Category Archives: Iron Man Challenge

Iron Man Challenge: Silithus Edition

After hitting level 60 in Un’Goro I decided to head directly into Silithus and get another level under my belt before heading to Outland. Lo and behold, another level became another few bars of experience, since apparently once you hit level 60 you stop earning any significant experience in old Azeroth. Bummer. I did Silithus anyway.

It’s not a very pretty zone, but it has been left unchanged since Cataclysm. Definitely a place to go if you want to wax nostalgic.

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I tried to stay out of the various Silithid hives scattered across the desert, even going so far as to ignore rare spawns that happened to be down there. Those big twisty turny burrows just don’t fill me with warm fuzzy feelings, and the last thing I wanted was to get lost and overrun and end up dead like I used to back in the old days.

So we stuck to the surface world, though it wasn’t much prettier, and had just as many insects as any Silithid hive.

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By the time we were done here I was sick of killing bugs. Spiders, scorpions, silithid, worms…no more. I’m done.

We changed things up by killing some cultists for good measure. I remember grinding these things for weeks back when the achievement and title systems were first introduced. I switched specs on my druid from resto to balance so I could run around and moonfire/hurricane large groups of cultists, because any self-respecting druid has to have the Guardian of Cenarius title.

The cave-dwelling cultists escaped most of my wrath, thanks to some unnamed player who ran in just before me and cleared the whole thing. I had to stand and wait for the named quest mob I was after to respawn, which took about 20 minutes longer than it should have. Seriously, they need to fix that.

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After spelunking for cultists, we smashed more bugs.

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And then we killed more bugs.

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And finally we were rewarded with a quest to kill elementals, which was a nice change of pace. And scenery, because the whole northern part of the zone was much different than the rest.

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Then we went back to killing more bugs.

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Are you tired of bugs yet? I am. That’s all Silithus is about. That, and some random world PvP that I didn’t participate in for fear of being smushed like a bug myself by higher level Horde folk.

Aside from sand and bugs, there were these neat crystally thingies that I would like to know more about. Chiefly, what are they made of? If anyone says “bugs” I will scream.

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Silithus must have, at some point, been a bit more biodiverse than its current incarnation. I found the remains of a massive serpent, but never the remains of a massive serpent’s den. The zone its self is too small to support more than one of these snakes. Where did they come from? Are the skeletons I mistook for “dragons” in Un’Goro the remains of a similar species? Was Silithus a jungle at some point? It’s possible that the zones we know as Un’Goro, Silithus and Feralas were all one zone at some point, years ago. Maybe the reason there are so damn many bugs is because the snakes that naturally preyed on them died out.

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Mass extinction makes for a great photo op!

I took Iarann south so we could poke at the ruins of Ahn’Qiraj.

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Even if standing in the shadow of the old gods made me a wee bit nervous for my health and safety. I was sure not to touch anything while we were so close to such a large gathering of murderous insectoids.

In my experience, touching anything that looks even remotely gong-like is a bad idea.

In my experience, touching anything that looks even remotely gong-like is a bad idea.

 

Whatever is going on in Silithus, I was glad to leave it behind. Thanks for joining me on this photographic tour of Kalimdor on my way to level 60, and I hope you’ll stick around to see what sort of trouble I get in to in Outland!

 

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Iron Man Challenge: Un’Goro Crater Edition

Welcome back to my Iron Man Challenge series, where I blather randomly about the crap I do to survive my way to level 90 with no gear, no talents, and no deaths. I’ve been busy lately and that has meant little time to chug my way to 90, but I’m back this week with some screenshots of my exploits in Un’Goro Crater! Sit back, relax, and let’s get going.

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Un’Goro is an iconic zone to me. I spent a lot of time here back when I first started playing, though I don’t remember anymore why that was. My little level 50-ish warlock ran around here doing Elune only knows what, dying repeatedly to the devilsaurs, harassing random Alliance folk, killing dinosaurs…it was a fun zone, and it still is.

Some things never change, like the silithid incursion. We slaughtered a bunch of icky bugs.

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We climbed insurmountable volcanic peaks to poke fire elementals in the face and take temperature readings of things that should have melted our skin right the hell off. Of course that’s a goblin quest; who else needs to take volcanic temperature readings for no apparent reason?

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We bravely ran away from anything resembling a gigantic devilsaur on a rampage.

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That is, until we met this guy:

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Maximillian of Northshire may not be the brightest bulb ever lit, but he’s got charisma. He convinced us, against our better judgement, to join him in his crusade to rid the world (or Un’Goro, really) of “dragons” and rescue a few fair “maidens” in distress. So they weren’t really dragons, and the damsels in distress were neither damsels nor in distress, but whatever.

Pro tip: Maximillian’s entire quest chain is amusing and kind of fun, and worth doing at least once so you know what the fool is yelling about all over the zone. However, the final stage of the quest chain, where you ride on the back of Max’s steed and throw rocks at the Devilsaur Queen, appears to be either bugged or simply very poorly put together. It takes forever, and that is not an exaggeration. If you are doing the Iron Man Challenge and have no great burning desire to finish the chain, then I would recommend skipping the final quest. I was able to finish it only after about 15 minutes or so of throwing rocks and running in a big circle, but the devilsaur bites hard and if you’re squeamish about risking your life, then don’t do it. Be safe, not sorry!

Thankfully, much of the zone was green to us as we worked our way towards level 60. We stomped on some flowers, just for fun.

They were EVIL flowers, okay?

They were EVIL flowers, okay?

