The Infinite Zenith

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Tag Archives: World of Warcraft: The Burning Legion

World of Warcraft: Setting Foot in Northrend and Exploring Wrath of the Lich King’s Coldest Frontier

“I came through and I shall return.” –General Douglas MacArthur

The end of my vacation was approaching: I was sitting on a bench at Taikoo Shing’s City Plaza mall and waiting at our rendezvous point for everyone to gather so that we could take a bus over to the airport for the flight back home. This had been a particularly memorable trip, during which I had the chance to check out Beijin’s Forbidden City and the Temple of Heaven, Hangzhou’s West Lake, Suzhou’s legendary canals, and Shanghai’s world-famous Pudong skyline. At the end of two weeks, I was quite happy, but also quite ready to go back home. I stretched my feet, brought out my iPod and put the music on shuffle. Moments later, Howling Fjord began playing. I watched the crowds pass by while listening to the song’s Nyckelharpa, and my thoughts strayed back to a time a year earlier, when my friend’s private server was still running. It was not lost on me that while my friend had upgraded the server to support Wrath of the Lich King, I never ended up travelling to Northrend, since I’d been busy exploring Azeroth and Outland. The music of Northrend had been very enjoyable, making use of a variety of Scandinavian instruments to convey the sort of beauty associated with northern landscapes of boreal forests, striking fjords and snowy mountains. However, with my friend’s private server now offline, I imagined that the time to finish exploring the whole of Wrath of the Lich King had passed. I shook those thoughts out of my head and returned to the present, ready to board the half-day flight back over the Pacific, certain that I’d never have the chance to visit Northrend for myself. Eleven years later, I ended up putting together my own private server together; after growing salty at some overly serious players who saw fit to kick me from a dungeon, I decided to get my own Wrath of the Lich King server set up. Since then, I’d finished exploring Azeroth, built back my old mage and warlock, and finally got the chance to check out all of the major regions in Outland. With the old goals done, it occurred to me that here was the opportunity I’d been longing for. I thus spun up the server and boarded a boat that brought me over to the Howling Fjord.

As I began exploring more of Northrend, it became clear that, far from the dark, cold and frozen wastelands of the Arctic I had imagined it to be, Northrend possessed a variety of biomes, from thermal hot springs in tundra plains, to steep fjords, boreal forests and glacier-capped mountains. The world design in Northrend speaks to the improvement in period hardware: Northrend is bigger and bolder in design than any of Azeroth or Outland’s locations, featuring dizzyingly high peaks and tremendously deep ravines. In particular, Storm Peaks’ terrain is such that one must have a flying mount to even consider traversing some of Northrend’s most gorgeous vistas. It becomes apparent that Northrend was designed to accommodate the players’ ability to fly, and unlike Outland, vertical movement has been integrated seamlessly into map design to encourage players to get to a point where they can have access to cold-weather flight. Beyond the scope and scale of these new maps, one area in Northrend I absolutely was not expecting was Sholazar Basin, a tropical paradise surrounded by massive cliffs whose magic kept out both evil forces and the frigid weather. This was such an unexpected surprise: to find anything approaching the tropic in the far north would be a fool’s hope at best in reality. Stories of tropical valleys tucked away in the deep in the mountains of the Nahanni dominate the myths about some of Canada’s most remote regions, as adventurers of old imagined that geothermal springs of the Nahanni would create fantastical landscapes. Today, advances in cartography corresponds with the understanding that anything resembling hidden tropical gardens that far north would be implausible in reality, but in the virtual world that games like World of Warcraft provides, it would appear that these constraints are no concern. Thus, I took some time to check out the lush, verdant tropical forests in the Sholazar basin before concluding my journey at Dalaran, finally having done something I’d figured was impossible twelve years earlier.

Screenshots and Commentary

  • During the Heritage Long Weekend this year, temperatures were actually even hotter than they had been last year (33ºC to last year’s 28ºC). However, unlike last year, I had the presence of mind not to spend six hours doing dungeons; instead, I visited the Grizzly Hills for the first time. I found myself in a region of evergreen forests, rolling hills and swift rivers, and decided to take on a few quests to familiarise myself with the area.

  • Besides towering conifers, fields of violet also adorn the hillsides. Grizzly Hills is a decidedly beautiful area, and the background music has a very Nordic feel to it. However, unlike my earlier experiences, the monsters here are closer to me in level; they now take a few spells to kill, a world apart from when I was slaughtering everything trivially with my wand. In World of Warcraft‘s latest expansion, the game has been updated with what’s called a level squish, allowing new players to reach the endgame faster and get to the activities that most come for.

  • For me, raids and dungeons aren’t my objective – I’ve gotten my share of grinding for loot through games like The Division, and there, the game had been sufficiently well-designed such that one could solo the levelling experience and then still work towards unlocking a working loadout for endgame activities solo if they felt so inclined. In The Division, I used matchmaking to periodically party with others to complete legendary missions, while in The Division 2, I ended up finishing the entire game solo.

  • For me, being able to complete things solo is a vital part of a game, and when a game with a large group component accommodates this play style, I end up with nothing but respect for the game. Solo players are often at a disadvantage, fighting off larger numbers of enemies, and rewards are typically better with groups, but I find that being able to do things like collect most of a game’s most powerful items alone is an immensely satisfying experience.

  • I’ve now entered back into the Howling Fjord, capitalising on my cold weather flying to travel more swiftly over the northern continent. While Wrath of the Lich King‘s aurora might not be as stellar as those of Skyrim‘s, they look solid and fit Northrend’s aesthetic well. The aurora can be seen from almost everywhere up here, and they certainly liven up the long flights around: while Northrend is quite large, flights up here do not feel anywhere as lengthy as those of Outland’s.

  • I understand that I’m playing through Wrath of the Lich King in the most unconventional manner: this is something that is afforded by the game master (GM) powers my account has access to. In general, GMs are staff who oversee the game and will enter the game with an avatar to help players out (for instance, if they’re stuck somewhere or lose an item of importance), as well as to enforce policies. To allow GMs to carry out their duties, their accounts have access to powerful commands that allow them to become invisible, invincible, spawn items at will and teleport players.

  • On my friend’s private server, the GM powers were used to quickly gather all of the players for evening parties, as well as kit everyone out with a fully-levelled character so that we could take on some of the end-game content. During the server’s last week, I was given access to a GM account so I could build a level 80 character capable of travelling around Azeroth and explore without worry about being wiped. I utilised my abilities to create an Ashbringer, too – such actions would’ve certainly defeated the purpose of playing the game with friends, but at that point, since the server was about to shut down, my friend didn’t see any harm in giving me a chance to really play around.

  • While the role of GM was highly coveted back then (several of my friends had requested GM accounts for the purpose of spawning powerful items instantly), the role of GM is an actual role. A quick glance around shows that the average GM makes around 56000 CAD a year pre-tax, which goes out to 43000 CAD a year after deductions. Having access to a host of commands and being a virtual god is nice, as is the feeling of being able to help players in need and punish those who seek to degrade the experience for others, but it’s not an occupation I could see myself doing. Consequently, I’ll stick to acting the role of GM on my private private server.

  • With this being said, the exploration in Northrend has been quite unlike anything I’d previously seen on Azeroth and in Outland. Some of Northrend’s best sights are truly spectacular, and here, I find myself overlooking the seaport of Valgarde, which consists of a small town cut into the fjord’s narrow cliffs. Everything seen here can be visited, and while folks rocking a flying mount have it easier, the level designers fortunately had the foresight to create footpaths for players to walk down there, as well: it isn’t until level 77 where one can unlock flight for Northrend.

  • I’ve long had a fondness for watching sunsets from different places in World of Warcraft: the combination of mostly playing the game after finishing the day’s assignments and busy weekends meant that a large majority of my World of Warcraft memories are set during the evenings. I had previously mentioned that I would like to try and visit some spots in World of Warcraft by night, and wondered if changing sunset times might impact the times where night sets in. However, I never got around to trying that out last year, since I’d been wrapped up in Halo.

  • This year, with Battlefield 2042 and Halo: Infinite on the horizon, things are looking mighty busy, so time will tell as to whether or not I get around to testing my theories out. The Howling Fjord’s got areas that appear exactly as I imagined Northrend to appear, and with a flying mount, exploring becomes considerably easier: Northrend is very much walkable, and there are plenty of flight paths, but nothing beats having one’s own flying mount when it comes to pure exploration. Flight paths are only a bit faster, but they don’t always take the most efficient way to one’s destination.

  • Here, I’ve managed to fly out over to the Boreal Tundra’s Valiance Keep. This is the first place players would see of Northrend if travelling from Stormwind: the decision to have two starting areas in Northrend, as opposed to Outland’s one, was a consequence of The Burning Crusade suffering from capacity issues when all players congregated in Outland’s Hellfire Peninsula. The idea was that having two starting areas would lighten loads on different parts of the game world. Here, I look in on the city, having flown in over from Dragonblight.

  • While the Boreal Tundra isn’t too exciting of an area compared to the Grizzly Hills, directly north of the Boreal Tundra is the Sholazar Basin. This tropical area caught me completely off guard, and within moments of landing here, Sholazar Basin swiftly became one of my favourite areas in Northrend, mainly because it was so unexpected to see a tropical area so far north. Previously, I’d only heard of such a concept in tales about the Northwest Territories: prospectors in search of gold would return with tales of fantastical travels, and it was rumoured that tropical forests existed in the Nahanni National Park area.

  • Today, it is accepted that those travellers probably encountered geothermal springs in the Nahanni, and imagined that on the other side of the mountain, it might’ve been so warm that thermal energy was seeping through the crevices in the rocks to reach them. Such tales, while fanciful, are still fun, although the Nahanni is also known for being the home of many mysteries, including the macabre “Headless Valley”, so named for the compelling forces that produced a pile of decapitated corpses from visitors who were brave enough to venture into territories unmarked.

