Thursday, April 28, 2011

Dragonblight: Level 72 - Monday, April 25, 2011

As your journey inland continues from either coast, you come across Dragonblight.  This massive tundra is littered with the skeletons of dozens of deceased dragons, who have all come to this zone to die.  
Perhaps this is because the zone is home the Wyrmrest Temple, a massive, towering building in the center that houses representatives of the various dragonflights.  
Their defacto leader is Alexstrasza, the queen of the Red Dragonflight, and since she is a woman, and in a video game, her human form dresses as a prostitute.  

Each Dragonflight has their own area in Dragonblight, and that area reflects their personality as a group.  The volatile, hostile Blue Dragonflight's area is literally ripping apart at the seams with magical energy...
while the Red Dragonflight's is a calm, pastoral sanctuary, under attack from the Scourge.  
The time-obsessed Bronze Dragonflight (who also control the Caverns of Time) have an area where they are locked in combat through time against the sinister Infinite Dragonflight, who are meddling in the affairs of the past for unknown reasons.  
Not all members of the Black Dragonflight are villains, like Nefarian and Onyxia.  Those who are on "your side" are dealing with the Scourge themselves, and they enlist your help in clearing out their Shrine, which is situated under a volcano.  
The Scarlet Crusade, newly dubbed the Scarlet Onslaught, are here as well, after fleeing Azeroth during the death knight starting experience.  
The Blue Dragonflight are attempting to harness the magical energies in the zone.
At one point you even convene with a massive sea monster. 
The Alliance town of Wintergarde is under siege by the floating Scourge necropolis of Naxxramas, which has unleashed ghouls, abominations and all kinds of evil monsters upon its citizens.  

The Horde stronghold of Angmar's Hammer.
The main narrative of the zone is the preparation of the attack on the Wrathgate, the colossal iron barrier that separates Dragonblight from Arthas' home turf of Icecrown.  There are a number of multi-quest chains that all culminate with players of all factions joining the assault on the Lich King.  In keeping with the theme of this expansion, things don't exactly go as planned.  

Presented without context, here is a meeting that you have with your future self!  

Utgarde Keep & The Nexus: Level 71 - Sunday, April 24, 2011

Each of the Wrath starting zones offers a dungeon that players usually take advantage of in order to improve some gear slots.  The items that drop off of bosses are far superior to quest rewards, so each player will usually play these once, if not multiple times.  First up is the Utgarde Keep instance in the Howling Fjord.  
This takes players into the stronghold of the Vyrkul to strike back for their attacks on Valgarde.  Here, you will find the massive forge that is used to craft the large vrykul spears....
as well as the pens that house the fire-breathing drakes that the giants are breaking in order to become mounts.  
The final boss is Ingvar the Plunderer, who is overseeing the vyrkul attacks on Valgarde.  He isn't terribly difficult, but his fight has a twist.  After you kill him, he is resurrected by a val'kyr, who drags him back to life in order to fulfill his task for Arthas.  Once again, he is unsuccessful.  

Up next is Borean Tundra's Nexus, located in the Coldarra section of the zone, near where you royally screwed up in pissing Malygos off.  You head in to investigate the blue dragonflight's activities, along with some massive magical aberrations going off the charts.  
Being in Coldarra, the entire dungeon is made of ice, and you'll encounter some Blue Dragonflight, their human subjects, and some magical beasties made of pure energy that have come through a rift in the magical barrier inside.  

As further salt in the wound for your colossal screw-up, you actually need to kill Keristraza to complete the boss, as Malygos has completely corrupted her, forcing her to fight against you.  Enjoy the item upgrades that you get from murdering someone who was trying to help you out earlier! 

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Burning Crusade Endgame: Level 70 - Saturday, April 23, 2011

Just like when Burning Crusade launched, and the Level 60 raids were put aside in favor of Outland content, when Wrath of the Lich King was released the endgame content for Level 70 became an afterthought...too much effort for rewards that were quickly made obsolete by Northrend gear.  Here's a quick look at all of the content that level capped players were enjoying during the Burning Crusade.  
The first raid for a majority of players was Karazahn, a 10-person raid located in a haunted tower previously occupied by the archmage Medivh.  In the past, Medivh was possessed by the demonlord Sargeras, who used his considerable magical powers to open the Dark Portal, and allow the orcs to enter Azeroth from Draenor.  After his death, he atoned for the opening of the Portal by uniting the Horde and Alliance forces for a desperate, and successful, attempt to fight off the Burning Legion's invasion into Azeroth.  
Karazahn has a number of unique fights, including one in an opera house that chooses between three scenarios randomly...
 a game of chess that you play against the (sometimes cheating) Spirit of Medivh...
 and one against an undead dragon. 
The final boss is atop the highest spire, and pits you against a Burning Legion bigwig, Prince Malchezaar.  
 I've already covered Magtheridon and Serpentshrine Cavern.  

