard.

  • Diablo III - Torchlight made me look forward to more Diablo-style gaming last year. But I was right: D3 did not come out this year. At least 2011 looks a lot more promising.

  • Mass Effect 2 - I hadn't used my 360 for a while before ME2 came out. After ME2, I went on an Xbox bender. Thank you, ME2, for teaching me to love (consoles) again. Can. Not. Wait. For Mass Effect 3.

  • Red Dead Redemption - At the beginning of the year, I said I was looking forward to a new western game because of how much I enjoy Gun. Heh. Heh heh heh. Ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha! Yeah, I think RDR will be my western of choice from now on.

  • Other MMOs. Any of them. - I named six MMOs that I was not looking forward on 2010 for various reasons. Some I just didn't care for, some I knew for a fact wouldn't come out no matter how much I begged, pleaded, bribed, wished on stars, bargained with demons, etc. Of the six, only two did come out: Allods Onlines and Star Trek Online. In both cases, I tried and rejected them. So I was right, 2011 was not a year for new MMOs. What I didn't expect was that EQ2 would add and X and become a game that I was actually interested in. Crazy.

  • Starcraft 2 - I made it almost all the way through 2010 without buying SC2, but I folded in the end. Blizzard put it on sale and I caved. So far, not a bad game. But it's still an RTS, just a really Blizzardy one.

  • How was 2010 for you?

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Random Shots: Petty

  • I like World of Warcraft. I mean really like it. They have a whole bunch of my money to prove it. I know it is the cool thing to hate on WoW, but you can't tell me that we (and by we I mean me and 12 million of my closest friends) are not having fun. But there is one thing I would change to make the game better.

  • No, I don't want them to fix the holy trinity. They don't have to add meaningful PvP. I don't need a more hardcore game, more intricate crafting, or forced grouping.

  • I just want them to fix the mother-effing sound effect for Templar's Verdict.

  • Have you heard it? If you haven't, go right now and roll up a paladin, play up to level 10, and pick Retribution as your talent specialization. Really, go ahead. I'll wait. It should take you no more than twenty minutes what with the leveling changes.

  • See what I mean? When I'm swinging a huge two-handed weapon and someone, it shouldn't sound like I'm playing with a Slinky. I'm sure there is a place for that, but Slinkies sound like hunter weapons, not paladins. I want a big, meaty crash, bang, or explosion of steel on flesh. If you can recreate that with something that came in your Christmas stocking, you're doing it wrong.

  • You've done some great work in the past, Blizzard. Don't let me down.

© 2010 Marty Runyon. All rights reserved.

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Top Five: Best Of 2010 Lists

  • If there is anything that Best Of lists are good for, it's starting fights. And the Internet loves a good fight. This may be listed as a Top Five, but it's really just a collection of lists that I've discovered and enjoyed this year.

  • The A.V. Club's Best Games - For straight up best games lists, you can't beat the A.V. Club's. It's simple, straightforward, and well-rounded. Go for it.

  • Giant Bomb's GOTY - There is some crazy stuff going on at Giant Bomb. They've collected the top ten games from several people in and around the games industry, announced their own awards, and released a series of podcasts delibrating the categories. Even better, you can't even count on everything matching up. It's hilarious.

  • Bio Break's Flushies - A lot of bloggers (including myself) like to celebrate the end of the year with a best of list. Although there are any number of good ones, I should point out Syp's 2010 Flushies. He does an excellent job of breaking down what happened during the year and putting a humorous spin on it.

  • AoL Radio Blog's 10 Best Songs - I don't follow music that closely anymore. I wanted to be one of those cool people who enjoys new music late into life, but that's just not going to happen. But amusingly enough, I actually know and like all the songs on this list. Maybe things aren't as bad as I think.

  • Massively's Top Indie and Free-To-Play Stories - 2010 may not have been a great year for Triple-A MMOs, but Beau reminds us that indie and free-to-play MMOs exploded throughout the year. It's easy to overlook all the news when our particular niche put up a poor showing this year. (I mean, really, Cataclysm is going to be the AAA MMO of the year, folks.) It helps to look outside the bubble and remember that things weren't all the bad, just not what we expected.

