Beating it With a Hammer: Making WoW Work For Me

By Paige Francis Posted Monday May 6, 2024

Filed under: Epilogue, Paige Writes 9 comments

I have been determined to not lose control of the story THIS TIME while playing World of Warcraft. And I must tell you, it has still been a challenge. And I’m still learning. Step one was to follow the default storyline prompts for the current iteration of WoW. That means after the starting area (recommended choice: Exile’s Reach) you will be directed to start the Battle for Azeroth expansion. I discussed last week how two quests/quest chains actually happen before Battle for Azeroth properly begins, and both are still available in the game. I DID just learn why the Heart of Azeroth beginning isn’t included in the start of the BfA story: even though NARRATIVELY it takes place before anything else you will be doing, the Heart of Azeroth mechanic WILL NOT be used until you start the War Campaign quests. These don’t became available until around level 35 or 40. I ALSO just found out that SOME of the War Campaign quests are designed to be done interchangeably with the storyline quests. My previous belief that the War Campaign had needlessly distracted me from the story was incorrect.

HOWEVER…the game does a TERRIBLE job of explaining any of this. As in, it DOES NOT explain anything. These options just become available. I will explain how I’ve reached my current state in the game.

This is “The Great Seal.” It is the center of government for the Zandalari trolls. As the Zandalar story is the main 0-60 leveling story for the Horde side of Battle for Azeroth, this will be your main questing center and capital city for the entire expansion. The named individuals here are all important to the story in BfA, although Baine Bloodhoof so far has just “been there, too.” Rohkan, the representative of the Player Character option Darkspear Trolls, will be part of the storyline and occasional quest giver throughout your time in Zandalar. Rohkan has been part of World of Warcraft from the beginning of the game and will go on to even more important things in the next expansion, Shadowlands. Princess Talanji is a new character introduced as the main representative of the Zandalari trolls. Despite dealing with her father the King throughout the Zandalar story, Talanji is clearly depicted as the more important character whose future role with the Horde will be decided by the end of Battle for Azeroth. That last handsome fellow with the unhealthy complexion and glowing eyes is Nathanos Blightcaller, one of a SMALL handful of trusted advisors and lieutenants to the leader of the Forsaken faction and current Horde Warchief, Sylvanas Windrunner (the Banshee Queen, the Dark Lady, etc. etc.) Blightcaller, originally Marris (as in, The Marris Stead, a location in Loerderon) was the only human trained as a Ranger by the High Elves. He was chosen personally by Sylvanas Windrunner and was quite close to her before Loerderon and Quel’thalas got Scourged. He has long been rumored to have been Sylvanas’ lover in life. In death he joined the Forsaken as Sylvanas’ personal Champion. Nathanos largely disappears from the story for many expansions, making a return in a new body during Legion, the expansion prior to Battle for Azeroth. Especially following the ascension of Windrunner to Warchief, he is frequently the voice of Sylvanas during Horde campaigns; a role he reprises now. He does little but provide commentary on story events until the War Campaign quests become available. Once they do, he will have a quest prompt marked as a story quest to start the War Campaign, which will send you to a Forsaken ship in the port from which you will carry out the various elements of the War Campaign.

