Sunday, August 29, 2010

Loremaster: Why you should waste your time

Loremaster. It seems like a lot of work, and it is. Why would anyone want to do this achievement? For a silly title and tabard? For the achievement points? For "e-peen"? What a waste of time.

This seems to be the attitude of many people I have encountered since I made the decision to spend a large portion of the remaining time before Cataclysm working toward completing this achievement. My boyfriend has been the most vocal and persistent in his opinion of how I have chosen to spend this time. To him questing is silly and time consuming. This is his attitude when he's "benefiting" from the quests by receiving XP and the concept of questing for fun is completely foreign to him. He feels the remaining time would be much better spent gathering gear, leveling alts and generally "preparing" for Cataclysm. For him the LFG tool and Battlegrounds XP has been a godsend because he no longer has to do those "silly quests" to level and obtain gear upgrades.

But then, he also doesn't care for the story. The lore behind the raid. The reason the characters do what they do.

I feel that I am preparing for Cataclysm, in my own way. I feel that I will better appreciate the changes to the zones if I've visited them recently, and if you are like me you haven't seen some of the zones in years. And some of the quests I skipped way back in Classic are truly nothing short of epic. While I completely agree with Blizzards decision to revamp a lot of the old zones and quest chains (and as much as some quests are epic, other lines are truly awful. If I have to locate one more conspicuously absent animal bodypart...) a lot of the old content is still worth doing. An example would be our friend Tirion Fordring.

Anyone who has been to Icecrown Citadel knows Tirion for his speech at the beginning of the raiding instance. "This is our final stand. What happens here will echo through the ages..."This really is his final stand (latest is actually more accurate); he has made others through out Azeroth and the Outlands.

It starts in the corner of Western Plaguelands. I suppose the location may qualify as being in Eastern Plaguelands... Tirion is located in a small corner of the world between Eastern and Western Plaguelands with his Hammer and his Horse. He starts out by asking you to help him clear his homestead and the surrounding area of various plague-beasts as well as provide him with a free lunch.

After you have completed the first three quests Tirion offers, he rewards you by letting you "put your feet up" and listen to his story. And it is a sad one. He tells you of his exile and his decision to live out in the back end of no where (and it really is) to watch over his young son, Taelan, while Tirion himself lives his new life as an exile. Unfortunately he has no way of influencing events and his son turns to the Scarlet Crusade in the absence of his father. Tirion then sends you on a chain of quests to make his son remember his roots and hopefully abandon the Scarlet Crusade and turn back to the Light. I won't ruin it for you, but trust me, this quest chain is a must.

Tirion also makes a brief appearance in the Outland... sort of. He actually is found in Old Hillsbrad, the first Caverns of Time instance. He stands with several others in Southshore in discussing Ashbringer. While this isn't really part of Loremaster, it's still a fun visit for any lore-hounds out there.

In Wrath of the Lich King Tirion returns with a bang... or maybe a flash. Deathknights encounter him "first" (in a lore progression sense) with his support of our new cohorts against Arthas. He even manages to cleans the Corrupted Ashbringer, and item with an epic story arc of its own. He's also the "Supreme Commander of the Argent Crusade" a faction that is new to Wrath; a combination of the Silver Hand and the Argent Dawn.

Finally, and massive spoiler alert here for anyone who would like to see the results of the final battle with the Lich King, Tirion was nearly the Lich King. And when I say nearly I'm talking holding the Lich King's helmet in his hand speaking of him being the only one... though we of course know that Bolivar Foredragon wears the dread crown in the end. Who knew the fellow I helped by clearing out those pesky bats would be so important.

Wait, Bolivar Foredragon? Who is THAT?

And that question, and others like it, is why I am loving Loremaster. (ha, didn't think I'd get back to it did you?) Could I have done Icecrown Citidel without knowing who these characters are , what they've experienced and what they stood for? Sure, and many, many players do. And there's nothing at all wrong with that. But this moment, this interaction between some of the most influential characters in the game is just so much more... meaningful when you know how they got there. And more to the point when you, YOU, helped them get to where they are.

And if you don't know who Bolivar Foredragon is, look him up. Sadly the quest chain that made me love this character was once the attunment for the old Onyxia Raid if you played as Alliance back before they revamped her. You still can help him out in the Wrathgate quest chain however, and if you haven't done this chain yet, do it, you won't regret it.