And we hiked into the wilds beyond the crater to discover some ancient skeletal remains of what must have been the biggest damn dragon Max has ever not seen.

Seriously, do not tell Max about this.

Seriously, do not tell Max about this.

At one point we found ourselves embroiled in some sort of titan-lady’s questing hullabaloo, and took the time to snap a few pics of things people don’t see unless they randomly point their camera up. No one looks up. I think it was WoW Insider that did an article on the epic ceilings of WoW, and it’s worth a read if you can find it.

If you turn your camera to the ceiling in this little alcove in Un’Goro, you’ll find painted murals of what appear to be standard Christian angels or cherubim. Kinda odd in a world that doesn’t have Christianity. What are they? Some sort of Titan symbolism? They appear on the ceilings of the Halls of Stone, too. Look up some time.

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It was a rather peaceful place to quest, if you don’t count Max’s constant bellowing about Dragons and his beloved Doloria (who probably left him long ago for a quieter, less insane lover). And nothing beats massive trees and lush foliage for screen shots!

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Trees!

Have another. On me.

MOAR TREES!

MOAR TREES!

Add a few sweeping vistas with moody, emo fog…

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And you pretty much have the majority of the screenshots I took. It was a fun run, but by the time I was done I was really ready for a change of scenery.

We do have one thing to celebrate, though.

Ding!

Ding!

Sixty levels without a single death. Onward to Silithus!

Iron Man Challenge: Winterspring Edition

I just started reading Game of Thrones by George R.R. Martin and the first thing that popped into my head upon stepping foot into Winterspring was, “Winter is coming.”

The snow was a welcome change from the Tanaris desert. I have decided to hit up all of the level 55ish zones in order to level up past 60, so that when I hit Outland I’m not quite so low level. It seems prudent to me not to step into Hellfire at level 58. I could end up dead. And dead is bad.

Winterspring is first on the list. I always loved this zone. It’s quite breathtaking.

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Much of the zone’s core quests remain the same. We still massacred countless furbolg for spirit beads. I remember grinding them endlessly for rep years ago.

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This furbolg camp was no less busy now than it used to be years ago. It’s still overrun with reputation-seeking high level folk who think nothing of bullying low level players out of their way. I’m glad the quests here did not include “kill X amount of furbolg” because I would still be there trying to finish it.

Aside from fuzzy thong-wearing bear people, we also slaughtered a number of ghostly remnants of ancient elvish people. The lake in the center of the zone was full of them and their long-forgotten temples.

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There was also the customary yeti killing, as expected.

PEEKABOO!

PEEKABOO!

Or rather, Rex killed yetis and I ran away screaming. Either way.

Food for thought: all those yetis live in one cave together. I never saw any toilets. That cave must stink.

Winterspring might be pretty, but its quests could use a little variation. The majority of them were the “kill a lot of this type of animal” quests, which I found very boring. It’s a real shame Iarann isn’t a skinner. We killed enough bears to fashion clothing for every NPC in Stormwind.

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Part of my goal in taking all of these screenshots is to find things most people don’t see when they’re blazing through a zone. One of those things is this grotto, located in the north of the zone, accessible by a cave. None of my quests lead me here. I had to go find it all on my own. It’s kind of pretty, though there’s nothing really interesting here except a few owlkin and a very lost fox.

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We made a trip up north to kill some frostsabers. This is where people used to spend months grinding rep for the frostsaber mount. I remember back in the early days of WoW there was a large cat (or two) who made his home beneath this rock. He was damn hard to kill. I don’t remember why I was trying to kill him, but my warlock couldn’t manage it.

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Nowadays the place is mostly deserted, as the quests have changed and the old tiger I remember is now a rare spawn. He wasn’t there, or I might have tamed him to teach him a lesson.

The southern reaches of the zone are infested with elementals and owlkin. We had to kill a lot of both. Owlkin are some of my favorite mobs in the game. I think I read some piece of lore that stated that they were created by Elune to guard her most sacred areas. Supposedly they are very intelligent and serene, but a lot of them got corrupted and that’s why they attack us now.

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I love the new elemental models they introduced in Cataclysm. I always thought they looked pretty, and slightly creepy.

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It’s one of the Others.

By the time we were done in Winterspring, Iarann was level 59. We left the snow and the cold behind and traveled south to warmer climates. I have a feeling we will miss the cold very soon.

Bye bye, Winterfell. I mean, Winterspring.

Bye bye, Winterfell. I mean, Winterspring.

 

PS: You know the rule I have about not tabbing out or leaving the desk while working on the Iron Man Challenge? I broke that rule when someone knocked at my front door and left Iarann standing helplessly in the middle of a bunch of chimera. When I came back, all of two minutes later, Rex was dead and it’s a bloody miracle Iarann wasn’t dead too. Don’t leave your Iron Man character unattended!

Iron Man Challenge: Tanaris Edition

I think Tanaris gets an unfair rep as being “ugly”. I’m going to disagree, and I hope my screenshots support my argument.

Tanaris isn’t ugly. It’s actually quite a stunning landscape, made even more so by the events of the Cataclysm. A lot of people think of Tanaris and they think of this:

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Endless sand, without definition or interest, stretching forever beneath an unremarkable sky.

When I took Iarann to Tanaris to quest it wasn’t because I thought it would be visually stunning. Mostly I just wanted to quest out another level or two in relative safety, as I outlevel the zone by quite a bit. But when I got there I decided that a bunch of screenshots of sand would be boring. I decided to try to find the beauty in the zone, to find those rare little spots that people miss when they’re blazing through the quests at the speed of light.