  • Nahanni National Park is a tempting place to visit: tales of tropical valleys and an unknown force aside, the area is home to some of Canada’s most striking scenery, such as Virginia Falls (twice as tall as Niagara Falls), Ram Plateau (a series of plateaus that rise 1800 metres above the rivers below) and Cirque of the Unclaimables that have no equal anywhere else in Canada. For now, the Nahanni is an area that is a little above my skill to reach (the drive is 1500 kilometres north of Edmonton), so I’ll settle for exploring spots within my grasp (and checking out more fanciful spots in games like World of Warcraft).

  • In the end, I spent an hour completing quests here in the Sholazar Basin and sought out the flight master here so that I could fly here more readily if the need required it: Sholazar Basin is a spot I’d definitely be interested to revisit in the future.

  • Dragonblight was the next region on my list; it’s a quest hub for players looking to level up, and its western edge is covered in forests. The eastern edge is more barren and home to a massive tower known as the Wyrmrest Temple. Wyrmrest can be seen from a great distance away, and it dominates the landscape. While the tower is marked as being a meeting place for Dragons, the area was quite quiet by the time I reached it. Exploring Northrend, I experienced the slightest bit of melancholy; this was something I’d wished to do twelve years earlier.

  • I occasionally wonder if the group of us on my friend’s private server would’ve stood any chance at all against the dungeons and raids of Northrend: save for one of our friends, the remainder of us were complete novices on setting up characters properly for end-game content and utilising our abilities in a party setting. I’ve seen for myself that players can become very serious about raids and dungeons, to the point of kicking people from a party for doing five percent less damage than is optimal. I’d never quite gotten over that, and this is why I have a private server to begin with.

  • If memory serves, I used the Dungeon Finder to join a group at Shadowfang Keep, but my level 20 frost mage was not equipped with the best possible gear for that level, so my spells weren’t dealing much damage. After clearing the first room, the party kicked me, sending me all the way back to the Stonetalon Mountains. I’ve heard that this is actually a more common experience than I’d initially thought, and veteran players note that this sort of behaviour comes from people power tripping; it’s something players learn to ignore. However, since I’m only a novice in World of Warcraft, and since my goal is exploration, I determined it’d be easier to explore on my own server.

  • During the past weekend, I had a few errands to tend to, and these sent me downtown. Since I had some additional time before my appointment, I decided to walk on over to the building where my seminar with World Vision was held some thirteen years earlier. I’d driven by every day last year returning home from work, and seeing this building reminded me of the Stonetalon Mountains, in turn lighting in me a wish to return to World of Warcraft. The World of Warcraft today is radically different than the one I remember, and while the game has seen numerous improvements, there is a charm about Wrath of the Lich King.

  • Here, I set foot on the Storm Peaks, a mountainous and gusty area covered in snow and ice. The foes here are closer to me in level, and while I can still engage elite enemies my level, it is clear that were I to be surrounded by enemies, I’d be finished in the blink of an eye – my most powerful spells can do a reasonable amount of damage, and with the Hot Streak talent, I can potentially have an instant-cast Pyroblast. Pyroblast is the most powerful single-target spell fire mages have available to them, but also has an extremely slow cast time.

  • For most fights, I open with Pyroblast owing to its high damage, and then follow up with a Fireball and Fire Blast where appropriate. Because fire spells also deal damage over time, I can whittle down individual enemies very quickly before they can get within melee range. Besides these utility spells, mages also gain access to the Frostfire bolt, which is essentially a best-of-both-worlds type spell: the spell takes a slightly longer time to cast, but will hit the enemy for whichever element they have less resistance against, making it a versatile spell to utilise.

  • The Storm Peaks’ greatest sight has to be Ulduar, a massive temple built by ancient beings known as the Titans. Nothing in Wrath of the Lich King quite matches it in scale, and its labyrinthine interior is home to a raid dungeon. Upon exploring Ulduar’s exterior, I was absolutely blown away by how large everything was, but it was a little surprising to see it so quiet outside. In retrospect, this is quite similar to how Blackrock Mountain had been deserted on the outside.

  • With Ulduar done, I changed course and prepared to fly on over to the Crystalsong Forest. Here, I pass back over more ordinary terrain in the Storm Peaks – it appears that it’s always night here, allowing the aurora to be seen in greater clarity. It hits me that a large number of places in World of Warcraft have the suffix -song as a part of their names, although I don’t have any background on what the origins of this are within the lore.

  • After arriving in the Crystalsong Forest, I was greeted with groves of golden-yellow aspen as far as the eye could see. Running through these forests, a very peculiar sight soon greeted me: violet-white trees composed entirely of crystal, which gives the region its name. According to lore, dragons fought here, turning the once-normal trees into crystal when they died and released their magic in to the landscape, transforming trees into glowing, purple structures.

  • We are at the end of August now, and truth be told, I’ve been pushing my blogging to the limits this month, averaging a post every 2.2 days. With September fast approaching, the Labour Day Long Weekend will offer some time for me to write out a few posts I’ve had in the wings for a while. September is actually looking quite relaxed – I have six posts planned out for the month so far, which leaves me with a bit of extra time for anything unforeseen that comes up. I’ll kick off the September posts come Saturday, and in the meantime, focus on making a progress on the drafts that I already have.

  • Here, I’ve reached the heart of one of the crystallised forests – it looks like a photo negative of sorts, although my character and HUD still have normal colouration. World of Warcraft‘s locations have always been fun, and while the starting areas are pretty ordinary in design, levelling up would really allow one to check out the more exotic-looking places. This was what I’d missed out on with my friend’s private server, and now, having set foot in all of the places of World of Warcraft up to 3.3.5, I wonder if it’d be worthwhile to create a post-Cataclysm server. On one hand, a newer server would have newer features available, most notably, transmogrification and the ability to fly in Azeroth, which had previously been a no-fly zone.

  • The tradeoff is that the old maps have seen considerable changes, and in Mists of Pandaria and later, the spells and talents have been completely overhauled to the point where I’m not too sure how everything fits together. Returning to Wrath of the Lich King, the overall effect in Crystalsong Forest is quite pleasing: in some places, the ground has cracked, releasing an eerie blue light into the air. After I concluded with the exploration, I ended up flying up into Dalaran: the city has a no-fly zone; although players were allowed to fly up (as of Patch 3.3.5), once in the city, flying mounts would be disabled.

  • The last destination on my list was the sanctuary city of Dalaran. As it turns out, there’s a crystal in the Crystalsong Forest that can be used. Of course, being a mage, I could’ve created a portal here without any additional cost to myself, but I preferred to do things the old-fashioned way. Upon arriving, I found myself in a very peaceful and well-kept city floating high in the sky. I ended up finishing a few quests here for the mage quarter, before reading through a quest that led to a raid (and then turning it down, since I don’t have the ability to solo raids on my own).

  • With this, I’ve now finished checking out Northrend’s more peaceable regions. I did fly over Icecrown, home of Arthas the Lich King – a glance at the area finds it swarming with the undead, and they are numerous enough to completely overwhelm individual players. In fact, Horde and Alliance forces alike use airships to observe the area, so I’m thinking that flying here is necessary to reach Icecrown Citadel; the aesthetic in Icecrown is basically a frozen, icy version of Sauron’s Mordor. I will not be taking on Arthas myself – even in later expansions, where players become powerful enough to to solo entire raids on their own, the fight against him requires a group to handle the mechanics, so this is one thing I won’t be checking out for myself.

Having now explored Northrend, I’ve checked out all of the regions in World of Warcraft that would’ve been available to me back when Wrath of the Lich King was the newest expansion, fulfilling an twelve-year-old wish. I am aware that as a solo player, a great deal of Wrath of the Lich King‘s best content is simply not available to me; even the Molten Core was much more challenging than what I could handle on my own, and this was with level sixty enemies. It is evident that 25-person raids featuring level-appropriate enemies would be impossible for the solo player to attempt, and for this reason, I won’t be able to waltz into Northrend’s raids and slaughter my way to victory, the same way I’ve done in DOOM Eternal. This is one of the hazards about the most private of servers: without other players, much of World of Warcraft‘s most iconic experiences (gathering a party together and smashing up raids over the course of a few hours for the game’s best equipment) remains unknown to me. Having a private server means missing out on much of this experience. However, my interest in a private server wasn’t to experience the end-game content on my own; my original mission had simply been to revisit some of the experiences I had back as a secondary student, as well as try out some of the things that I never had an opportunity to. In this area, the private server has absolutely fulfilled its intended function, and I’m happy to have brought such an old experience back to life. With Northrend’s more scenic location now in the books, my mind turns to whether or not I’d like to try putting a Mists of Pandaria server together, or if I should take an even further trip down memory lane and get my old private Ragnarok Online server back up and running. There are stories behind both decisions, and both stories offer a bit to talk about, so I’ll recount them in more detail in their appropriate posts, at the appropriate time.

World of Warcraft: A Blood Elf Warlock’s Journey of Silvermoon Forest and The Ghostlands

“Science and technology revolutionize our lives, but memory, tradition and myth frame our response.” –Arthur M. Schlesinger

In retrospect, I should’ve applied for a position at the Chapters Indigo branch downtown that summer. Instead, I ended up spending my summer vacation of secondary school in World of Warcraft and biking around the quadrant of my city. I feel that the extra work experience could’ve done me some good, but what’s done is done. What ended up happening was that one of my friends, who’d rolled a Night Elf rogue, decided to roll an Undead character, and was looking to party up to explore Horde areas in World of Warcraft. Since my days were quite idle, I decided to take up this suggestion, rolling a Blood Elf warlock as a result. The warlock class is a caster focuses purely on dealing damage: lore paints warlocks as using dark magic to inflict destruction and control dæmons for their own ends, contrasting mages, who use magic in a wide range of support roles alongside damage. In practise, this means that warlocks are a specialised caster that focuses purely on damage and survivability, whereas mages provide more support for their party, and having played only a mage up until that point, I was curious to see how a pure damage class would handle. As it turns out, the warlock is great for solo experiences, having a range of effective spells to blast enemies, and at the same time, also allow the player to heal back up after fights (whereas with the mage, one is more dependent on potions or food if playing solo). The warlock class also provide a free mount, taking the form of the Felsteed and Dreadsteed, allowing one to travel around areas much more quickly than a mage could at lower levels. As I soon discovered, the warlock levelling experience proved rather more enjoyable than it had been for mages: this was in part owing to the spells and abilities available to warlocks, as well as the unique appearance of the Blood Elves’ starting areas, the Eversong Woods and Ghostlands.

