The Mustering of Azeroth: Is Trouble Brewing?

Three down, nine to go.

Completing the monk class campaign in World of WarcraftI’ve now completed the monk class story in World of Warcraft. So far, every class story has been a bit inconsistent, to varying degrees, but this is much truer of the monk campaign than the rogue or warlock stories.

The monk story starts well. It’s intense, and it gives a clear and personal reason to hate the Legion right of the gate.

The problem is that after a while it stops being a monk story and becomes simply a brewmaster story. Even as a brewmaster main, this is a bit hard to get behind. Brewmaster is fun to play, but it’s far too silly a concept to carry a full story arc. To put it mildly, I have trouble taking the game seriously when it starts borrowing philosophy from Homer Simpson.

“Brew: The cause of, and solution to, all of Azeroth’s problems.”

This is a problem Blizzard often runs into. I like WoW’s sense of humour, but when the jokes become the meat of the story, they stop being funny pretty fast.

The ending of the base storyline is short and severely underwhelming in terms of both plot and gameplay, but on the upside, the 7.2 continuation provides a much more satisfying conclusion (the same was true for warlocks). The story’s still awfully brew-centric, but there’s some clever gameplay. At one point you imbibe a particularly potent batch of Storm Brew and are able to devastate an entire cohort of demons while moving at super speed (represented by the entire game around you moving in slow motion).

My monk surveys her grim handiwork in World of WarcraftThe real charm of the monk campaign is found not in the meat of its story but in the peripheral features. Fu Zan and Sheilun both have excellent acquisition quests and really fascinating lore. Seriously, if you haven’t read the lore book on Sheilun yet, go do that. Just… wow.

The frequent opportunities to revisit Pandaria are also welcome, and in many ways the monk campaign does feel like a good epilogue to Mists of Pandaria, which was one of the best expansions for story, despite whatever other flaws it may have had. After all the damage we did to Pandaria, it feels good to now be standing as one of its protectors.

The monk story also brings back a number of memorable characters from Pandaria. The Monkey King, of course, is always welcome to join me when I go grookin’.

But my favourite part was being able to recruit Taran Zhu. I know Zhu bruised a lot of people’s egos, but I’ve always felt him to be a very compelling and well-written character. After all of his distrust of us, his anger, all that he lost, to have him willing to follow my banner was an incredibly gratifying moment and, to me, the perfect coda to Mists of Pandaria.

I only wish the new characters could have been as compelling. Blizzard seemed to want to add some racial diversity to the monk followers, which is understandable, but the fact they’ve never really bothered to create non-Pandaren monk characters before now meant I got saddled with a bunch of nobodies I don’t care about.

Still better than Li-Li, I guess.

My monk strikes a pose in World of WarcraftThe monk campaign is so all over the map it’s hard to rate. At times, it’s thrilling or profoundly powerful. At others, it’s deeply disappointing. Overall, this won’t go down as my favourite class story, but I can’t say it didn’t have its moments.

WoW: Salute the Dark

I’m baaaack.

My monk affected by the Inky Black Potion in World of WarcraftPerhaps because my last visit was so short, it feels like it’s been a long time since I played World of Warcraft, though rationally speaking it hasn’t. Regardless, it is as ever easy to get back into the swing of things.

I’m taking a relatively laidback approach to my return so far — after a brief burst of intense grinding the first couple days — so I haven’t yet visited the Tomb of Sargeras or done anything too dramatic.

I did give the new dungeons a run. I enjoyed the Cathedral of Eternal Night. Solid five-man, nothing to complain about. Return to Karazhan I’m mixed on. I know a lot of people loved original Karazhan, but I was always bitter such an iconic location in WoW lore was reduced to a cheesy haunted house. The new five-man version is less of a waste of potential, but only somewhat.

My initial goal was to focus on the Broken Shore story. It’s not the most exciting content they’ve ever done, but it is pretty quick and painless as grinds go, so I was able to unlock flight much quicker than I’d anticipated.

At last.

It’s so much better now. The game feels complete, and I can finally start playing at my own pace. I cannot exaggerate the relief I feel upon being able to take to the skies again.

Val'sharah affected by the Inky Black Potion in World of WarcraftWith this, I can finally embark on my main goal for the expansion and begin leveling alts. The Mustering of Azeroth is at hand.

First up: Monk.

I’m developing a slightly unconventional but effective and so far enjoyable alternative leveling style, since I’ve already done plenty of questing in Legion. Basically I just fly around the Broken Isles collecting herbs, completing bonus objectives, fighting Legion invasions when they come, and doing anything else quick that catches my eye. Also queue for the occasional dungeon while flying around.

The variety keeps things fresh, and so far the levels seem to be going by pretty fast. Invasions in particular are a great source of XP. Their only downside is they don’t seem to award much gear, but I think the solution there could be to stop doing them at 109 and do quests and/or dungeons for the last level. That should get you some fairly up to date gear for when you hit max level.

I’m not sure if this will be my strategy for every alt going forward, but so far it’s working for me.

The one other thing that’s making this exploration-heavy leveling method enjoyable is the newly implemented Inky Black Potion. Easily obtainable from a vendor at the Darkmoon Faire (or the auction house when the Faire isn’t on), it turns the entire game world to night for its duration.

The Halls of Valor affected by the Inky Black Potion in World of WarcraftA lot of people are loving the potion because it makes the world much darker than regular night time, but I’m just glad to be able to experience night at all.

Unlike most games, World of Warcraft’s day/night cycle is actually tied to real world time. Between that and the fact that Blizzard is in California, that means I have to stay up well past midnight to actually see the sun set over Azeroth. As a result, I’ve had very little experience of in-game night despite playing for the better part of a decade.

Therefore, playing with the Inky Black Potion almost feels like playing an entirely new game, at least visually. Everything takes on a totally different character. Val’sharah is somewhat pretty in daylight, but it’s breathtaking in total darkness. The soft glow of lanterns, the bright wisps fluttering through dark branches, the shafts of gleaming moonlight… it’s enchanting.

The only problem is it can sometimes make it a bit hard to see what’s happening on screen when playing in the afternoon. Downside of living in an apartment that’s half windows and faces due west.

Of course, the Inky Black Potion is a perfect fit for a Night Elf, which is why I’m mainly using it on my monk so far.

Val'sharah affected by the Inky Black Potion in World of WarcraftIn retrospect, it seems incredibly bizarre my Night Elf has spent the vast majority of her existence in daylight. Just imagine how messed up her Circadian Rhythm must be by now. Poor girl must be exhausted.