Hello and welcome to the first ever (at least to my knowledge) World of WarCraft battle report. Allow me to make one remark before we go in medias res: this game is evil. And with evil, I mean EVIL. It devours your time, your soul and possibly your pets. Actually, you can all thank (or curse) my phone company for interrupting my DSL line and taking a week to fix it. Otherwise, this report would never have seen the light of day. But since I had to cope with the withdrawal symptoms anyway (including shaking, insomnia, random shouts of "Watch out, NAGA BEHIND YOU, INCOMING!" at work), I thought, why not write a report?

A few words about the game: As you should know (unless you were on an extended vacation/expedition to Antarctica for the last 25 years, in which case you probably could care less since you're morst likely a frozen corpse), World of WarCraft, lovingly abbreviated WoW, is Blizzard's upcoming Massive Multiplayer Online Roleplaying Game, or (since we all love acronyms) MMORPG. Through arcane, long lost, gruesome rituals, which possibly involved sacrificing a goat or not, I managed to get my hands on a precious, my precioussss, I mean a beta slot.

The game is set in the WarCraft universe (omgwtfsurprisehax) several years after the end of The Frozen Throne. There are two factions: The Alliance, which is comprised of Humans, Dwarves, Gnomes and Night Elves. And The Horde, who brings the Orcs, Trolls, Tauren and the Forsaken to the proverbial table. The Forsaken are undead, who split apart from the Scourge during TFT, for the I-could-care-less-about-storylines readers among you. If you want to know more, go play TFT. Or read up on the races on Blizzard's official site.

My first thing to do once the game was installed was... no, not to giggle madly and jump around the room, I had enough time during the installation process for that. No, I logged on and created a character. My choice was a Night Elf druid. Druids are cool, they can heal, change into animals and, uh, change into animals. Did I mention that they are cool? Yeah. Night Elf, because I wanted to go Alliance and only Night Elves can be druids on the Alliance side. The only other race who has druids are Tauren, for some weird reason.

The druid is supposed to feel like a Jack-of-all-trades: A flavour of all classes, ready to fill in any place needed in a group at a whim. Of the four druid-forms, two deal with travel (seal-walrus at level 16 and cheetah at level 30) and two are lesser forms of other classes: The bear emulates the warrior class, which means it is mainly for tanking, and the cat (gained at level 20, imho the coolest looking form) copies the rogue class - supposedly pure DPS.

At the moment, there are certain problems with that, though. Mana cost for shape changing is extremely high and you don't regenerate mana in animal form. Add to this the fact that, with a decent weapon, your DPS is higher in caster form than in cat form (at higher levels) and that healing is incredibly important. The result is that most high-level druids don't shapeshift anymore - which is a damned shame because it is incredibly cool, not to mention sexy, to walk around as a big, black cat. The very good news is that Blizzard is looking at the class and possibly revamping the animal forms.

After creating the char, I got treated a neat introductory in-game video which gave a short recount of the events since the end of TFT from the viewpoint of the NE race. The camera stopped at my character... and I was ready to go.

For your reference, here's a map of the Night Elven starting land, Teldrassil. It's actually the top of the new World Tree (the first was destroyed in War 3, in case you forgot). You start out in Shadow Glen on the right side of the map. That's where you do your first few quests, before you are guided out (also by quests) towards the other areas. WoW is heavily quest-based - you get most of your experience, and a lot of good equipment, from doing quests. Certain quests, called breadcrumb quests, are used to coax you from one area to the next. It's an incredibly fun system, much superior to the grinding in other MMOs I played so far.

Fast forward a few days. By now, I had completed all the quests in Shadow Glen and arrived in Dolanaar. I had already done some quests there as well, and had hit level ten. This is a big number for druids, since they get their first animal shape at level ten - bear form. ROAR. Ahem.
For the next quest, I had to call on reinforcements: Another member of my guild joined me, a level nine warrior named Stahlin. Who was played by none other than Rincewind, which you just might remember from my War 3 reports from the days of yore. Our task was to retrieve four items from a cave to the west of Dolanaar, the Ban'ethil Barrow Den. This region was overrun with hostile furbolgs. I had tried this quest once before solo, and let's just say... it didn't go well.

While I waited for Rincewind to join me in front of the Dolanaar inn, I amused myself by watching the female guards' idle animation. The word "bouncy" describes them pretty well. Rincewind showed up after a few minutes, grabbed the quest from the corresponding NPC, and off we went. We followed the road west to Darnassus for a bit and then left it to head south-west. On the way to the Barrow, we aggroed a few wild animals (cats and spiders), but nothing we couldn't handle.

