The Goblin Starter Experience: Revisited

I still haven’t settled on a new main but in experimenting with a few more alts I decided to try out a Mage again, but this time a Goblin. The only downside is the linear, no options, 13ish levels of questing to get him out of their racial starter area. I really didn’t want to do all of this again but I was enjoying him (despite the robes and no melee) so I kept going.

Going though the Goblin starter experience a second time was a little easier and I even paused a few times to enjoy the best parts and grumble at the worst. I have been better able to see a few of the problem areas this time around and I want to mention them.

Kezan

First, if you like the Vegas style of Kezan (as I do), then don’t rush to finish it. Once you leave it’s gone for good. I only wish I could come back to hang out at higher levels. I really enjoy these first 5 levels so it’s nice that I can go back on alts anytime I roll a new Goblin just to mess around there again.

The Islands

The questing here is where I started to get antsy again. In my personal opinion the island zone where you wash up on shore should have been close enough to swim (or find a raft) over to the Echo Isles so you could continue on to Durotar if you so chose. This way you could head off to the other early Horde zones if you like or stay with the Goblin Quests. I know this stage sets your character up for joining the Horde but I just feel like it goes on too long.

There are a few bright spots where these quests are interesting or fun but many of them feel like filler to me. You know what? I think they are filler. Between taking Skulzy (my Hunter) though and coming back on Gonzo I played though the Worgen starter experience to check it out as well. By comparison, the Worgen zones were great from 1-13. I never got bored or wished I could head somewhere else.

I think that the content and quests for the Goblin storyline fell short of what was needed to match the Worgen starter experience. As a result the Goblin zone feels stretched by comparison. I feel like there are several quest hubs that I could easily skip (but you have to do them to progress) and still get the best parts of the story. I guess Blizzard needed to add this filler so the two starter experiences dropped new characters out with the same amount of experience. Sadly, the Goblin zone suffered for this.

The Fate of Candy Cane

Then, almost at the very end, there is one quest that actually irritated me. As a player I really hate it that you are forced to kill Candy Cane to finish the Goblin zone. I frankly didn’t care that she hooked up with my old buddy Chip and then Gallywix. She wasn’t a girl you could count on. Gonzo knew that from the outset. He certainly wasn’t going to kill her over it.

It makes me wonder what bad dumping that Blizzard writer had that made them feel killing this NPC was necessary for ALL Goblin players (I am guessing the females have to kill Chip in a similar fashion) to get to get off the island and into the rest of the game. That is somebody with a lot of bitter feelings toward their ex.  I should be clear here that I don’t mind that the quest is in the game but I think it should be an optional side quest and not necessary to progress to the final confrontation with Gallywix. I don’t think Gallywix even mentions her death in the final fight.

With no other option, and to his eternal shame, Gonzo did the quest and killed Candy to get off the island. The real kicker? Candy is a hostile mob but she doesn’t aggro on you. You actually have to initiate the fight. You can’t even lie to yourself that it was all in self defense. I know I sound a bit dramatic here but I just think this particular quest was one of the creepier ones I have had to do in this game.

Gonzo had come to really despise his old assistant, Sassy. She had him by the balls and she knew it. There was no profit in what she wanted and he didn’t want to do it. When he saw Candy standing atop the overseer’s platform in the slave pits he knew she was bad news. He had always known that but she was still special to him. He guessed he was a sucker for a pretty face.

As he approached Candy he gathered bands of shimmering energy around him.

Candy looked at him in disbelief, “Sweetie, don’t…”

Hardening his resolve Gonzo said, “Sorry, it’s just business.”

The fight didn’t last long. Candy was no match for Gonzo and they both knew it. Tears welled up in his eyes as he released wave after wave of destructive force at her. She rained blows down upon them and he let them all land, hoping she would find a killing blow. It never came. He encased her in ice and then lashed out with a final burst of energy that left her lifeless on the platform.

The deal with Sassy was clear. He had to bring her Candy’s heart in payment to get off this island. Gonzo wept over her body but did the deed. Her brought her heart back to Sassy and spat in her twisted face.

