Cataclysm Day 3: Uldum: The Motion Picture

The guys who designed WoW‘s new Uldum zone must really like movies. In particular, they clearly adore Indiana Jones. But in general, they just seem to love movies, because Uldum is loaded with cutscenes at every turn, often turning what I think is the best zone in Cataclysm into a surreal experience for veteran WoW players.

The popcorn-flinging starts with the breadcrumb quest leading you to the zone. In six years, it rare that WoW wrestles control away from the player completely for a cutscene, but that’s what happens as you join a caravan leaving Tanaris for Uldum, and hijinks ensue. The only problem: when the smoke cleared, I found myself locked to the ground unable to move, and had to port out and manually fly back to the zone to pick up where things left off, a problem reported by several players.

Little did I know that this was only the start of an epic mini-series. Before I’d completed 20 quests in the zone, I’d sat through 8 cutscenes, many paying homage to Raiders of the Lost Ark with an NPC named “Harrison Jones” in the Indy role. But a fair amount of the cutscenes are just clumsy, aiming the camera at boring NPCs with chat bubbles appearing over their heads. No voiceovers, Blizzard?

And worse, many of the cutscenes — all rendered real-time in the game engine — have just flat-out bugged, with the camera getting stuck looking at the side of a mountain for 45 seconds until you finally quit out. By the time you finish the zone, you probably end up watching 15 or so cutscenes, and at least half of them are unnecessary. It’s puzzling that Blizzard would make such a big addition to the way they tell stories within the game and do it in such a clumsy way.

Cinematic buggery aside, everything else about Uldum was a welcome improvement from the dreariness of Deepholm. It’s the desert zone Tanaris should have been, bright and colorful, loaded with personality and good storylines outside the Indiana Jones riffs. There are some great quests here as well, including one where you control a giant flaming pinball and get to roll over 1000 gnomes. 1000 gnomes! I’m not sure how you outdo that, but I’ll find out Friday as I move on to Twilight Highlands and try to pick up my last half-bar of XP to 85.