While period reviews felt the new starting areas were more isolated than other starting areas, they also found that the areas were better designed, allowing players to progress much more smoothly: the need to travel extensively was reduced, and each of the quests offer a much deeper insight into each species’ lore and background compared to the original World of Warcraft‘s. The end result was a more polished experience that encouraged players to still explore, but made it possible to level up more efficiently and push players on the path towards the endgame. As a Gnome mage, I found that levelling was quite tedious on account of the travelling I needed to do, and the vast expanse of the territory that Elwynn Forest, Westfall, Red Ridge Mountains and Duskwood covered meant that there was a lot of running around between areas. By comparison, Eversong Woods and the Ghostlands are much more focused. There’s a smaller emphasis on travel, but the areas are still well-designed, allowing players to really focus on getting up to speed with their new character and lore while enjoying what the new areas have to offer. Eversong Woods’ distinct Blood Elf architecture and vegetation create a sense of melancholy, of a once-great civilisation now on the brink, and similarly, the Ghostlands accentuate how much damage the Blood Elves’ home had sustained after the Scourge’s attempts to conquer their capital, Silvermoon City. The entire land is awash in an eerie blue light even during midday, but frequent Blood Elf outposts and settlements show that this land has not been lost. The unique combination of aesthetic and map design made it especially enjoyable to level up here, and as the summer drew to a close, I had a Blood Elf warlock that was ready to explore Azeroth with my friend.

Screenshots and Commentary

  • I begin my warlock journey fully powered up: the intent of this revisit isn’t to re-live the old levelling experience as I’d known it all those summers ago, but rather, to re-tread old places. As such, I’ve wielded my GM powers to whip up a warlock that, while not optimised for end-game PvE or PvP content, allows me to explore these starting areas without worrying about anything.

  • Here, I travel along the Dead Scar, a track of charred, dead land bisecting both the Eversong Woods and the Ghostlands. In this scorched land, undead and spirits roam free, and early on, players will need to take on these monsters for various quests. The Scourge’s march here eons ago corrupted the soil such that nothing could grow, and for beginning players, crossing the Dead Scar can be a challenge, as there are enough undead to pose a challenge. There are a few paths one can use to make this crossing, making things easier.

  • The Eversong Woods stood out to me for its eternal twilight colours and peaceful scenery, golden-orange foliage and the area’s distinct ambient music, which makes use of choir, harp, piano and cello to capture the Blood Elves’ mystical background. Until Pandaria was introduced, Eversong Woods was my absolute favourite of the starting areas, although owing to its remoteness, it doesn’t have anywhere near the foot traffic of Elwynn Forest in the retail game.

  • The Tranquil Shore lives up to its name: located further west than the West Sanctum, this beach is home to the Murlocs, an amphibious species that prefer to swarm their enemies with overwhelming numbers. Murlocs can be found almost everywhere in Azeroth, and I do remember incurring their wrath as a lower-level adventurer back in the day. Of course, when one steers clear of Murloc settlements, which I count an eyesore, the coastal areas of Azeroth are quite beautiful, and here, I stop to admire a sunset.

  • I’m actually not too sure how my friend altered the realm time such that it differs from the server time via the configurations: one of the things I’ve longed to do since getting my own server up was to explore Azeroth at different times of day. However, owing to my schedule, on weeknights, I’m typically available between 1900 and 2030 local time, during which sunset and twilight occurs on Azeroth. The end result is that most of my screenshots happen closer to evening. While some areas look their best during this time (such as Westfall), I would be curious to see what Azeroth looks like during mid-day or night.

  • I think that the only solution I have for the present will be to change my system clock before starting the server, which should do the trick: if this is the way to do it, I could see myself returning in the future with a set of night screenshots. For now, I am content to explore Azeroth by evening hours: the Eversong Woods look consistent during the different times of day, so this never really impacted my ability to take solid-looking screenshots.

  • After I created my warlock, my first goal was to get a hundred percent quest completion in the Eversong Woods and Ghostlands. Strictly speaking, it’s not necessary to complete all quests in an area to level up. While finishing all quests is a fantastic way to explore the lore, completing major quest lines will provide one with the experience needed to level up. I’ve found that it’s easiest to have as many quests active at once as possible, since this makes every encounter more likely to yield something relevant to that quest.

  • Since my goal wasn’t to get to the mid-game, this time around, I was able to explore the northeastern edges of Eversong Woods, home to the Duskwither Spire. This floating spire can only be reached by means of teleportation, and one of the quest lines here was to deactivate magic crystals here after experiments ran amok, leading to calamity. A recurring theme is that with their addiction to magic, after the destruction of the Sunwell, the Blood Elves sought an alternate power source with often devastating results.

  • Warlocks have access to three talent trees: destruction is about dealing direct damage, affliction is for dealing damage over time, and dæmonolgy enables warlocks to summon dæmons to fight on their behalf and provide assistance or support in combat. As a warlock, my favourite spells are all destruction-oriented: destruction warlocks handle most similarly to mages, and as a solo player on a private server, my goal was simply to deal the most amount of damage in the least amount of time. Of the spells available to me, I use Incinerate and Searing Pain the most as my primary direct damage sources.

  • Because my warlock is unoptimised, using Shadow Bolt, the mainstay direct damage spell for affliction and dæmonolgy warlocks consumes a large amount of mana. With the right equipment and skills, however, mana regeneration was enough so that this stopped being an impediment. For one reason or another, I never learned the Incinerate technique and instead, stuck with Shadow Bolt. Immolate became my primary fire spell at the time. However, after playing World of Warcraft‘s retail version, I found that Wrath of the Lich King did indeed have Incinerate, providing me with another good damage dealing spell.

  • For my journey, I ran with the Staff of Endless Winter, a rather powerful-looking staff that confers an intelligence, stamina and spirit boost. Normally, it is acquired by defeating Hodir in Northerend’s Ulduar instance; a special cache will drop if Hodir is beaten in under three minutes, containing this staff. For my part, having a private server and the corresponding lack of players to party with means that raids are out of my reach. Later World of Warcraft expansions make it such that as players levelled up to 120, they became powerful enough to trivially solo the original game’s raids without difficulty.

  • As I am only twenty levels higher right now, while I am able to blast my way through level sixty dungeons without any difficulty, my damage is nowhere near enough for me to take on raids on my own. I’m not sure if I’ll change up my server and client for a more recent version for the time being; as tempting as it is to get a newer server and client, my original goal had simply been to explore the World of Warcraft I knew as a student, and after Cataclysm, Azeroth is completely different, being sundered by Deathwing, whose arrival destroys a dimensional barrier that adversely changes the face of Azeroth.

  • This is probably one of my favourite places in the whole of the Eversong Woods, where a river flows over a waterfall, surrounded by trees of crimson and gold. After the events of Cataclysm, familiar areas of Azeroth are completely altered. Having said this, newer World of Warcraft expansions offer more options and places to explore, so it could be worth exploring the setup of a newer server in the future. For now, I am content to stick with my current server, as there still remains quite a bit of turf in the pre-Cataclysm Azeroth that I’ve not yet explored.

  • After finishing the massive list of quests I had from Eversong Woods, and exploring all of the corners of this starting area, I next turned my attention to the Ghostlands. This was where levelling my warlock had really become fun, as the game began introducing new challenges to me. Back then, I didn’t have a mount, so getting around between the different quest areas always took an inordinate amount of time; if memory serves, I spent about two-fifths of my time travelling between quest-givers and the areas where the quest-related objectives were.

  • By comparison, I spent almost three-fifths of my time travelling when I was levelling my mage in the Elwynn Forest and area. The difference meant that I was able to level up faster and hit 20 in a much shorter time, but even this had taken me much of the summer. This is one of the reasons why I never got into World of Warcraft for real: the time commitment was something that I simply didn’t have. For my revisit, I was able to have a much easier time of things: unlocking a Dreadsteed and increasing my land movement speed made it much easier to get around.

  • In order to have the most complete Ghostlands experience, I thus decided to take on every quest possible. While I had a Dreadsteed and fully-levelled spells, the key aspect that made questing efficient this time around was the fact that I’d accepted everything, and so, I could travel to quest-relevant areas, complete the assigned task, move onto the next, and repeat until all of my quests were completed. Turning them in all at once made for much less travelling, and would also allows me to pick up the next set of quests.

  • Knucklerot and Luzran are two elite abominations wandering the Ghostlands. They represent some of the toughest enemies players can fight early in the game, and their massive, grotesque profile makes them quite memorable, but players with familiarity with their classes and the right setup can still fight them. For me, when I encountered them for a quest, I ended up using my Voidwalker to tank the damage and aggro while I watched from afar. It was a bit of a lengthy process, but I was able to solo them. I imagine on a live server, other players may occasionally step in.

  • As a destruction warlock, my favourite spell is Rain of Fire, which calls down a hail of hellfire that burns all enemies in an area. Area of Effect (AoE) spells are effective for knocking down groups of enemies, and the Rain of Fire, like Blizzard, can be used to target specific areas. Hellfire is another AoE spell I have, being a channeled spell that deals fire damage to all enemies within 10 yards of the player, but at the same time, also damages the player. Most effective in a party, where one has a priest on hand for healing, I’ve not found this spell to be too effective while soloing.