“Sassy,” Gonzo said, “mark my words. One day this’ll be you. I don’t care how long it takes but you and your cronies will burn. I will see to it.”

Sassy tested the weight of the heart in her hand. She appraised the little package and looked at Gonzo with a broad smile full of pointed teeth. She blew him a kiss.

There was more to do in the deal, but once it was all settled they sailed for Orgimmar. The first thing Gonzo did when he set foot in the city was hit the bars and get sloppy drunk.

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Adrift in Uncertainty

Like the Balloon here I am still drifting along while I contemplate where I want to go in this expansion.

In my previous post I described the awesome advantages of playing a Mage and the good points in general about playing a DPS caster. I have continued to play my Mage since that post and in the process I quickly discovered a few glaring oversights to my original praise of my class/race choice:

1. In general I am not a fan of cloth armor and robes in particular. As an Alt it’s no problem but as my Main? Maybe I could get used to it, but I don’t think so. That being said, I think the Night Elf males look better than most in robes.

2. Spellcasting is cool but I like to swing melee weapons. Yep, I like to hit things with big sword or mace despite knowing that the classes that use them will be dependent on those weapons for their base DPS.

3. This is the most important factor: despite how hard I have tried I just like the Horde better than the Alliance. There is no contest and I am done kidding myself. It’s fun to play on the Alliance side but what keeps me wanting to log in every day is the chance to play as a Tauren, Orc or Goblin. I still think Shadowmeld is an awesome racial but Night Elves are not for me. If I am going to stealth-pause it will be as a Druid or Rogue.

I guess I am happy to discover more about myself as a player but it still leaves me in limbo for what class to focus on in Cataclysm. As I am still shopping for a new Main for this expansion I will have to see which melee DPS classes are the least gimped with the limited weapon choices I will have come endgame.

/facepalm

And here I was so sure I had it all figured out.

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New Expansion, New Year, and a New Main

I am promising myself that this will be the last time.

Don’t get me wrong, I love leveling Alts. They can be great diversions (as my previous posts can attest!) but I simply don’t have the time to develop new main characters anymore. Secondary skills take forever to level up and old factions are usually long thankless grinds. Oh, and don’t get me started on great titles like Explorer and Crusader. A main character is a huge time investment any way you look at it.

Despite the time spent on my Mains from the previous expansions I have known for the last several months that a change was in the air for me.  Taking a new approach to playing has been nagging me ever since I realized I should drop my old physical DPS classes for a caster.  As I kept playing my old and developed characters I knew I was just postponing the inevitable. Still, it has been hard to let go and I even leveled my Paladin recently to 85 in the hope that I was wrong. I wasn’t and I know in my heart I need to start again.

This time around I have decided to make the most informed choice possible. Cataclysm is a new start for the game so I am going to make it a new start for me as a player as well. During the last few months I have weighed my options and tested new classes while leveling my old ones. This is what I came up with.

Number 1: Needs to be a Caster

A few months ago I had an epiphany when I realized my approach to class choices had been off the mark since I began playing WoW. It is hard to admit that the classes I have leveled (along with their professions, achievements, faction grinds, etc) don’t provide me with what I need as a player. It kind of sucks actually. It reminds me of the old Dutch proverb that says, “we grow too soon old and too late smart.”

If you have found your way to this blog the odds are that, like me, you solo some or even most of the time. If you can find the fun in PvP (which I did) then there is a gear progression open to you even as a soloer once you get to the endgame. That endgame is Battleground PvP.  The gear you can get for just Honor is always a season or two behind but I have found it to be something to work towards. More than that I have found I enjoy the challenge of battlegrounds.

My problem has been that I went about choosing my classes all wrong. Here is the thing; if you want to do battlegrounds with only gear from Honor you should really be playing a caster. Any class that relies on weapon damage as its base damage will underperform compared to casters. Maybe that sounds a bit off, but the epics available for Honor can fill any slot except Weapons and Shields. With this in mind I have known for awhile now that I should move away from weapon dependent classes focus my time on a caster.