© 2010 Marty Runyon. All rights reserved.

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Random Shots: Downbeat

  • I wish I had a lot to talk about today, but the truth is I haven't been doing too much gaming lately. Real life intervenes, as it will. So I've had little time to do more than to enjoy myself vicariously through all of your posting and comments. So thank you all for writing and sharing. It has been a great comfort.

  • I woke up early on Wednesday morning so I decided to get a little game time in before work. I logged into WoW only to discover that it was down for maintenance. Okay fine. New expansion and all. So I tried EQ2X. Down for maintenance. LotRO? Just a nice patch to download before I could play. At that point, I figured I might as well just go to work.

  • Although I haven't done much gaming, that doesn't mean I haven't been planning for it. The daily special on ended up being an 250GB Xbox 360 hard drive for only fifty dollars. I've had the same 20GB since the console came out, one I had to buy separately since only the Core package was available when I picked it up after launch. I wasn't about to spend $130 on a stupid hard drive, but this seemed like a perfect deal. It will be nice when I don't have to free up space every time I want to try a new game.

  • So, Angry Birds huh? Downloaded it on my Incredible, showed it to my wife, and she had to download a copy as well. When a game crosses that threshold, I know it's going to be big.

  • And that's it folks. Happy Steam Sale Season.

© 2010 Marty Runyon. All rights reserved.

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Played Lately: Sid Meier's Civilization V

  • My good friend, gaming burnout, came to visit the other day. But instead of coming and going, he decided to crash on the couch and eat all my tortilla chips right out of the bag. When he gets comfortable like this, the only way to get out is to change up my routine. So I put WoW on hold for a little bit and fired up Civilization V.

  • I chose Civ V primarily because of the recent patch. I played the heck out of the game when if first came out, but I don't stick with Civ games too long, even when I enjoy them a lot. Happily, I can report that the patch does help with a number of issues that I had with the game. It made this return a great experience.

  • In the first game I played, I was randomly assigned the Chinese. I decided early on that I wanted to try for a Culture victory, a goal that seemed impossible before. I kept my empire small, expanding to only three cities. And I was lucky with my placement since I was the only civilization on my continent, along with a handful of city-states. I spent my very little time fighting. In fact, I ended the game with just three units to my name. I upgraded them as I could, but mostly they stayed garrisoned in my city after the threat of barbarians had passed. Funny enough, everyone else left me alone and I completed the mythical Utopia Project. So yeah, it can be done.

  • My next game also ended up with the Chinese, but on a continent with four neighbors. In spite of the crowding, I tried to keep it peaceful and try for a Science victory. One of the most interesting things about running down the tech tree is that you get access to all of these awesome toys. I mean, if you get the chance to build nuclear missiles, why wouldn't you wipe those smug Ottomans off the map? As you would expect, I ended up in a lot of armed conflicts, including a world war starting around 1700. Since at that point I was rushing toward my favorite unit, Infantry. I took on all comers, even fighting a multi-front war, and took several capitals along the way. By the time the conflict was done, I had pushed all of the other civilizations into tight little pockets where they couldn't damage me anymore. I went back to my research, built my ship and took off for the stars.

  • The afore mentioned nuke was tossed at the Ottomans because they were the only ones on my continent still holding their capital. And thank goodness because the Arabians were on there also and I would feel queasy nuking Mecca. Unfortunately a glitch stopped the mushroom cloud from spawning so all I saw were a couple units collapsing and the terrain burning. Oh well.

  • It's pretty fun how, even after being away from the game for a while, Civilization V can suck me right back in without even trying. Maybe that's why I play only rarely: I need my sleep.

© 2010 Marty Runyon. All rights reserved.

Friday, December 17, 2010

Random Shots: The Expansion After Cataclysm

  • Is it too soon to think about what the next expansion for World of Warcraft will be after Cataclysm? Of course it is. But never let is be said that a little thing like propriety ever got in the way of a good post. Or even a bad one.

