Another post brought to you by Iapetes. I've been playing on beta for a few weeks now, and I thought I'd go ahead and tell you why you should think twice about skipping Vashj'ir in favor of Hyjal
TINY SPOILER WARNING: While I couldn't totally avoid spoilers, absolutely nothing here isn't also spoiled in this short teaser page released by blizzard, back in April.
Yeah Hyjal is huge on nostalgia and big, important characters. It's a zone a lot of players have no doubt been anticipating since WoW first began, already being an incredibly important zone in the lore, yet inaccessible for years. I was personally thinking I would surely level through Hyjal. Even though Vashj'ir sounded kinda cool too, I figured it'd be a bit like Howling Fjord vs Boring Tundra.
I was wrong. On beta I played through Vashj'ir instead of Hyjal, and it's one of my favorite zones in the game, if not my absolute favorite. It's competing directly with Storm Peaks.
I remember reading a post by... I think Larisa, concerned that the 3d space would be confusing and that it wouldn't be fun to play underwater. Let me assure you this is not the case. At no point was I confused about the locations of anything (granted, I actually read quests, that might help sometimes). Everything flows very nicely without any confusion about where you actually need to go.
And being underwater is one of the best things about vashj'ir. Very early on you get a buff that stays with you throughout the entire zone, giving you infinite breath and faster swim speed, as well as fast running along the ocean floor. Not long after that you get a very cool and very fast underwater mount, the Abyssal Seahorse. Yeah, I said it, the seahorse is cool. Anyway, the 3d combat and quick speed that you move around even on foot makes the whole zone feel pretty unique, and it really adds an extra layer to the exploration of the zone.
I could talk about the zone for a while but instead I think I'll bullet point the stuff I like about it:
- 3D combat makes for a really cool, unique experience
- Quests lead you slowly deeper and deeper into the ocean
- A regular 'cast' for the zone, NPCs who accompany you from hub to hub
- Insight into the culture of the naga
- The Alliance's first badass Shaman!
- A sense of isolation from civilization that WoW zones haven't had in a long time. Storm Peaks and Sholozar tried, but Vashj'ir actually felt like you were cut off from the surface.
- Great Exploration. Lots and lots of visual treats, and I love the way the quest hubs are always hidden from sight. You won't likely stumble across any of the enemy faction's hubs unless you go looking for them explicitly, for example.
- Always something new! Vashj'ir is actually split into 3 smaller zones(which should give you an idea of how large it is), and every one of them feels pretty different from the last one. So it never feels like the same visual ground is being re-tread (I think even some recent zones are guilty of this, like howling fjord which used up half it's cool points in the first 10 min).
I could say a good deal more, but not without big spoilers. The only criticism I could level at the zone is that the starting quests are bit of a drag, much like K3 in Storm Peaks. The Kelp Forest (the first zone of Vashj'ir) definitely feels like a training ground for underwater mechanics. Not that it doesn't have it's share of fun quests, but the storyline of the zone doesn't really take off until you move on to the next area.
And if all of this doesn't convince you, this video might. It's just a very tiny glimpse of the zone and hardly does it justice, but that's part of why I chose it. You can watch it without ruining the zone for yourself at all. Yet it's just enough to entice you. Or at least, it got me to try Vashj'ir, which led to this post!
It's in HD so it should look fine full-screen. I know the blog is weird and cut off the right side, but you can click the full screen button to the very right edge of what's showing. Anyway, that's my sell. Avoid the crowds in Hyjal, Vashj'ir will not disappoint.
PS: Stay far far away from the Whale Shark