That leaves the caster classes: Mages, Warlocks, Moonkin Druids, Elemental Shaman, and Shadow Priests. These are my options for a DPS caster. I used the subsequent criteria to determine which would be my new main.

Number 2: Time Efficient

After becoming a parent my needs as a player have definitely changed. I just don’t have the amount of time to play that I used to so things like prolonged flights and waiting for boat rides can eat up a big chunk of my playtime on any given day. The Mage, who is also conveniently a DPS based spellcaster, solves this problem for me with all those wonderful portals. Druids do have a portal to the Moonglade but otherwise the Mage is the only choice in this category. If you want to get around Azeroth fast it’s hard to beat a mage.

Number 3: Ease of going AFK

My life is very interrupt driven. These aren’t always issues necessitating me logging out of the game but I need to be able to pause and step away from the keyboard with some degree of safety. Originally I leveled a Rogue for this purpose as stepping out of mob pathing areas and stealthing was an effective method of pausing the game. The Night Elf racial Shaodowmeld also grants this ability and opens up my class choice to more than just a Rogue or a cat-form Druid. I decided that if I went with a Night Elf I could also choose to play either a Mage or Shadow Priest and keep my “pause” button.

Number 4: Pet Class

I like pets. Maybe it’s because my first Main was a Hunter but I actually like managing a pet. As a solo player I have found it’s also nice to just have a buddy along to keep me company and help me out in fights. Most importantly, pets are a damage boost to your character that is not based on weapon DPS. Warlocks get a pet at level 1 and Ice Mages now get a pet as early as level 10. I leveled my only Mage in Wrath up to 50 just so I could try out the permanent Water Elemental and I liked it. Warlocks get a greater variety of pets but they can’t be Night Elves so I would lose Shadowmeld if I went with a Warlock.

In Conclusion:

When I looked at the pros and cons carefully the choice seemed pretty clear to me. By playing a Night Elf Mage I get a class that is DPS focused, is independent of weapon DPS for base damage, can portal to almost anywhere, has a spec with a permanent pet, and that can be stealth-paused via Shadowmeld. There was just no escaping that this is the character that fits best with what I need in the game. In fact it has pretty much everything I could want. I even had that Mage Alt at level 50 collecting dust. At least 50-85 is a lot shorter than 1-85.

As a result I started up on my Mage again and race-changed him into a Night Elf. So far it’s working great and I am getting the hang of how to play him. I am no expert at playing a Mage but as most classes just got a major overhaul with Cataclysm it is a good time to start learning the class again.

 

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Along the Ashenvale Front

How can something so ugly look so desperate?

Skulzy turned this over in his mind as he took the note Draaka offered him and tucked it into his pocket. He felt he would never get used to these Orcs at all. Half of them threatened to kill you and the rest were the most armature of schemers. At times it made him physically ill.

“Okay, okay,” he said, “I’ll take it to him. I ain’t no messenger though so it’ll cost you double.”

“I’ll make it worth your while little male,” she leered, “just see that it’s done. Durak is not one to be kept waiting. Nor am I.”

By the Kaja, he swore to himself, now I have THAT image in my head. Instead of stomping out of there like he wanted to Skulzy just smiled broadly. In an attempt to be diplomatic he simply said, “Tempting, but its coin or no deal.”

The leer faded into a scowl, “You will be paid, gruntling. Now get to it.”

Skulzy ignored the insult, inclined his head, and departed. The sooner this offensive was over the better. The more time he spent in the Horde the more he looked forward to talking with any Goblin he might meet, even if they were from enemy cartels. Those old rivalries seemed very far away when you were alone among so many strangers. None of the Goblins were ever in charge though. All the orders seemed to come from the Orcs.

Mostly, he just missed Kezan.

Ashenvale was a fun zone that I finished on Skulzy way too fast. I know he is wearing heirlooms and has the experience bonus they provide but before he had finished all the quests at Splintertree post he was already following the breadcrumb quests that took him to the Stonetalon Mountains.

