Tuesday, May 31, 2011

A New Journey Begins: Level 1 - Wednesday, May 11, 2011

And, we're back!  I'd like to first express my appreciation to everyone who participated in the polls that determined my new character's race and class, in addition to the appreciation that I have for people who stop by the blog daily or subscribe, for their ongoing support.  

While the vote for goblins was fairly one-sided, (and I'm happy about it, since it means that I get to not only play one of the two new Cataclysm races, but also experience Horde content for the first time) the class vote was hotly contested until at the end, mages won out.  
Ah mages, those fragile, yet lethal damage-dealing machines.  What's more fun than toying with your enemy before finishing them off, whether it's turning them into a sheep, or freezing them in place as you charge up a spell that they know is going to obliterate them?  Nothing, for my money!  Now, what name to give to my greedy, *ahem* "self-interest protecting" goblin with a full arsenal of magic tricks? 

Exciting news for this 1-85 journey!  All screenshots will be taken by me, personally, so you will be able to click on any of them for a larger, detailed view.  

The expository fly-over of the starting area, (which every race gets) explains that the Goblins are ruled by the greedy, power-hungry Trade Princes, and keep mostly to themselves, choosing not to pick a side in the ongoing conflict between the Horde and Alliance, (why do that, when you can cater to both sides and get double the profit?)  They inhabit the seedy city of Kezan, in the shadow of an active volcano (foreshadowing!) and have, over time, become extremely shrewd, due to their exposure to kaja'mite ore, which they harvest from mines underneath the volcano.  At first, they were made to harvest the ore by the local trolls inhabiting the area, but after prolonged exposure, they become intelligent enough to turn the tables, and enslave the trolls.    

As we join the story, we discover that the ruthless Trade Prince Gallywix controls Kezan, and is keeping an eye on our character, knowing that we want nothing more than to supplant him and take over.  Our character owns a kaja'mite mine, and has come up with the brilliant idea to manufacture it as a beverage that gives the imbiber intelligence.  You run the KTC (Kajaro Trading Company) and have a number of staff at your disposal, none more indispensable than your executive assistant Sassy Hardwrench.  

She gives you the troubling news that the kaja'mite cola production has slowed down, so you head to the mine and talk to the supervisor to see what the problem is.  Turns out that not only have the trolls grown lazy and refuse to work, but the mines are also under attack from some unpleasant gyreworms.  After killing about six of them, I hit level 2.  (You gain levels very quickly early on.)

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Mages Take the Lead

We're several days into our vote for which class I'll be playing for the next few months, and mages have a slim lead over rogues right now.  If you haven't already done so, make sure to stop by the home page and cast your vote!  

Monday, May 23, 2011

The Choice is Made!


The voting is now closed, and we have a clear winner for the next race that will be featured on Leveling Down.  Since the first time through the process (mostly) featured the Alliance's newest race, the worgen, its only fitting that the next trip will feature the newest addition to the Horde; those lovable, greedy, insane goblins.  
I've added the new poll that will determine what class my goblin will be.  Please visit the home page at http://levelingdown.blogspot.com to cast your vote.  The early voting seems to favor casters, with mage, warlock and priest deadlocked.  What do you think?  Vote today!

Monday, May 16, 2011

Level 85: Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Level 1:  273 pounds

It doesn't take a detective to figure out that the above picture was taken last Christmas.  It was also a point in my life where I had bottomed out, and was completely unmotivated to stick to any kind of diet or workout routine.  In prior months I had been able to stick to both for a week...maybe two, before I would maybe have a bad day at work and stress-eat, or be out at a party where I'd succumb to a couple of beers, and eventually, the mindset of "Well, I've already ruined today, might as well go whole hog..." would rear its ugly head.  People who have been frustrated with weight loss will know the rest.  One day would turn into a week...which would turn into a month.  And that's where I was on Christmas.  

I began this blog in late January.  It was something that had been rattling around in my brain for some time, the idea of turning this weight loss into a game, but my primary reason for starting then was to A) maybe alleviate some of the knee and back issues that I'd been experiencing before our scheduled Disney World trip in a couple of weeks, and B) get started on my weight loss earlier than my usual April-May kick, so that I could go to the beach during the summer and not be completely self-conscious.  