Our journey started in Gadgetzan, which is its self a sort of chaotic and cacophonous place to begin.

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There were goblins aplenty, gnomes galore, and a grumpy Horde flightmaster that I was very keen not to accidentally click. In the center of it all was the Thunderdome, which is sort of like a low level Ring of Blood. I decided to avoid it despite outleveling its bosses, principally due to my fear of dying. To come this far only to die in a cage match just didn’t suit me. We pressed on.

Tanaris presented its self a beautiful and glimmering world of sand and sea, gold and blue. The beaches are where it really shines. If Tanaris was a real place, I would vacation there. Its beaches are a pure, crystalline turquoise blue like the finest resorts in Fiji and the Bahamas. If Iarann had a beach towel and an umbrella in her bags we would have set up camp with a coconut full of Malibu and never left.

This gnome did just that.

This gnome did just that.

 

Tanaris might be a giant sandbox to some people, but to me it’s a lot more than that. It’s a land of harsh sun and blazing winds and gorgeous coastlines forever changed by a devastating flood.

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It’s monstrous skeletons lying half-buried in centuries of sand.

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It’s pirate fortresses under siege by cannon and fire.

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It’s enigmatic caverns where time twists and bends and adventurers can relive the past.

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It’s twisting spires of enormous cacti reaching spiny fingers to the sky.

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And it’s ancient troll empires sinking slowly beneath the weight of the sands.

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There’s nothing quite like Tanaris. It’s an old world that time forgot. It’s the seat of the mysteries of Uldum, if you’re brave enough to go digging for them.

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And a gateway to another world entirely for those who dare tread its path.

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Uldum its self lies beyond these towering stone walls, but I was too afraid to go any further south for fear of meeting my death. Someday our adventure will lead us to Uldum, but not this day. This day we filled our adventures with plenty of sandy Tanaris hijinks.

We slaughtered pirates and set their bunk houses on fire, then settled in for a little well-earned luxury.

Aaah...this is the life.

Aaah…this is the life.

We helped a number of our vertically-challenged friends in their war against the Silithid, too. It’s safe to say we didn’t know what we were getting in to until a gnome mind controlled a silithid, strapped a couple of pounds of explosives to its back, and asked us to pilot it to its doom!

BOOM!

BOOM!

And this should have been enough for us, but we next found ourselves being blasted half way across the damn zone with a rocket attached to our ass. Does that sound Iron-Man Challenge friendly to you?

AAAAAAHHOLYSHITAAAAAH!

AAAAAAHHOLYSHITAAAAAH!

I’m done playing with goblins and gnomes. They can fix their own damn problems!

We ended our adventure on the very southernmost shores of Tanaris on a long-forgotten beach, toes (hooves?) in the sand, watching the distant shoreline of Uldum shimmer like a mirage on the horizon.

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If we live that long, we’ll find our way there. And we hope you’ll come along for the ride.

Iron Man Challenge: Felwood Edition

I hit level 50 shortly after beginning Felwood, which was a nice surprise. Fifty levels of not dying! Woo!

Let’s get down to it, shall we.

Felwood is not, by any stretch of the imagination, a scenic place. It is, however, an interesting one.

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I have mixed feelings when it comes to Felwood. On the one hand, it’s a neat zone. I like satyrs and corruption and the furbolg. On the other, this is the zone that ruined my warlock for me back in the early days of WoW. I had been slogging through the epic mount quest chain and it finally took me to Felwood, where I died a lot and spent way too much money. I was broke, frustrated, and eventually ended up deleting my warlock because of this quest chain. A lot has changed since then, but Felwood still reminds me of that.

Thankfully this time I saw it through the wide eyes of a level 50 hunter who had no ambitions of an epic demon mount. It was a lot more fun this time around.

We slaughtered furbolg:

DIE!

DIE!

 

We ran afoul of plenty of satyr:

And killed them, obviously.

And killed them, obviously.

 

And we got suitably lost inside a massive underground labyrinth that I remember dying in at least a dozen times back in the day. This time, thankfully, we survived with our dignity in tact. I won’t lie, though: entering tunnels like this makes me a wee bit uneasy as an Iron-Man challenger. Way too easy to end up in a bad spot, you know? And this particular cave was riddled with bad spots.

Like this one.

LOOK AT THE BONES!

LOOK AT THE BONES!

 

And this one.

SHARP POINTY TEETH!

SHARP POINTY TEETH!

 

It was, overall, a harrowing experience.

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Yet we made it through. I ended up switching back to my trusty raptor because the wasp I tamed in Feralas seemed a tad too squishy. Eventually, I tamed a rare spawn Warpstalker to add to my menagerie and named him Rex, after the shape shifting lizard bad guy in My Little Pony.

With Rex by my side we made our way deeper into the corrupt forest. We encountered gigantic old tree dudes.

Gimme a kiss!

Gimme a kiss!

 

Smaller, creepier tree dudes.

Bleeeeeh.

Bleeeeeh.

 

And gigantic flaming infernals, whom we dispatched quickly to avoid being burnt to a crispy pile of Draenei ash.

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Along the way, we discovered what it was like to enter another dimension:

It gets blurry. That's about it.

It gets blurry. That’s about it.

How to fight imps using the magical power of rainbows!

POW.

POW.

 

And what Illidan was doing in Felwood a zillion years ago.

Hint: he wasn't buying groceries.