  • On the western edge of the Ghostlands is the Windrunner Village and Wind Runner Spire, a haunted area not unlike the graveyards and farms of Duskwood. I passed through the Windrunner Village en route to the Plagued Coast, where unsurprisingly, the quest had been to retrieve spines from Morlocs. Quests done in the Ghostlands give considerable reputation towards Tranquillien, the only village and hub in the area,

  • For my warlock, I ended up going with herbalism and alchemy, gathering herbs to create potions, elixirs and other reagents that bolster performance: the choice was motivated by a wish to see what the other professions entailed, since as a mage, I went with tailoring and enchanting. As an alchemist, I admit that being able to craft mana potions and keep topped off during my travels was a major part of my interest to check things out. At some point, I am also curious to roll a hunter with mining and engineering.

  • Because I am fully levelled, one thing I do enjoy doing is the practise of pulling large groups of enemies around me before slaying them all with a single spell. This practise is definitely not advisable at lower levels, where large groups of level-appropriate enemies will promptly wipe the players out if they are playing solo. While fighting Morlocs, my thoughts strayed to a conversation I had with a classmate years earlier, to a time before I started playing World of Warcraft: said classmate had been trying to get me into World of Warcraft and warned that Morlocs were the one foe I’d come to malign at lower levels.

  • When I began my own journey on my friend’s private server, the classmate’s warnings turned out to be true. This classmate had been a big-time gamer back then, and it was through him a bunch of us were introduced to Half-Life 2. However, this classmate didn’t really appear to have a plan for the future, and while we’d hung out during my first year of university, he eventually started chilling with a bunch of students in the computer labs who were always there irrespective of the time of day or week, gaming away on their laptops or watching anime.

  • I never did get these particular students: regardless of whether it was early morning, after I handed in an assignment before heading off to the health science campus, or late afternoon, prior to my organic chemistry labs, the same people would always be there, playing World of WarcraftLeague of Legends or Planetside 2. Because my classmate spent more time here with these students, we eventually drifted apart. At present, I have no idea how he’s doing. In general, how such students operate is beyond me: we go to university to learn and pick up the skills that act as a stepping stone for what lies ahead, and it is very wasteful to throw that time away on things like games.

  • With this being said, I always set aside Friday evenings for games, but otherwise, I did my utmost to keep up with my coursework. In retrospect, I do not regret my decisions: for eight months of the year, I studied hard to ensure I could maintain satisfactory standing during my undergrad, and by graduate school, I had enough time to maintain my GPA, advance my thesis project and squeeze in gaming. In the years subsequent, I noticed that the part of the computer science lab the gamers frequented were replaced by new students, who were using the space legitimately (whether it was working on assignments or studying), and so, I cannot help but wonder how those gamers are faring today.

  • In my haste to reach Tranquillen, I ended up skipping over a fair number of early quests along the Dead Scar, but would go back to complete them. Here, I return to the Plagued Coast early in the evening, a few hours before sunset. The colours in this still neatly summarise why the Ghostlands were one of my favourite areas in World of Warcraft: there’s a hauntingly beautiful character about the deep blue colours of the Ghostlands sky.

  • Just south of Lake Elrendar is the Farstrider Enclave, host to a Blood Elf group that watch over the Ghostlands’ eastern territories. It is comparatively remote and takes a ways to reach, so when I did my quests here, I simply accepted them all at once, finished them in accordance with whatever I encountered first, and then this way, I only needed to make a single trip back to the Farstrider Enclave. As it turns out, this time around, there were a bunch of quests I never completed, including one that involved defeating spirits that inhabit the lake itself.

  • The Shadowpine Trolls inhabit the eastern edge of the Ghostlands, and players are sent here to slay a certain number, as well as collect their weapons. Lore states that the forest trolls and elves have been longtime enemies, and while the elves traditionally had the advantage, the destruction of the Sunwell had allowed the trolls to seize the initiative. The players are thus called upon to help hold the fort against this enemy, and here, I use Rain of Fire to destroy a group of unaware trolls.

  • Over the course of three hours or so, I ended up finishing all of the different quests in the Ghostlands, and at last, was finally ready to take on The Traitor’s Destruction. At level twenty, this quest recommends a party of five: Dar’Khan Drathir is covered by several minons, and as he has access to Fear, he can cause enemies to run away for four seconds. Players who’ve done this suggest taking a party and silencing him, and on my original run, I ended up using my ability to silence while a friend then helped me to clear the other minions away, turning a tricky fight into a simpler one.

  • Located at the southern end of the Ghostlands, Deatholme is a fortress belonging the the Scourge. I ended up saving all of the quests for Deatholme, deciding to do them all in one stroke. Thus, I ended up clearing away Dar’Kan’s undead lieutenants, freed the captive Blood Elves and squared off against Dar’Kan himself in the same run. Armed with a maxed out character, I ended up beating Dar’Kan and his minions with a single AoE spell, speaking to how dramatic the power differences are between level appropriate characters and characters at the level cap.

  • Finishing all the quests in the Ghostlands meant that I became exhalted with Tranquillen, and I set off for Silvermoon City, ready to continue on with my journey. It turns out that I’d also completed a hundred quests. With this, my latest World of Warcraft post comes to an end: as of now, I’ve finished revisiting all of the areas I’d travelled through years earlier, and the next time I return to write about World of Warcraft will be when I set foot on Northerend, which will mark the first time I’d ever done so. While my friend had a Wrath of the Lich King server back in the day, we shut down before I had a chance to visit.

By the time I had hit level twenty, my friend decided to help me finish off the last of the quests in the Ghostlands: this marked the first time I needed a group to help me out, and for good reason. The quest, The Traitor’s Destruction, requires that players neutralise Dar’Khan Drathir, a former Blood Elf magister who joined forces with Arthas. After fighting our way through Deathome, we finally reached his lair. While the game recommends a minimum level of 15, at level 20, the two of us were enough to beat the quest, and for my troubles, I unlocked the Staff of the Sun, a rare staff that conferred some nifty bonuses for level 20 players. By this point, term started, and my other friend, who had been running the server, decided to level everyone to the cap so we could do a dungeon together. I never did explore more of the Horde regions. More recently, I was able to return to the Eversong Woods and Ghostlands on my private server. In my adventures, I ended up clearing all of the quests in the area over the course of a few hours, and returning brought back memories of that summer years earlier. This time around, owing to the fact it’s my server, I was able to finish everything off on short order, making use of a fully-levelled character to explore with impunity. It was a journey down memory lane to a much simpler time; this time around, I had a bit more time to check out areas that I’d originally missed. I found myself surprised that despite it being a ways over a decade since I last tread the Eversong Woods and Ghostlands, the locations of everything still came quite naturally to me. In no time at all, I’d wrapped up all of the quests in the Ghostlands and became exalted with Tranquillien. Having now revisited another one of my old World of Warcraft experiences, I set my sights on hitherto unexplored territory next: Northerend. My friend’s private server was updated to include the Wrath of the Lich King expansion back in the day, and it remained live for a few months before finally shutting down. I had been busy exploring the remainder of Azeroth at the time and never got around to visiting Northerend at the time, but with my own private server now, I think the time has come to rectify this.

World of Warcraft: Through the Dark Portal to Outland

If you closed your eyes, you won’t gaze into sadness.
If you forget the feeling of warmth, you won’t feel pain.

–Houko Kuwashima, Shinkai no Kodoku

My last World of Warcraft adventure saw me traverse the more scenic places on Azeroth, and with most of Azeroth now visited, I set my sights on the next world: Outland, the shattered remains of a planet known as Draenor. After travelling to the Blasted Lands, I spoke with Relthorn Netherwane for the Through the Dark Portal quest and sought out Commander Duron on the other end. Upon emerging from the portal, I gazed upon an alien sky, littered with planetary fragments, aglow with a nebulae and adorned with two moons. I thus set off for Honour Hold with the goal of picking up a flying mount; the distances in Outland are considerably larger than those of Azeroth owing to the fact that this area had been designed for flying mounts. With my flying mount purchased, I began exploring the desolate ruins that was Outland – this region was introduced with the Burning Crusade expansion in 2007, the first of the World of Warcraft Expansions. When I had passed through the Dark Portal for the first time, it had been a quiet September evening just a ways into my final year of secondary school. My friends had kitted my mage out at the level cap, allowing me to explore the private server to my heart’s content, and having tread through most of Azeroth, I was ready to check out the other region available in Burning Crusade. The sheer scale of the Hellfire Peninsula was awe-inspiring and a little intimidating – although I was fully levelled, the unusual sights and sounds made the area a sight to behold. The larger size of the area made travel a slow process, and although the group of us did do a dungeon here, the fact that it was our final year of secondary school meant that we were spending increasingly less time in World of Warcraft; much of Outland thus remained unexplored.

After passing the standardised provincial exams and securing our admissions to our program of choice, my friends decided re-open the private World of Warcraft server for the summer break before university was set to begin. During this time, I explored regions of Outland briefly, using a flying mount to reach areas much more quickly than had been previously possible. By the summer’s end, my friend decided to shut down the private server and set his sights on creating a private EVE Online server. I’d acquired a decent number of screenshots from my experiences and had most of the spots in Outland discovered. While I’d wished to have seen Outland in more detail, World of Warcraft faded from my mind. Earlier last summer, having recreated my own private server, the chance to explore Outland again had returned. This time around, I was able to check out Outland’s more iconic locations in Zangarmarsh, Nagrand, Terokkar Forest and Netherstore more carefully. It became apparent that beyond the desolation of the aptly-named Hellfire Peninsula, Netherstorm and Shadowmoon Valley, the remainder of Outland is still somewhat hospitable. Terokkar Forest retains dense vegetation, Zangarmarsh is still teeming with life, with its striking mushrooms towering above the ground, and Nagrand’s peaceful rolling grasslands belie the fact that Outland is the sundered remains of a planet. Being a region of great beauty, it became clear that Outland, designed to accommodate flying mounts and larger player counts, was meant to be the next stop for players seeking to reach the level cap. The vastness of the region was thus noticeable on a private server; without other players around, things feel distinctly lonely.