The mob density is generally high in all areas of the game - and most of these mobs are aggressive. Unless you stay on the roads, you most likely have to fight.

We also used the opportunity to pick some flowers. Both of us had the "herbalism" tradeskill, which allows you to gather wild herbs. These, in turn are used in other tradeskills.

About tradeskills:
These are secondary skills, which don't affect your combat capability, but serve to diversify your character and can offer another way to get money - by selling crafted items, for example. Most characters have two or three tradeskills, although there is no hard limit how many you can have. Tradeskills are bought with skillpoints, which you get by killing monsters (at the rate of one skill point per every few hundred experience points) and at each level up. My druid has enchanting as second tradeskill besides herbalism, which allows him to permanently and temporarily add bonuses to items. Rincewind had chosen alchemy, to be able to make potions. A rather unusual choice for a warrior, most tend to get mining and blacksmithing, enabling them to craft their own equipment.

When we entered the general region of the Barrow, we started to run across furbolgs. They were still far enough apart to pull them one at a time and dispatch them, but the closer we came to the entrance, the bigger the density of furbolgs became. Our usual tactic was the following: I cast Entangling Roots on the target - same as the WarCraft 3 spell, only that it has the chance to break each time the target takes damage. Rince then used his charge ability to close to melee range and build up an initial amount of rage, followed by his pummel ability, to stun the target. I cast my ranged direct damage and my DoT spells before also getting into melee range. If one of us took damage, it was my job to heal. I had also buffed both of us.

About spellcasting and abilities:
As in most MMOs, caster classes use mana for their spells. Mana regenerates fairly slowly, depending on your "Spirit" stat. Priests, mages, druids (in druid form), paladins, warlocks and shamans all use mana. That leaves warriors and rogues. Both have a substitute attribute which they use for their special attacks. Rogues use something called energy, which behaves like mana, but regenerates much faster. In contrast to mana, the maximum amount of energy does not go up with level. Rage, the warrior equivalent, is interesting. A warrior starts with no rage. As he enters battle, he begins to accumulate rage (based on the damage he does and takes) and then he can use that rage to perform special moves. Rage decays slowly out of battle.
Again, druids are a special case. In druid form, they use mana, in bear form rage and in cat form energy. Click here for an overview of the most important druid spells and more about spellcasting.

With this battle plan, we did pretty well and fought our way to the entrance of the Den without problems. Out here, we had to deal with furbolg defenders and shamans. Both didn't pose any real threat as long as we kept the maximum number of enemies to two. The shamans were a bit tougher than the warriors, because they had the annoying habit of healing themselves in combat. When we reached the entrance, we found another NE player fighting furbolgs as well. I noticed that he was broadcasting on the "general" chat channel that he was looking for a group for our quest, so we invited him to join our party, which he promptly did. After we cleared the area around the entrance of furbolgs, we entered the Barrow Den itself. After the entrance, there was one tunnel leading downwards. We descended it, fighting furbolgs every few steps. From the general chat, it was clear that we were not the only group in there, as well.

Camping. The bane of every MMO. Blizzard's approach to that is two-fold. Dungeons can be put in two categories: Normal and instances. The first ones are connected seamlessly to the rest of the game-world. There is only one for all players, groups can meet each other in there (or trample on each other's feet, if you will). In these dungeons, respawn rate is extremely high, even higher than in the outside world. This has the effect that they are seldom totally empty of monsters, which is good. But it also makes them pretty much impossible to solo (unless you're significantly higher level than the monsters). Instances, in contrast, are created separately for each group that enters them. This is extremely nice, but only used for elite quests.
Since we were now three players, I found that we took down our enemies fast enough that I didn't have to heal much anymore. Which suited me just fine, because it allowed me to change into bear form and stay there for extended periods of time. We battled our way down the tunnel, until we came to the first big room in the dungeon. The exit from the tunnel was a bit above the ground there, and the path split up: To the left, it continued down to the bottom of the room, while ahead and to the right, two bridges led to two rooms on the far wall. We decided to cross the bridge straight before us first and investigate that chamber. Three furbolgs on the bridge didn't really turn out to be a big obstacle. Inside the cavern, three more furbolgs awaited us, in the now familiar grouping of two defenders and one shaman. After we cleared the room, we found a chest inside a niche, and it turned out to contain the first of the relics, hooray! Everyone looted the chest, and we set off towards the next chamber.

