Adventures in Azeroth: Beyond the Dark Portal

Anyone who has played World of Warcraft will admit to the game’s undeniable, alluring charm. That coin jingle every time you loot a corpse. That dopamine-inducing yellow beam of luminous light upon leveling up. Those iconic sights and zones that serve as friendly reminders of all the time spent – for better or worse – in the world of Azeroth.

WorldMap-World

In short, it’s a lovely place. And about once a year, around autumn/winter, my nostalgia seems to get the best of me. Blizzard gets my annual $15, and I get to login for some virtual sight-seeing, if little else.

Except this year – things would be different.

A brief history of mine with the game: I started playing around 2008-2009 shortly after the release of Burning Crusade. At the time, I had become fascinated with Warcraft 3, so it only made sense to check out the World of Warcraft for myself.

And what a world it was.

I never really got far in it, though. From what I can understand, I appreciated the spectacle of the game more than the game itself. I was infatuated with the vast landscapes, the long history behind every piece of the world, and the continuing story that was unfolding, driven forward by the game’s own player base. It was awesome. It was the coolest thing I had ever seen.

But where the game didn’t quite fascinate me was the gameplay. I just couldn’t get into killing monsters endlessly. On top of that, everyone was a way higher level than me. It was discouraging, and I really did want to see more. Ultimately though, this curiosity couldn’t justify a monthly subscription, and so Warcraft and I parted ways.

Still, each year I would return just to check in with my favorite virtual world. Sometimes I would find the motivation to try and level up some, but I would almost always lose interest again. All these years of playing later, and my highest level character was only in his 40s.

This particular year though, something changed. I had an undeniable surplus of free time as my first semester of easy-mode college came to a close. There was no one around to nag me about playing video games and eating pizza all day – I could totally do that forever. Plus, I was getting that nostalgic itch again. It seemed as good a time as any to return to WoW.

I’m not sure exactly what did it, but between having all the time in the world, Blizzard speeding up the leveling process, and just a general unexpected surge of motivation – something pushed me to keep playing.

And play I did – 35 hours plus of in-game time and very little sunshine later, I had myself a Dwarf Warrior in his 50s.

Screen Shot 2013-12-10 at 9.40.35 PM
This totally beats my trogg-killing days back in Dun Morogh.

Whoa. Me? A decently leveled Warcraft character? Holy shit.

But that’s enough catching up to speed! Let’s talk Burning Crusade. As a character now well-versed with many of the foes and villains of Azeroth, the ominous Dark Portal now beckoned.

Obligatory Dark Portal selfie. #burning legion #youarenotprepared #illdansuckslol
Obligatory Dark Portal selfie. #burning legion #youarenotprepared #selfie #illdansuckslol #nofilter #gratuitoushashtags

I was pretty excited to properly check out this now ancient content (by today’s standards, at least). I’m always a fan of when game universes expand their focuses to include new worlds and dimensions, which is exactly what Blizzard did – and is doing again with Warlords of Draenor, I believe.

Outland is a pretty crazy place. I can only imagine how the initial reaction was when players started going through the portal for the first time on launch day. For starters, everything is really twisted and demonic. I mean, even the pigs are scary looking.

Yikes.
Yikes.

It’s easy to feel “detached” from your character when you play MMORPGs because these are games where your character is always just looking around in some kind of looping animation of indifference regardless of what’s going on. In other words, they don’t quite pull you in or make you feel for your character because the focus isn’t on emotional engagement – it’s on progression. But that being said, I tried to look through the eyes of my character as I entered Outland, and I just imagined how intimidating it would be to enter such a fractured and hellish world, and oh man is it terrifying. Ultimately though, I may end up just picking up some of the Warcraft books to get my lore fix, since I don’t feel like I’m really getting the full picture here.

In terms of gameplay, I’ve really been enjoying the Warrior class (fury warrior to be specific). I remember rolling a warrior back in 2009 and having a lot of trouble standing my ground against more than one NPC of my level, but as time has gone by it seems Blizzard has really upped the survivability ante. Today as I was running carelessly through Outland, I pulled several level 62 mobs, which lead to a dismount and a gang-beating I couldn’t exactly waltz myself out of. I was 59 at the time, but after a few minutes and one health potion later, I was still standing, five orcs lying face-first in the space dust around me (which totally looks like dorito dust, by the way). That definitely wouldn’t have happened back in ’09.

Another bonus? Dual-wielding two-handed weapons. Not sure how long that’s been around, but it has to be my favorite thing ever.

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And of course, hitting level 60 shortly after all of this meant that I could finally get my hands on another undeniably awesome ability – flying mounts!

Holy shit yes.
Holy shit yes.

So yeah, I’m enjoying my return very much. I’m also totally stoked for Winter’s Veil, which is Warcraft’s own little in-game holiday event.

Between this and Battlefield 4, gaming has been pretty great recently. Expect more on both soon!

-s

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