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Whilst questing in Highmountain, a Fevered Letter dropped for me from a bear. Because I’ve spent many years doing this, playing and learning about how the MMO works, I looked at the request and immediately knew it was time to start learning. This might seem in incongruous quest to many of you, but to me this was the start of a glorious adventure. It also highlights exactly what has changed in design mentality since Draenor and here, and as such gets an entire blog post dedicated to it. First up, I had no idea what a Field Pack was and so the first logical port of call was to the First Aid trainer in Dalaran. As it transpires, these are vendor bought ‘reagents’ which, when combined with player-produced items, increase skill as you level up. It seemed logical to buy a stack in anticipation and once I had, it was back to Highmountain to locate the writer of the letter. Except when you’re restricted to ground mounts for exploration?

Finding the way ‘up’ can become problematic.

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As I searched for a way to scale the mountain, I came across rare spawn after Rare Spawn. I managed two gear upgrades from just looking for the fevered traveller, plus a lovely new Vanity pet and a TON of useful Order resources/Artefact powerups. Every path up I found had a treasure waiting at the end, almost as if it had been designed… and clearly, it was. This zone (and I have no doubt all the others) have been laid out to reward players when they do just this. This is, effectively, removing the curse of linear questing once and for all. In fact, if I’m honest, I gained more rewards from this ‘off script’ adventuring than I had in the previous two hours from the ‘organised’ questlines. It was, effectively, magnificent to be able to just play my way and be rewarded for doing so. Eventually, after almost an hour of riding up and down mountains, and defeating a particularly unpleasant fire-wielding Rare, I found my man.

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Of course, he wasn’t that grateful, and hearthed straight out after I’d healed him (so in that regard, a fairly typical adventurer, I suppose.) For me however, it highlighted just how far the game has travelled in a reasonably short space of time. When one looks at the fiercely regimented ‘freedom’ that your Garrison gave on Draenor, and then you compare it to the almost cavalier flexibility of the Class Order Hall’s ‘you choose’ policy? Except, as many people have pointed out, that’s a lie in itself. There’s a side to that ‘game’ which is perhaps more organised and scripted than Missions were before, but now it is clear that’s because it’s a whole separate app designed to play on a mobile? An awful lot of things make sense. For those of us therefore who are more interested in the journey than the destination? We can be happy, whilst everyone else is simply grinding their shit to prepare for raiding.

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I got myself into a bit of trouble yesterday with the suggestion that the person who considered that flying as a selling point for this game’s completion was lazy, yet I stand by this statement when I see just how much fun I’m having never graduating from two axis unless it is to float from Point A to Point B with elegant brilliance. I’ve got loads of alts, and levelling them all this way will be immense, without even a thought of being able to skip content and streamline process. If the designers’ plan for this Expansion is longevity combined with content? Bringing flying back negates both that and effectively destroys the wonder of the Broken Isles in these early days. I entirely understand why there are those who think my rationale isn’t either reasonable or fair, but I’d counter with the simple assertion that making things easier should never be the default any more in a game that’s supposed to be selling you puzzle solving and difficulty settings. The only time it should be easy is when there’s a new Expansion due, and hopefully that’s not on the cards for quite some time, because at my rate of completion I won’t be to end game properly with my main until Christmas.

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Last night, however, after five days of questing, I made a contribution to Khadgar’s War Effort (TM) but ironically still logged out in the Drogbar area because I am not done with Highmountain. There remain side quests to complete, and only once I’m confident I’ve knocked off all of those am I off to Val’sharah. ALSO there are all the Highmountain rep vendors to check, and Blood of Sargeras to farm, because last night I went off script again in order to collect the Stage 2 Skinning questline that allows me to gather them. It meant a trip to Stormheim and as I’ve not even been there in passing? It was time to throw myself off Dalaran on a Goblin Glider.

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This is why Engineers are cool, and why you should ALWAYS carry stacks of these things in your bags, because when your only method of aerial propulsion is falling with style? They are beyond brilliant. Base jumping off high areas appears to be what Demon Hunters were effectively made for, and I suppose there’s an irony that the Hero Class this time around has been ‘built’ with passive flying almost as standard. Of course, it doesn’t matter how much I try and evangelise about the Z axis being unnecessary, there are those of you who won’t be happy until you can mount and fly from A to B your way, because in essence that’s what this has been about since TBC. Ignoring the designer’s choice of content becomes a necessity when you’re only looking to level, gather and escape as quickly as possible, thus completing the idea of a’fun’ experience on the individual’s terms. It’s okay, I get this, and I’m not here to try and convince anyone otherwise. To be honest it doesn’t matter anyway. We’re playing this game in the end for vastly differing reasons to begin with.

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In essence, what yesterday has taught me about Warcraft is that it is evolving at a fairly rapid rate. With the mobile game, 7.1 already being advertised in the Blizzard launcher and the realisation that we won’t have raiding for another fortnight? If the company can really keep this pace up, they’re probably back on track for world domination by the end of the decade. In all of this there’s been nary a peep about PvP either, which is interesting considering how much change that has undergone. Normally I’d wait to finish questing on one character before I start another, but tomorrow I will be pulling out a gathering alt to start the process of stockpiling raw materials for crafting.

After all, it pays to think ahead.

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