  • These last three expansions have been primarily about filling the holes in the world. The Burning Crusade took us through the Dark Portal to experience what was left of Draenor. Wrath of the Lich King wrapped up the story originally laid out in Warcraft III: The Frozen Throne. And now Cataclysm literally fills in the zones that have long been on the world map, but completely inaccessible. The question becomes "What holes are left?"

  • Of course, Blizzard could take things in an entirely different direction. I'm not equiped to speculate on the posibilities of them following some random plot thread from the lore into some strange corner of Azeroth. Is there some southern continent that I don't know about? A fabulous sky realm that is heretofore unmentioned? Maybe, but my guess springs from the game as is.

  • After the Shattering reshaped the level 1-60 game to match up with where the level 80 characters had left the world, the first two expansions have been orphaned from the story line. Once you step through the Dark Portal, you are stepping back in time. And why are we heading to Northrend at level 70 if characters all across the land talk about recovering from the fight with the Lich King. If there is a hole in the game, it is the loose ends left by these plots being detached.

  • Here is my wild guess two years from when we'll see the next expansion: the next expansion will see the Burning Legion returning in force and we will be using Outland as the staging point to launch an counteroffense. And in order to support the new Outland, Blizzard will take the opportunity to rebuild the 60-70 game to flow quicker, take advantage of the zones everyone skips now, and rewrite the quests so that the story lines match up better.

  • The actual odds of this happening are vanishingly small. Maybe Blizzard will redo those to expansions in their free time and push them out with the patchs during this cycle. And maybe Ghostcrawler will finally give us that pony too.

© 2010 Marty Runyon. All rights reserved.

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Random Shots: WoW Versus Everyone Else

  • Since I wrote my recent post about the constant slagging of World of Warcraft, I've received some comments that make me think I need to consider the other side of the coin. No, I'm not taking the "WoW Suxxors" side. Instead, let's talk about everyone who doesn't play WoW and what the expansion onslaught looks to them.

  • If you are not a WoW player, the sudden flood of Cataclysm posts must be overwhelming. Many blogs that cover a wide range of topics are suddenly dominated by this one game. And if you don't care about WoW, your interaction with the community will be dropping considerably.

  • This isn't new for WoW, though. Anytime a new game becomes the flavor of the month, you are going to see a lot of talk about it. And if you are not on that bandwagon, you end up hitting "Mark As Read" in your feedreader a lot. For the last several months, there have been a number of bloggers talking in excitement about Star Wars: The Old Republic. I'm not sure I even want to play it, so I end up skipping a lot of blogs. WoW blogging is an entire magnitute greater than that, so it must seem like the entire community has turn away from you.

  • I think that is part of the reason that there are two MMO communities, there is WoW and then there is everything else. Just look at the split between WoW Insider and Massively. There is no reason that Massively couldn't cover WoW, except that the WoW community is voracious for WoW centric content. That's why there are WoW bloggers, WoW forums, WoW everything. But WoW is still an MMO and even the most game-promiscuous player will return to the mothership from time to time.

  • I think we could all do a better job in remembering that, although there is crossover, not everyone enjoys WoW. There are valid reasons for not enjoying the game. WoW is not a religion and we are not missionaries to the unenlightened. Continue to share your experiences, but remember to be friendly about it.

  • And if you find yourself overwhelmed by all the WoW talk, just remember that it will pass. It always does. Pretty soon another game will comes along and everyone will jump on that bandwagon. And if not, people will burnout sooner or later. It's just a matter of time.

© 2010 Marty Runyon. All rights reserved.

Friday, December 10, 2010

By Request: So You Want To Be An Archaeologist

  • Congratulations on your decision to explore the fascinating field of Archaeology, the craze that is sweeping the World of Warcraft. Maybe you're wondering if Archaeology is right for you? Well, you've come to the right place. My assistant, Kyralahn, and I are here to explain what this new profession is all about so you can make an informed decision.

  • It looks like Kyra is ready to go, so let's get moving.

