Finding Dalaran

12th February 2009 – 10.41 am

I find myself in Northrend with no particular agenda, so I indulge the explorer in me for a while. Travelling northerly through Dragonblight eventually has me crossing in to Crystalsong Forest, where I spy some interesting ruins to investigate. My exploration pays off, as I reach the city of Dalaran at last! Except I am a few hundred feet below the city standing next to some Kirin Tor mages. The only way I can see to travel to Dalaran is a teleportation crystal hanging before the mages, but trying to use this only tells me that I must use the one in Dalaran first, which is as far from helpful as basing the Hydraxian Waterlords in the remotest corner of Azshara. The Kirin Tor around the crystal remain silent, refusing any enquiry about reaching the city.

There must be same way to get in to Dalaran. I don't want to ask my guild or search for an answer, because I believe it should be obvious enough that it can be deduced without external help, yet here I am standing below the city with no indication of how to get in to it. The crystal is cryptic and the NPCs uncommunicative. I assume that access is granted based on either character level or reputation with the Kirin Tor, perhaps both. It is more likely to be level- rather than reputation-based because players can enter Northrend via Howling Fjord and miss the Coldarra content completely. My death knight is 73rd level, close to 74th, so with no obvious entrance to Dalaran presented I head back to adventure some more, planning to return upon gaining my next level.

This is frustrating. Ever since reaching Northrend I have either had to camp locally, eschewing the conveniences of access to a bank and auction house, or return to a city using my hearthstone and subsequently have to make the journey back to Northrend to continue my adventures. Travelling to Northrend wouldn't be so tiresome if it were as simple as getting on a gryphon, as I could pay for a flight and do something else for a few minutes. But as it involves passage by sea I need to be attentive to when the ship docks and physically get myself on and off the deck at the right time. And after a few trips to Northrend I face a gryphon flight once I get there anyway, to send me to my progressing quests, which cannot be made a continuous flight because of the section spent at sea.

Having to make a tedious journey simply to get back in to some action takes me back many levels, to before Outlands in fact. With Burning Crusade came Shattrath City, a sanctuary easily accessible as soon as you step through the Dark Portal, with inns where you can set your hearthstone, portals to every capital city in Azeroth and a flight point to get back to Outlands quest zones. Shattrath is a huge increase in convenience because once you set your hearthstone there you have effective hearthstone access to every city in the world and a simple return path to adventuring. All the hassle of transcontinental travelling is removed.

Shattrath's immense convenience is what makes a lack of similar city so frustrating in the early stages of Wrath of the Lich King. It's not like having your flying mount taken away, which is irritating but hardly stops you exploring or travelling, having to travel to and fro between Azeroth and Northrend is stealing time away from you. Stepping in to the new expansion and having to physically put your character on journeys backwards and forwards for simple housekeeping is a serious interruption and quite a regression in gameplay.

A few more quests later and I reach 74th level. With a sense of expectation at exploring the new city and having access to all the portals from the middle of the new continent once more I ride back to Crystalsong Forest to beneath Dalaran, whereupon I am in the same position as before. The crystal still won't work for me, because I haven't used the one in Dalaran, and the Kirin Tor won't tell me what I have to do. And what frustrates me the most about finding Dalaran is this lack of communication.

It doesn't take long—although it does happen by accident—for me to discover that there is a Kirin Tor representative in most settlements ready to transport me to Dalaran once I reach 74th level, which I verify when my warrior also reaches 74th level, but before that I am left completely in the dark. The Kirin Tor in the settlements may hint at Dalaran's existence and the requirement for getting there but as they provide no quests and are miles away from the city there is little reason to suspect as much and talk to them to find out. Under Dalaran itself, the logical place to seek wisdom about the city, there is no one telling me that I am refused entry until I meet some artbitrary requirement.

It's possible that Blizzard inadvertently made Shattrath too accessible for players, with only a simple run needed to reach the sanctuary, and have tried to correct this for Dalaran. I can understand that, we shouldn't have everything handed to us. However, with its more central location and higher-level surrounding mobs I would suggest that anyone who makes the journey to Crystalsong Forest deserves entry to Dalaran and the conveniences it offers, with those not wanting to face the gauntlet waiting safely until their time comes. At the very least, there should at least be representative of the Kirin Tor below Dalaran willing to explain the requirements and points of entry. Being able to get so close to the city with no explanation of how to enter or why it is not possible is poor design.

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