The most memorable quest chain started with Draaka in her Demolisher. She gets you involved in some questionable uses of demonic energy that ultimately gets you nearly scalped by Garrosh himself. Even though you need to fly back and forth between Orgrimmar and Ashenvale a few times the series is well worth it.

Sadly, I didn’t do much in the quest hubs. Even without heirlooms I would have finished the zone before getting to all the quests. After finishing Splintertree there was a breadcrumb quest that took him to the Silverwind Refuge which is now occupied by the Horde. Upon arriving the quest to take a Wagon to the Stonetalon Mountains was already available. As Skulzy was already level 26 I decided I might as well move on so I didn’t accidently outlevel the content in Stonetalon!

 

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Hittin’ the Road… Crossroads that is

After arriving in Orgimmar I had a few decisions to make. I started off by leveling up Skulzy’s professions and began doing the Cooking and Fishing dallies. I even did some of the beginning quests in Azshara but they seemed to dry up after a bit. I must admit that I didn’t look too hard for them to continue. I was still kind of tired of doing “Goblin themed” quests at that point.

Skulzy had left Azshara in a hurry. Gallywix had seen to that. Now that he had put a comfortable distance between himself and the old boss he took some time to check his gear and make sure he had enough water for the rest of the trip. The innkeeper at Razor Hill said there were watering holes along the way but Skulzy felt you could never be too sure. Besides, the Orc could be lying to him. The big ape would probably think it was funny.

I been through too much to die o’ thirst in the stinkin’ desert, he thought.

Bedside him Zippo chattered and imitated the way the Goblin had just checked his gear. The monkey’s long fingers grabbed at his pack and canteen.

“Hey,” he said, “I got water for you too. Don’t you even worry about it. Now let’s get movin’ before the sun gets any higher. Keep your eyes peeled.”

Once I had finished Azshara’s first three quest hubs I took Skulzy into the Northern Barrens and moved on to the Crossroads. I decided I really wanted to see what has changed in this once grand and expansive zone and I was surprised by how much of its original feel had been retained. The flavor was still there but the quests were definitely more streamlined than before.

I did most of the quests out of Crossroads including almost all of the centaur ones. I died during the final quest against the elite centaur boss and I should have remembered that was a group quest. Oh well, I almost succeeded anyway and if I had been using a tenacity pet rather than Zippo I would have finished it. I thought about giving the quest another shot but none of the rewards were useful to me so I decided to skip it.

Between Azshara, Crossroads and the odd quest out of Ratchet it wasn’t long before I was sent up to the Mor’shan ramparts and the start of Ashenvale. This spot was vastly improved with the addition of a perpetual skirmish between the Horde garrison and a group of NPC Night Elves. It was a great introduction to this contested zone and gave a good feel to the fact that Ashenvale is Horde occupied but not Horde controlled territory.

Reaching this point also brought Skulzy up to level 20 and his trike. It is quite nice for a basic mount.

What did I miss with the changes? Well, the continuation of quests that used to take you to Camp Taurajo. Perhaps some of those will show up in a revamped form when Skuzly gets into his early 30’s and can start questing in the Southern Barrens. It is also a bit odd not going straight up into the Stonetalon Mountains from the Barrens as that zone is now for levels 25 to 30.

I used to be dedicated to questing from levels 10 to 20 in the Ghostlands. I still love Eversong and the Ghostlands but the revamped Northern Barrens is solid competitor for my leveling time now. Later I will have to roll another character so I can try out Silverpine Forest. I have read that is now excellent for this level range as well.

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The Goblin Experience

For me the Goblin experience turned out to be a bit mixed. Once I got used to Kezan I had a blast there. I liked the humor and the unique feel of the zone. The cloudy grey sky, garish lights and tacky art left me unsure about what kind of setting I was playing in. Vegas meets steampunk is the first thing that came to mind. What surprised me the most is how at home I felt there. This is odd because I am an old hillbilly who still lives in a place that looks like Grizzly Hills. I guess Blizzard really got me to tap into my inner Goblin.