  • When you decide to take up Archaeology, it pays to learn from the best. That's why the University of Stormwind employs only the best professors in the field. Here we see Professor Harrison Jones, back from his recent expedition to Grizzly Hills, speaking with his students. Due to his affiliation with the university, only Alliance students will be accepted. Members of the Horde may have to resort to less reputable instructors.

  • Once you've been instructed in the basics of the profession, you are ready for adventure. There is nothing else to buy. All of your surveying equipment is provided as a part of your education.

  • To find various artifact sites, check your continental map. On each continent (based on your skill level), you will find four shovel icons showing where artifact fragments can be found. There are several possibilities all over the world. Find the one best suited for you (I like to start close by and move farther afield as I go) and set off. Flight Master transportation can add up over time, so get used to flying yourself.

  • When you enter a zone where the dig sites are found, the zone map will display red rings showing exactly where you should be searching. Pick a spot and get started.

  • Why did it have to be drakes?

  • Maybe we'll try somewhere else first.

  • Now that we've chosen our site, let's explain how your new survey equipment works. When you use your Survey ability, your equipment will scan the area for artifacts. Here you can see that the red indicator has been illuminated. This lets us know that we are nowhere close to an artifact. Don't let that discourage you. Think of that red light as a check mark on your list of potential locations. That's one less area you need to search!

  • The yellow indicator here tells us that we are getting closer. While the equipment only gives a vague direction under a red light, when you are in the yellow band the direction is much more clear. When I see a yellow light, I know that I'm closing in.

  • Helpful Hint Number One: When the yellow light comes up, run straight in the direction that equipment points for as long as it takes for the cooldown on your Survey ability to expire. Very often, the five seconds of running you do will put you within range of your quarry.

  • And finally we see the green indicator. Your instrument is calibrated to light the green lamp when you are within forty yards of the artifact. For reference, forty yards is the distance that a first level mage can throw a fireball or a first level tauren can kick a gnome.

  • Ah, we see here that Kyra has gotten herself in a little trouble. It is important to keep in mind that the dig sites we will be exploring will be inhabited by potentially hostile forces. It's a dangerous world out there, so don't get caught unaware.

  • Don't be afraid to loot those bodies. Just think if it as archaeology at a very early stage.

  • Now that Kyra is in the clear, we will demonstrate how to triangulate your artifact. Here Kyra demonstrates taking the first reading. Memorize the direction your instrument is pointing because you will be moving it in a moment.

  • Next, Kyra moves several paces off to the side of the first sighting to take a second reading.

  • When the second reading is made, run in the direction the instrument points until you reach the line from the first reading. Kyra thinks she's found the spot, so let's take another reading and see how well we did.

  • Perfect! It doesn't always work that well, so you may need to take additional readings before you hit your target. Don't forget to loot your fragments.

  • Helpful Hint Number Two: After you loot the fragment, make your next survey from the very same spot. You would be surprised how many times multiple artifacts can be found together.

  • As you find fragments, they will be listed in your archaeology journal. In Kalimdor and the Eastern Kingdoms, you will find artifacts relating to the Dwarf, Troll, and Night Elf peoples as well as fossils from prehistoric times.

  • Since you will tracking down various different types of fragments, your journal will keep track of what artifact of each type you are trying to piece together. Once you have enough fragments, you can "solve" the artifact. Once the artifact is whole, it is placed in your inventory. Since most artifacts are particularly common, you can then sell them to any interested party. This helps fund further expeditions and passes your findings on to the world. Remember, archaeology is about the acquisition of knowledge, not things. Although, there are rumors of exceptional artifacts to be found.

  • Helpful Hint Number Three: Don't actually solve any of your artifacts until you have at least 75 (if not 100) skill points in Archaeology. Up until you reach that point, you earn skill points by collecting fragments. Once you pass 100, you will only earn points by completing artifacts. And you can collect many more fragments than the artifacts require, so you won't lose any by waiting.

  • Completed artifacts will be recorded in your journal. Here you will find the list of all your accomplishments.

  • Each artifact also has a description when you hold your cursor over it. Some are quite interesting to the knowledge hungry adventurer.

  • And now that we're finished with the lesson, it's time to ride off into the sunset. Kyra and I hope this was helpful to you. Now get out there and see what treasures the world holds!