Hint: he wasn’t buying groceries.

 

Along the way we also discovered some pretty awesome Night Elves who were dedicating their time to restoring the forest to its former grandeur. Nevermind that their leader turned out to be a satyr in disguise. That’s mostly irrelevant.

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Fun fact: the ancient tree guardians here at this little Alliance base were level 90 neutral mobs. As in, had I accidentally right clicked one, I would have fired and arrow into its face and died horribly in approximately two seconds flat. I spent the majority of my time in this base very carefully keeping my mouse cursor NO WHERE NEAR these guards, just in case I bumped it and shot one of them. I have no clue why some sick, depraved developer decided to make them neutral and attackable, but it made my feeble little Iron-Man heart twist in my chest. So, if you find yourself in this region, be aware of that. I assume death is exceptionally swift when you are stomped flat by thirty foot tall level 90 tree.

After helping the elves cure some small part of the forest, we headed north, to quite possibly the coolest camp in the game.

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This is Talonbranch Glade, and it is a Worgen outpost in the northern-most reaches of the forest. It’s a two-hundred-plus foot tall black tree with waterfalls cascading from it canopy and a shimmering, sparkling pool at its base. It has a cavernous area beneath its roots for NPCs to take up residence. If I could designate any place in the game as my home forever, it would be here. Somehow I don’t think this tree is an option when it comes to building your garrison, though. Sad times.

After finishing up some quests for the friendly furbolg in the north, Iarann and I said our farewells to Felwood. I’m glad I decided to stop by and see how it compared to the Felwood of old. It’s a more interesting, more engaging zone as a whole and it helped to alleviate some of those bad memories I had carried around in the back of my mind all these years.

Our next stop is some place a little drier and a little more arid, with golden sand dunes shifting under an endless blue sky. See you there!

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Iron Man Challenge: Thousand Needles Edition

Though I originally wrote Thousand Needles off as being boring and bland, I decided to give it a second shot. Lo and behold, it turned out to be more entertaining and scenic than I had expected.

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Let’s get this out of the way first: I almost died like three times in Thousand Needles. ALMOST.

First, do you remember that helpful list of survival tips I posted a while back? I broke rule number 23. I thought, hey! I can jump off this absurdly high cliff and land safely in the water below as a shortcut! So I jumped. And I landed on a little lip sticking out of the bottom of the cliff at 2% health.

Never ever ever EVER for any reason jump off of anything ever. Got it?

Second, I didn’t read the quest text and went stumbling into combat with several elites I was actually meant to kill via disguise and assassination. I managed to kill them, barely, and only realized afterwards that I could have spared myself the risk by donning the disguise. Whoops.

Moral of the story is, if you’re doing the Iron Man Challenge, don’t be a dope.

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Near-death experiences aside, I enjoyed Thousand Needles. Coming from the forests of Feralas, it was quite a change in scenery. The Cataclysm virtually obliterated everything familiar about the zone: the dusty valley floor is now a vast maze of ocean and mesa pillars, the old quest lines have been retooled to different designs, and pirates have taken over where centaur once roamed.

Our first stop was the speed barge run by Fizzle and Pozzik.

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It was a lively place full of very short people, a lot of small explosions, and long lines to the bathroom.

They periodically got into brawls over who cut in from of whom.

They periodically got into brawls over who cut in from of whom.

Nobody seemed to realize that they were on a boat, and all you have to do if you have to pee is hop over the edge for a few moments. Iarann did just that – albeit for a quest and not at the insistence of her bladder – and was met by some very inquisitive triangle fish.

Not tropical fish, mind you. Triangle fish.

NEMO TOUCHED THE BUTT.

Apparently the flooding triggered by the Cataclysm was substantial enough to drag in a whale shark the size of Teldrassil.

Itty bitty draenei in the foreground for scale.

Itty bitty draenei in the foreground for scale.

After blowing up a bunch of pirates and attempting to trick a tribe of centaur, we were dispatched to the mesa-top tauren villages now under siege by Magatha’s people. We slaughtered dozens of tauren invaders, took out their leaders, burned their weapons, and challenged their demi-god. Have I mentioned how much I love tauren culture?

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I took a screenshot of this dream catcher because I may actually try to make one just like it someday.

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I managed to worm my way through killing several elite quest mobs by catching a ride on the coat-tails of a particularly well-geared level 40-something paladin. The mobs in questions gave quest credit to anyone who tapped them, so I was able to complete the quests without dying horribly. I decided that this was better than standing around waiting for the respawns, which were taking longer than I would have liked.

After stabbing a few tauren leaders in the face, we took a boat ride to the wyvern’s nesting grounds.

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This place used to be way high up. It just shows how far the water has risen since Cataclysm. We fought, we ran, we rescued countless adorable baby wyverns, and we hitched a ride on their big papa to go kill the stupid twilight guy who was causing all this unnecessary ruckus.

They look cute now, but they tore a heavily armored grown man apart in about 10 seconds.

They look cute now, but they tore a heavily armored grown man apart in about 10 seconds.

 

Finally, after much questing, we reached the part I was secretly excited about: we found Magatha Grimtotem. I mentioned before how much I love her and this time was no exception. Despite the fact that I had killed a bunch of her tribe in other zones, she seemed perfectly willing to work with me. Or, more accurately, make me work for her.

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So I ransacked the twilight camps up on the bluffs, killing lackies, freeing captives, subduing the out of control elements. Anything for you, Magatha.

Pictured: ominous Twilight structures.  Not pictured: me nearly dying.

