Cataclysm Twilight Highlands Zone Preview
The Twilight Highlands are the new endgame zone for the World of Warcraft: Cataclysm expansion. In the beta, due to the lack of full quests in both zones, players have been doing either the Twilight Highlands or Uldum (another high level zone) as an interchangeable means of progressing. However, the quests in Uldum are a little easier and meant for level 83-84, while the Twilight Highlands are meant for 84-85.
The Twilight Highlands is a zone under siege by the Twilight Hammer Clan, and owes its current name mainly to that fact. The zone has historically been part of the Dwarf lands on the Eastern Kingdoms. Currently though, its population consists of the Wildhammer Dwarves, the Dragonmaw Orcs, and the Twilight Hammer Cultists.
The zone is a large hilly highland area protected on three sides by tall, rough mountains. The only entrances to the zone are through two mountain passes and from the sea that is found along the eastern edge of the zone. While the zone looks roughly like other zones in the area, its landscape is more varied than the other lower level zones. There is a lot going on in the zone geographically that makes it very exciting to explore.
The storyline in the zone mainly focuses on fighting back against the Twilight Hammer Cultists, the Black Dragonflight and Deathwing. Also rumoured to be in the area is one of the Old Gods which is driving the Twilight Hammer Cultists to new levels of fanaticism in the area. This zone is where the battle for Azeroth appears destined to be won or lost.
In addition to the overarching storyline that is driving all of Cataclysm the zone also features smaller storylines about alliances. For Alliance players there are several quest chains that you must complete to earn the support and loyalty of the Wildhammer Dwarves in the area. For Horde players similar quest chains exist, but these seek to earn the support of the Dragonmaw and their dragon fighting abilities.
Both factions will also have to assist the besieged Red Dragonflight who has been under attack recently and seen their forces greatly diminished.
How to Get There
The Twilight Highlands are located along the east coast of the Eastern Kingdoms on the continent of Khaz Modan. It is located just north-east of Loch Modan and east of the Wetlands. While this is where players enter the zone, and where flight points will have you fly in from, the real starting point will be the far eastern coast.
Along the east coast you will find both the Horde and Alliance starting locations in the zone. These are the two coastal ports of Dragonmaw Port and Highbank. Theses ports are where your adventures will start in the zone and then expand westward through the zones other settlements. The main entrances being on the east, and the quests starting at the west is a little disconcerting but more on that later.
Regions and Micro-Zones
There are many notable subzones in the Twilight Highlands. On the east coast you can find the two starting cities for the factions, Highbank and Dragonmaw Port. These ports grow as you expand your area of control in the zone and have a running feud on the beach between them that is reminiscent of the Taren Mill Southshore battles that raged in Hillsbrad. This battle changes as well as you advance through the zone.
Once you are further inland if you are an Alliance player you will travel from Dwarf Hold to Hold helping defend them, revitalize them, and seek assistance. For Horde players you will be helping the Dragonmaw Orcs. There are many small settlements for each as you expand your search westward.
There are two instances to mention in this zone. All the way to the western edge of the zone you will find the ancient Dwarf fortress of Grim Batol. This is an instance that players can start exploring once they have reached level 84 or 85. At one point it was home to to the Wildhammer Dwarves, but was abandoned due to a curse. Later it was held by the Dragonmaw Orcs, and then the Red Dragonflight. It is now held by the Black Dragonflight and the Twilight Hammer Cultists.
The second instance is the raid instance called the Bastion of Twilight found in the south-west corner of the zone. This will be one of the entry level raids for players in Cataclysm and feature five normal boss encounters, including Chogall, a two headed Ogre-mage. Also rumoured in this raid is a sixth boss, only accessible on hard mode, much the way that Algalon was in Ulduar.
Quest Hubs / Quests
The quests in this zone work inland from the coast. You must first help establish a literal beachhead for your faction and then start working inland to progress through the storyline. From there you are lead to seek assistance from your factions potential allies in the zone and then on to helping the Red Dragonflight at the Vermillion Redoubt.
When I worked through the zone in beta there were no real cookie crumb quests leading you to the zone or the quests in it. This made finding the entrance at the west side and then the starting quests at the far eastern side of the zone difficult. I am hoping that in Cataclyms release the quests to start in the zone will lead you there, or better yet transport to the coastal cities via ship or zeppelin will be available from capital cities.
As with the other zones in Cataclysm, with the exception of possibly Deepholm, there is no real major quest hub in the zone. Instead there are a large number of small quest hubs that lead you through the storyline of the zone and its populace. Initially this is a bit disconcerting as you feel like you must have missed something, having only 2-5 quests at a time. However, by this stage in Cataclysm you should be used to it. This expansion really is about the storyline and the quests drive you through it.
No longer are you able to skip all over the place to pick up a quest here and a quest there. Many times there will be only one place in the one zone to quest. While it is great for the story aspect of the game, we can only wait and see how it works under full server load on launch day. Now more than ever players will be in the same place at the same time while levelling.
One key quest area in the zone is found almost right in the center of the zone and is a brand new arena event quest chain called the Crucible of Carnage. This is very similar to the other arena type events found in BC and WotLK. While levelling, if you can find a group the experience is amazing for the several quests that form the chain, and while the rewards were not in place when I did it they are normally well worth the effort of finding a group.
Messiahs Take on the Zone
First off, it is a little hard to give a completely fair assessment of the zone as it was not been fully implemented when I started there. Many of the quest chains that would lead you from place to place were not yet there. This meant randomly searching the zone for the next place to quest from, which was a little frustrating. Also, there were no drops or quest rewards in place. This meant that I was not able to gear to a proper level for the zone.
With all that to keep in mind, I actually like how hard I found the zone to be. I cant remember being killed this much in a long time, and you know what? I liked it. It could have been that I was trying Retribution instead of my normal Protection build, but either way, the zone was challenging and fun. Enemies were hard to defeat, and hit insanely hard as well. This will be lessened a little when the proper gear is in place, but actually I hope it stays almost this hard. It was a challenge to move through the zone, and I really enjoyed it.
As for the zone overall, I loved the progression paths, the story line, and the imagery. Having to fight at the shore to help establish a literal beachhead for your faction is awesome. Then moving inland and helping fight back the Twilight Hammer Clan and re-establish your factions settlements really bring you into the story.
This zone is a very fitting end-game zone for World of Warcrafts latest expansion. It is challenging, visually appealing, and has a hugely varied number of quests. As mentioned above though, I am getting a little concerned over the extremely linear nature of the quests in Cataclysm. While I very much enjoy them, and like the expansion more than the previous expansions because of it, under server load the first few weeks after launch the quest chains could become nightmares to complete. I hope its not the case, but can see bottlenecks in all our futures.