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Played Lately: World of Warcraft

  • Since the new guild I joined was on the Alliance, I knew that I would be putting my blood elves on the back burner for a while. That is honestly okay because I've enjoyed bringing my original character out of mothballs. Also, I just prefer the Alliance more. The Horde (especially the Forsaken) still feel like the bad guys, no matter how you dress it up.

  • The only issue I had that since I didn't play her that much in the last couple years, my paladin only got to level 73. That would have to be rectified. I went on a questing sprint through Northrend, trying to reach 80 before the expansion. Last night, with only three hours to spare, I made it. I'm kind of shocked myself. It helps that Blizzard pushed the leveling curve between level 70 and 80 down by twenty percent.

  • So you might be asking how I spend my first minutes in the new expansion? Did I run off to Vashj'ir or Mount Hyjal to explore the new content? Did I join the masses and roll a new worgen or goblin? None of the above actually.

  • Instead I ran off for a meeting with Harrison Jones, the Archaeology trainer in Stormwind. Ever since the expansion was launched, I've been interested in this new profession. And even after The Path of the Titans was removed, I wanted to see what had become of Archaeology.

  • So far, I'm enjoying myself. The new dig sites show up right on your world map. You just ride (or fly!) up to the sight and start surveying the area. It is a little maddening when the artifact is right along the edge of the dig site because it make triangulation more difficult, but I didn't have to give up on any of the sites. In fact, I was pretty proficient at hitting the right spot with a minimum of surveys.

  • That went on for a couple hours. I flew all around the Eastern Kingdoms, hitting every dig site I could find, until I hit 75 in my Archaeology skill. No acheivement for that (you need 150 for the first) but I needed to go train anyway and call it a night. I ended up completely three artifacts (all gray quality) which I sold to the Stormwind innkeeper in trade for logging for the night.

  • Now that the rush has passed, I'll be heading out to Hyjal today. But you know I'll be back to digging soon. I think I'm hooked.

© 2010 Marty Runyon. All rights reserved.

Monday, December 6, 2010

Random Shots: You Are Not Required To Play WoW

  • On the verge of the new expansion, I am compelled to point out that no one will be forced to play World of Warcraft. No one will think less of you for not renewing your subscription. Your paladin and druid won't be moping around Dalaran wishing you would come back and play with them. Blizzard won't be sending the Brute Squad around to collect the non-WoW-ites and put them into Cataclysm Indoctrination Centers.

  • I feel like the point needs to be made because people are already defensive about all the WoW talk going on. And by defensive, I mean actively offensive about the game. Whenever talk comes around of WoW, all the usual suspects talk about how dumbed down it is, how real gamers play real games instead of baby games like WoW, and, of course, how they don't like playing on rails.

  • Fine. Don't play. My enjoyment of the game is not contingent on your approval. The WoW you enjoyed before is gone, if it ever was the game you remember at all. There are hundreds of other games out there to champion. (Like Champions, for instance, which is my personal underdog.) I'd much rather see you write about the games you love than the games you hate.

  • Anyway, you're all just jealous. Nyah, nyah, nyah.

  • UPDATE: For a follow-up to this post, check out Random Shots: WoW Versus Everyone Else.

© 2010 Marty Runyon. All rights reserved.

Friday, December 3, 2010

Played Lately: World of Warcraft

  • I'm trying something a little different in World of Warcraft this time around. I've decided to try playing with other people.

  • Feel free to get all of the snarky comments out of your system now before we move on.

  • A few weeks ago, I got an email from an old high school friend I haven't heard from in years. He knew that I was a WoW player and wondered if I wanted to level up a new character with him so that we could experience The Shattering from a level appropriate perspective. Plus, and this may just be me, leveling up is fun. I'm an achiever type through and through and there is nothing I like more than watching my character grow in power.

  • The first night we got together, we all rolled new characters and leveled through our own starting zone until 10. Although I had planned on waiting until I could trip with a worgen, I rolled a night elf druid. It's a very different experience for me. I've never played a druid before and I deleted every one of my night elves. None of them stuck for some reason.

