Flying in to Icecrown

24th March 2009 – 10.05 am

Nearly all of my visits with my death knight to Wintergrasp so far have been highly enjoyable PvP romps, but it is only recently I've realised that being below the level cap has meant missing out on collecting Stone Keeper's Shards from the Wintergrasp daily quests available. On the one hand, this hasn't spoilt my fun in the chaotic and exciting open PvP combat that is far more challenging and demanding than solo PvE content. On the other hand, the shards are used as currency to buy high quality equipment and without the daily quests my access to the shards is much more limited. This realisation prompts a new spurt in gaining XP, letting me reach another milestone in the process.

Only being three bubs away from 77th level, after various instance runs, a short return trip to Zul'Drak quickly sees me gain the level and, with that, access to cold weather flight training. I have the gold to hand to pay for it and a friendly guild member lends me a chunk of gold to upgrade my flying skills to the artisan level, giving me swift flight over the whole of Northrend. Before I know it, I have joined an exclusive club of characters invited to Icecrown. I get sent both to the Argent Crusade camp and the ship flying above Icecrown, opening up a wealth of new content.

Normally I've been whining about being locked out of content, so being granted access to what is effectively an 80th level zone is just what I am after, something more of a challenge. Of course, the content was still locked and only opened by training in cold weather flying, but the training is not an unreasonable cost even if it is an artificial restriction to limit early exploration by flight. All of a sudden, the continent of Northrend seems open to me where before I was struggling against forces holding me back in regions I was ready to leave. I take on the new missions in Icecrown with some enthusiasm, readily gaining a third of a level in XP without breaking a sweat.

Even so, I am going to whine about level-restricted content again. It was only at 76th level that both Sholazar Basin and Zul'Drak started offering quests to me. My previous visits to the regions had me turning back disappointed and frustrated at not seeing a single yellow exclamation mark, despite being quite capable of fighting my way to the camps. It seems I spent three levels in Borean Tundra and three levels in Dragonblight, unable to progress except sideways to an alternative zone of the same level, only to be granted access to the next zones for effectively a single level. Once Icecrown and Storm Peaks become available the lure of Sholazar Basin and Zul'Drak diminishes greatly.

I simply don't understand why access to quests in the zones are withheld from characters for so long when they are also made redundant so quickly. If Sholazar Basin had unlocked its content to me even one level earlier I would have been happier to explore it more fully, but now it is relegated to a zone to explore and quest in only for achievements once I've reached 80th level and need something to do. Considering that Icecrown is now offering me quests that con orange to me, showing they are above my level, I really don't see why the same couldn't have been the case for other zones, with players able to make their own decisions about where they want to explore and how difficult they want their quests to be.

But I am happy that I have access to Icecrown and the quests within. The scenery is imposing enough to fill any rational character with dread, the early quests have kept me both busy and engaged with the content, and flying has enabled me to explore more freely and marvel at the continent of Northrend. I must note how picturesque Dalaran looks from the skies, for example, an impression not possible to fully appreciate from inside the city. It's just a shame that Blizzard think so little of Sholazar Basin and Zul'Drak that they apparently want players to avoid going there.

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