Nevertheless, there I was getting enjoying the questline and driving my hotrod around that dingy town with my pals.  I got into the story enough that I was seriously pissed off when Deathwing appeared overhead and I realized I wouldn’t be able to come back here later in the game to hang out. That notion hit me in the head like a pipe-wrench and it hurt. As a player I knew it was coming but I got into playing so much that I had forgotten this was all going to be temporary.

The first part of the Lost Isles was fun too. Getting life together after the shipwreck was pretty cool and I was all set to explore the island. That, in a nutshell, was my mistake.

When I got to around level 6 or 7 I wanted a little more choice in where I went and what quests I wanted to do. One of the main reasons I like heirlooms is that I can usually skip quests that don’t have the right feel or that have buggy mechanics too them. No luck in the Lost Isles though. The experience started to drag a bit as the lack of choice pushed me from one minor quest hub to the next. Then I thought I would just level my professions and explore the island. That didn’t work too well either.

By the time I got to level 9 I felt like a survivor on Lost. All I wanted to do was get off that damned island. I wasn’t enjoying even the whimsical nature of the quests at this point and I just wanted to be done. I wanted to see the world without feeling that my next quest hub was already chosen for me. The “on rails” feel of the quests between levels 9 and 12 went from annoying to frustrating. I eventually stopped reading the quest text and become focused on getting out of there as fast as I could. That stretch ended up being the most tedious experience I have ever felt in WoW.

A few thoughts came to me as I was doing the Naga questline:

“Hey Skulzy,” Ace said, “We’re all stuck here. Suck it up man, just suck it up!”

Skulzy responded by slapping him hard in the face. Ace winced and his hand drifted down to his knife but the look on Skulzy’s face made him pause.

“You and me,” Skulzy said, “we’re like brothers. We go waaay back… but if you tell me any garbage like that again I swear that I will leave you here. I will tie you to an oil barrel and leave you on the beach so you can watch me as I wave goodbye. We clear about that?”

One bright spot was that when I got to level 10 I dumped his temporary “guardian” pet and swam back to the small island to tame a Bomb Throwing Monkey. That monkey is a great little buddy and he and Skuzly took on the rest of the island together. I think in the end he was as happy to get out of there as Skulzy was.

Due to the heirlooms Skulzy was just over level 13 by the time he set foot in Durotar. The dusty smell of Orgimmar was never so sweet. I mean it. I like the Orc city, especially after the revamp, but it was never such a welcome sight as it was for Skulzy when I realized he was free of the island for good.

Overall the Goblin experience was great but in my opinion the linear nature of the quests just went on too long. I had plans for a few other Goblin alts but I am not so sure now. It will be awhile before I want to do the whole thing again. I will admit that I did feel like he was truly a part of the Horde by the time it was over. In that sense the experience completely worked.

 

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Alone in Azeroth

As this blog is supposed to have a focus on the solo player I am going to try and get back to that basic concept by leveling a new character from 1-85 all on his own and then see what he can do at endgame. It is also a really good excuse for me to level up a new Goblin and see everything that has changed in Azeroth along the way.

This project will be about what a player can do on their own time and without the support of a guild or other players. I did a project like this on my old blog but I have learned a lot since then and I think this is a good time to revisit the idea. This will not be a speed leveling exercise but more about finding interesting quests, leveling professions, and experiencing the world at a leisurely pace.

Why now?

Let me explain. Today, more than ever, guilds and grouping are being handed perks that will leave loners feeling a bit more marginalized than they used to. Guild Leveling is offering more perks than ever before to those play WoW as a social media activity. Some players are even forgoing questing entirely in favor of power-leveling using the Dungeon Finder tool. That’s’ fine but not everyone plays that way. I don’t play that way but I still enjoy the game.

And yes, I still want to level a new Goblin.

To this end I chose a Goblin Hunter named Skulzy and despite a few heirlooms he will be on his own from here on out with no help from my other alts. I could forgo the Heirlooms but I do like them and this isn’t so much about the “new player” experience as it is the “solo player” experience. I guess that justifies using them, doesn’t it? Maybe?

Okay, maybe not, but at least I got the heirlooms from my soloing characters in Wrath. None of these required any grouping to obtain. That’s my final justification for using them!

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