You also get to finally put the screws to Kael'Thas Sunstrider for betraying his fellow Blood Elves and throwing in his lot with Illidan.  You find him in The Eye, a portion of Tempest Keep floating off the coast of Netherstorm.  
Shortly before you fight Kael'Thas, you face his pet phoenix, Al'ar...
and eventually, the man himself.  He has a rare chance to drop the Ashes of Al'ar, a pretty bitchin' mount.  For this reason, he is still slaughtered by a number of people on a weekly basis.  

Anticipated by many since the launch of the Burning Crusade, the Black Temple instance allows you to take on Illidan in his Shadowmoon Valley fortress.  

Players can get a history lesson by heading to the Caverns of Time and participating in the Battle for Mount Hyjal from years ago.  
This battle, a result of Medivh's desperate attempt to unite the Horde and Alliance to fight off the Burning Crusade, is a timed event that sees your raid take on waves of enemies, with bosses interspersed within.  This was playable in real time strategy form in Warcraft III, but it's a neat way to get a different perspective on a familiar fight.  The final boss is the Burning Legion lord Archimonde, who lost the original fight to a tree.  
The final patch of the Burning Crusade introduced the Isle of Quel'Danas to players.  
This Level 70-only area was phased, which meant that the content changed as players accomplished more quests.  This area was the site of Arthas' slaughter of the blood elves, and destruction of the Sunwell, the original source of the blood elves' power.

When you first arrive, you are fighting to take the shore from the Burning legion...then eventually you establish some camps further in...then after awhile, an armory has opened, etc.  A nearby five-person dungeon, Magister's Terrace, sets the stage for the final raid of the expansion.  
Kael'Thas is still alive, albeit in very bad shape after his defeat at Tempest Keep. 
He has essentially sold his soul to the Burning Legion, and is using the reactivated Sunwell to summon the ruler of the Legion, Kil'Jaeden, to Azeroth.  After you defeat him, you are free to take on Sunwell Plateau, and close the portal that has opened to Kil'Jaeden. 

It's important to note that you don't kill Kil'Jaeden, you merely send him back where he came from.  

Howling Fjord: Level 69 - Friday, April 22, 2011

Meanwhile, far away from the Borean Tundra, the Howling Fjord makes up the southeastern portion of Northrend.  This area is accessed via a boat from Menethil Harbor for Alliance, and a zeppelin for Horde.  For the Alliance, you get the feeling that you are not welcome as soon as the boat enters the zone and passes under this...
Nevertheless, your boat lands safely at Valgarde Keep, an Alliance outpost that has been established in the shadow of Utgarde Keep.  

The Horde begin at Vengeance Point, established by the Forsaken, before moving onto New Agamand. 
Utgarde Keep is the seat of power for the Vrykul, a barbaric race of giants who serve the Lich King, because they view him as their "Death God".  
They are one of the major antagonists in this expansion, and you are introduced to them almost immediately, as they are attempting to raze Valgarde Keep from the moment you step off the boat.  Your first responsibilities are to help turn them away, and once you've gained a rest, you get a quest to investigate their history.  You are given a substance that allows you to enter the spirit world and experience visions of the past, but as you wander through the dream-like world, you are given an unpleasant surprise.  

Arthas is there, and he immobilizes you and monologues about how powerful he is, and how weak you are, and unworthy to fight him.  He says that he will definitely destroy you, but not just yet, and then kills you.  Yes, it seems a little bit strange.  
You reenter your body and continue your investigation into the vyrkul, and eventually discover that humans are actually descendants of the giants, and those vyrkul who were discovered to give birth to those 'deformed ones' were cast out, and their children killed, by the tyrannical king of the vyrkul, Ymiron.  Some parents, however, hid their children to grow up in secret, which led to the human race.  
It's not all infanticide and giants in the Howling Fjord, however.  There is a particularly amusing quest chain with Big Lebowski references....
 a flaming forest filled with dragons...
noble walrus warriors....
 and, presented without context, surfing on a flying, flaming spear.