We will come back to the Banshee’s Wail in a minute. Let’s back up to where I was in the middle of the week. Zandalar is split into three zones: Zuldazar, Nazmir, and Vol’dun. That is also the order you do them in, because you have to complete the storyline of the first in order to make the storyline of the second available, and the second in order to gain access to the third. In the middle of the week, I had completed the storyline in Zuldazar and most of the storyline in Nazmir, and was pretty close to level 40. This tracked with me; I assumed I would finish Nazmir around level 40 and then I would complete Vol’dun to reach level 60. At that point I would see what steps were required to move on to the second “world” of the expansion, Nazjatar. I ACTUALLY reached around level 45 by the time I finished Nazmir, leaving only 15 levels to reach 60 in Vol’dun. Needless to say, I dinged 60 before finished Vol’dun. I was able to finish the storyline for Vol’dun, but I noticed two things at that point. First, I didn’t have any quest prompt to continue the story. I had THREE quest prompts to enter dungeons; one in each zone. I was becoming a bit worried that the dungeons would be required to complete the storyline and move on to Nazjatar. However, I also knew there were A LOT of sidequests I had not done in EACH zone. I completed sidequests that were available within the questing centers, but I frequently rode by (or later, flew over) sidequest markers located outside of questing centers. Usually in odd corners of the map. I came back to as many as I could remember, but sometimes I would still see one pop up while using a transportation option or flying to and fro. While keeping that in mind, I searched online for how to start the Nazjatar storyline. One of the WoW faqs said I had to complete each zone’s storyline in order to get a FINAL storyline from the King. Following the completion of THAT quest chain, I would be prompted to move on to Nazjatar. Unfortunately, that faq also listed the three dungeons as part of the storyline. Now, if you don’t play WoW, you can be forgiven for not knowing that IS NOT the way World of Warcraft typically handles these things…despite being TECHNICALLY true. The dungeons ARE the culmination of particular storylines, and some bigger instance like a raid may be as well. BUT…this is almost always, as least as far as the BIG storyline goes, “optional content.” I tried a couple of the dungeons, realized I was definitely NOT geared high enough to solo them yet, and floundered around online and in the game for answers. Which is when I accidentally noticed THIS:

Disclosure: that’s what it says NOW, because I started the Nazjatar campaign. What it said when I noticed this in my quest log was “Nazjatar: Continue the campaign by accepting the quest “Send The Fleet” from Captain Rez’okun in Zuldazar.” Here’s the thing: nothing ever told me to LOOK there for a prompt on what to do next. In fact, what I read online pointed in other directions. I have since discovered there may be an answer to this, but as I have already mis-stepped with Cinderlynn, I won’t know for sure if a proper prompt might actually be available for a bit. I will explain.

During that “floundered around online and in the game” period, I acted on the “missing” side quests (as in, I had “missed” them) and followed some advice I had found in a Reddit post. I installed an add-on primarily designed for completionist purposes called BtWQuests.

BtWQuests can help you identify quest chains you have missed, or missed part of, that are keeping you from meeting requirements for ANOTHER quest chain, or maybe just keeping you from getting a completion achievement. You can also use it as an ad hoc questing guide. You set your expansion in the drop-down menu to get a list of every zone, dungeon, raid, and campaign in that expansion. Select whichever of those you want, then the add-on will show you a selection of all the quest chains available for that area. Not in any particular order, which is a bit of a shame, but at least you can see everything you could possibly do and finish everything out. I was hoping this would help me reach the prompt to go to Nazjatar, before finding the quest log pointer.

BtWQuests puts a useful little green check mark on every area you have completed. Very satisfying. That has been extremely useful, but purely by accident (again) I realized it was unnecessary to achieve the original goal (going to Nazjatar.) I had read in one of the online faqs what the “story conclusion” for Zandalar was called and just happened to fly over the quest giver, whom I thought was unavailable. I found out later I probably would have found this out through BtWQuests with enough exploration…the final quest chain and its prerequisites are listed. Seeing that the final story quest was indeed available, I went ahead and did it. I got the achievement for completing the entire Zandalar story. But I still didn’t get a prompt to go to Nazjatar.

It wasn’t long after this, while finishing up some sidequests that took multiple days, that I noticed the quest log prompt, which allowed me to start the Nazjatar campaign. Nazjatar starts much like some of the other expansions: a long quest chain full of cut-scenes that lay out the scenario, culminating in the creation of a full questing center and a pause in the action. HOWEVER. Toward the end of this introductory sequence I was reminded of the thing that led to me stopping playing WoW a few months ago. The primary antagonist of the Alliance-side Battle for Azeroth story is introduced by name, in such a way that seems like you should have heard of them before that point. I mean, *I* know who they are because I have played the first part of the Alliance-side story, but *CINDERLYNN* shouldn’t know. And that got me wondering, as it did a few months back, if maybe there was something I missed. Maybe something in that War Campaign that was unlocked for me 20 or so levels ago.

And so…after all that effort, I went back to Zandalar and took the War Campaign quest from Nathanos Blightcaller.