Screenshots and Commentary

  • The first time I set foot here at the Stair of Destiny, on the edge of Hellfire Peninsula, would’ve been back during my final year of secondary school. It was early in September, and after my friend had maxed out everyone in our party so we could explore dungeons, I decided to capitalise on my newfound powers to go exploring in Outland. Unlike the verdant forests and welcoming plains of the areas I spent most of my time in, Hellfire Peninsula was a very hostile and uninviting environment. The evening I had finally set foot through the Dark Portal, I remember heading straight for Honour Hold to discover the first flight path.

  • On the same evening, I had begun hunting for music from Gundam SEED and Gundam SEED Destiny – at the time, I’d just begun watching anime, and having found Rie Tanaka’s Token of Water, I had been curious to check out other songs from this series. I ended up finding Fields of Hope, Quiet Night (and the CE 73 remix), Emotion, Vestige and Meteor, as well as Shinkai no Kodoku. There had been a haunting quality about what I would later learn was Stellar’s character song. I’ve since associated the song with this part of World of Warcraft for little reason beyond having listened to it while exploring Hellfire Peninsula.

  • On my return visit last August, after I reached Honour Hold, I immediately picked up the artisan riding skill and a swift Gryphon mount to explore Outland more easily. Even with a flying mount, Outland is vast, and it took some time for me to discover all of the spots in the Hellfire Peninsula area. Hellfire Peninsula was designed for level sixty players looking to gear up for tougher challenges, and so, the monsters here will take more than one spell to defeat. Here, I stand on a field of Draenai bones – according to the lore, Draenor was once home of the orcs, and in their thirst for conquest, they slaughtered Draenai in droves.

  • When Burning Crusade first released, hordes of excited players passed through the Dark Portal as I did, spawning to Hellfire Peninsula and causing unexpected issues on the servers. Besides server loads, latency and connectivity problems, extremely high player counts meant that monsters were not respawning quickly enough for quests, creating frustration for the players that did manage to connect. A few days after launch, as players began moving into other areas in Outland, this issue resolved itself, but Blizzard would address this in Wrath of the Lich King by creating two different starting areas to manage player loads better.

  • Since I was already at the level cap, there was no real reason to take on too many quests in Outland, but for Hellfire Peninsula, I decided to go exploring in more detail than I had previously – after accepting a variety of quests from Honour Hold, I spent a few evenings blasting low level enemies and explored more of Hellfire Peninsula than I had during my original run more than a decade ago. Once I had most of Hellfire Peninsula discovered, I set World of Warcraft aside to focus more on The Division 2, and returned only recently to finish discovering regions in Outland. Of late, finding a balance between all of my games has been a bit of a challenge.

  • This is admittedly why I’ve not written this post sooner: my original goal had actually been to wrap up my exploration of Outland last September and write about the experience in October, before turning my attention towards recreating my Blood Elf warlock and exploring Northerend. A pair of anime to review episodically, in conjunction with The Division 2‘s manhunt seasons and Halo: MCC releases meant I was up to my eyeballs in stuff, and World of Warcraft thus fell to the back of my mind. Here, I set foot in Zangarmarsh – I’d never really explored this area in detail previously, having only passed through on the way to Nagrand and its peaceful glass fields.

  • Zangarmarsh is usually the second place that players visit after clearing Hellfire Peninsula, and is counted as one of the coolest-looking places in World of Warcraft. While I may have skipped over this area earlier, this time around, I had the time to take a look-see. The area is every bit as exotic as people describe: underneath the deep blue skies and wetlands, vast mushrooms whose cap exudes a light orange glow. The effect is very pleasant and pleasing to behold.

  • While I do have access to by own flying mount, I appreciate the existence of flight paths, which allow players without artisan or expert riding to get around easily; because of the greater distances between everything, flight times are longer, and correspondingly, it costs a bit more to fly. However, since Outland was geared for level sixty players to begin upgrading their gear, even common gear sells for a decent price, and in no time at all, players will begin finding the gear they seek. The uncommons in Outland were oftentimes more powerful than most rares, and offered similar attributes as epics, similarly to how Warlords of New York‘s common level 31 items were more powerful than gear score 515 items.

  • After checking out most of Zangarmarsh, I moved onwards to Nagrand, the only place in Outland with green grass and blue skies. Although the most normal-looking of the regions in Outland, even here, the effects of the Shattering are visible. The unusual-looking nebulae is still visible during the day, and floating islands dot the area. Of all the areas in Outland, Nagrand looked the emptiest, and initially, I wondered if my copy of the resource database was missing assets: it took me a full hour to try and find the flight master, and there didn’t seem to be any major settlements.

  • As it turns out, I simply hadn’t been looking hard enough, and sure enough, I was able to locate the flight master here in Nagrand near the town of Halaa. This area is the home of the original orcs, and lore states that the area most resembles Draenor pre-Shattering. This is one of the few places in Outland where the realm time affects the time of day in-game; during the afternoon, the skies are of a bright blue colour, while during evenings and mornings, the sky takes on a purple hue. Because my realm time is always my system time, I’ve never actually seen Azeroth or any World of Warcraft location by nightfall.

  • I’ve long wondered if sunrise and sunset times affect this; I should make an effort to test this out ahead of the Vernal Equinox, when the length of the night is still longer than that of the day. Of course, I could always change my system clock manually if I wish to explore Azeroth by nightfall, and this might be worthwhile as a future post. Back in the present, I pass through a seemingly empty village. I did end up finding some monsters to fight, and after exploring most of Nagrand, I decided to head on over to Terokkar Forest.

  • Terrokar Forest is a region of dense forest surrounding Shattrath City, a neutral sanctuary area similar to the Stair of Destiny. There are flight hubs, inns and vendors here for both Alliance and Horde factions alike. After locating the flight master, I set about exploring Terrokar forest: the crystal pines, as they are called in-game, emit a faint light from their cones that creates a mystical feel about the area, and unlike the harder-hit areas of Outland, Terrokar forest still feels very much alive.

  • I was surprised to find Human assets reused here in Terrokar forest: the town hall here is the same one used in human settlements on Azeroth. While seeing human town halls in Outland does feel a little out of place, it does make sense that if humans have made their home in some part of Outland, they’d bring their architecture with them. Asset recycling is not that uncommon of a practise in software development, saving on work time, and it’s a bonus that in games, lore can be adapted to work with development processes, as well.

  • After I uncovered most of the places in Terrokar Forest, the next location on my list was the Blade’s Edge Mountains. This intimidating-looking area is characterised by knife-like rock formations jutting out of the mountains, separating accessible areas. I’d never actually visited before, even during my old private server days, and so, upon entering the region from Zangarmarsh, I was quite surprised to see a forest by twilight: the map had suggested the entire thing would be a desert-like region.

  • This was not the case, and I spent some time exploring this side of the Blade’s Edge Mountains: on my way in from Zangarmarsh, I’d accepted a quest from one of the quest givers, which required I talk to someone at an outpost in the Blade’s Edge Mountains. Previously, when I played World of Warcraft, my preferred style of play was to only go visit a new area if I’d acquired a quest that required me to travel there. From an experience perspective, this makes the most sense, and I would eventually bring this style over with me into Skyrim. In games like The Division, on the other hand, natural progression and smaller maps would see me explore every corner of the game world.

  • After taking to the skies, I soon found that a large portion of the Blade’s Edge Mountains were indeed barren desert as I’d imagined. While the jagged, menacing-looking rocky formations appear as though they would impale anyone who fell off their mount, limitations in World of Warcraft‘s game engine means that falling onto these rocks do not result in any damage: instead, it is falling damage that would cause the most harm to a player. Here, I fly over an encampment near Bloodspire Hold en route to the Netherstorm.

  • After reaching Death’s Door, I saw an Alliance outpost here and dropped in to discover the flight path before moving on. For most players of the time, the Blade’s Edge Mountains would not have been fully accessible until they’d acquired artisan riding: there are some areas that have no land paths reaching them. In my case, this isn’t a problem, but I’ve read that particularly determined players can reach these areas by jumping off Outland’s edge, which, depending on where one dies, the game will register them as being near these inaccessible areas.

  • Netherstorm was the last region in Outland I was interested in checking out: it is a perilous region of swirling energy, barren rock and dark skies, but the area’s most distinct features are the vast eco-domes that were constructed here. These eco-domes resemble vast conservatories, and their interiors possess verdant vegetation and different animals. Players can simply walk through the barriers at any time, which are maintained by devices known as Manaforges. Here, a Manaforge can be seen drawing in Nether from the nearby regions and using it to maintain the domes.

  • I’ve opted not to explore Shadowmoon Valley, a miserable and desolate wasteland seething with greenish Fel energy. While important from a lore perspective, it wasn’t too photogenic. At the time of writing, I have more or less discovered most of the major areas in Outland; I enjoyed some areas more than others, but on the whole, this was a fun experience. For most players, Outland would’ve become familiar as they progressed from level 60 to 70, and eventually reached a point where they had a satisfactory setup for partying up and dealing with the different instances and raids that Outland had to offer.

  • For me, Burning Crusade brought the Blood Elves to the table; I had a great deal of fun levelling up a Blood Elf warlock back in the day, and in particular, remember a challenging quest that gave me a rare item while I’d been at level 20. While World of Warcraft: Starter Edition meant completing this quest wasn’t going to happen if I’d tried it on my own, having my own server means I’ll be able to really explore the lore in the Eversong Woods and Ghostlands. This is going to be my next World of Warcraft post: I can’t promise a specific date as to when I’ll get here, but I’ll definitely try to be more expedient about it than I had been with Outland. With this World of Warcraft reminiscence post in the books, regular programming will resume this week, as I write about the third episode of Yuru Camp△ 2 and do an after-three discussion for Non Non Biyori Nonstop.