  • Those first ten levels were, unsurprisingly, a breeze. Teldrassil was always a pain previously. But the new story flow, and the redesigned quests, made it much less annoying than before. In a couple of quests, I was joined by an NPC who helped me through a particularly tough events. It was a nice touch to allow you to take on greater challenges while giving you the feel of adventuring with another player. I'm also liking the new quest-level enemies, as Rohan calls them. Having hard enemies to take on that are still soloable is a great boon.

  • Unfortunately, I hit level 10 before I finished out the zone, so I don't know if there was a big event at the end. Instead, we ended the night by gathering in Stormwind to take on the great terror of Elwynn Forest, Hogger. Blizzard turned taking on Hogger into an huge event. Taking down the renowned villain was a great way to end our first night.

  • The second day, our party journeyed into Westfall. I couldn't believe how much the zone has been redesigned. The main quest line has you investigating a murder as you travel across the zone. Like Teldrassil, you move pretty quickly from quest hub to quest hub. Most of the time, I felt like I got everything out of a location before moving on so it did not feel too rushed. Westfall has an amazing storyline, one that I'm looking forward to coming back to from time to time. Blizzard's use of phasing in the zone was phenomenal, really allowing the story to move forward without relying on an overabundance of quest text. But if you are a conscientious reader like me, you will be rewarded by reading the quest items you pick up along the way.

  • As much as I loved the main quest line, I did appreciate that they left two of the off-the-beaten-path quest series in the game. So you can still wander the zone is search of the pirate's treasure. And the lighthouse ghost is still around to give you a tour of the coast. As much as I like the heavy story approach Blizzard took with the zone, I'm glad they gave us reasons to explore on our own.

  • This was also the first night we tried the new Deadmines. The quest giver was right inside the zone, just as we'd heard, and it was a great addition. The only issue we ran into was that we had to run back to the entrance every time we needed to pick up the next quest, except for the very last one. But the instance itself was great. Blizzard did an excellent job updating the zone so that it fell new again. And the boss encounters felt like something out of a Northrend dungeon. I couldn't believe how involved the encounters were. No more tank-and-spank for the low level newbies anymore. The final two battles were a lot of fun, if completely chaotic. I look forward to trying Deadmines again on heroic difficulty.

  • The third night we got together, we journeyed to Redridge Mountains. However, we did run into the issue of overleveling the zone. You might have read that dungeon quests were giving too much experience. Well, it was true. We started Redridge at levels 17 and 18, quite a bit higher than the 15 expected. Nonetheless, we enjoyed the new zone just fine. Like Westfall, Redridge was overhauled and its story advanced nicely. There were some great sights for long time players like ourselves. Were once a lonely guard patrolled Three Corners, there is now a guard tower dominating the region. Darcy, the waitress in Lakeshire who sent you out with a lunch for the guard, Parker, is now Darcy Parker who, along with their daughter, Libby, resides in the tower. And the infamous unfinished bridge has finally been completed. Blizzard even teases you that they might destroy the bridge, but you are able to nearly avoid that fate.

  • The main quest line sees you assembling a strike force to take on an Orcish incursion. My friend immediately identified the story as an homage to First Blood. Like Westfall and its nod to CSI, Blizzard likes it's pop culture references. But they always to a great job to make the story compelling anyway, so you can chuckle at the references even while enjoying the adventure. One funny thing to note. There are several quests where you are joined by NPCs. But even though we are in a group, each player is assigned their own copy of the NPC. So at some points the three of us had five NPCs each, making our party into a raid force instead. But again, we really enjoyed the action movie story that we played. We ended the night when we completed the main quest and headed back to Lakeshire, having saved the town from the orcs.

  • So far, Blizzard has done an amazing job of using each zone to tell a full and complete story, something I have been wanting for a long time. My favorite original WoW zone has always been Duskwood and that is where we are headed to next. I'm greatly looking forward to what Blizzard has in store for us, both in Duskwood and the rest of our journey.

© 2010 Marty Runyon. All rights reserved.