Saturday, January 26, 2013

Moving Right Along

Beautiful. Without Question.

Yesterday evening B the Monk (note to self: add her to my alts list) finally arrived in Stormwind.

The Starting 'Island' experience is probably one of the best I've run in the entire history of the game, and what is abundantly clear from the word go is that this is not an ordinary setup: no marauding bad guys, no earth-shattering trauma is immediately apparent. Only once you have completed your 'training' does it become clear that your conflict isn't from an ordinary enemy, it comes from the existing races in game, and suddenly we're in a completely different world. This is an idyll that is rudely disrupted by the Horde and the Alliance, where there are no clear antagonists and where anyone could potentially be an enemy. There's hints of what is to come too: a war that is someone else's, the drawing of battle lines, and (perhaps most importantly) the two sides of Pandaran 'balance' :Ji's recklessness and Aysa's calm are the traits that push them to different sides of the divide, that give you the companions that will accompany you as you make your way through the world.

I ran this area in the very early days of Beta, and things are not actually that different (as I recall) from those first explorations: clearly things are considerably more polished, and there are cinematics in place where once there were simply placeholders, but these haven't added anything of note. It is a starting area where no-one can talk to you except the people who are there: no contact with Guilds to gain an early level boost, or mailboxes to grab heirlooms. You are very much isolated, and that is probably a good thing, because it would be very easy to rush and miss something. I'd urge anyone who's not given a Panda the 1-12 experience (your XP may vary) to do so, not simply for the unique Battle Pet you earn from doing so. It is worth a look, and it is some significant Lore for anyone who wonders how this race becomes a part of the war on Azeroth to begin with. Most importantly for me, it is not simply the best looking starting zone but the best sounding: this is one you need the music for. I will never grow tired of any of the accompanying pieces.

Ji's Dialogue: covering all the bases...

There was (very justifiably, in my opinion) concern about the initial dialogue Ji Firepaw would use when you met him as a female character. Everything is now suitably appropriate, and I found myself thinking the relationship the two have is now not an issue, as should be the case. The focus is not on how these NPC's deal with you, but back on how they decide to approach the problems you are set to deal with. You are reminded that actions have consequences, that rashness can be as dangerous as doing nothing. It is the intervention of both Alliance and Horde that resolve your final conflict, without whom your homeworld would be destroyed. Suddenly there is a debt to be repayed, and for the first time in the history of the game a single race is forced to choose a loyalty. We are unlikely to get a new race in the next Expansion: could this be the first (and last) time a single new race is presented to us?

Yaks. Are there anything they CAN'T do?

It's been a very long time since I genuinely looked forward to levelling a new alt: there was palpable excitement as I arrived in Stormwind, rejoined my Guild and picked up my bags and heirlooms. I am hoping the levelling experience is as entertaining as the first twelve levels, and there are a lot of new things to do as a panda that have not been previously available: the most significant for me being the chance to pet battle as I travel. I'm already planning how to best use my battle time, and I already have Elwynn in my sights for some upgrades...

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