Pictured: ominous Twilight structures.
Not pictured: me nearly dying.

 

This is where I ended up nearly dead more than once because I decided I was too cool to read quest texts. Derp. Pro tip: read the quest text!

This is about where our Thousand Needles adventure wrapped its self up in a neat little package. It ended up being a lot more photogenic than I had expected. As always, click on the screenshots to see a larger, better version.

We’ll pick up next time in Felwood. Here, have another screenshot before I go.

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Iron Man Challenge: Feralas Edition

Did you think I had forgotten about my Iron Man progression? Well, I did. But I remembered, so here’s the next post!

 

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After tromping around in a fetid swamp for what felt like forever, the lush, open forests of Feralas seemed like a welcomed vacation, all things considered. There was no grand battle against the Horde, no swarm of orcs to defeat, and no Alliance generals barking orders. It was quiet. Mostly.

Our first quest lead us like a breadcrumb trail off to the Feathermoon Stronghold on the western shores of the zone. Years ago before Deathwing threw a temper tantrum, the Stronghold was located on an island out in the bay. The elves lost control of that island to the naga, and had to rebuild.

Before...

Before…

After!

After!

The quests really haven’t changed that much since the Cataclysm, much like the zone its self. There’s still the usual “kill yetis, kill ogres, kill gnolls” quest progression, along with a bevy of sea giants that like to fart bubbles and pop them for their own amusement.

This time, though, the zone has a few new arrivals. Satyrs made a brief appearance shortly before they ran away from a volley of arrows flung by an archer in a very odd mish-mash of gear…

This is a satyr...um...altar?

This is a satyr…um…altar?

The Green Dragonflight also has a more pronounced appearance here, with some hullabaloo about the Emerald Nightmare overflowing into Feralas and causing a lot of issues with local wildlife. Thanks to Iarann’s immaculate archery skills, however, a lot of the corrupted fauna has been put to rest. I loved seeing the dream portal in the northern part of the zone featured in a few quests.

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This particular plot culminated in a face-off with a very large corrupt green dragon who was suspiciously squishy for being elite. Apparently killing him has freed Feralas from the Nightmare, allowing it to heal. Yay!

 

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Also new to the zone are the ogre plot lines since Cataclysm. And if we’re going to talk about ogres, we of course have to talk about Cho’gall. He made an appearance long enough for Iarann to sink a few well-placed arrows into his eyes.

AAAGH! He's looking right at me! ...I think...

AAAGH! He’s looking right at me! …I think…

No lie, I was apprehensive about taking him down. I was promised the full support of the night elf army in Feralas, but I received approximately three eleven warriors and one elven archer. Five puny mortals plinking away at the ankles of a massive, all-powerful ogre demi-god. Thank Elune he had an Achilles heel or something, because he threw a fit at 80% health and ported away.

He left his minions behind though.

I'm not really sure what was going on here, but Cho'gall was yelling a lot.

I’m not really sure what was going on here, but Cho’gall was yelling a lot.

Feralas is a gorgeous zone. It’s dark and shady and cool and full of hippogryphs and faerie dragons. It’s easy to see why long-lost elven societies called it home.

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The ruins of these ancient civilizations are now being colonized by less-than-lovely creatures. Harpies took over the ruins in the north:

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While ogres have been squatting in various other ruined cities. Dire Maul, once the wondrous elven city of Eldre’Thalas, has been turned in to an ogre community. It probably stinks to high heaven now, but it’s still pretty.

Around every corner, a pile of ogre shit.

Around every corner, a pile of ogre shit.

However, some of these ancient cities are still populated by the Highborne…dead ones, anyway. Iarann’s misadventures lead her to the marshy ruins of a temple high atop a hill in central Feralas where she was duped into helping the spectre of a malicious long-dead demon corrupt the poor elven spirits further. Oops. After killing ghosts and digging through the mud, Iarann was told to “take this thing to the dead tree at the northern edge of the ruins”. All of the trees were dead. It took me several minutes of running around using the item before I finally found which “dead” tree I was supposed to use it on. Oy.

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I see dead people.

Our travels took us deep into the heart of an ancient, unchanged paradise. Quests and mobs were as green to us as the foliage, but I think that is probably to our advantage. Usually I leave a zone once the quests turn green regardless of if I have completed it, but I thought it best to stay not only for the story but for the easy experience. Despite being decked out in crappy level 30ish vendor trash gear, Iarann is mowing through mobs just as easily as if she were in full heirlooms.

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Our journey through Feralas came to a wrap with the slaughtering of a few dozen silithid pests. I have always been slightly put off by silithid hives. They move on their own. They pulse. They’re full of chirping, hissing, humming, buzzing insects. They have long, finger-like protrusions above ground that twitch and flex. Are they alive? Are the hives the slowly-decaying corpses of massive, ancient bugs?

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I decided I really didn’t care to find out. We killed our share of bugs but, just as we were about to high-tail it out of the hive, something pretty and blue and flappy appeared on the screen. So I tamed it. Meet our new friend Honeycomb (named, of course, after a character from My Little Pony).

I like flowers and sunshine and stabbing people in the face with my butt.

I like flowers and sunshine and stabbing people in the face with my butt.

That’s about it for the Feralas edition. With Honeycomb in tow Iarann and I headed for the next zone and the next adventure. Where will it be this time? I’m still deciding. I might trade the lush comfort of Feralas for the arid beauty of Thousand Needles, or I might find myself trekking through the putrid forests of Felwood. Find out next time! And don’t forget to stop and admire the scenery once in a while.