With no time constraints this time around, I’ve now visited a majority of the places in Outland. From the floating islands in Nagrand and the town built into the mushrooms of Zangarmarsh, to the spiny formations of Blade’s Edge Mountains and the eco-domes of the Netherstorm, I found myself impressed at how much effort and detail went into World of Warcraft‘s first expansion. Each region in Outland was distinct and noteworthy in some way, and for players of the time, there would’ve been no shortage of things to do as one pushed towards level seventy. The setup World of Warcraft used for its expansions has since been used in other cases: The Division 2 follows the same model, allowing players who’ve purchased the expansion to experience new content, acquire superior gear and explore new areas. Having gone through Warlords of New York, I imagine Burning Crusade would’ve offered World of Warcraft players a similar path, in which exploration would allow them to become increasingly powerful and learned with the new lore that Burning Crusade introduced. Burning Crusade also introduced the Blood Elves, as well as their starting areas (Eversong Woods and Ghostlands): before I set foot on Northerend, I do wish to revisit what is probably one of my favourite starting areas in World of Warcraft and reacquaint myself with playing the warlock class, which specialises in affliction and DPS magic. There is a story behind me spinning up a second character on the private server, and I’ll share that in between the host of anime-related posts I’ve got planned out, once I’ve had a chance to get my warlock started.

World of Warcraft: Exploring the Seasons of Azeroth

“To every thing there is a season, and a time to every purpose under the heaven.” —Ecclesiastes

It’s been a while since I last wrote about World of Warcraft, but to put things in perspective, the two and a half months between this post and my last, on Blackrock Depths and the Molten Core, pales in comparison to the fact that my original World of Warcraft post on my old site dates back nearly ten years. After I finished exploring what was counted to be World of Warcraft‘s most iconic endgame mission with a properly kitted-up mage, I decided to spin up a paladin for variety’s sake and go exploring – originally, when I had been on a friend’s private server years previously, I was more focused on doing level-appropriate quests and partying up with friends where they were available. Because this private server had only a slightly accelerated experience rate and standard drop rates, I spent most of my time in the lower level areas of the game, trying to ensure that I was sufficiently levelled to join friends on different events without requiring being resurrected every other engagement with enemies. As a result, many parts of Azeroth were completely unknown to me: I’d spent almost all of my time in the Eastern Kingdoms and hardly ever set foot on Kalimdor, the western continent. This changed when I accepted a quest from Collin Mauren, Retrieval for Mauren – said quest entailed bringing a total of eight Crystalised Scales to him in Stormwind. The quest gave a Spellcrafter Wand, which would’ve been a decent prize at my level, and so, I accepted. This quest saw me travel south, flying over Stranglethorn Vale to Booty Bay: because my friends had once summoned me here for an earlier meet up, I already had the flight path discovered, so I was able to simply pass over the areas I was not the appropriate level to deal with. I subsequently boarded the boat and landed in the Barrens. Eluding Horde guards and patrols, I reached the Stonetalon Mountains and made my way to the Charred Vale to begin collecting the Crystalised Scales.

Later that evening, I’d been requested to help out with an event: one of the local charities was hosting a focus group on trying to understand what the community thought of philanthropy, and since the original attendee was not able to make it, I was asked to go in their stead. The meeting was held in a building just south of the downtown core, and as the light of day turned a deep golden hue as sun set, I answered questions about what it meant to be a philanthropist. While it is commonly accepted that a philanthropist is someone of independent financial means who can donate generously to causes, such as medical research and charities, all of the participants agreed that the desire to help others in need, and contributions at all levels were meaningful. This was the aim of the focus group, and after the meeting ended, I returned home. With the last rays of light still present, I finished the quest, returned to Mauren and got my Spellcrafter Wand, which would serve me for a few levels. While exploring the Stonetalon Mountains, I was charmed with the visual design and aesthetic – the area consists of evergreen forests and steep cliffs, quite unlike the gentle plains of Elwynn Forest or the peaks of Dun Morogh. However, despite my intrigue, I never bothered returning to the Stonetalon Mountains until the private server’s final days – as we were nearing the start of a university term, my friend was looking to shut down the private server owing to the effort it took to run one, but consenting to let me explore being a GM for the final week before our first term began. Armed with the ability to create a level 80 character out of the gates, I summarily prepared a character and took advantage of my permissions to explore Azeroth more freely: during that week, I saw more of Azeroth than I had during the whole of my time on the private server. I collected the screenshots and transitioned smoothly into university subsequently, with thoughts of World of Warcraft fading from my mind as I began focusing on my coursework.

Screenshots and Commentary

  • All of the screenshots in this post date back to September, and I admit that this post was originally intended to be written then. However, I became enthralled by YU-NO, and so, ended up putting off this post. Further to this, after The Division 2‘s manhunt events began, I stopped playing World of Warcraft in order to complete the various objectives and unlock gear for my character. Over the past three months, I’ve made considerable strides in The Division 2, and I’ll be talking about that as soon as the current event is over.

  • Even though Wrath of the Lich King is twelve years old now, the game doesn’t look half bad at 1080p: when I first started playing World of Warcraft, I was rocking a Dell XPS 420 and gamed at a resolution of 1024 by 768 to maximise frame rates. The additional screen space now really helps me to appreciate the details that I missed then, and the Stonetalon Mountains have a very distinct, unique feel to them because of the combination of its narrow red cliffs, blue skies, evergreen trees and Tauren totems that give the area a very exotic feel.

  • Because I did the philanthropy focus group the same evening I reached the Stonetalon Mountains, the two are inexplicably related in my mind: every time I pass by the building south of the downtown core where the focus group happened, I am reminded of the Stonetalon Mountains. Back in high school, course work was very straightforwards and I often finished most of my assignments in class – this left a good hour every evening for taking it easy. While I would spend this time doing revision prior to exams, where there were no exams, I could afford to spend time in World of Warcraft.

  • During my original run, I spent about three-quarters of an hour in the Stonetalon Mountains: I had been just powerful enough to hold my own in the Charred Vale, and before the focus group, I had half of the required items already collected. That evening, I finished collecting everything, used my hearthstone to return to Stormwind, and that was the last I would visit the Stonetalon Mountains. Subsequently, I returned after being made a GM in the weeks before the private server closed for good, and I believe I still have a few screenshots on my old site of my paladin before the server shut down.

  • For this post, then, I’ve opted to showcase a paladin I reconstructed to approximate the sort of build I would’ve had back then: paladins are a hybrid melee/healer class that fulfils the role between that of a warrior and priest. Capable of absorbing damage and wielding healing magic, as well as dealing raw damage, a paladin is useful in situations where a party requires a player that can fit into several roles depending on the requirements for that day’s activity. As a solo player, however, the mechanics of a paladin are not as apparent, and I picked the class primarily because of the ability to equip all sorts of armour and weapons, which makes for more interesting screenshots all around.

  • Accepting random quests as a mage had sent me to Azshara, a beautiful region in the northeastern corner of Kalimdor, where it is possible to see evergreen trees with autumn foliage. Reds and oranges dominate the landscape, but despite the splendid scenery, there’s also plenty of hostiles, as well. As a paladin, most of the common enemies in the game have insofar done negligible damage, and I’ve experimented with a wide range of one-handed swords and shields to see what works for me. Because I have access to the GM console, I spent a few evenings looking up items at Wowhead and applying them to my character; this is something I’ve not done for over a decade.

  • In the end, my characters each have two main setups: one for handing dungeons, and a more casual load-out for exploration, designed with aesthetics in mind rather than combat efficiency. I will address the fact that I am running World of Warcraft‘s infamous bikini armours: for anyone coming in from my The Division posts, such a setup would be unrealistic and unimaginable in a setting where bullets are flying, but in World of Warcraft, I don’t mind admitting that the results aren’t half bad.

  • While I might have abused my GM powers to kit myself out however I’d like, I’ve opted to play World of Warcraft in a more conventional manner, completing quests myself and exploring areas the way they were meant to be explored. The use of GM powers is really to offset the fact that I am solo, and that owing to the way I’ve configured things, my server is a true private server, for me to explore at my own pace. In many ways, the solo World of Warcraft experience is not too dissimilar to Skyrim. I picked up Skyrim a few years ago and got a considerable bit of enjoyment out of it, although I’ve never actually completed the main campaign.

  • Of late, while I work, I’ve been listening to a lot of Skyrim remixes on YouTube – background music helps me to focus in general, and I cycle between relaxing piano, bossa nova café and video game ambience depending on what I’m working on and the time of day. When Skyrim joined my rotation, it suddenly hit me that the time is ripe for me to return to Skyrim, remove all the mods and play the game as it was meant to be played, such that I can finish the campaign and say that I did. When I think about it, I bought Skyrim in 2013, and still have yet to finish it: this means that I’ve been procrastinating for nearly seven years.

  • Considering the state of current games, and my general disinterest in multiplayer games, especially since the focus has shifted towards battle royale, and how the player-base is increasingly young, I do not believe that I will have a good time in multiplayer games as I once did, on account of both slowing reflexes and a lack of inclination to listen to children spam memes in every lobby I participate in. Conversely, single-player experiences have been significantly more fun for me, and while I admit that I’ve done some pretty fun things in multiplayer games (like Halo 2, where I got a killimanjaro and wiped servers on my own, decimated entire enemy teams using the Ilya-Muromets in Battlefield 1, or went on a 30+ streak in Battlefield V using a tank), single player games are consistently more relaxing and enjoyable.

  • Without any other players to impact my experience, a private World of Warcraft server lets me to explore Azeroth to my heart’s content: we recall that my original desire to spin up a private server stemmed from a sweaty level 20 party kicking me because my DPS wasn’t high enough. The joke’s on them now: I can trivially solo Shadowfang Keep now, and no one’s kicking me from my own server. Here, I explore Hillsbrad Foothills. I originally visited briefly as a Blood Elf warlock to acquire a few screenshots for my old website, but otherwise, never really explored the area to any detail.

