As part of an ongoing series, Staff Writer Paul "LockeColeMA" Cleveland is going zone by zone in World of Warcraft, discussing the changes since Cataclysm, quest rewards, locations of interest and more.
In my last article I had my newbie hunter explore Silverpine Forest. The storyline was dark and full of lore, but completely new to me; I had never previously gone through Silverpine so, of course, everything was new and interesting! However, Hillsbrad I've done. I took my Blood Elf through Tarren Mill years ago, and had hit the zone around level 30 on every Alliance character I had leveled since the Burning Crusade (thanks to Jame's Guide suggesting it). Cataclysm brought big changes to the zone, and I was excited to explore them all.
Zone review: Three big changes come to mind. First, the Alliance is gone. Sorry Alliance players – there's pretty much nothing left for you in this zone unless you're playing Alterac Valley, chasing companion pets or going insane. The closest Alliance flight path is likely either in Arathi Highlands or the Western Plaguelands. Second, the Forsaken have taken over the entire zone. Southshore is filled with toxic slime, Tarren Mill has all new Forsaken architecture, Hillsbrad Fields is now called the Sludge Fields and the dwarves of Dun Garok are now just angry ghosts. And finally, Alterac is no longer a zone by itself and is now included in Hillsbrad for exploration purposes.
The progression through the zone starts in the west and runs to the east. A Horde character will journey through a spider-breeding area now encompassing the land around the Azurelode Mines, then journey to the Sludge Fields north of there to put down a mindless zombie revolt and then head to the ruins of Southshore to conduct tests on the slime used to destroy the town. Upon discovering plans of an Alliance attack spearheaded by the Stormpike Dwarves, players work out of Tarren Mill to crush the dwarves and then head to the eastern side of the zone to finish up some minor tasks and take on the Durnholde Challenge. The zone ends by ferrying players into Arathi Highlands.
Quests to see: Remember how I had said I never played a Forsaken because I find them to be so evil? Yeah, Hillsbrad pretty much exemplifies that belief. You can see the quests in this zone in two lights; either sadistically fun (like a kid using a magnifying glass to fry ants), or downright horrific. I had to keep in mind this was supposed to be getting adolescent chuckles, but take this excerpt from a quest item “The Battle for Hillsbrad”:
This place resembles no farm or plantation that I've ever seen... The warden of the plantation, Stillwater, arrived today. He lined all of us up and gave us medical examinations. Nobody knows what's going on. … I hear screams coming from the Warden's manor. People are starting to disappear...
On the one hand you can read that and go “Ooooo, creepy.” On the other hand, you can look at the entire area as an allusion to a concentration camp. Considering that the quest line later gives you the option to either free the human prisoners or bash their heads in and spray yourself with gore, I felt a little sick to my stomach. I can see a lot of people enjoying the head-bashing. I'm not one of them.
Outside of the Sludge Pens, the quest lines were generally much more palatable. One of the most enjoyable ones is Welcome to the Machine, where I became a quest giver, dispensing assignments to NPCs. The three questers, Dumass, Johnny Awesome (and his Celestial Steed, Twinkles), and Kingslayer Orkus, all show up again later in the zone. Orkus especially plays a role, where, although he is sort of a bumbling fool, he manages to uncover the Stormpike Clan's attack plans and becomes a hero of the Horde.
There are several quests and chains that end up with rare rewards. The quest line for the Sludge Pens ends with the quest A Blight Upon the Land, offering three rewards. There is a recommended 3 person quest to kill Yetimus the Yeti Lord that awards a choice of three items (all useless to my hunter). Yetimus himself is a bit tough — instead of soloing him or getting a group around my level, a passing 80 helped me out by two-shotting him (his knock-back was a killer since my pet couldn't keep aggro). Becoming a Hero of the Horde (see above) offers a choice of four rare items, completing the Durnholde Challenge series gives three choices and, finally, disrupting the Stormpike attack gives a choice of three as well. Blues, blues, everywhere!
All of the aforementioned quests are worth doing, and most are doable solo. I completed the entire Durnholde Challenge solo using my leet hunter kiting skills, although the fourth elemental boss (Infernus) had a disorient that almost killed me. Several of the quests also had cut scenes, although the one from Stormpike Apocalypse did not show the explosions (even though I could hear them). I also really enjoyed the tie-in to the Alterac Valley battlegrounds, as before the story mostly ignored them. I'm not sure why Drek'thar is in a wheelchair, but I loved his refusal to join the Forsaken.
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