The Alliance-side story, and the first quests of the War Campaign, do indeed take place in Kul Tiras. Kul Tiras is one of the great human kingdoms that were once members of the Alliance. An island nation that was originally noted as being just off the coast of the Eastern Kingdoms; Battle for Azeroth has retconned the location further out to sea. The Alliance seeks a reunion with Kul Tiras to gain access to their great navy, in much the same way that the Horde seeks to partner with the long-forgotten Zandalari trolls for their sea-going expertise and vast reserve of powerful ships. The Horde War Campaign on Kul Tiras involves first establishing a questing center with resources (transportation, repair, supplies) in each of the three zones of Kul Tiras. I have just now reached the second stage which seems to be taking the hero character further inland. The quests to establish the Horde presence in Tiragarde Sound did present the same elements to the player as the Alliance-side quests I had previously played, although the antagonist character I mentioned has not appeared by name. Also…all the quests in the War Campaign are showing up as “low level” which means they were meant to be completed much earlier.

The only conclusion I can make is that I *SHOULD* have taken the War Campaign prompt when it first became available. Of course, doing the War Campaign quests at that point would also mean they contributed to my leveling; and therefore I would have reached level 60 EVEN EARLIER in the events of the story. And obviously, I have no idea how the War Campaign would interact with regular story leveling, and how those quests may hand-off back and forth. I suspect they don’t, although there is SOME kind of indexing going on with the War Campaign.

But once again, I have to call out Blizzard for steadfastly making it incredibly hard to just follow a storyline. I am STILL having to feel my way through, and even correct course when I am confronted with out-of-context information that I happen to know should be related to in a different way from how I am currently experiencing it. This is a PROBLEM…mainly for new players, of course, which Blizzard seems to have given up on despite not long ago creating a new “starting” experience and allegedly changing the overall experience specifically to cater to leveling in ONE particular story of your choice. But if I have to do a half-day’s research to find out where to go next, all I can say is those changes were failures relative to the INTENTION, even if the overall practical benefits were certainly worth it. The starting experience is quite good. You CAN just level to 60 without worrying about anything else. But the level 60 experience is akin to finding yourself at a crossroads of dirt paths in the middle of Kansas without a compass, a map, or road signs. I see indications that making some proactive choices around level 40 could create a more satisfying story experience. But even then, there is no adequate description of these options, certainly no recommendations, and when you find the track you seek, EVEN THE IN GAME QUEST LOG sends you to the wrong location.

True story. When I noticed the quest log prompt to start the Nazjatar campaign, it didn’t name Captain Rez’okun. It told me to activate a quest with a DIFFERENT NPC. The instructions also provided a map marker to an NPC. That NPC has NO QUEST to offer you. I had to do more research to find out that quest was the quest that started the War Campaign with Nathanos Blightcaller. AND EVEN THAT WAS WRONG, because when I went to Nathanos Blightcaller within The Great Seal…guess what? SEPARATE from starting the War Campaign, he actually offered the quest to go talk to Captain Rez’okun. And in doing some comparisons, I realized that quest and another were available, and likely would have been the first two quests I saw after starting the War Campaign. I just happened to…double-trigger them? Work around the normal prompt? Maybe, but considering the lack of pointers and prompts I have encountered, I can only guess.

It has certainly been a frustrating experience. All of this has been tolerable only due to my ongoing enjoyment of the game and incredible stubborn-ness insisting I can make the World of Warcraft STORY EXPERIENCE an actual thing.


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9 thoughts on “Beating it With a Hammer: Making WoW Work For Me

  1. Misamoto says:

    So, your problem is, your idea of how to enjoy the game is different from Blizzard’s idea :)

    In Blizzard’s opinion, the only content to enjoy at a steady pace is the current expansion, the rest of the game is, like a recap that you’re _supposed_ to speed through.

    When BfA was current, it all made sense – when the expansion came out, only the main storyline and dungeons were available. Completing all 3 zones would put you at level cap, and then you’d start working the dungeons for the rest of the story, and then raids came out which you could also join through raid finder to see the rest of it. Then you’d go farm dailies. Then, a lot of time later, Nazjatar would come out, which is not a leveling zone, but end-game content with a ton of dailies and new raids.

