We return for another Game Design Exercise: Feelings of General Irrelevance Edition. When I started these exercises, it was partly due to just wanting to test my design skills for something that I can’t actually design, and the one thing that interested me the most out of the possible options – World of Warcraft patches or expansions. The other part was having some kind of written material to show off as proof of my skill. Well, turns out the second part is pointless because “make believe doesn’t count”, according to a Blizzard employee I asked about this, although half-jokingly. Now, I don’t hold this against him but it did make me feel rather… irrelevant and my efforts pointless. Sure, I can design this stuff but it’s not going to be made real. The only design I can actually do is for games I have little interest in. So in other words, I can’t do the design that I want, period.
I still enjoy to just “make up stories”, as it was once called by Chris Metzen, so I will continue doing these but it just doesn’t feel the same. It’s just the soul-crushing realization that all of my efforts here will never be received by the people I aspired for. But no, it’s all fine. I’m not trying to get anyone’s sympathy – just thought I’d share this… insight with my readers, as few as there are of them.
Level 1 satyrs start in the Emerald Dream, in the zone known as Thornbranch. It’s a dark and foreboding forest, overrun with thorns. The buildings you find yourselves surrounded by are similar in style to ziggurats or satyr monuments you find in satyr settlements in Kalimdor. Your satyr character can be of a number of different classes. Like everyone, they have warriors, rogues and hunters (with a goat pet) and these don’t require special explanations. They also have priests (we’ve seen satyr shadow priests), mages and warlocks (as satyrs come from the Highborne), as well as druids (called “thornweavers”, manipulators of the natural foces darker then your typical druids) and monks (because I needed another class and this one seemed the least odd). Right away you meet new characters that will be prominent in the storyline – Princess Ivixa, Thornweaver Zyndaxxia and Prince Menax.
You start in Xavian Fringe (1 on the map), a small area tucked in the corner of Thornbranch where Ivixa tests some new recruits to her forces. Your first quests pertain to dealing with the wildlife in this area, as well as a few Wild Huntsmen scattered around. The most important part is how the three characters want you to deal with your tasks. Ivixa wants you to kill the animals because they need food. Zyndaxxia wants you to test her devices on the local nature to further your knowledge of the Emerald Dream. Menax feels the other two are too soft and wants you to kill the specters and drain their souls into gems he will then crush. At the end of this area, you have to deal with a powerful Huntsman who just arrived from their lodges in the Overgrowth. All three agree he needs to be dealt with.
You then proceed for further tests in the new area, Howling Fields (2). Here, you find more specters than animals, as it seems the Wild Hunt overhunted the wildlife and their sudden surge in activity is not letting the Dream restore the balance. Menax is unconcerned and says that satyrs ought to create their own order, not let mindless, automated processes dictate what has the right to exist. Zyndaxxia merely wants to observe the changes but is unhappy to find that with few beasts left, the specters are turning against satyrs. Ivixa outright says that if they continue to so mindlessly kill everything they find, they will soon have no plants or animals left to eat. Their conversations upon handing in the quests reveal you’re not the only one being tested – Menax is testing the Thornbranchers at the Albino’s behest.
After you deal with the Wild Hunt in the Howling Fields, you find the Fairy Hills (3) where a number of good fey, mostly pixies, brownies and other small creatures, made home. The Wild Hunt attacked this area as well and the fey are in peril. While Ivixa orders you to help them and kill the Huntsmen only to protect the innocent creatures, Menax is furious with her concern for non-satyr life and wants you to steal the jewelry and magical ornaments left around the settlement. Zyndaxxia simply gives you an enchanted bell to test what it does to the fairies – some of them turn into monsters that have to be killed, some die instantly, and some change size or start spinning uncontrollably. Turns out the fey don’t mind the non-lethal attacks much – they consider these funny pranks. In the end, Menax says he couldn’t believe the stories of how weak Ivixa is but now he has to report to the Albino and teleports out.
At Ivixa’s orders, you’re returning to your settlement to await the Albino’s judgement which will presumably be very bad, but on your way through the Ivixion Approach (4) you find Thronbranchers fighting an attack from the Wild Hunt. As you fight through the attackers and help your people with special buffs, you find out the local leader of the Wild Hunt heard of your recent actions and decided to destroy your group. Ivixa and Zyndaxxia realize your settlement is in mortal peril and continue towards it. You find a magical barrier barring the entrance to your own city so Zyndaxxia turns herself and you into (literally) horned owls and together you destroy a spectral spellcaster flying above the settlement on his steed.
You land in Ivixion (5), in front of a large monument in which Ivixa herself lives. The local satyrs inform you there is another attack incoming. You quickly bolster your fortifications, but soon, an assault force of the Wild Hunt arrives and you have to protect the town for a while. You also gather spectral essences from the fallen Huntsmen, because Zyndaxxia is preparing a spell that would, if worst comes to worst, teleport you all away from the settlement. When all the quests here are done, an elite Huntsman appears with another wave of specters and Zyndaxxia’s spell isn’t done yet. In the last moment, the Albino and Menax appear and destroy the attackers easily. However, before Ivixa can thank the Nightmare Lord for his help, he says he didn’t come to help, but he killed the specters because he hates them as well. He’s come to destroy you. Zyndaxxia finishes her spell and Ivixa gives the order to teleport the Thornbranchers away.