If you're not interested in the Loremaster achievement but are still interested in participating in some of the more important happenings in the World of Warcraft here are some of my favorite moments:

Tirion - Tirion's quest chain starts with the three quests [56] Blood Tinged Skies, [56] Carrion Grubbage and, [56] Demon Dogs

Saving Sharpbeak - A longish quest chain with a heart wrenching ending! (Less of a lore hotspot and more of mass amounts of cuteadorablness.)

Netherwing Rep - I know this is a rep grind, but I feel this is a must-complete for any lore-hounds out there. When you're finished you not only get access to some cool mounts, but you also get to single handedly ruin some very long term plans...

Wrathgate - Do this. No, don't argue. Just do it.

Thursday, August 26, 2010

The State of Hunter AoE in Cataclysm

I, sadly, I do not have a beta invitation for Cataclysm, but there's so much information out there about the beta that I feel almost as if I've been there myself. I am reserving my final opinion of the hunter class until after release (and after so many years as a hunter I doubt they could "ruin" the class for me). I'm the type of person to roll with the punches and Blizzard has yet to make a change to the hunter class that has truly upset me. Removing Volley, however, is an... interesting decision.

I'm not sure why I feel so attached to Volley. I'm not usually the type of hunter that gets all sentimental-like over skills and specs. I've always followed the "best" rotation and spec at the time. Judging from the forumsplosion I'm not the only one that appears to have been sentimentally attached to this skill.

It's really been a bit of a neglected skill. They even tried to spiff it up a little with a new effect... that was not well received by the hunter community. They've made endless changes to the damage and behavior of the skill, but it seems Blizzard is still not satisfied, and as Ghostcrawler notes "We’ve been trying to consolidate abilities and free up some bar space and having multiple AEs that competed with each other seems like a good area to hit up." Meaning we already have Multi-shot and they feel they can fix this up to behave more like an AoE, filling the role.

For me, the competition bit is very true. I do use Multi-shot on occasion, but it's not in my rotation (I use Aimed shot instead) and it's not my go-to shot for AoE. It's more of an "I use it on occasion because it's there and I feel that I should" and this is not a good reason to use a skill.

The idea of having fewer skills on my bars is very appealing. Having only really played a Hunter, Shaman and Druid at 80 I don't exactly have the complete experience, but I do feel that my hunter has far more skills that I want on my bars "just in case" than the other classes I've played, especially since Shaman now have that handy totem bar. Hunters do and should have a lot of utility skills, but I agree with Ghostcrawler, some can be consolidated.

I think the only real thing Volley has going for it over Multi-shot is that it is really the only shot we use on a regular basis that has a different mode of execution. Multi-shot is just another press-it-and-go kind of shot, where as Volley is of the select and area variety. This may be part of why some hunters feel so attached to the shot.

AoE is King

In Wrath, 5-man trash pulls became AoE-fests and hunters found Volley to suddenly be a useful spell on a regular basis. Instances in the Burning Crusade were not usually like this. There were AoE pulls, but for the most part Crowd Control was what a group needed. Volley was something used sparingly and didn't do great damage. This changed in Wrath. Now, Volley is comparable to most other forms of AoE and we can really hold our own. This may be another reason some hunters are attached to this skill, up until now it has been a source of quite a bit of our non-boss damage.

This appears to be changing with Cataclysm. Blizzard appears to prefer the more controlled CC pulls, rather than the current omgkilleverythingdie approach currently in use. Again, I haven't played Cataclysm in any way, but I speculate that this will actually mean fewer, if longer, trash pulls.

The Replacement

Don't worry, Blizzard is not planning on leaving us high and dry. They have already changed Multi-Shot on the beta server to no longer have a target cap, meaning it behaves more like Fan of Knives. I'm intereesting in seeing where this is going, as I understand Fan of Knives to cause damage in an area around the caster, which doesn't make a lot of sense when the source of the AoE is a bow or gun. I'd guess it's going to be more of a cone instead.

Some hunters feel this is not an adequate replacement because it cannot be used on mobs or players in melee range, as Volley could be used. This may actually have been intentional, as it is also rumored Ghostcrawler did not care for Volley because it pulled Rogues and other stealthy individuals back into visibility. This does appear to be a rumor, however. I am not able to find any confirmation that Ghostcrawler did in fact say this.

And remember, there's always Explosive Trap. And now, you can shoot it.