Sunday, 15 November 2009

PTR 3.3: Reflectin' on the Halls of Reflection [Spoilers]

Halls of Reflection is finally out! It has been delayed on the PTR for weeks now, and only just came out during Thursday's early morning update. I went on shortly afterwards and used the Dungeon Finder tool to join for Pit of Saron, and happened to join for Heroic. Some of us were first timers and we wiped a few times, but eventually made it. At the end an event occurs and you follow Jaina (or Sylvanas if you're Horde) through a portal to Halls of Reflection. Here comes the nitty gritty of the dungeon experience, and how to handle it as a holy priest - spoilers abound!

You step into the instance, into a corridor looking directly at Frostmourne. If your group happens to have the Quel'dalar quest, then the blade with have a reaction to Frostmourne and will attack the group. Once it's been subdued, Uther appears and tells you to take it to the Sunwell. Otherwise, the instance starts with Jaina/Sylvanas attempting to communicate with the blade, which causes Uther to appear as an apparition and starts a minor cutscene that lasts several minutes. At the end the Lich King appears and takes his blade back, summoning his two commanders, Falric and Marwyn, as the first encounter of the instance.

There are ten wave of adds during the fight, and they can end up very nasty. In addition to the traditional Priest (Fear and SW:P dispels!) and Warrior adds, you also get Mages who can single target frost nova and multiply themselves, Rogues which do stacking poison damage and Hunters who will set Frost Traps, slowing down the tank and making his job harder than it is already. They spawn around the Frostmourne chamber, so the party should probably fight in the corridors which are easy to line-of-sight the ranged. The adds are shackable.

I found it pretty challenging to heal the trash waves since our tank was inexperienced and the whole party seemed to be taking a large chunk of damage at times as well. There was also little time to recover inbetween, with adds spawning as soon as the last of the prior was finished. Blizzard seems to be wanting more CC rather than 'WotLKing' (AoE zerging) the new heroics. I suspect priests and paladin groups will be popular for this encounter, Shackle Undead, Turn Evil and Holy Wrath will all be extremely useful to control the trash. We wiped a few times, once on the boss itself. The trash waves only stop after the boss dies, so if you wipe on the boss, be prepared to do those five waves all over again!

Falric will fight as soon as the last of the fifth wave is down, and Marwyn after the tenth. Falric was pretty easy, with only the tough part being Defiling Horror, which did damage during an undispellable fear (Every Man for Himself worked). You get a short break after killing him before the sixth wave appears. Marwyn randomly gives a party member a debuff which does 40,000 damage over time unless dispelled. Dispelling it splits the damage amongst the party, so group heals should be prepared.

After that you fight a lone Frostsworn General who isn't tough to take down, he also has reflections of your party to help him. I assume they are CCable but they all went down easily so it wasn't worth bothering to check. Then its up the ramp to see a low hp Jaina/Sylvanas battling the almost untouched Lich King. He is then disabled and you speak to the heroine to start a chase sequence.

During the chase sequence, the Lich King brings down walls of ice to temporarily stall the party, summoning waves of ghouls, Ymirjar Witch Doctors and Abominations. Abominations were immune to shackles, so should probably be brought down first, whereas Shackle Undead could be used to stall the Witch Doctor's AoE casts. You have to break through around four ice walls with one wave of undead each time, although their numbers steadily ramp up. The Lich King during this sequence will slowly approach the party, with an aura that does damage over time, and if in range, he will oneshot you! In my experience, when he reached the wall he killed only killed one person in my party, but I suspect it was a bug and you are supposed to wipe.

Once the last wall breaks you reach a dead end and the Lich King strangulating the last breaths of your faction's heroine... only to find your factions airship arrive in the nick of time, blasting away at the rock tunnels and trapping the Lich King. The rocks quickly disappear with the Lich King nowhere to be found, and you ascend the steps to the airship and find the loot in a chest at the end.

Overall it's a short and fun event filled instance, similar to ones such as those in Caverns of Time, notably Old Hillsbrad. But it doesn't really give total closure for people who don't raid, since you never really do anything to Lich King other than run away. Unfortunately it seems to get your real chance for retribution at Arthas, you will have to do one of Icecrown Citadel raids. The three 5-man instances altogether have been a great treat though, the music and speeches provide a great atmosphere to them all.

My first and only time in the instance so far has been in heroic mode, which offers the higher end geared raiders a decent challenge. It did seem a little too difficult for the ilvl 232 rewards it gives, although I'm underestimating how the new Dungeon Finder will shower you in T9. Maybe it was the premade tank with no experience, maybe the lack of CC we used, we ended up wiping half a dozen times. Nonetheless, with the trash in there dropping Quel'delar Hilt amongst other random BoP epics, it will end up rewarding for most. During the initial release, at least!

Monday, 9 November 2009

Levelling an Alt: Part 1

With relatively little going on Warcraft at the moment, I have decided to start a new Blood Elf Hunter on a server that I used to play on, Sporeggar-EU. When Wrath of the Lich King came out I decided to go with Alliance over Horde, so I never took my existing level 70 character there up to 80, and didn't have heirlooms during the Hunter levelling process. Since I was doing it with a friend, who's playing a Paladin, and never played Horde before, having no heirlooms meant we would be balanced in levelling terms.

The major changes brought by 3.2 and it's predecessors have seriously revamped the levelling up process. With affordable mounts even for someone who has never played on the server but has economic knowledge of the game (i.e. Has Auctioneer), Azeroth goes by in a blur. And then Outlands. Oh, poor Outlands. The change of normal flyers being boosted to 150% and at 60 has meant that we say hello and goodbye to the Burning Crusade in two, three days. After heading to Outlands at 58 I am currently 64 with 88/90 quests in Hellfire, 53/54 in Zangarmarsh. I expect we'll be 68 within finishing Greatmother chain, as every self respecting person starting a Horde for the first time should see it.

In anticipation of the badge pinata LFG system, it is one of the best times to level a new character. However, on our low population server designated for New Players, we rarely found groups for instances. This could be because we were playing afternoons and late nights instead of evenings, but we did find ourselves wishing for the new LFG a fair few times. While the first few instances you come across can be duo'd, we needed a dedicated healer for later ones such as Zul'Farrak and Maraudon. Sunken Temple we skipped entirely. But these were minor annoyances, and it didn't take long to level up since you can cherrypick your way through 3-4 zones every tier.

In a duo group like we were, killquests were the norm, so zones like Stranglethorn Vale and Hinterlands quickly became our favourites. The latter in particular has quests which are efficient and duo-friendly. Despite the changes to Vanilla itemisation way back in TBC, it still doesn't quite reach todays expected standards, and we went into Outlands still wearing gear acquired back at level 30. It's pretty disconcerting to see spirit on DPS loot, so heres hoping Cataclysm's revamp will sort that out once more.

All in all, I'm pretty surprised at how eager I've been to level a character. Having a friend to level with and to keep each other motivated helps a lot too. The last time we levelled was through Recruit-a-Friend, and we went through it boosting each other in instances and ended up with several new 60s, but sometimes it's fun to do it the old fashioned way.