You end up in the other end of Thornbranch, in a blackened area lined with green lakes, called Greenwater Highlands (6). As Zyndaxxia says, you ended up very close to the Felfae and the demonic influence here is strong. She offers to dabble in these powers to help your people against the furious Nightmare satyrs, but Ivixa isn’t willing to go that far. She says they’ll hide from the Nightmare for now, and perhaps find new allies. In this area, you find a fel-corrupted fey court, filled with succubi and imps. Your Hellcaller (the warlock trainer) confirms these creatures used to be shay and grells, but the fel energies corrupted them. You kill the demons to occupy their settlement, inlcuding dealing with a fel hag that seems to be behind the corruption here. At the end, your people establish themselves in this area with tents and fireplaces.
You proceed into Greenwater Source (7), an area that seems to have once been a lake but is now a drying marsh with giant mushrooms taking up the space formerly occupied by trees or thorns. You were sent here for supplies but find a group of demonic satyrs that don’t align either with you or the Nightmare. However, while going through their settlement, you find the local leader talking with an ambassador from the Albino. The two are talking about an alliance, and you have to stop them in case they agree. You kill the two satyrs, but you find out you’re very close to “Crown of Thorns” – something Ivixa hasn’t heard of yet.
As luck would have it, the Crown of Thorns is an area right next door (8). Your strike team proceeds there and finds a large settlement of Nightmare satyrs, clustered around a hill covered in thorns that shape into a crown. In the middle of it, the Albino himself seems to be slumbering on a nightmarish throne. Ivixa doesn’t see this as danger, but an opportunity to eliminate their enemy right here and now. As she’s a rogue, she covers herself and you with a cloak of shadows that hides you from most satyrs in the Crown. You assassinate the leaders, avoid patrols, disturb their rituals and finally proceed into the Albino’s seat. When Ivixa prepares to strike at him, he suddenly wakes up and catches her. “Too easy,” he says – it was all a trap to lure you into his grip. But him being concentrated on Ivixa gives you the chance to hit him in the leg. He drops her, and suddenly Zyndaxxia appears, grabs you both, and teleports away, back to Greenwater Highlands.
Ivixa decides it’s now best to avoid the Nightmare satyrs for the time being and sends you down a cliff to Happy Fields (9). They’re called “Happy Fields” because they look very trippy, with colorful fauna and prancing fey. How it evaded both fel corruption and Nightmare for so long is a mystery, but your leaders decide to use this break to prepare for the future misfortune. As you gather your herbs (occasionally getting interesting effects from handling them) and play pranks on the sleeping fey, you find the dreamform of a white tauren, very disoriented (clearly stoned), sitting under a tree. You escort the tauren back to his hut on the far end of the subzone, but his attackers are not demons, or evil fey – they’re various strange emanations coming from the tauren’s drug-induced dreams. When he goes into his hut, he lays down to sleep, only to disappear – when you fall asleep in the Dream, you wake up after all.
That’s when the Happy Fields start becoming less happy. Satyrs from the Crown of Thorns attack the Fields and start killing and corrupting the fey. At Ivixa’s orders, you gather various small fey into your bags and transport them out of the danger into the next subzone, Nightwalker Weald (10). Unfortunately, what Zyndaxxia remembered as a peaceful land inhabited by korreds and ruled by a Keeper of the Grove and an Ancient of Lore is now corrupted by the Nightmare. Furthmore, there are three nightwalkers – giant, nightmarish monstrosities that serve as Emerald Dream’s fel reavers – patrolling the area. Zyndaxxia wants to just kill all the redcaps – corrupted korreds – but Ivixa decides it’s time to get some allies in the Dream. With Zyndaxxia’s help, you uncorrupt the redcaps and soil the land with a herb that will poison the nightwalkers that will step on it. You proceed to find the Ancient of Lore, trapped by the nightwalkers, and free him. He auguments Zyndaxxia’s magic and uncorrupts all the redcaps. In the end, the nightwalkers run away, the korreds are freed, and the Nightwalker Weald becomes a Singing Weald again.
With the Ancient, the korreds and the other fey on your side, you proceed into the Singing Needles (11), an area resembling the Thousand Needles before the Cataclysm, but with more vegetation. Even this area is not free from conflict as you find more tauren dreamforms, fighting off nightmarish beasts and their own, corrupted brethren. With the Ancient’s and Zyndaxxia’s help, you purify the changed tauren. You also kill the monsters and proceed into the local caves to find the source of the corruption here. You find Bovan Windtotem, fully in the Dream, captured by a satyr. You kill the satyr and help Bovan go deeper into the caves where you find a powerful, corrupted tauren. Together, you beat him down and purge him of the corruption, only to find out it’s the tauren you helped before – who also happens to be Bovan’s chieftain, Bielas Ghostdancer.