    But also, you’re wrong that dungeons and raids are “optional” for the story. For a while now, they are culminations of story. and the only way to see how expansion ends. You _can_ do them without a steady group, but if you’re intent on flying solo and still want to see it, you need to outlevel the content and go to the next expansion for some time before coming back to finish everything. Not gonna work with current expansion, of course.

    1. I think you’re missing my point on a couple of things. I have written all of this, starting a few months ago, addressing what the game experience is like for a returning player, and a player trying to experience OLD content. SURE it all works better if you’re only playing the most recent content…BUT THAT’S NOT THE POINT. Blizzard has even implemented numerous changes that were supposed to make accessing old content easier. I have pointed out that some of this works, but there are some important considerations that were not ever addressed. The second point is on dungeons. I was trying to say, probably not well, that you did not have to complete a dungeon in order to progress to the next OVERALL story element. For instance, you don’t have to do Wailing Caverns in Northern Barrens in order move on to Southern Barrens. You are told what’s going to happen anyway: you enter the Caverns to defeat Naralex to end the corruption in that part of the Northern Barrens. Certainly defeating Naralex completes that quest chain, but it is neither required to tell the whole story of the Northern Barrens nor is it required to complete the zone. You even get the achievement for completing the zone before you ever enter the caverns.

  2. Scimitar says:

    Last year I started WoW for the first time because I had a friend who wanted to play with me, and I had your experience too. I’d love an option to just get a nice linear experience, even if only once, but instead it’s a whole adventure to even do the story and not just get yanked to the latest expansion.

  3. CSilvestri says:

    Every time I read stuff like this about the story experience, I just think “yeah, it definitely sounds like FF14 was a better choice”.

    1. I’m gonna have to give it a try someday.

      1. Sleeping Dragon says:

        Mind you, FFXIV takes absolutely forever to get through to the current content, particularly if you’re similar to me and feel like you want to experience everything and not just the bare required minimum. It does absolutely make for a more cohesive story experience, although the general consensus is that the early part of the story is not necessarily the strongest and then you get kinda stuck in the semi-filler content they drip-fed between each expansion.

  4. UPDATE: I have learned that probably my biggest mistake was believing the first three leveling zones continued on to Nazjatar as the story. Nazjatar was added AFTER the War Campaign AND the Warfront elements, along with the previously mentioned World Quests.

    I should have an update outlining this new understanding, although I may try testing it on an Alliance-side character first.

  5. Aaaaaand I just had to delete Cinderlynn, because there is a quest in the 8.1 added content that prefigures content from the next expansion. For one of the very few times in WoW history, it has irrevocable branching questlines that affect your future choices. WoW doesn’t normally work that way, and I didn’t know that. If you choose the dialogue option, which is almost ALWAYS purely flavor text, it gives you a big warning about your choice being permanent. If you choose the actual quest reply….no warning. You cannot get this quest chain removed or reset…WoW just doesn’t have that capability built in. Allegedly you can get a moderator to do it, but everything I looked up said don’t even both asking. With the other story problems I’ve learned about, I deleted Cinderlynn and recreated her (after sending her 20,000 gold to someone else.)

  6. Pun Pundit says:

    Every so often, I get those nostalgic feelings about WoW. I remember the fun I had with my guilds, the cartoony graphics’ appeal, and I wonder… should I touch a Blizzard game again? I haven’t since Blitzcheung, and Blizzard certainly has reinforced that decision semi-yearly with their various game releases and/or public statements (if I had been in the crowd when the now legendary statement “Don’t you guys have phones?” was made, there’s a non-zero chance I would have thrown my phone at the stage) – but the nostalgia I have for my time in WoW is very strong.

    Thank you for this write-up, which cured that feeling this time around. What a complicated mess for a returning player wanting to get back up to speed. Also, my long covid brain fog would likely make enjoying an MMO unfeasible, I can generally only play a game for an hour or two before I have to lie down and listen to soothing sounds for an hour.

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