Saturday, September 14, 2013

WoW: Going ashore on Timeless Isle

It’s been a while since we heard anything from Azeroth. Mostly because I haven’t had that much to say and decided to bide my time and behold what wonders the miraculous patch 5.4 could possibly have in store for me. Mists was another expansion like Cata, in which I started out with the best intentions, but so many things got in the way that I never managed to attend any raids. And whenever I log in I can’t be assed about the Raid Finder, overtly critically comparing it to the old TBC days of “pure” raiding. Snobby, I know.

For said reasons, I spend a lot of time soloing around in WoW; making gold, pulling own weight, trying out various classes. WoW has really turned much more into this direction than just a couple of years ago, and I’m honestly in no position to argue. Even though I’m sad I haven’t been with a proper raiding guild for some time, there’s still so much to see and do in Pandaria that it was all worth it.

For me, Patch 5.4 was kind of a make or break, subscription-wise. Likely what Blizz intends to do with it; keep people like me for a couple of months more. And while I’m not going into every tiny detail about the notes (you can easily google that), I’ll cover some of my experiences with it so far. Namely; the Timeless Isle.

Timedelayed Isle

Except for the mandatory handful of class tweaks there is a lot of good stuff going on in 5.4 - I haven’t done much reading up on the new raid, yet. But I’m surprised to learn that it’s the final official raid in this expansion? For some reason it seems kind of anticlimactic how we fought Thuzad, Illidan, Arthas and Deathwing and now we get to storm Orgrimmar and kill that annoying orc who never stops fucking talking. I’ve heard from horde players that they’re ironically looking even more forward to shut him the hell up.

The Timeless Isle; aptly named the Timedelayed Isle on the high pop-server (mine is one of the highest Ally servers out there) and the resulting lagging, is a very intriguing idea. Basically, if you’re going into it blind, you’re sent off to this lush, green island and told to go out and have fun. It’s kind of like when you went to those children’s parties as a child, and the grownups had hidden treasures, candy and all that shit all over the garden; just for you to find. Now, replace candy with epics and know the other people around you are still egomaniac douches and you’re kind of getting the idea with TI.

The Isle itself isn’t that big, but certainly bigger than Isle of Quel’Danas. I’ve always loved those island areas, and the emphasis around here is on exploration, which is hugely rewarded. Not long after arriving, you’re sent on a series of quests having you travel around the island, and in classical Skyrim-way, you’ll run into several opportunities for sidetracking. Things such as hidden chests, glinting stuff in the sand, rare monster spawns and mysterious caverns all await you and your endless curiosity.

A central proving ground serves as the main quest hub, from which you’ll be sent out to slay various beasts of the isle in order to fulfill a quest chain related to the new raid. The creatures here are a bit more tough and durable than what you might’ve been used to in ordinary Panda Land; but luckily, this is where the next part comes in!

Free ep0xxX!!1

In all my many years of WoW, I don’t think I have ever had such easy epics. Scattered through chests, on creatures and in various other ways on the Isle, are tokens which you can use to create epic items of high quality. Mainly armor-pieces that are bound to your bNet account, meaning you can actually grind/find gear for those poor, undergeared alts of yours. It’s kind of nifty, and while the pieces initially don’t go over iLevel 500, it’s possible, with enough grinding, to upgrade them to the tiers in which they become rather nice. We aren’t talking Tier-gear here, but it certainly was some of a shock to open a chest and have two epic items thrown right into your face. To much satisfaction for my rogue, who still struggled for decent shoulders.

The grinding mostly consists of acquiring coins that drop from a lot of things on the Isle. Mostly creatures; ordinary, elite and super rare spawns that require groups. Since one of the early quests require you to achieve 50 rare stones dropped from elites around the Isle, a lot of people quickly figured out how those annoying turtles were in for a truly rough ride.

In all seriousness; I’ve never, ever seen so much turtle massacre in my life.

The good thing is how the rare spawns are open to kills from everyone participating; meaning you can like I did and put on some nice music, chill around and look for rare spawns and join in on the fun. There’s certainly an undeniable charm in watching 20+ players throw themselves, hungrily, against a poor rare turtle; tearing it to pieces and ripping its corpse like taken out of a zombie movie.


In other parts of the Isle you’re able to participate in small challenges, such as pillar-jumping, skydiving with the right gear to hard areas ( my rogue was able to get an iLevel 500+ helmet on his own, by exploring) and even a gambling den. Wage your hard earned coins to pick a chest and hope it will pay off. Maybe you’ll get ripped, maybe you’ll get even richer. It kind of reminds me of Zelda, in a way…

There’s even four minor open-raid bosses in the middle of the isle you can join in on for more epic gear, or get lucky and start the quest to build the legendary noodle-cart for your cooking. While the quests sits safely in my inventory, I refuse to complete it till I’ll actually have the money from the sales I make through it. Sorry, Blizz. You’ll have to do better.

Things to see and do

I’m pretty certain I’ve only covered about a fraction of this place; after all, I only had a couple of hours to check it out. It’s certainly one of those places that need to be seen and in many ways a lot more interesting than Quel’Danas ever was (despite Quel’Danas being really cozy, atmospheric and beautiful - I still go back there from time to time). I’m not entirely sure whether it’s enough to keep me around for another subscription cycle, or I’ll return to some ARPG’s while waiting for Hearthstone, however.

While there certainly are some great ideas and finally something to grind for (the high level epics) I’m still not sure it’s IT for me. The good thing, of course, would be that so many of the epics are accountbound, meaning you can really get gear for an alt without playing it first. Also, the gear seems to adjust to your current spec, so from that angle I can only recommend Blizzard for such an approach.

In training

Another feature that truly got my attention was the Proving Ground. I didn’t know about this till before a couple of days up to the patch; needless to say I was stoked. Here’s the deal ; if you’re like me and the very notion of trying out a new role or class in the presence of PUG morons scares the living daylight out of you … fear not! The proving grounds allow you to try out as either a healer, tank or dps in a series of trials tailored to your style. That means you can finally get to try out healing with that alt, without people screaming at you for being noob. As such, I finally got to play around with that paladin healing only to realize how much I suck at it. Some things apparently aren’t meant to be; although I strongly consider trying for the tank next.

All in all…

With three days left, I’ll likely take a couple of closer looks on the Isle, maybe dig some scenarios and the like. If you haven’t given patch 5.4 a go yet, or even the game, now is a somewhat good time to return. You can easily gear up to be on par with the current level of difficulty, and it’s even fun doing so. It kind of brings my thoughts back to Guild Wars 2, and the collective achievements, interests and helping each other out that I enjoyed so much.
Perhaps even the turtles will have a break later on.

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