Unique quest items can be looted by everyone in the party as long as they have the respective quest. That counts for chests as well as looting the corpse of a boss mob. Unique in this context means that it is not a "gather xxx of xxx" quest.

The second room contained (apart form more furbolgs) another chest, in which we promptly found the second relic. So far, things had gone pretty smoothly. We weren't very far in yet and had already half of the required quest items. Combat had been frequent, but manageable. We left the chamber and descended to the floor of the cave, clearing it of furbolgs. There were two tunnels leading downwards from here, and after a short discussion, we decided on taking the right one. During one of the fights that accompanied our descent, Ilanidrac leveled up, an event that is accompanied in-game by a flash of light around the character much like the one you see in War 3 when a hero levels.

On level-up, the stats of a character increase dependent on his class, just like in War 3. You also gain one skill- and one talentpoint. The latter can be used to enhance (big surprise) talents, a relatively new addition to the game. Talents offer a character the ability to choose special class-specific skills which are arranged in trees - think Diablo 2. Only mages and warriors have talents at the moment, so I can't really comment on them much. Rogues and priests are slated for talents next.

The furbolgs grew gradually stronger as we progressed further down - on the outside, we had dealt with level 7 or 8 monsters, now most were the level 9. Our group of three held up very well nonetheless. At the end of the tunnel, we found another cave - almost an exact copy of the one we came from. The biggest difference was that there was only one bridge and accordingly only one chamber in the opposite wall. Assuming that we would find the third relic in there, we crossed the bridge and entered the chamber (not without killing the 5 or so furbolgs that lingered around out- and inside). We were in for a small surprise, though. Instead of a chest, we found a quest. I'll now wait patiently until all of you have recovered from that horrible, horrible pun. Well, as I was saying... in the niche where we had found the chests in the other chambers, there stood a ghostly night-elf, who had a big, fat yellow exclamation mark floating over his head.

NPCs who give out quests in WoW are easily recognizable by said exclamation mark. Once you accept a quest that requires you to return to them, it changes to a question mark. NPCs that have quests which are too high-level for you at the moment have a grey exclamation mark instead of a yellow one. NPCs with quests that are too far below your current level aren't marked at all.

Naturally, we all immediately right-clicked on the guy (named Oben Rageclaw) to find out what he offered. It turned out that he was one of the sleeping druids, but that the furbolgs had used some kind of voodoo magic on him to animate his body and parade it around the Barrow, attacking any visitors. He charged us to bring him one of the voodoo charms from a shaman. We all accepted and went back outside, where several of the furbolgs had respawned by now. We started to look for shamans now specifically. After killing about 5 or 6 of them (which required us to backtrack to the upper room), we all had looted the charm.

The looting system in WoW is very simple, but extremely nice, in my opinion. First of all, a corpse "belongs" to the party who tapped it, to prevent killstealing. The loot order inside the party is set to "round robin" by default. That means that the party takes turns at looting - after you kill a monster, the game makes its corpse lootable to the member whose turn it is. Once he or she has looted, the corpse becomes accessible to all, if there is still something left on the corpse.
There are two more options for looting, which are rarely used (at least in my experience). "Free for all" means every member of the party can loot every kill, and "Master looter" means that the party leader loots every corpse and it is up to him to determine how to share the loot. Oh, and every party member gets a message when and what someone loots - something that SWG has still to implement over one year after release...

We returned to Oben to finish the quest. We turned the charms over to him, gaining a nice amount of experience each. The completion of the quest opened up another one: The description said that Oben had studied the charm and that we'd have to kill his body and use the charm to release his spirit. As reward, we would each be able to choose either a sword or a nice robe.

A very nice thing about the quest system in WoW is that it shows you the rewards you get upon completion. That way, you can easily decide whether the quest is worth doing for you or not. Also, if it doesn't show a reward, you can usually be sure that there's a follow-up quest.

