Cataclysm Beta Impressions: Vashj’ir
In one word: Amazing.
In a song, what else?
Seriously, it looks and feels like this, which is a great thing. I might need to loop this song when I do my live streams of it.
The Vashj’ir experience starts with one of the most cinematic events you’ll ever see in-game, but I don’t think I want to spoil it. Suffice to say, it has fades and soft focus and all sorts of storytelling visual aids you wouldn’t expect to find in an MMO. Blizzard certainly learned their lesson from Wrathgate, and has the cinematics team working overtime on in-game content.
Vashj’ir proper begins inside of a shipwreck. Mercifully, the first quest rewards you with the Sea Legs buff. Before I go on with the zone flow, I’d like to say a few things about Vashj’ir conceptually.
I always wanted to see an underwater zone, ever since the first time I had to run into the Temple of Atal’Hakkar in Swamp of Sorrows. Having to swim underwater to get to an instance was a really different experience, and made me want all the combat to take place underwater. Also, playing a Warlock at the time, I saw that as requiring a Warlock to complete the dungeon, which would have been a positive for me.
Vanilla-era WoW environment design would have been awful at implementing an underwater zone or dungeon. This was the design mindset that thought a 5-hour slog through Blackrock Depths would be fun. There would be no “quality of life” buff like Sea Legs in a Vashj’ir designed by that mindset.
Sea Legs makes Vashj’ir. Vashj’ir without Sea Legs would be awful. The zone is absolutely massive, essentially its own continent roughly the size of Nagrand. Moving around that at 70% movement speed would take forever and make the zone very unfun. An underwater zone needs to be huge to work properly. The 60% movement speed buff works out very well, making walking speed in Vashj’ir slightly faster than normal ground walking speed, making the space between mobs and quests more than tolerable. Furthermore, a lack of permanent underwater breathing buff would have made the zone as much fun as those underwater levels in Sonic the Hedgehog. (I know how much everyone loved the “running out of air” music or that little chime warning that the panic music was about to start.)
Thanks to this buff, you can explore the depths of the ocean freely and at a pace that keeps it fun. Which is great, because the atmosphere of being underwater is something that truly needs to be experienced. The color scheme and art design is great, but what really sells the concept is the feeling that certain death is everywhere and about to strike. With raytraced shadows on, the massive shadows of mobs loom overhead, leading you to believe that large sharks or naga are about to descend upon you. Combat happens in 360 degrees, which is a blast. Adding to the confusion are the towering kelp plants obscuring your vision. On numerous occasions, I had mobs hiding behind them, aggroing me when I got too close.
The final touch of genius is that Blizzard found a way to neutralize the convenience of quest objective sparkles. There is an early quest where items are resting on the seabed against sand that is nearly the same color as the sparkles and the items. With the underwater wave effect, the sparkles are almost invisible further than 5 yards away.
After the first hub’s worth of quests, you get your underwater mount, the Abyssal Seahorse. The Abyssal Seahorse makes a great zone even better. It swims at 450%, which I don’t feel like doing the math on, but I believe it makes it a bit faster than a 310% flying mount. While riding the seahorse, you absolutely fly along underwater.
So far, Vashj’ir has been a brilliant zone. I spent 2+ hours there last night and didn’t even finish the first subzone or find the entrance to the Throne of Tides instance. Hopefully in the coming days, I’ll do another live stream of the zone, with many more viewers this time.
Sorry, the comment form is closed at this time.