Friday, June 4, 2010

Gettin' Down in the Dustwallow

I noticed something rather disturbing: I make exactly one blog post a month. Well things 'round here are about to change! Get ready for...two blog posts! I know, I know, my mind is also blown. Not that anyone reads this blog so no one actually cares, but whatever, it's cathartic. Anywho, after I wrote my tanking post I decided to take a break from the dungeon finder. I was tired of gung-ho dps pulling ahead of me, taunting off me, and being all manner of noobish. I had a quest in my log that lead me to Theramore and I began questing there. I fully expected it to be horrible, filled with FedEx style quests telling me to go to Winterspring, come back, then go there again, and get the idea. Surprisingly it was quite smooth...almost...enjoyable!

My memories of questing in vanilla are not good ones. I never remembered it being smooth and progressive. I was constantly backtracking, and constantly being called away to some godforsaken corner of Azeroth only to be sent back to the original area to kill a mob that was five feet away. For the most part, it sucked. But the questing in Dustwallow was different. First I started doing quests in and around Theramore Isle. I thwarted a band of Alliance deserters, and then did a cool sea monster questline where I got to fire mortars and hang out with Nat Pagle. After that, the quests started leading out of the keep. I helped a guy make some Frog Leg Stew, and then helped another guy exorcise a demon from the first guy (I guess you can't just like frog legs, that makes you a demon).

Keep in mind that the quests were still quests. There was still plenty of "kill X number of Y" and "get X number of Y off of mob Z". It's not like any of them were something that I'd never seen, but they were arranged in such a way that I didn't begrudge them for it. Everything was evenly spaced, unlike in some vanilla zones where when a questgiver says "go north" when he really means "go north until you're on the other side of the map." It also felt better than wrath in that there weren’t seventeen quests scrunched into one tiny area. There was a balance between "kill this thing five feet away" and "kill this thing in the cave over yonder."

So my questing experience continued to snake out from Theramore. From Swamplight Manor I went on to North Point Tower, and from there I went to Tabetha's Farm (which really isn't much of a farm at all, and Tabetha isn't a farmer, more like some sort of sorceress). At each of these points there were maybe four to six quests so I'd end up moving on before I could get tired of an area. Also, after completing the quests in an area you'd usually get a final quest which would direct you to your next quest hub. Things moved along smoothly in this fashion and eventually lead me to Mudsprocket. I was expecting a goblin town to garner 10 to 12 quests, but luckily there was about six. After I was done with Mudsprocket I had but one quest left: Inspecting the Ruins.

This is where the smooth flow kind of broke off. Inspecting the Ruins is the westmost quest on the map so I saved it for last, but even if I did go out of my way to do it I wouldn't have gone back to Theramore to get the three follow-ups, I was too far into the swamp! Basically what should have been my last quest gave me three quests that sent me back to pretty much everywhere I had already been, so apparently I was supposed to visit the Shady Rest Inn before doing almost anything else. Having a quest that is geographically the last quest you'd visit lead to quests that take place the same areas as some of the first doesn't make sense. It's backtracking, and I hate that.

I guess if you're a Horde questing out of Brackenwall Village this questline might work out awesome for you. Inspecting the Ruins is one of the closest quests to Brackenwall so you'd do it first, then you'd fan out and do its follow-ups, but for Alliance it kind of mucks things up. After rummaging through the ruins of the Shady Rest you go back to Theramore, then you get a quest to go get information from a guy at Lost Point, which then sends you back to Theramore. After all three mini-questlines are complete you end up back at Tabetha's Farm to do one quest, and then...guess what? You go back to Theramore. It's a big traveling mess which is clearly meant to be done with other quests, but unless you're clairvoyant there's no way that you'd know to do it first.

I will forgive Dustwallow for the Shady Rest Inn questline as it was a small blemish on an otherwise great experience. This is how questing should be! Progressive, fresh, lots of variation, and always moving forward. It doesn't matter that you're still essentially killing ten boars, it's re-treading the same ground and venturing to far off lands only to be sent back that makes questing suck. If you skipped Dustwallow your first time through and are looking for some quests for the Seeker or Loremaster of Kalimdor I strongly recommend visiting the marsh, and if you're leveling an alt I can't think of a better place to quest for levels 38-42. Just remember to do the Shady Rest quests before doing anything past North Point Tower!

Mostly my experience in Dustwallow made me remember that questing can be fun, and it gives me hope for Cataclysm. Dustwallow isn't just a freakishly good product of vanilla; it was actually "buffed" in patch 2.3! Unfortunately, I never played the old version of Dustwallow before the 2.3 additions, but I'm guessing the reason it flowed so well was because of them. I see Dustwallow as a medium between wrath and vanilla questing. I disliked wrath questing, I know a lot of people liked it, but I didn't. To me it seemed like Blizzard was trying to squish a lot of quests into one area (apparently Borean Tundra has at least 150!). In vanilla it was the exact opposite, and you'd have to grind mobs to level because you'd run out of quests.  In Cataclysm most quest structures are being altered if not completely redesigned and I hope they are in this happy medium because I, for one, would love to level up through any zone that's as well designed as Dustwallow Marsh!

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