Green Green Grass of Home
The Wow Insider Community Blog topic is “What’s your most & least favourite expansion?” I notice that many people in the comments have said Wrath is their favourite & that’s true for me too. Wrath wins, hands down. But the reason Wrath wins for me is not because of the Lich King story line (excellent though it is), not because of ICC (I didn’t even know what ICC was back then – & even now when someone say ICC I think they are talking about the cricket) & not because of the introduction of the “combat on vehicles” thing- which I hate. No the reason I love Wrath the most & the Burning Crusade the least is the landscape. The world part of the World of Warcraft is important to me. I need to enjoy the world in which I’m questing.
The thing is – I like a bit of greenery. I’m Welsh after all – we like our hills, valleys and bays. Vanilla WoW was home from home. Sort of. Elwynn Forest – we have one just like it 20 minutes down the road (less Defias – though there is the odd wino). Menethil Harbour – Cardiff Bay with crocolisks. The monsters of Duskwood – Swansea on a Friday night (I’ve had way too many drunken Stitches lumbering towards me). I have to admit I didn’t like Stranglethorn- too tropical for me – you can have too much sun (and gorillas). But it wasn’t long before I was off to Arathi – cue Sound of Music opening scene – my toon singing her little heart out at the top of the hill, the raptors joining in with impressive harmonies.
I also loved Winterspring (ooh Christmasy), Feralas and of course Auberdine at sunset. I turned my nose up at the Barrens, Blasted Lands & Desolace – anything too red and dry. And Silithus … well say no more, I looked, I saw, I hearthstoned out of there to chill out in Southshore.
But then that fateful day came. I turned 58. It was time to cross the Dark Portal. It was all very exciting. My husband joined me at the screen to watch. We took a screenshot. I rang my mother. It was quite the occasion. And then I landed on the other side. The first bit was ok- get thee to Honor Hold. And then the guys there sent me out to get some stuff and I saw it. I saw it all. Oh dear god I thought, what is this? The ground- why does it slope? What are those bones? What’s that thing running towards me screeching? Why can’t I kill it? (I checked myself out for resurrection sickness – I was so weak & feeble). And the sky … my toon & I craned our necks to look upwards – she saw shattered space, I saw a crack in the ceiling. Neither of us were happy.
I somehow got through Hellfire & made my way to Zangarmarsh. It was slightly better. The ground was fairly flat, although getting to certain quest givers without the ability to fly was a tedious affair. But there was an interesting bluish quality to the light and the Cenarion Expedition were kind. Still – it wasn’t home. Occasionally I’d go back to the Eastern Kingdoms for a brief respite – I’d spend a nice morning in Menthil Harbour and then catch up with old friends in Elwynn. I hugged them all before leaving but they told me I had to go – I sometimes had the feeling I’d outstayed my welcome. Maybe it’s true – you can never truly go back. But I couldn’t go forward either – the Outland areas were all so strange and unfamiliar. BC changed the game for me. I lost my bearings. I missed home. It was only Terrokar Forest & Nagrand that gave me a taste of the familiar – I loved them both (although Nagrand was almost too cloyingly sweet- I prefer an edge to my green), but my enjoyment was short lived – before I knew it I was off to Blade’s Edge and Shadowmoon Valley, and once again I became a stranger in a strange land. I got to 70 and started levelling an alt. I pretended the Outlands didn’t exist.
Then came Wrath. I dug out my main & put her on a boat. She was anxious but I told her I’d heard good things about it. We landed in Borean Tundra and took a deep breath. It was icy cold but the sky was still in one piece. Maybe, just maybe, things were looking up. I did some questing & went up a few levels. Already I was enjoying it more than BC. And then I discovered Grizzly Hills. You can imagine my joy. There were trees, there was grass, there were even loggers. Nothing like some good deforestation to warm my cockles. I considered buying a cabin. And then I found out…oh best not…spoilers. Suffice to say I killed everyone & quickly moved on. Good times. Good times. I enjoyed nearly all the Wrath areas – even Icecrown which isn’t the most welcoming of places it has to be said. But I struck up a friendship with the Knights of the Ebonblade by incessantly trying to mimic the way they sound (friendship with husband took a bit of a knock at this time – “For the love of god stop talking like that!!”) & never looked back. The only area I missed was Storm Peaks & the Sons of Hodir questline (I know – shocking. They still hate me after all this time – I send Christmas cards but they are returned unopened.) I hit 80 in Icecrown and never really moved on from there. I had come. I had seen. I had conquered. But then I got bored. It happens.
But the magic of the expansion stayed with me. And the following expansions never quite matched it. I will take MoP over Cata any day. I love Pandaria & for the first time since I started I have explored every area even after hitting the level cap (I know for many people hitting the level cap is just the start of the game, but for me it’s always been the death knell of my enjoyment. But not in MoP though – there is still so much to do and enjoy.) Cata was particularly strange for me – it marked my return to the game and gave me the chance to revisit the starting areas (although that was sad too – Auberdine in particular broke my heart & Menthil Harbour- well no more Saturday mornings there unless I take a snorkel). But I wasn’t that keen on all the new areas – I really really disliked Vashjir (more water) & Deepholm (more rock). I loved all the Thrall stuff of course & Deathwing.
Cata was also the expansion in which I first started to raid a little (I used LFR & I also did some 10 man normal stuff with the guild). This was both a good & bad thing. On the one hand it meant I finally started thinking properly about my class & my gear (I’d survived more through luck than judgement up until this point). But on the other hand it meant the game started becoming more stressful. Occasionally I’d think back to when I first started and my discovery of the world and I’d experience a real pang. Back in Vanilla, BC & Wrath I never worried about what anyone thought of me in the game. It was a solo journey. If I saw people when I was out questing then all I needed to do, at most, was wave & buff (for politeness sake). That was the extent of my interaction. I was enjoying my own journey. In Cata though I started playing with others (& even doing old world dungeons as I levelled my alts) & I immediately felt that all my shortcomings were put on show for the world to see. This is still something I wrestle with. In MoP I have consciously returned to a more questing & exploring approach to the game. I’m trying to rediscover the feelings that first brought me into WoW. MoP – unlike Cata – feels like an expansion that encourages this.
So in summary I think I can say:
I endured Cata, I survived BC, I enjoyed (and I’m still enjoying) MoP. But Wrath was the expansion I loved because it was an expansion that felt like coming home. It took me back to Azeroth the early years. Not a place but a state of mind, and all the more precious because of this.