Ashenvale and Stonetalon Mountains are hotbeds for Horde vs. Alliance activity. These are “must see” zones, I’m told, and my Ashenvale Alliance-side experience in the beta confirms this. Time to see how the Horde factors in to the conflict!
Let’s dive right in. Click Continue Reading to do just that, continue.
I headed to Ashenvale around Level 20. Again, I was ahead of the leveling curve, and I left behind many quests in Northern Barrens that were unfinished (Ratchet) — I wanted to keep out of the “gray quest” area, where a quest’s difficulty is so low that it goes “gray” in your quest log and awards very little XP upon completion.
So! To keep things fresh, I went to the Mor’shan Rampart — and boy, have things changed! You are immediately presented with an example of the conflict within Ashenvale. Night elves are attacking the Rampart, and the Horde is on the defensive. The first quests take you behind the enemy’s lines to kill their bowmen and revive your fallen Horde comrades. Everything here moved quickly, and soon you were given a kodo (Brutusk!) to retrieve supplies from the nearby Warsong Lumber Camp. Brutusk the Kodo is used in three separate events as a means of moving you about the area surrounding the Rampart (including Splintertree Post). Although he is a “vehicle” you do not control him, you’re simply going along for the ride.
Brutusk and the events surrounding him are a prime example of how Blizzard has progressed in terms of quest/event design. You see more scripted events, more NPC action and dialog, and it also allows you to quickly cover a great deal of ground — you do not feel “bogged down” by traveling so much.
Once you arrive at Splintertree, you see that the battle is ongoing there as well. Ashenvale is a definite war zone. Some of the Splintertree quests are unchanged, and they’ll feel familiar, while others are new or a slight re-vamp of a prior quest. There’s a story to be told here, as well, and you get to see what methods some members of the Horde will resort to when they feel there’s nothing to lose.
I personally found the “fel flame” quest to be a fantastic insight into the thinking of some “loose cannon” Hordefolk. Garrosh’s “win at all costs” attitude is beginning to bring about some unintended consequences, where Horde soldiers are tapping previously forbidden powers to augment the war machine. My only complaint was that my character, personally, would not have been party to the use of fel energy as a weapon of war — however, in doing the quest, you cannot “opt out” in any way, aside from simply dropping the quest and going elsewhere. While that is an option available to you, you miss out on storyline, experience points, and rewards for doing so. Out of those three, for me, the storyline is definitely most important, and I had to see it through to the end.
For someone who presents himself as so very honorable, Garrosh’s bluster is making for some extremely dishonorable acts being committed by his subordinates. It’s not the last we’ll see of this behavior, either.
Having finished the Spintertree quests, I proceeded onward to Silverwind Refuge. I remained ahead of the leveling curve, and upon arriving I was immediately asked to go on to Stonetalon Mountains. As I very much desired to see the Stonetalon storyline in depth, I decided to take the caravan ride out of Ashenvale and into the mountains.
Stonetalon Mountains (25-30)
If you thought Ashenvale was a war zone, wait until you hit Stonetalon Mountains. Right away, you are introduced to the mechanized portion of the Horde’s war machine. The mountain pass is laden with mines, and there is goblin machinery everywhere. Horde soldiers are going about with flamethrowers strapped to their backs. You’re handed a pair of Heat Focals (thermal-vision goggles) and told to find stealthed Night Elves, and dispatch them. You’re also given a rank of Grunt in Overlord Krom’gar’s division.
The zone definitely has a militaristic feel to it. You progress in rank, you are again fighting the Alliance, and you’re given a handful of tools (including your own flamethrower, eventually) to make war against the enemy. There’s also a Bioshock reference that cannot be missed — you essentially rebuild and command a Warcraftian version of a Big Daddy and use him to decimate the Alliance forces, all while being accompanied by a “Little Sister” who cheers you on. Your reward? Ice cream!
For a zone that has such a harsh tone, this was a lighthearted — and highly appreciated — pop-culture reference with some enjoyable gameplay. Very, very cool. Also, that wasn’t a spoiler.
This is a spoiler:
Again, we see the Horde war machine as it starts to get too enthusiastic, too cutthroat. Krom’gar is building a bomb. The Bomb. And you’re helping him. Again, Alhazad would be highly conflicted about the route being taken by the Horde here, yet there is no choice other than to press on and complete the quest chain. You know it is going to end badly, for both the enemy and the Horde — and boy, does it. Krom’gar uses the bomb to flatten an entire settlement full of innocent Night Elves (families, even), Garrosh gets word of the happenings, and Krom’gar is executed for his dishonorable deed. His excuse? “I was following orders!”
He was, in fact, following orders. Garrosh appointed this orc to be an Overlord in the region. For whatever reason, Garrosh saw worth in him. Garrosh tasked him with securing victory, and armed him with resources, money, and power to complete this task. Krom’gar did everything he could to ensure victory — and Garrosh didn’t see any of this coming? Apparently he did not. Also, apparently Garrosh has learned something about honor from his time spent with Varok Saurfang in Northrend. You’ll forgive me if I’m a little suspect here — aside from what Garrosh has unknowingly allowed to happen, he has willfully acted with little to no honor on other occasions.
‘The Shattering’ features at least one event where Garrosh attacked a ship full of surrendering Alliance soldiers — a ship that had been blown off course and into “Horde waters,” and damaged from the storm as a result. Despite their flying of a white flag and the Horde/Alliance peace treaty that was in effect at the time, Garrosh ordered an attack, killed most of the crew, and only allowed a handful to survive simply to stroke his own ego. In his words, Garrosh was “both mercy and death” to these soldiers. Perhaps he should have been named Braggart Hellscream.
Next up, Southern Barrens! Also, a quick jump into the Scarlet Monastery to see what, if anything, has changed!