Cataclysm: The First 24 Hours (Hyjal)

I’d played through the new Hyjal zone in the Cataclysm beta, but at a very early point where many quests hadn’t been implemented. So a lot of my first day in Cataclysm tfelt new to me, even if a little familiar at points.

If need be, you can fly to Hyjal manually, as it’s just south of Winterspring. However, Blizzard has implemented new “Hero Boards” in capital cities which offer breadcrumb quests to the new zones, which are kind of cool. From Stormwind, I was ported to Moonglade and then sent on a flight that toured most of Hyjal and offered a preview of sorts of what was in store.

Predictably, the zone was flooded with players scrambling to tag quest mobs, but with respawn rates turned way up, you could basically just pick one spot and eventually mobs would spawn right on top of you. At times this could get frustrating, as you’d kill 23 mobs in a row when you only needed 8 because of the crazy respawn rates. But there are still times where you need to kill one special mob and there’s a crowd of people racing to tag it first — most players are happy to group up in these cases, but sometimes it’s just Alliance vs. Horde, and you can just hope you have someone who can hit the mob the second it spawns.

Overall, Hyjal took about 7 hours to complete, which covered roughly 130 quests and took me from level 80 to 82. While I enjoyed most of the quests and the look of the zone, I wasn’t really crazy about the linear path it took. One of the great things about Northrend and zones like Borean Tundra, Howling Fjord and Dragonblight was that they had hubs scattered everywhere that you could often tackle in whatever order you chose. Hyjal is pretty much one long, winding road from the starting point at Nordrassil to the finale in Sulfuron Spire, so if you find one area is overcrowded, you don’t really have an option to go somewhere else.

While the general quest format hasn’t really changed, you can see Blizzard making little tweaks here and there. Some quests don’t even require a quest giver — there’s a box that pops up on the right of the screen when you enter a certain area to accept a quest, and pops up again when you complete it. Blizzard’s phasing technology is used in a number of places so Hyjal evolves as you complete quests, and there are even a handful of in-engine cutscenes where the game takes total control and you’ll just watch the action. And while I give Blizzard props for paying homage to Joust with a “jump to flap!” quest, complete with an egg wave (!), it still came across a little awkward and not really one of WoW‘s more polished quests.

If you start Hyjal, however, I’d recommend sticking with it, as the “end” to the zone turns out to be fairly epic. Through the zone, you’ll see the return of some classes Molten Core bosses like Garr and Baron Geddon (who turned me into a bomb!), and the final quest is an instanced event against … well, I won’t ruin it, but if you’re familiar with that raid, you can guess who you meet in the finale. Overall, it was a good start to Cataclysm and I’m looking forward to continuing my leveling in Deepholm.