  • At some point in the future, I will be showing off Silvermoon Isle and the Ghostlands: while The Burning Crusade is not one of the most fondly-remembered expansions, the Blood Elves were a great addition to the game, and their obsession with mana makes for an excellent warlock. That will be a story for another time, and here, I wander Hillsbrad Foothills with impunity: like Azshara, Hillsbrad Foothills is a forested region, and is an immensely peaceful setting, with quiet grasslands and tranquil streams. Breaking up the landscape are the occasional evergreen tree in autumn colours. In reality, such a sight would suggest a pine beetle infestation, but in World of Warcraft, a place with magic, we can suppose that their evergreen trees are not like our evergreen trees.

  • According to the World of Warcraft lore, despite its peaceful setting, the area around Hillsbrad Foothills is actually has a checkered past, being the battleground for many a bitter battle between Alliance and Horde. In-game, Horde and Alliance players alike visit the Hillsbrad Foothills owing to its location between Horde and Alliance territory. PvP is common, and this is one of those things that my private private server won’t be able to emulate. I’ve never actually done any PvP in World of Warcraft before, even with my friends: we’d been entirely focused on PvE activities, which my friend found to be rather more meaningful for the community spirit: I think the original reasoning for hosting the server was to foster a sense of community as a part of the IB CAS module.

  • I was never an IB student myself – a lot of folks took the programme because they sought admissions to other universities, but since I had no such ambition at the undergraduate level (and IB wasn’t a requirement for the Bachelor of Health Science programme), I decided for the standard stream. In retrospect, I might’ve been better prepared for some of the challenges that I faced early in my undergraduate degree were I to have an IB background, but the trade-off for this was that I made some unique and enjoyable memories by spending my off time doing other activities, which included yearbook, leading the preparations for graduation and of course, playing World of Warcraft and watching Gundam 00 without being overwhelmed by course work and excessive extracurricular activities.

  • When university started, the first term was a bit of an adjustment, as I needed to acclimatise to the different way courses and schedules were structured. By the second term, I was much more at home with the way things worked. One thing I did notice was that a lot of my fellow students oftentimes did not pay attention in class, and some would even game during class. A few students in my introductory computer science lecture, for instance, were always found in World of Warcraft while the professor spoke of iterations, recursion, object-oriented concepts and the like. Conversely, in my health science classes, all of my classmates (and friends) gave the lecturer their undivided attention.

  • High on my list of places to return to were the Hinterlands: after discovering all of the smaller areas in the Hillsbrad Foothills, I followed a footpath into the Hinterlands and returned to a site I’d not set foot in for over ten years. The Hinterlands are every bit as peaceful and scenic as I remember: while being level-appropriate would have meant the local fauna would have a go at me, the fact that I’m at the level cap means I can explore with impunity.

  • The Hinterlands was a level 40-45 zone in Wrath of the Lich King, and if memory serves, the furthest I ever got was level 36: in order to have a server-wide event with all of us, my friend ended up levelling all of us to the cap and provided us with raid gear sets so we could explore parts of Azeroth together without worrying about being wiped. As such, during my original run, I never did have a chance to explore the Hinterlands, a pristine evergreen forest dotted with lakes and ancient temple ruins. I believe today, with level scaling, level 30 players can begin visiting the region.

  • To reproduce an image I had from back in the day, I found a Primitive Owlbeast to fight. Here, I’m wielding Glorenzelg, High-Blade of the Silver Hand, an epic sword that ordinarily drops from the Lich King himself. It’s a ways more powerful than any of the other swords I’ve looked at, and on top of that, looks like a proper epic, end-game weapon. Each swing deals up to 3000 damage, and the sword has some solid attributes, as well. All of the lore surrounding Arthas and the Lich King is a constant reminder that I’ve still got more to explore in World of Warcraft.

  • With The Division 2‘s third manhunt season drawing to a close, I imagine that I’ll have most of December free – if the previous seasons were any indicator, I should have three weeks between the end of the third season and the beginning of the fourth, so that should give me time enough to explore Outland and write a post for that, as well as begin begin checking out Northrend, which I’d never set foot on during my private server days. In addition, I’ve been thinking about doing a post for GoldenEye 64 for a while, and since my love of first-person shooters comes from the first-ever Bond game for the Nintendo 64, it feels appropriate to look at what is probably one of the most iconic first-person shooters of all time.

  • Here, I wield the Ashbringer, a legendary sword that was only available to GMs until Legion, after which it became an artefact players could wield. While vastly eclipsed in power by the other weapons, the Ashbringer’s reputation would’ve been a source of intense speculation and discussion amongst players for over twelve years. It feels a little unscrupulous, then, to be able to trivially spawn and equip what is one of the the most illustrious items in World of Warcraft lore, but when I consider the fact that a lot of parties out there arbitrarily kick players for dealing ten percent less damage than they should at that level, the guilt evaporates immediately.

At present, the fact that I have my own private server means I am free to explore some of Azeroth’s more remote, and tranquil places. With no time limit on how long the server will be hosted for, I can explore at my own pace. I had actually travelled to the Stonetalon Mountains with World of Warcraft‘s Starter Edition, but post-Cataclysm, the site had changed beyond recognition. My private server runs Wrath of the Lich King, and as such, I was able to visit the region, precisely as I had remembered it a decade earlier. Beyond treading familiar grounds, I also travelled through much of Kalimdor, discovering a beautiful region called Azshara, where it is eternally autumn. I also returned to Hillsbrad Foothills and Hinterlands, the latter of which is a remote area that remained largely unexplored when my friends and I were partying together on the private server. The Stonetalon Mountains, Azshara, Hillsbrad Foothills and Hinterlands only represent a small selection of places in Azeroth that one can explore en route to reaching the level cap, and looking back, the sheer scope and scale of World of Warcraft is nothing short of impressive: even though my private server means not having the social interactions through partying, trading and raiding as the complete game does, just wandering the different regions of Azeroth was a reminder of the effort and attention paid to detail in World of Warcraft‘s development. Even today, World of Warcraft‘s scale remains an achievement, and as such, it is easy to see why despite the game’s age, Blizzard has opted to continue developing new expansions with expanded lore, gear and exploration for their players – World of Warcraft has aged very gracefully, and even on a single-player private server that is six expansions and twelve years behind the times, I’m still finding new and noteworthy things to do and explore.

World of Warcraft: Clearing Blackrock Depths and an Incursion into the Molten Core

“I’m glad it’s finally hot enough to complain about how hot it is.” —Unknown

On the hottest weekend of the year about a month ago, I had the idea of going into Blackrock Depths to see what soloing a dungeon would be like in World of Warcraft. During the time I spent on my friend’s private server, we’d only ever done one dungeon together with everyone on the server as a consequence of our schedules; when final exams rolled around, I typically became unavailable to party up with my friends, and by the time summer arrived, it was tricky to coordinate a group event, what with everyone travelling and otherwise capitalising on the beautiful weather that accompanies summertime. By the time term started again, my friend ended up deciding to get everyone together for a dungeon in the Eastern Plaguelands’ Stratholme, where we smashed our way through for fun. This was an experience to remember, although I don’t have any screenshots of our run through Stratholme. Subsequently, most of my time in World of Warcraft was with my rogue friend, although grouping together for epic dungeon runs no longer happened. Since starting my own server, I’ve been able to now venture into places that I’d never explored previously. After refamiliarising myself with the mage I’ve built, I decided to attempt several of World of Warcraft‘s most quintessential dungeons on my own, and Blackrock Depths was high on my list of places to explore. Located at the heart of the Burning Steppes and Searing Gorge, it is an intimidating underground realm ruled by the Dark Iron dwarves that is one of then largest dungeons of World of Warcraft. A party of five is estimated to take anywhere from four to six hours to complete the entire dungeon on account of how many nooks and crannies there are, and in classic World of Warcraft, this was the dungeon to hit: it was a veritable experience that defined what the endgame of an RPG should be. As expansions came out for World of Warcraft, players would eventually become powerful enough to solo Blackrock Depths on their own without trouble, although serious players would find it to be inefficient to farm gear from here at higher levels.

It was on an August Sunday afternoon that I decided to enter Blackrock Depths for myself, just to see what it the solo dungeon experience was about. After arriving at Blackrock Mountain and travelling down a secret set of stairs into a subterranean mine below, I crossed into the dungeon instance. The dungeon is massive, and although I had no trouble decimating everything that moved, the fact was the area was labyrinthine, making it very easy to get lost. I eventually would push on away from the starting area into the Dark Iron dwarves’ city, slaughtering my way through the dungeon. There are a few doors that must be opened to allow for progression, and tracking down the necessary keys and puzzles was also a bit of a time-consuming endeavour. About two hours after I started, I reached the end of the dungeon and destroyed the dungeon’s final boss, Emperor Dagran Thaurissan. Even though I had been powerful enough to trivially mop the floor with the dungeon’s mobs, the sheer size of the place made it a lengthy process to go through. I subsequently stopped for coffee, and then proceeded to complete the attunement quest for the Molten Core. The Molten Core raid proved to be of a level that I was simply unequipped to deal with: even standard mobs had more than a hundred thousand points of health (and I can only hit for about ten thousand points of damage with my most powerful direct-damage spells), and the bosses themselves were ludicrously powerful, making each fight an arduous process. As the evening set in, and I grew exhausted from the raid, I ended up reaching Ragnaros’ chamber, but realised that there were a few things I still needed to do before it was possible to summon him. The combination of 28°C temperatures and six hours of almost-nonstop World of Warcraft (it was punctuated with periodic breaks) rendered me quite exhausted, and I decided to call it a night. Having now gone through Blackrock Depths and reached the Molten Core, I feel that I’ve gotten a good measure of why raiding can take groups entire afternoons and evenings to complete.