It was at this point that Ilanidrac announced that he had to leave (I don't remember the exact reason why). While we weren't really happy about that, we were confident that we would manage on our own. We wished Ilanidrac good luck for his trip back to Dolanaar and he left, never to be seen again, at least not by me. Rincewind and I continued by clearing the bigger cavern outside Oben's chamber once again. From there, we followed a tunnel further down. It led us to the lowest room of the dungeon - a circular chamber with a platform in the middle. A curved ramp led up to the platform, and from there, a bridge went to smaller rooms in the walls. There was one other exit apart from the tunnel we had taken, and we later learned that it led up to the first cave (the one where we had found two relics). Several shamans milled around the floor, and one Night Elf NPC kept circling the room. A quick click confirmed that this was Oben Rageclaw, and that he was a level 10. Which is kind of interesting, since his spirit up there showed as a level 35 or so. Apparently, the spirit is mightier than the flesh or something like that. By now, I noticed Rincewind kneeling besides the corpse of a shaman we had just killed. Originally, I thought he was looting it, but he took a bit long for that. It turned out that he was busy trying to rape release the poor thing's spirit with the voodoo charm, but to no avail. Oben had just passed to the other side of the room (behind the pillar in the middle) as we entered. I had still seen him, but Rincewind hadn't, so he thought he had to use the charm on a shaman corpse, which is clearly understandable.
I had just informed him of his mistake when Oben came into view again. We braced ourselves, and as soon as he spotted us, he attacked. Which was pretty cool, because he turned into a bear to do so - he was a druid after all. And druid's are cool, remember? Anyway, not wanting to be outdone by a NPC, I fired off one Moonfire and then changed into bear form myself and joined Rincewind, who was already merrily whacking away at Oben. Unfortunately, Oben was whacking back pretty well, and our health bars started decreasing at an alarming rate. We took him down, but not before both of us were around half health. I quickly changed back and used my remaining mana to heal us both. Then I had to sit down and drink some water.

In WoW, food regenerates your health and water your mana at a very high rate. You have to be sitting to consume either and can't do anything else. There is actually a huge discussion going on the beta forums if food and water are overpowered, since they're on no timer. In groups, it is easy for casters to replenish their mana extremely fast even during combat, since the warrior can usually keep the monsters on him easily for that small amount of time.

With Oben down, we both used the charm on his corpse, and lo and behold, it worked. We still had to find two relics for our original quest, though. Figuring they would be in the wall-caverns down here, we climbed the platform (killing furbolgs), crossed the bridge (killing more furbolgs) and searched the chambers. Killing, you guessed it, furbolgs. Inside the second chamber, we finally found another chest. Three down, one to go. When we returned to the large room outside, we found that the bear-Oben had respawned in the meantime and we had to kill him a second time. Funnily enough, this battle took place at same position as before, so in the end there were two Oben-corpses lying right next to each other. After resting a bit, we took the other exit I mentioned earlier. And as I also mentioned, we landed in the uppermost cavern. Hm. Clearly, we must have missed something. We decided to return to Oben now and pay a bit more attention to the layout of the dungeon. To get to Oben, we had to fight our way through the respawned furbolgs around his chamber. When we finished the quest by talking to him, we both gained a hefty amount of experience and I chose the robe as reward since druids can't use swords.

Quest rewards in WoW are all "bind on pick-up". That means that as soon as you have the item in your inventory, it is "soulbound" to you, which prevents you from trading it. There are other items which are "bind on equip", ie you can carry them around for a while and still trade them, until you equip them. There's always a confirmation dialogue to ensure you don't bind an item to you by accident. Last (and in most cases least) are items which don't become soulbound at all, even if you equip them.

Back in the cavern outside, it quickly became clear what we had overlooked: Besides the tunnel that led down to the bear-Oben, there was a small exit which led to another room. In anticipation of a fight I changed into bear-form again, and a fight we got. Besides two Gnarlpine Augurs (think bigger, bader shamans which can also curse you), we encountered a named boss called "Greenpaw". The battle was pretty tough and we both got taken down to a quarter of our health before we had killed all three furbolgs. It hadn't been in vain though, because in a niche we found the fourth and last relic. We cheered for a round and then made our way back to the surface. Of course, by now most of the furbolgs had respawned. They weren't much trouble, but we were glad when we finally saw the light of day again.

Our trek back to town was quite uneventful, but I discovered a funny thing: Bears can pick flowers. (I recently learned that cats can't mine copper, which is a shame if you ask me.)

Back in Dolanaar, we returned to the original quest-giver to turn in our four relics. We were rewarded with enough experience that both of us gained a level, hooray for us! Plus, he offered a follow-up quest to kill the evil mastermind behind the invasion of the Barrow Den, called Ursa the Mauler. Of course both of us took it. We only stayed in town long enough to sell some loot and then set off towards the south-west of Teldrassil, where Ursa was supposed to lurk... but, as Rince would say, that is another story...

Well, now you know how a typical quest in WoW pans out... actually, this is one of the shorter quests. They get more and more involving as your character progresses. As for this one, remember that I mentioned a seven-day period of forced WoW withdrawal? Apparently I had too much free time on my hands, so I went ahead and did a short novelization of this quest, which you might want to check out, if you haven't already. Thank you all for reading!