Ivixa waits for you outside the cave, where Bielas is formally introduced to her. They agree that they should work together to overcome the danger following them and that the satyr corrupting Bielas was certainly sent by the Albino. Together, you go into the Valley of Nightmares (12), which is also similar to Thousand Needles, but with more thorns and satyrs. They took over this valley to train their troops for future assaults. With some magical charms, you dress up as a Nightmare satyr and infiltrate the camp. Like a true trickster, you turn the lieutenants against each other by talking to them, poison the trainees’ food, and send pixies into the nightmarish siege machines to possess them and turn them against the satyrs at the worst possible moment. You return to your leaders and begin a full assault on the weakened stronghold. You go with Ivixa and Zyndaxxia into the hold itself to kill off a local leader… and find yourself tricked once more. It’s the Albino again, who traps the two leaders and then leaves, letting Menax kill you all. You begin to fight Menax and when everything begins going south, the tauren arrive. Bovan helps you fight and force Menax to leave, while Bielas frees Ivixa, who’s very glad to see him. You take over the stronghold and prepare for your next moves.
Finally, your leaders decide the best way to proceed would be to escape the Emerald Dream and find a new home somewhere the Albino can’t easily follow them – in the waking world of Azeroth. The shortest way there leads through one of the Dream portals, but to get there you have some areas firmly under the grip of Nightmare creatures. With your combined forces, you can do it however. First of such areas is the Dark Heart (13), an area that used to be outskirts of a jungle common in nearby Overgrowth and filled with the Wild Hunt. However, they have been recently overrun by Nightmare satyrs who consumed the specters to sate their hunger for power. They are now corrupting the wilderness and Menax arrived here, following you. Through the quests in this area, you again kill the satyrs, free the animals they’re trying to corrupt and find the last “living” Huntsman underneath one of the lodges. At his behest, you kill four satyr sorcerers controlling a powerful artifact. Then, the Huntsman reclaims the artifact and reveals his true nature – he’s Wodan, the Grand Master of the Wild Hunt and his appearance of defeat was merely a ruse. As a gratitude for your help, he promises to give you some lenience if he ever meets you in battle.
You continue your escape from the Emerald Dream through an area called the Roosts of Terror (14). Zyndaxxia tells you it used to be occupied with harpy servants of Aviana, but now something else has taken hold – a new, strange creature none of them know. In fact, these are arakkrai Menax led here to harass you. They speak of Zellek’s recent demise and are led by Jiklar – main universe’s counterpart to the vendor in Ashran. Since you can’t fly up to their roosts, you are helped by a spell Bovan casts on you to quickly jump up a spire on a wind column. The arakkrai seem to be laying strange, dark eggs and your leaders aren’t willing to wait and find out what’s going to hatch out of them. After you’re done with the arakkrai, you proceed into the next area.
Unfortunately, the area immediately around the Dream portal has been taken over by Prince Menax who built here his main fortress, Menaxion. But by now, you have a small army behind you and Ivixa and Bielas – who seem to be spending a lot of time closely together – are not afraid to attack the fortress. The final quests deal with your assault, including climbing the walls, killing the sentries and killing whole groups of enemies inside, with the help of a small squad behind you. Finally, you come to the Dream portal and your forces gather, while no one seems to notice Menax seems to be strangely missing in his own fortress. The fey and the Ancient will not go with you but they thank you for your help and depart. Just then, as your forces weaken, Prince Menax appears and taunts you all, casting a spell on himself that turns him into an even more monstrous form. Ivixa orders everyone to retreat into Azeroth as she’ll hold the line.
As you cross the portal, a cinematic plays. Menax and Ivixa begin fighting, exchanging taunts about their philosophical views on the satyr race. Menax is however much stronger due to his corruption and beats Ivixa down. He calls this an ultimate proof of her being weak and as he prepares to finish her, suddenly a tauren hand stops him. Bielas stayed behind and pierces Menax’s chest with his halberd. As the satyr collapses in pain, Bielas kneels next to Ivixa and helps her up. “You don’t have to die here,” he says, “You are now with the Horde, and the Horde is a family. And families help each other.” She gets up and sees Menax gathering his strength again. Bielas and Ivixa fight Menax briefly, and after a few blows, they together seem to kill him. But as his body collapses, it dissipates into a dark energy, which then forms a ghostly skull which laughs and then disappears – suggesting you will meet him again. Ivixa comments they are done here and they both cross the portal.
You find yourself in Ashenvale, in the Shadow Bough just outside the Dream portal. A satyr town has been established here and Princess Ivixa and Bielas Ghostdancer are guarding the portal. Ivixa finishes your last quest, commenting that they found allies in the least expected places and she hopes the rest of the Horde will be as welcoming as Bielas and his people were. Your final task is simply to deliver Bielas’s letter of recommendation to Warchief Vol’jin. Once in Orgrimmar, he gladly welcomes your people in the Horde – as he knows your expertise with the Dream will be helpful with their planned assault to follow the Wild Hunt.
And this is the end for the racial starting zones. I enjoyed writing pretty much the entirely new cast of characters that introduces the new themes in this expansion. You will meet many of them in prominent roles in the rest of the expansion. Speaking of which – next time, we finally continue into the expansion proper and go through the Verdant Plains, the first zone for the Alliance players. See you soon.