Screenshots and Commentary

  • I’d passed over Blackrock Mountain numerous times: the flight path between Stormwind and Ironforge travels over both the Blasted Lands and Searing Gorge, two volcanic regions dominated by lava and smoke. At level thirty, I had no chance of safely exploring these areas, which have a minimum requirement of level forty. It thus felt a little intimidating to visit these regions for myself, despite knowing that I had been more than geared for this journey.

  • Just for the purpose of running Blackrock Depths, I equipped myself with the Tempest Regalia, a tier-six raid set that would’ve stood as one of the best mage sets available in Burning Crusade. By the time of Wrath of the Lich King, higher-tier sets supersede the Tempest Regalia, although its appearance remains quite compelling, and I’m rather fond of the headpiece that it comes with: close inspection of this will find that a magical discharge rises between the prongs, forming a sort of Jacob’s Ladder.

  • I started Blackrock Depths with my fire spells, but realised that most of the enemies down here had enough fire resistance to slow down the pace that I could move through the dungeon. I subsequently switched back over to the frost spells I had on hand, using a combination of Frostbolt and Ice Lance to blast enemies. While the most mundane of a mage’s arsenal, frost spells are great for slowing foes down, and I’m especially fond of Ice Lance, as it allows me to cast while moving.

  • Blizzard is perhaps the most powerful spell I have in my repertoire for dealing consistently high amounts of AoE damage: anything caught in the impacted area quickly falls, and it was against the inhabitants of Blackrock Depths that I was able to appreciate how powerful Blizzard really is. Entire groups of enemies would be felled in a matter of seconds, and I found myself moving much more swiftly through the area; the tunnels were quite tricky to navigate, so even though enemies were dealt with more quickly, there was still the matter of finding my way around.

  • The downside about Blizzard is that, compared to the other spells available, it is much more mana intensive. Fortunately, with a high spirit value, mana regenerates relatively quickly for me, and as long as I’m not casting Blizzard faster than my mana can be restored, I will always have access to my spells for damage-dealing. In the worst case, I do have a wand equipped, which allows me to continue being effective in the (unlikely) event that my mana is completely depleted and I have no regenerative potions on hand.

  • Blizzard must have altered the properties of the Water Elemental: when I played through World of Warcraft‘s Starter Edition, my Water Elemental stuck around until I dismissed it. Here in Wrath of the Lich King, however, Water Elementals will only be active for a minute, during which they can act as a source of extra damage and can draw attention off oneself briefly. In the Blackrock Depths, I found that two to three spells were oftentimes more than enough to handle whatever I had been facing.

  • On an ordinary run, players would come here with a group of five: two damage-dealers, two tanks and one healer. The tanks typically will draw focus onto themselves and absorb damage while damage-dealers focus on handling the enemies. Healers will then keep the tanks topped off, occasionally replenishing the damage-dealer’s mana or otherwise resurrecting anyone who sustained too much damage. Here, I will remark that one of my decisions to spin up my own server was that, during my time in the Starter Edition, I used the dungeon finder to do a dungeon that was supposed to help me get a rare quest item.

  • However, for one reason or another, I got kicked from the group shortly after joining for no reason. It became clear that power-tripping is still very much a thing, and much as how some people would kick others from their party in The Division for having too low a gear score. Arbitrary kicks absolutely degrade the experience, and to the party leader of that day, if they are reading this, they ought to know that they did contribute to me spinning up my own server, so that I could explore in peace without individuals like that mucking things up. After reaching a tomb, I interacted with several ghosts that would turn hostile. Again, I imagine they would’ve put up an impressive fight for level-appropriate characters, but I ended up mopping them.

  • Pushing through into the final areas of the dungeon, I reach the Lyceum, which is a vast hallway with stone pillars resembling that of J.R.R. Tolkien’s Dwarrowdelf. Since I’ve not played Lord of The Rings: Online, this is probably the closest I’ll get to seeing the vast stone halls that the Fellowship passed through on their way to the other side of the Misty Mountains. The way on is blocked by a doorway that must be opened by lighting two torches, and the entire time, I was wondering if I would run into the equivalent of a Balrog while here.

  • In an ironic twist, the temperatures today are supposed to be just as hot as they were when I ran Blackrock Depths. However, the morning is still quite cool, and the hot weather isn’t to last; as we enter the long weekend, the forecast calls for cool, rainy weather that won’t be quite conducive for spending time outdoors. Instead, it might be time to curl up with a good book, Survivorman‘s Director’s Commentary and a cup of Okanagan Lavender tea with honey, which has been my go-to drink for cooler days.

  • Because it had been such a hot day when I chose to take on Blackrock Depths, the heat of the underground and its volcanic fires felt even more visceral: squaring off against Magmus here really felt like fighting the Balrog Durin’s Bane, although with the power difference between myself and Magmus, I swiftly defeated him and pushed forwards into the last sections of Blackrock Depths. Durin’s Bane, on the other hand, is on a completely different power level: it took Gandalf fighting it at full power to bring it down, and even then, Gandalf himself died in the process.

  • Two dwarves act as the final boss of Blackrock Depths: I’ve read that if I spare the princess, it will be possible to unlock a quest, but since I was new to Blackrock Depths, I instead ended up melting both bosses. For level-appropriate players, the gear dropped in Blackrock Depths will be of a decent quality; a handful of items will be usable, and otherwise, can still net one a decent amount of coin once sold. For me, however, I have access to the game’s items through GM commands and so, the looting aspects of World of Warcraft really becomes secondary to exploration.

  • Having said this, I do get the full experience in something like The Division, so for World of Warcraft, I am completely content to simply venture into the different places of Azeroth. Altogether, it took me about two hours to clear Blackrock Depths on my own, including exploration and backtracking time. With this dungeon in the books, I had one remaining objective: entering Blackrock Depths, I accepted a quest to attune myself for the Molten Core raid, and so after completing it, I became curious to see what the Molten Core was like.

  • Back in Wrath of the Lich King and earlier, the Molten Core required that one be a part of a party to even enter – the raid required five parties’ worth of players to be viable, as even the standard enemies were ludicrously powerful. When I tried entering the Molten Core, an error message popped up, and I ended up changing some server configurations so I could get in. It soon became clear as to why solo players were barred from entering.

  • When I targeted the nearest enemy, I was surprised to learn they had the same amount of health as the bosses I faced earlier: the standard Molten Giants had a hundred and twenty thousand points of health, while the Firelords were rocking about ninety thousand health. What’s more, they dealt enough damage to take me down to half health within the space of seconds. The raid had clearly been designed for 25-player groups, whose members had clearly assigned roles to pull and engage the enemies one at a time to avoid getting overwhelmed.

  • As such, given the vast disparity in health and damage, it became apparent to me that soloing Molten Core as it was in Wrath of the Lich King, without a considerable boost to my survivability and damage model, was simply not viable. Further to this, because I’d not completed a long and complex quest chain to allow for Ragnaros to be summoned, I wasn’t quite ready to experience the raid as it was meant to be played.

  • However, I still wanted to try my hand to see how effective I was against some of the weaker bosses in the raid. To even things out I little, I enabled some of my GM powers to mimic being in group, but even then, each fight was an incredibly long experience as I unloaded onto the bosses with everything I had: while I am capable of dealing a decent amount of damage, and the bosses themselves fortunately do not have any healers, their vast health pool and resistances still made each fight a lengthy one.

  • In anything past Cataclysm, the increased level cap and attendant power scaling means that players are able to trivially solo Molten Core. In addition, bosses in later expansions appear to have been scaled down for solo players: for instance, Ragnaros had north of a million health in World of Warcraft, but only possesses around three hundred thousand health if soloed in a newer expansion: later dungeons do appear to scale enemy strength to match the number of players in a party.

  • Soloing in any given game offers a different set of challenges: being flanked and surrounded is probably the trickiest thing to deal with. In a party, multiple players have the advantage of covering different areas, and games typically compensate by sending in more enemies or tougher enemies. Having soloed more or less the whole of The Division and The Division 2, I’ve found that there is an incredible journey to be had in playing that game solo – it really accentuates the impact a single agent and their skills can have in The Division.

  • By the time I decided to call it quits, it had been some six hours since I started. Fortunately, since this was my server, I did take breaks in between to stop for afternoon tea and dinner, as well as stepping outside to water the flowers. Even with quarter-hour breaks spaced in between hour-long sessions, however, it was still quite exhausting, and I looked forwards to getting some proper rest. In retrospect, the Molten Core and Blackrock Depths was remarkably entertaining. Since I’m currently working on the Hornet manhunt in The Division 2, I hope to try and wrap that up before the season ends, and then I’ll return to World of Warcraft.

Having finished one of the more iconic World of Warcraft experiences, I found it to be quite thrilling even though it had been only me soloing the content: because the Blackrock Depths had been the endgame content for the classic World of Warcraft, the maps and enemies were well-designed, clearly intended to provide players with a proper challenge once they’d hit level sixty. Even though World of Warcraft is nearly sixteen years old, the quality of Blackrock Depths remains evident, and I certainly had fun exploring what would’ve been the most advanced and sophisticated dungeon of World of Warcraft as it had appeared to players back then. With Blackrock Depths in the books, I’ve found that for five-man dungeons, my mage should be adequately equipped to handle almost everything in World of Warcraft without too much difficulty, although with the mechanics in Wrath of the Lich King, it appears that soloing 25-man raids is not going to be a particularly easy task in the absence of my GM powers. As such, I imagine that with my mage, I should be reasonably well-prepared to continue exploring Outland and Northrend, which were areas that, owing to time constraints back in the day, I never fully explored. With these constraints absent, there still remains quite a bit to do in World of Warcraft, and I think that after I visit some of Azeroth’s more picturesque places, it’ll be time to cover Outland.