I'll be the first to admit that I'm surprised how quickly it seemed that I arrived at Level 85.  I made it in 102 days, and with the primary purpose of this blog being to prevent long slides of bad eating and no exercise, am pleased to note that I only lost levels twice.  
Level 85:  May 7, 2011 - 229 pounds

And this is where I find myself today...44 pounds lighter, and feeling so much better about my weight and health.  However...not completely satisfied.  These two pictures were taken at the end of my uncle's annual 5-mile Mayday run at the Jersey shore, which, if I had attempted in late January, would probably have killed me.  

I won't be doing any posting for the next week or so, but I will still be evaluating my levels at the end of the day in anticipation of the next phase of this blog.  As I've already said, YOU are going to decide what I do this time through Levels 1-85, so please, visit the home page of the blog and vote for what race you would like to see.  Sometime next week I will put up the class vote, and shortly thereafter, professions.  If you want to lobby a particular race or class, send this to your friends and get out the vote.  

Thank you so much to everyone for your subscriptions, feedback and support.  You've helped me keep to this process on days when I might not have wanted to get on the bike, or felt like eating an entire stack of pancakes.  I look forward to the next phase of Leveling Down, which will begin within a couple of weeks.  Until then, don't forget to vote!

Friday, May 13, 2011

Twilight Highlands: Level 84 - Monday, May 9, 2011

When you reach Level 84, you become eligible for a quest that has been issued by the King of Stormwind himself, Varian Wrynn.  
The King charges you with finding out more about the mysterious activities of the Twilights Hammer cult, which he says has his people terrified, since he doesn't know how deep their treachery runs.  He also asks that you take his son, Anduin, along on some of your adventures, and show him to be strong and decisive.  

The King tells you to meet with the person in charge of the Twilights Hammer investigation, a completely normal, non-treacherous looking guard named Major Samuelson, who tells you that he suspects something is happening down at the docks.  

You find nothing talking to the dock workers, and even find out that the expedition that is nearly underway to the Twilight Highlands, the Twilight Hammer's front door, is missing supplies and gunpowder.  Anduin grows suspicious.  He insists that you take him to the city's records office to do some research on Major Samuelson, whom he thinks has a lead on the Twilights Hammer, and is trying to keep all the credit for himself.  

The truth is much more serious.  You find evidence that Samuelson is part of the Twilights Hammer, and has stolen the gunpowder to set off a bomb underneath the Stormwind Cathedral.  You are able to defuse the bomb, and get back to the castle, where you confront Samuelson who, cornered, admits his guilt and attempts to kill the king.  Varian is protected by Anduin's abilities as a priest, and furious, Samuelson transforms into a faceless monster.  

After defeating him, you have the king's gratitude, and he sends you to head up the expedition to the Twilight Highlands.  You hitch a ride from a dwarven pilot in the harbor.  

The overzealous pilot flies way too fast, and you pass out, coming to at the Twilight Highlands port of Highbank, which is under attack by the Horde-allied Dragonmaw Clan.  

You assist in the effort to fight off the Dragonmaw Clan, which results in Highbank becoming a fully functional Alliance base.  (As you complete quests, flight masters, mailboxes, profession trainers and a functional portal back to Stormwind all phase in.)  From there you set off on the task to unite all of the dwarf clans scattered throughout the Highlands under the Wildhammer Clan banner. 

This proves to be more difficult than it sounds.  The various clans are under attack from the Twilights Hammer and Black Dragonflight.  There is also infighting among the dwarves, with each clan also accusing the others of abandoning them in their time of need, but it turns out that with constant attacks on every clan, there is no opportunity for aid.  

Slowly but surely, you are able to aid each of the surviving clans, and gain their support.  Once all possible have been rescued, a council is held to decide if all of the clans will unite.  However, all of the old arguments arise at the summit, as each clan still feels abandoned and refuses to join the Wildhammers.  However, one dwarf sees an opportunity; if one of the Firebeards marries a Thundermar, they'll be bound by blood to unite.  You discuss the idea with the two dwarves involved, and they both agree, as they've fallen in love in a recent battle.  You help with the marriage preparation, like escorting the vital beer to the ceremony...
 and for your efforts, you are given the honor of walking the bride down the aisle.  

