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Thursday, January 15, 2009

When questing is the reward

I've never been a big fan of quests. I've always done them as a means to an end, whether to level up or to earn a bit of Gold. My questing rate dropped considerably once I hit Level 80, with the only quests I did consisting mostly of Wintergrasp dailies and about a week's worth of Ebon Blade dailies in Icecrown to raise my reputation. But the truth is, quests in Wrath of the Lich King have been downright phenomenal. They are well-designed, fun to do, and -- if you actually stop to read the quest text (something I'm often guilty of skipping) -- wonderfully written and filled with story.

I finally got off my lazy butt to do the long Sons of Hodir quest chain, a "necessary evil" to raise reputation with what Alex has dubbed one of the most important factions in Wrath. There was little urgency for me to do the chain, considering I was satisfied with the Wintergrasp shoulder enchants even though they wasted points on Resilience. On the other hand, it became increasingly frustrating for me not to be able to assist my wife whenever her character (often) became the target of merciless gankage. You see, like many parts of Northrend, the Storm Peaks zones where you do Sons of Hodir quests are phased. I simply wanted to get to the point where we would be in the same phased stage, so using Alex's handy guide to the Sons of Hodir quest chain, I set off on what was a surprisingly good and fun adventure.

I really should have been prepared for it, considering I had completed the mind-blowing Dragonblight chain leading to Angrathar the Wrath Gate and The Battle for the Undercity. One of the most amazing experiences I had playing the game has come from something as simple as opening up the Shadow Vault in Icecrown and all the quests leading to Tirion Fordring's gambit. Quests in Wrath of the Lich King have evolved from the days FedEx and Kill X or Get Y Drop, Blizzard has used all the toys in their toolbox to make some of the most creative and engaging quests ever.

Part of me wishes that The Drakkensryd quest were some sort of daily. It's just crazy fun. Jumping from proto drake to proto drake and killing another rider while in mid-air? Simply breathtaking. The lore is great, too, and the story of Thorim, his friendship with the giants, and the betrayal of his brother -- all inspired by the Norse mythology we all know Chris Metzen loves so much -- is a good read and is fun to follow. So even though I did the Sons of Hodir chain out of mere necessity, it turned out to be a truly rewarding experience simply because it's just so much fun.

That's the thing. Questing in Wrath is incredibly rewarding, not necessarily through items or Gold (although the money's pretty good, too), but because the playing experience is completely worth it. The variety of quests in Wrath of the Lich King is wide and there seems to be something for everyone. A lot of the 'vehicle'-type quests offer a different experience, some of my favorites involving the use of a Lithe Stalker in Icecrown to start fights or drag gift bombs. The King of the Mountain quest in Ymirheim takes no more than a few minutes but is just silly fun, specially if you bump into a member of the opposing faction and you knock each other off the mountain with rockets.

Part of what makes Wrath one of the most fun games I've ever played is the quality of the game experience, particularly with the new quests. There's every indication that this trend will continue, it's simply a question of how far Blizzard can push the envelope with quest design. And while I appreciate all the decent item rewards and free-flowing Gold, the sheer fun of every quest in Northrend has been its own reward for me.