Filesystem Checkwits upset Uldaman

22nd December 2009 – 5.38 pm

The Filesystem Checkwits defeat Uldaman! This must be the first time I have completed the dungeon at the right level. Of course, I have been here before, quite a few times. Back in the old days, when I was a young warlock, I needed to get in to Uldaman to train my enchanting profession, which was a considerable frustration. And even when I managed to convince people to help, we never pushed onwards to reach the end of the dungeon. My lingering impressions of Uldaman are the fifty foot tall boss Ironaya and wiping on hordes of dwarves. Even when I return years later, as achievements are introduced, my level-capped warrior is thwarted by the altar that requires three characters to activate it, and still I don't reach the end.

The altar to open the final section of Uldaman has now been modified to allow a single character to open it, the mobs outside the instance are no longer classed as elite, and the difficulty of the dungeon has been lowered to make it easier for players to complete. The changes are to make Uldaman, as other dungeons, more accessible. Getting a full five-man party at low levels is difficult in these fast-levelling times, although the new cross-server tools are perhaps breathing more life in to the forgotten dungeons. But even with these changes, Uldaman remains annoying, if only because the quest structure has not changed since conception.

Completing simple quest chains to get the quest that takes you in to Uldaman itself is a minor inconvenience, and can be completed separately from the group in readiness for the run. However, other quests picked up for Uldaman assume the old days of slow levelling and populations of mid-level characters willing to share an adventure for the challenge and chance of shiny loot. The initial quest asks for the character to enter Uldaman and perform a small task. Once that is achieved and relayed to the NPC, the character is requested to return to Uldaman for the next stage of the task, normally requiring a relatively deep expedition in to the dungeon.

Perhaps if all party members are synchronised on the quests it can be rewarding to share quest completions and achievements, all seeing the same goals. But for a weekly, casual group, heading back in to the same dungeon to overpower the same, weakened mobs is not enticing. I want to experience Azeroth as I gain levels, not face the grind before I've even reached the original, twice-supplanted level cap. Although Uldaman has plenty of areas to explore, a wealth of different mobs, and excellent atmosphere for a mid-level dungeon, as well as some needed plate armour loot drops, it ultimately fails when turning in the completed quests returns half as many asking you to do it all again. Simply put, the quest design has not been revamped in parallel with the levelling design. But at least we got through to the end once, experiencing all of Uldaman as a dungeon.

In true Filesystem Checkwit style, the run through Uldaman is not without a little melodrama. Shortly after entering the instance we find a dead statue, which is an odd description but I can't think of one more appropriate, and Livya and Qattara leap atop it. I am called back for a screen grab opportunity, away from my impetuous tanking nature of running ahead in to two groups of mobs. I'm not sure what exactly is supposed to be happening, but I capture the moment for posterity anyway. And then Qattara mentions that she is stuck, having tried to jump on to the statue's head and sailing over the top. Now she can't get out from behind it. I imagine Livya wasn't in the same danger, being too short to make the same jump. But it's good that Livya is so short this time, as the warlock holds the power to summon Qattara the necessary ten feet back in to the room. Our healer is rescued.

We clear our way to the minor trogg boss who drops a staff, which reminds me that we have to visit some dwarves in an antechamber to get the headpiece. The dwarves couldn't open the hidden chamber in the map room themselves, but that's because they misread the headpiece and their staff was too short. In the map room, with the real staff gained from the trogg boss, and us humming the theme to Raiders of the Lost Ark, a beam of light shoots to the chamber door from the carefully positioned staff in the map, causing the door to open. And out comes Ironaya, a towering iron lady whose main attack now is crushing anyone she falls on when easily defeated. To complete my quest, I dutifully enter the chamber whence she came. 'I have explored the hidden chamber. It's dark, kind of damp, and there may be some kind of fungus growing.'

'Okay, hold on', says Vulzerda, 'I'm coming in after you'.

I think Uldaman peaks too soon with the map room and its glorious recreation of the scene in Raiders of the Lost Ark. Whilst it encourages characters to return to experience the visuals again, and is close enough to the entrance not to be a chore to reach, the rest of the dungeon tends to blend together. I know I've mentioned that there are differently themed areas and is plenty to see, but blasting through scorpions, bats, dwarves, and golems doesn't hold quite the thrill of the map room. Even when we accidentally pull bosses along with a group of mobs, we simply treat it like a normal encounter, barely resting before moving on to the next corridor or chamber. It doesn't seem long before we reach the final chamber and face Archaedas, before defeating the epic quest text in the treasure room by clicking through pages of it in order to be awarded the completion.

We run out of Uldaman, retracing our steps rather than using hearthstones, so that we can hand in quests outside in the Badlands region rather than having to travel back here later from a city. Despite not being keen to return to the dungeon to further quest chains, we turn around and go back in, as Livya wasn't aware of the significance of the hidden chamber as part of a current quest. Getting back to the chamber should be easy enough with the dungeon cleared, we only need to run down a few corridors to the map room. Except the instance server rejects us a few times, and then when it lets us in we have a new instance, complete with full mob and boss spawns. So we talk to the dwarves again to get the headpiece, grab the staff again from the trogg with delusions of grandeur, and summon and defeat Ironaya again. And, with a quick poke in to the hidden chamber, we leave Uldaman behind us.

The run through Uldaman is surprisingly clean, so it stands to reason our confidence will lead to our downfall sooner or later. Sooner, as it turns out. In the run's aftermath of sorting out quests in Badlands, Livya spies rare mob wandering around. Being a 45th level giant, Anathemus is a few levels above us still. Livya calls for assistance, both to make the kill easier and to share in the superior loot the rare mobs generally drop, and I take my new, swift charger for a ride across the region. Anathemus is shown as a rare mob, but not elite, so he should be straightforward to defeat with two of us near his level. I enter the fray.

As my rapidly dropping health and Anathemus's solid green bar highlights, he probably is elite as well as rare. Once he stomps me solidly in to the red dirt, Anathemus turns to Livya, who is trying to take care of some of the local ogres who are happy to join in the fight. 'The problem is that we're using the martial arts technique', Livya's twitching corpse gurgles, 'of throwing ourselves at him one at a time'.

Yeah, that's it, run away, you big coward. Quests are handed in, levels gained, new ranks of spells learnt, and our next target is picked. As Uldaman has been downgraded somewhat, our next adventure is a little uncertain, as there is a bit of a gap in levels between us and the next dungeons. With a bit more questing in Azeroth and another couple of levels, we should be able to attempt either Zul'Farrak, and its own interminable quest chains, or Maraudon, after which our path is clear towards Sunken Temple and the monstrous Blackrock Depths. Fun times ahead!

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