However, things go awry at the ceremony, as it turns out that the master of ceremonies has been corrupted by the Twilights Hammer, and attempts to interrupt the ceremony. 

You and the rest of the now-united Wildhammers fight the beast back.  You are successful, and the entire Wildhammer Clan joins the Alliance effort.  

Elsewhere, you receive a summons from the Earthen Ring, who are investigating a giant, writhing mass nearby, which they suspect is corrupting people into doing the Twilight Hammer's bidding.  

You and some Earthen Ring envoys conduct a flyby of the tainted ground, when your gryphon is seized by one of the giant tentacles, and you are deposited into the maw of the beast.  
Inside, you and the rest of the survivors attempt to fight back the countless blob creatures that the stomach produces as a defense mechanism.  There are too many, and you succumb.  Just as you are about to die, you are resurrected by Thrall, of all people, still at the Maelstrom's mouth.  

He tells you that he has brought you back because he is in need of your assistance.  Far in the distance, you can see Deathwing attacking the various members of the Earthen Ring that you've been helping since Vash'jir.  Thrall urges you to help, but you are rendered completely helpless and unable to act.  

All you can do is watch your allies get picked off one by one, Thrall berating you the whole time, and calling you worthless.  
Eventually, Deathwing turns his attention to you and Thrall....

and just as his fire consumes you, you wake up, back in the stomach of the massive beast.  Deathwing's attack was a hallucination brought on by the creature you are trapped in.  You free the rest of the Earthen Ring from its tentacles...
and attack the brain of the beast, before you are flown to safety.  

There's no time to rest, however, as you are greeted at the Earthen Ring location by an ambassador to the Red Dragonflight who is having a hard time gaining their trust.  Knowing that you have a knack for getting things done, they request that you go in their place.  After performing some tasks for Alexstraza's son, Calen, to get in the Dragon Queen's good graces, you eventually run into her as you clear out some Twilights Hammer saboteurs from outside Grim Batol, a former sanctuary for dwarves that has been overrun by Deathwing's forces.  
She says that there is no other choice...Deathwing must die for his atrocities.  She takes you and Calen to a sacred spot in the Highlands and calls out Deathwing, who arrives in style.  
After some banter, Alexstraza and Deathwing take to the skies for a dragon hug fight, while you ride a red dragonflight mount to thin out the black drakes protecting Deathwing.  
Eventually, it seems that Alexstraza has defeated Deathwing, but has been severely weakened by the fight.  Suddenly, Deathwing reappears and Calen charges you with protecting his mother as he attempts to buy you some time by fighting Deathwing.  
You and Alexstraza make your escape, and reunite with Calen, who is safe.  He says that Deathwing has retreated into hiding to recuperate from the fight.  

Finally, some of Stormwind's most seasoned forces decide that the time is right to attack the Twilights Hammer where they live.  You head up a group of elite soldiers as you attempt to infiltrate the Bastion of Twilight and cut off the head of the Hammer, or rather TWO heads, since the cult is led by a two-headed ogre named Cho'Gall.  

As you and the group sneak up towards the Bastion, Cho'Gall finds you and destroys your squad.  You have no choice but to retreat, and find one of Stormwind's most dangerous spies below, who gives you a task of utmost importance.  He has learned that the Twilights Hammer has been overseeing the creation of a powerful weapon, commissioned by Deathwing himself, that, if completed, could turn the tide in the Hammer's favor.  It is called...wait for it...the Hammer of Twilight.  
You learn the location of the Hammer, and before you can take it, Cho'Gall shows up again and reveals that you have walked into a trap.  He unleashes a giant gronn upon you and the forces that have arrived to take the Hammer, and you must kill it.  However, it is too late to obtain the Hammer, and Cho'Gall has retreated to the safety of the Bastion of Twilight, where only a raid of players can kill him.  
Coincidentally, as I was doing some quests in the Highlands, Deathwing showed up, as he does from time to time, and breathed fire on the entire zone, killing everyone in it.  Here's a look at the aftermath.  
Oh, also, this happened in Twilight Highlands.  More on my next update.  