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Iron Man Challenge: Dustwallow Marsh Edition

Our next stop in Iarann’s Iron Man World Tour is Dustwallow Marsh. It may not be green and splendid or beautiful and airy, but it has a certain amount of old-world charm to it. Dustwallow used to be a favorite zone of mine to level in pre-Cataclysm. I’m not sure why. It was dark and ugly and boring.

It’s still dark and ugly, but it’s far from boring. The revamp added dozens of new quests that touch on the old story lines we came to know and (sort of) love: deserters in Theramore, the haunted house in the swamp, the Grimtotem clan, and the black dragon presence in the south.

I chose Dustwallow over Thousand Needles because it was a) closer and b) more likely to provide interesting screen shots. This is, after all, a photo journal of my attempts to make it to 90 without dying. So let’s get started!

I thought this was blown to bits?

I thought this was blown to bits?

Our journey began in Theramore, proud home of Jaina and her endless thinking. Somehow it’s still here, even though it was canonically blown to smithereens, but whatever. It had numerous quests for me right inside its gates, which is awesome because I can’t possibly die while delivering quests back and forth in a major city…right? But after shaming deserters, killing pirates, and pestering various NPCs, I had to head out into the swamps. It was a dark and dismal world beyond those stone walls.

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Since I’m trying so hard not to die, I try not to get acquainted with graveyards. Bad juju, and all. This graveyard was part of a quest chain, however, and I saw more of it than I would have liked.

The swamp may be dark, and it may smell a little bit like a small animal died in a gym bag, but it has it’s beauty.

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It also has its dark side. Apparently there is some sort of demon lurking in the waterways, because poor Jarl and his house are possessed. I did my best to take care of the issue, but he’s probably going to be crazy the rest of his life. And with a face like this haunting your dreams, it’s hard not to be.

Boo!

Boo!

Thankfully it wasn’t all demons. I got a break from the murk and the marsh when Jaina tasked me with flying over Alcaz Island.

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And I thought, sure, why the hell not. It’s free experience points and I don’t have to do anything but sit on a gryphon. Alcaz Island remained the last subzone of Dustwallow that I didn’t get to explore for the achievement. Color me crazy, but I’m not going anywhere near that place. As far as I know, it’s covered in elite creatures too high level for my squishy ass to survive. So it remained smugly unexplored, sitting lush and tropical off in the distance.

I have no idea why I was asked to survey it. It used to be part of the “King Varian is missing oh whatever will we do!” quest line back in the original version of the game. But the king’s back and the island has no purpose anymore and I didn’t read the quest text. Oh well.

Upon returning to Theramore I was tasked with discovering what happened at the Shady Rest Inn, which is one of my favorite quests in the zone.

Do I have my murder mystery sunglasses? Check.

Do I have my murder mystery sunglasses? Check.

 

I got a little too close to the Horde encampment nearby for my own comfort. The last thing I want to do is die by accidentally running face first into a Horde guard! Their base also remained unexplored. I’m not dying for no achievement.

I ended up at Mudsprocket, a quaint little goblin establishment that reminds me oddly of Disneyland.

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I had a near-mishap just outside of Mudsprocket, thanks in no small part to the add-on NPCscan and my own lust for rare blood. The add-on went off telling me Dart was nearby, and I didn’t question it because Dart is actually a rare raptor found in the zone. I could have sworn he was up in the northern part of the zone, but whatever. I set off to find and stab him. I finally found him, pulled out my bow to fire the first shot, and hesitated. Wait a second, I told myself. Why is he standing still? On the road? And why is his level showing up as a boss skull icon?

I’m glad I took a second to question these things, because I very nearly opened fire on a flagged level 90 horde hunter’s pet. Derp.

Moving right along. I got to poke some dragons in the eye, which is always fun.

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I got kind of uneasy being so close to Onyxia’s lair, though. I know it’s illogical but I kept glancing over, afraid that she would suddenly erupt from her own raid portal and turn me into a greasy blue stain on the ground as penance for slaughtering her brood. So when I was tasked with planting a mocking banner outside the jaws of her lair and killing whatever showed up, I was a little on edge. This place would make any Iron Man feel a little weak in the knees.

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I survived, though, with a score of dead dragons beneath my feet. I took my trusty raptor pet and my bow and hoofed it out of there, before anything huge and scaly could erupt out of the ground.

I tried to get a shot of both moons and smoke rising, but they wouldn't cooperate.

I tried to get a shot of both moons and smoke rising, but they wouldn’t cooperate.

 

One of the last things I was asked to do before fleeing Dustwallow’s humidity was to kill a few Grimtotem tauren and burn their camp to the ground. I’ve already expressed my love for the Grimtotem clan, and it makes me sad to exterminate them. But pay anyone enough gold and they’ll do what you ask.

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I felt bad lighting these pretty totems on fire. Why can’t we be friends?

That’s pretty much it. I got a quest to head to Feralas, and that is where Iarann’s journey will pick up next time. Until then.

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Iron Man Challenge: Southern Barrens Edition

Last time we left off right at the entrance to the contested Southern Barrens. If I was sick of the Horde in Stonetalon, the Barrens had a surprise for me: more Horde!

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My first quest in the Barrens had me defending the Alliance bases from a Horde onslaught along the coast. I remember when the Barrens were all about stabbing animals in the face and stealing their body parts. Ah, memories.

At least the scenery has improved a bit. The oases were always rather pretty but ever since the Cataclysm, they’ve been put on steroids.

