Saturday, 26 December 2009

We're almost in our 30s now!

On leveling instances, that is. The first two parts are here and here. However, the time of playing like a noob is almost over. And it’s almost time to move on to the serious instances. Well soon anyway. Before we go there, two more silly little things: The Stockades, and the first of the Razorfen instances – Razorfen Kraul.

To go by order of level, we’ll start in the Razorfen Kraul.

6 Bosses with shiny blue loot (and a possible 2 more rare ones – we’ll get to that later), 2 quests available to both sides (one from Ratchet, one from inside the instance), 2 for the alliance and 2 for the horde. A grand total of 13.250 experience for the mighty horde (or 13.750 for the glorious alliance). That’s ... oooh... wow... 13250/38800 (at level 30) a third of a level. More than I had expected to be honest. I’ll give it a C in the usual rating, mainly because I think I have not done so this far.

Of course, this is an old world instance, so one of the quests comes from each continent for both sides; the quest in ratchet actually requires you to pick up three items at once. A good lot of travelling involved.

The instance entrance is still reasonably easy to find – but be prepared to dodge a few stealthy monsters on the way to it. For the horde who have played in the barrens this should not be new – Alliance might be surprised. The dungeon is a total mess. Especially if you brought a warrior in need of his warrior-quest-item (If you did: Go forward until you can turn left/right. Turn left. Follow the patch until you get to a trench crossable on a spiky bramble. Cross the brambles. Pull very very carefully from around the cauldron (there might be two patrols in this room – it’s been a while), turn right again as soon as you can for the warrior-quest-boss. There is no point at all in going further than the quest boss – you cannot go over the hedge here).

Best bet is probably an old dungeon-explorer classic: Stick to the right-hand wall and pray for no teleporters or moving walls (I haven’t found any yet, but it pays to stay suspicious). This path will also take you past all the bosses in the right order of difficulty. You’ll learn to hate the hunters than run out of range of melee, the stealthed ones and the all-time favourite: mobs that fear. You’ll also meet bosses that drop no loot at all, if you are unlucky (I’m looking at you Aggem, and you Death Speaker Jargba).

If you are really lucky, you’ll run into one of the rare elite bosses. Those are something starting here, I think. As with all rares, they share a spawn point and timer with a normal monster. This means, if you see the Blind Hunter there will be one bat less around. This also greatly speeds up looking for them later (I’m looking at you, Bannok Grimaxe) – just check all the spots they can spawn in, then reset the instance once you are sure only normal mobs are in their place. To be fair: not worth the effort at this level – but ah well.

I rambled on and on and forgot to award marks again... I’ll give it a C for location (horde)/ a D for location (alliance) and a C for instance design. I would complain more precisely, but it is just a muddy hole in the ground and deserves no more detail.

Which leave only the mysterious marker for time requirement. It’s lengthy, but not horribly so. I’d plan for two to three hours in a proper group (who actually know how to get there). Give it a B, so it doesn’t end up all that bland.

Grand total: C + C + C/D + B for a total of C. Sounds right. A muddy hole in the ground overall.

And then there are the Stockades. Now, of course, the stockades were designed to be similar in effort to Ragefire Chasm. You do a few prerequisites and slowly collect instance quests. Back in the olden days, when questing in Westfall and Redridge and the Wetlands was required to even stand a chance to level, this sort of made sense – even though the questlogs filled up horribly quick. Nowadays ... not so nice any more.

There are a total of 6 quests – one of those is available at level 16, the rest has a minimum level of 22 (way to go, design wise...). The highest level quest is 29, so we’ll base everything on that, of course. Total experience 19.350. This number is misleading, as there are lots and lots of prerequisite steps, as pointed out above. That’s 54% of level 29. I’ll give it a B, and the Deadmines will feel cheated now. However, I’ll make up for it in the “Time required” category – promise.

The instance design itself actually is quite good. The instance feels like a prison (not a very good one, granted – there are no toilets or bathrooms, no water supply, no sequentially opening door, slowing down intruders or prison breaks, no laser traps, no alarms, no speaker systems ... and maybe I should not have watched a modern day prison movie just before writing this). The guards are at the entrance behind a proper barricade (and occasionally there is a breakout or a push – I just can’t seem to figure out the timers and take screenshots – outside the entrance). The sensible thing would obviously to starve the prisoners to death – but being heroes we’ll push in for a bit of good old-fashioned assassination work gladly and with a song on our lips!

Also – one of the bosses can spawn in up to four different locations, which is a first at this level. Of course no one has the quest for him any more (see above), but that is beside the point. I’ll give it a B for instance design, as there needs to be room for improvement.

Time required... well. The instance is short. Half an hour will see a proper group through it after entrance. The prerequisite gathering is ridiculous, though. To have all the quests in your log after coming out of Azuremyst Isle, you’ll be bus for a good four hours. Possibly more. A solid F for this one – it desperately needs streamlining. Accessibility is good, with the thing located in the middle of Stormwind city – and as there are no horde quests we don’t need to worry about them finding a way in (just in case: Grom’Gol Basecamp in Stranglethorn Vale, ride north on the road into Duskwood, head to the graveyard, turn north, swim through the river into Elwynn forest then ride like the wind through Goldshire, over the bridge past the guards, turn left when you approach the first crossroads inside Stormwind, right again before you barge into the inn, left through the arch, over the bridge, turn right along the river and ride into the squat tower in front of you and over the barricade into the instance. Good luck!). A mark of A (as pointless as this is now, since patch 3.3 with the teleport features).

Total for those: B + B + F + A for a total of C. Yeah ... totally do not bother. Go in for the wool cloth an achievement if you have to.

There is one more thing. Lessons learnt is something I tend to neglect here. But there is one – and a rather nasty one at that. Some of the mobs in here use a special attack (kick) that interrupts spell casting. There are a lot of them that do it. This makes it entirely possible for a level 80 character to die in here, if you are not prepared for it. Granted, pulling the whole instance as a warlock might not have been the best plan, but it’s only a level 29ish instance. Or so I thought.

And this concludes today’s tour. Nothing fancy this week. Check back soon for the next part – and the Gnomeish home city.

*cue trumpets and fanfares and nuclear inferno*

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