Uldum: Level 83 - Sunday, May 8, 2011

For decades, adventurers have been looking for a way into Uldum, the legendary land of the Titans, located south of Tanaris, but have been unable to find a way in.  However, the Cataclysm has disabled the cloaking device that the Titans implemented to hide Uldum, and now brave archaeologists and treasure hunters are going into the newly-revealed desert to seek their fortune.  
You join up with one of the caravans heading into Uldum, and it isn't long before your entire group is captured by some hostile native pygmies.  
You are sold to the Neferset, a tribe of the ancient cat people called the Tol'vir, who have been tasked with protecting the secrets of Uldum.  The Neferset have been corrupted, however, and you are thrown into prison with Prince Nadun of the rival tribe of the Neferset, the Ramkahen. 
You are able to escape your cell and spy on the Neferset to get an idea of their plans.  Not surprisingly, they have entered into a bargain with the elemental Windlord, Al'Akir, who commands djinns and air creatures who, in turn, is being manipulated by Deathwing.  
You are able to free the rest of your allies and Prince Nadun, create a distraction, and flee the Neferset city disguised as Tol'vir.  Prince Nadun, in gratitude, takes you to the city of Ramkahen.  

Once there, you are introduced to the king of the Ramkahen, who tells you about the their dire situation.  The Neferset are demanding that he give them an ancient scepter that is believed to be the key to the secret of Uldum...a staff which Deathwing believes will provide him with a weapon capable of destroying all of Azeroth.  The Ramkahen refused, and as a result, the Neferset, aided by Al'Akir, buried one of their cities in a massive sandstorm.  
The Ramkahen, unable to withstand such power, are about to concede defeat and the scepter, but you convince the king to hold a vote to determine if they should wage war against the Neferset.  You are sent to the various decision-makers of Ramkahen, who are spread out in surrounding areas of Uldum, and come back with the decision that Ramkahen will go to war with the Neferset.   
The Neferset have powerful colossi and legions of troops, but you are able to enter the city and kill their leader, which in turn, disables their colossi and turns the tide in Ramkahen's favor.  

The remaining Neferset flee to the Lost City of Tol'vir, having captured Siamat, the djinn sent by Al'Akir to oversee them.  
This five-man dungeon involves you entering the city, eliminating the remaining Neferset forces, and putting an end to Siamat's plan to enslave the Tol'vir.  
Players can also enter the Vortex Pinnacle, another five-person dungeon located high in the sky where powerful lieutenants of Al'Akir reside, led by the djinn, Assad.  

Meanwhile, everyone's favorite blatant reference, Harrison Jones is in Uldum, putting together the pieces of a puzzle that may unlock the greatest secret of Uldum, the rumored weapon that lies beneath the sands.  
You follow him around Uldum, activating three obelisks that are spread throughout the zone, and gathering information about the weapon, which he finds is located in a place called the Halls of Origination.   

Jones is not alone in his quest, however.  You stumble across a rival archaeologist's expedition, led by a goblin named Schnottz.  

Hoping to get a better idea of what's going on, you go undercover in Schnottz's operation, but find yourself blamed for an attack on his life.  You are saved at the last minute by Jones, who reveals that Schnottz is under Deathwing's control, and everyone is after the same thing; the power of the weapon that lies beneath Uldum.  After activating all three obelisks, they indicate the location of the Coffer of Promise, which contains the key to the Halls of Origination.  Just as you find the coffer, Schnottz shows up with black dragons.  
From out of the coffer appears Brann Bronzebeard, who had been trapped inside since finding the Coffer first.  Once Jones deshielded the coffer, Brann was free to activate the defense mechanism which destroys Schnottz and his dragon allies.  
Your final task is to meet Brann inside the Halls of Origination and help him deactivate the weapon, which is revealed to be a giant "Reset" button implemented by the Titans, a reorigination system that was placed on Azeroth to destroy all life if the Titans desired.  
The Halls are filled with Titanic guards who have been charged with destroying anybody who tampers with the device.  You must take them all out in order for Brann to disable the weapon permanently.