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After killing a bunch of Horde infantry, I was sent off to investigate the strange power that turned the little oases from little bursts of green into a massive, sprawling jungle. If you look closely enough, there are a lot of interesting things tucked away in the corners of the Barrens. Like the raptor dens.

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If I recall correctly, raptors in Warcraft are supremely intelligent creatures with a complex social structure. I might be recalling that from fan fiction, but whatever. There’s evidence enough in WoW to support it, if you look closely. These quests in the Barrens have you tracking down a den of raptors who ambushed a supply caravan and stole (!) the supplies. Not only are they coordinated enough to ambush a caravan successfully, but they have the brain power to recognize the value of Alliance supplies (which they have likely not seen before) and the ability to coordinate themselves enough to take those supplies back home. Damn.

They also appear intelligent enough to build homes instead of nests (pictured) and decorate them. Let’s take a second to understand the significance of that. Any introductory anthropology class will tell you that one of the things that separates humans from the rest of the social beasts is that we have art. We decorate things. We add adornment to our bodies and to our homes. Apparently so do raptors. Look closely and you’ll see feathers tied to the structures above. Those feathers had to come from somewhere. They didn’t fall off a raptor and get stuck. They didn’t magically appear. They were tied to the sticks on purpose. Raptors, apparently, are smart enough to say, “This is my home, and I want it to look nice.” They can also, apparently, climb trees to hangĀ  surprisingly intricate ornaments up around the perimeter of their den, much like many native human tribes do to mark territory.

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How the hell did they get it up there?

The icing on the cake is that raptors on Azeroth wear feather armbands. It’s highly unlikely that a passing troll decided to bedeck every raptor forearm he saw. That means that raptors adorn each other, a practice seen almost exclusively among humans. Kinda interesting, I thought.

After taking back the supplies from the raptors, I came across a tauren burial site. I’ve mentioned before that I love tauren, and this is one of the many tiny details I love about them. If you take the time to look, this game has so many little tidbits of lore hiding in plain site. I love how the developers thought to give the tauren their own burial rituals. This site was tauren-only, but there are other grave sites in the Barrens that display all the Horde races, and each one has a unique way of burying their dead. Fascinating.

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I reached the cool, shady boughs of the overgrown oasis in the middle of the Barrens. It’s a far cry from the small, lush pools that used to dot the landscape. Thanks in no small part to Naralex and his meddling, the Barrens’ ecosystem is out of control. And thanks to some timely intervention by yours truly, it’s on the mend. Have a picture of flowers.

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The Barrens’ lighting makes taking well-lit screen shots rather difficult. Outside of the oasis it was bright and sunny but inside everything had this sickly yellow, late-evening sunlight sort of thing going on. Still, it was pretty, if a little forbidding.

Deep inside the brambles Iarann and I met with a tribe of quillboar who could not be persuaded to act rationally. So we slaughtered them. Amidst the carnage, I noticed that the local quillboar had taken to using unwary travelers as building materials.

I think it was an orc.

I think it was an orc.

Back at the base camp among the thorns, I ran in to this guy. His name was Ol’ Durty Pete and I highly recommend you stop by and speak to him next time you’re in the area. His stories are pretty funny, not what you’d expect of some random low level NPC.

"When the grog ran out, that's when we had the knife fight. For sport."

“When the grog ran out, that’s when we had the knife fight. For sport.”

We left the shade of the oasis behindĀ  (after a strongly worded reprimand to Naralex for, you know, screwing everything up) and rode south to continue the fight against the Horde. So tired of Horde. So tired. But the Alliance needed me. So I went.

We passed the burning husk of Camp Taurajo, where I had spent so much time back in the day leveling Horde characters. It’s part of a great quest line now where you learn just how far the Alliance is – and isn’t – willing to go in this war. When Taurajo was attacked, defenseless civilians died, and the quest text tells you that the Alliance General responsible didn’t want it to go that way. Honor amid chaos. Garrosh could learn a thing or two.

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The passage in to Mulgore is blocked now by a very impressive set of gates, and I don’t really blame the Tauren for building them.

Someone might be compensating for something, here.

Someone might be compensating for something, here.

Onward further south, Iarann and I joined in the Alliance battle against the Horde. I’m not really sure how helpful we were, but we didn’t die, and that’s good. The same cannot be said for the good general who tried to make right by the civilians he killed. Rest in peace, sir.

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Finally, finally, we left the battlefields behind. I dunno about you, but I’m tired of the Horde and tired of the conflict. I just want to shoot things with my crappy bow, take pretty screenshots, and try not to die. We found some dwarves and tried to help them, and somehow managed to set an entire stone bunker on fire (it was not our fault, I swear). We killed some more quillboar. And at long last, we waved farewell to the dusty, war-torn Barrens and hiked down into the fetid, mossy swamps of Dustwallow.

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We’ll catch you next time for the Dustwallow chapter!

Iron Man Challenge: Stonetalon Mountains Edition

With the holidays firmly behind us (and the memories of that one night we got smashed on eggnog in Darnassus…) I headed on to Stonetalon Mountains. Iarann has been dutifully plodding her way through quest after quest, all the while avoiding death to the best of her ability, and keeping to zones that are slightly beneath her level has paid off. Even so, you don’t know fear until you’ve leveled under the “no death” clause. Suddenly everything is terrifying: Horde troops, rare spawns, falling ten feet down a mountain side, suspiciously placed peacebloom…

The transition from shady, cool Ashenvale to arid, mountainous Stonetalon was a little jarring.

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The scenery may have changed but the Horde presence remained the same. I got a little sick of them by the end of the zone. Having leveled through here as Horde once before, I sort of remember the story line, and Garrosh’s role in it. The Alliance side was not quite so compelling. Oh well.

Questing here took Iarann through many perils. We encountered my worst phobia in a little vale just off the path:

NOPE.

NOPE.

And this one, too, which I killed. Hard. With my bow. DIE. (Actually I was tempted to tame it but didn’t have the room.)

MOAR NOPE.

MOAR NOPE.

 

There was also this colossal fish which I took down with the help of several elven archers that I had freed from Horde cages earlier.

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The perils continued with dickbag quest givers who say rude things to you when you turn in quests. Not to name names, but it was this guy:

Pictured: Lord Pissypants Von Asshole, Jr.

Pictured: Lord Pissypants Von Asshole, Jr.

Seriously though, he was super rude. So I took a screenshot of him so that everyone would know to /spit on him next time they’re in Stonetalon.

It was not all dickwads and jerkbags, though. One of the quests in the first base you come to in Stonetalon has you repair a very large battlebot named Big Papa at the behest of a little girl named Alice. Last time I was here I didn’t get the reference, but having played the Bioshock games since then, I was totally thrilled to get to do that quest.

Break their bones, papa!

Break their bones, papa!

We then headed onward through the trees towards our next quest hub. For being a war-torn land, Stonetalon has some beauty to it.

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We did some quests with the Grimtotem tauren, possibly one of my more favored tauren tribes in the game. I’m still not over Cairne’s death but I have to admit that Magatha is an awesome antagonist and I wish we would see more of her. Alas, with the next expansion focusing on Draenor, it’s unlikely. But I did get to do some quests for this guy:

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As an aside, I love love love tauren architecture and culture. Also, Grimtotem tattoos need to be a thing for players.

After creepily taking pictures of a half naked tauren chieftain without his permission, I scuttled off to do some quests involving a bomb I had encountered early in the zone. It seems I wasnt as successful at diverting it as I had hoped, because I found it again back in the hands of the goblins some time later. Here’s how it went down:

Hey guys, do you remember that bomb I totally thought I had gotten rid of? I found it again.

Hey guys, do you remember that bomb I totally thought I had gotten rid of? I found it again.

Guys? Guys, I really think we need to do something about this bomb!

Guys? Guys, I really think we need to do something about this bomb!

I'll save you!

I’ll save you!

GUYS?!

GUYS?!

...shit.

…shit.

On a side note, though, rescuing helpless druids made me mad. Way to be an embarrassment to druid-kind, guys. You’re druids! You’re not helpless! Shapeshift! Pop barkskin! Entangling roots! Dash! MOONFIRE SPAM! Ugh, nevermind. Just run around screaming and die. You know, if Sylvestris had been arch druid of this school, this wouldn’t have happened. I mean really, the head druid guy was about as useless as a naked mole rat. “What?! The Horde is going to bomb my school?! Quick! Hop on my hippogriff and…rescue five of my 60 students. Yeah, just five will do. But make it the brightest five, okay? And when you’re done with that, we’ll just sit back and watch the bomb drop…”

In memory of all of those who died in the druid school bombing of 2014.

In memory of all of those who died in the druid school bombing of 2014.

 

I paid my respects and moved on. We soon came to a pretty little enclave of Gilnean folk situated on the bluffs overlooking the sea. As with all things Gilnean, ravens were involved, trees were abundant, and it smelled vaguely of dog.

Oh. Well that would be why.

Oh. Well that would be why.

 

“Houndmaster” sounds like a hunter spec that needs to happen. At the very least, I want the option to walk my pet around on a badass chain like in the picture.

The furry dog guy in the dress sent us on our way to poke at a dragon’s nest using a slightly terrifying device engineered by a gnome who wanted really badly to get jiggy with a werewolf. None of these things gave me much confidence in my mission, and being blasted around by a pair of rockets strapped to my back was not my idea of playing it safe. Did you know you take fall damage if you rocket launch yourself too far? I didn’t. This quest is not Iron Man Challenge friendly. Be careful!

As it turns out, big black drakes like to live in active volcanoes.

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They are also not very fond of people who come in, kill their whelps, and smash their eggs.

Look at the pretty dragons!

Look at the pretty dragons!

A little too close for comfort...

A little too close for comfort…

AUGH!

AUGH!

 

Despite the occasional aerial sneak attack by an angry black drake, I returned to the Gilnean base unscathed (though slightly singed by faulty Gnomish technology.) I didn’t linger, though I would liked to have done so, and made my way back across the zone headed west. I decided to hit up the Southern Barrens next instead of Desolace, because Desolace would have made for some fairly bland screenshots. Also, it’s icky.

We end our journey here, at the edge of the Barrens, in an Alliance base where Iarann can catch some resting bonus, get off her hooves for a while, and flirt with the many identical human men in armor.

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She can also spend some time training her newest pet. I found a rare spawn raptor in a cave just off a path in Stonetalon, and while I usually slaughter anything with a silver dragon around it, I decided to tame this one. Good call, too, as this model of raptor isn’t available again until Northrend levels. His name is Ahuizotl, after a character in the My Little Pony series. Say hi!

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That’s the adventure so far, folks. I’m not dead yet and I’ll be hitting up the Barrens soon. Wish me luck in my quest to 90 with zero deaths!

Good night!

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