Posted Sun, Jul 18, 2010 by Messiah
When Cataclysm was announced and the zones first talked about, one zone in particular grabbed a lot of attention. That zone is Vashj’ir, and garnered all the attention because it is an almost completely underwater zone. There are a very few spots were you make your way to the surface, for the most part you are swimming around the depths of the ocean pretending to be Jacques Cousteau.
The thing that’s makes this zone so completely different from any other is that you essentially are flying around the zone all the time. This makes it very unique and different to any other zone out there since everything is in 3 dimensions. Sure all zones have height, but to get someplace you either fly (no combat) or run. In Vashj’ir you are able to fight at any altitude (or depth) you want since you do not have to be standing on the ground. This makes exploring more exciting as not only must you watch around you, you need to watch above and below as well.
The zone of Vashj’ir was once a great city above the water that housed the Elves. However during the Sundering it was swallowed up by the sea to rest where you find it in Cataclysm. The elves that once inhabited it, including the Queen Azshara, became the Naga that plague the seas.
Vashj’ir will now return to prominence in World of Warcraft: Cataclysm as a level 78-82 zone. In this zone players will get to experience undersea combat, exploration, travel, and more. All the while joining with Neptulon to try and prevent the Naga from gaining complete dominance over the seas of Azeroth. The zone is one of two potential starting zones that you can explore in Cataclysm, the other being the legendary Hyjal.
Now that you are all excited about the zone, how do you get there? To get there the first time you must follow a scripted event. For Alliance this can be found at the docks of Stormwind, while the Horde starts a similar event outside of Ogrimmar. NOTE: This guide focuses on the Alliance experience and the Horde experience will be slightly different. The Horde and Alliance share some of the same quest hubs and have some different ones as well. Since the zone is phased though some of the same hubs appear to have different NPC’s for each faction.
Once on the mercenary ship that is to transport you to fight the Horde, you are attacked enroot by a giant sea monster. Your ship is sunk and you wake up below the seas in a air pocket in a sunken ship. You have now arrived at your first quest hub in the zone.
When you initially get to Vashj’ir it is at the first quest hub in the Kelp Forest. While at first many players will believe that the Kelp Forest is just one a small part of the zone, you will quickly find that it is much more. This zone is huge.
Unlike past zones in WoW that were broken up into named sections that would show up as above the mini map as you entered them, Vashj’ir is further split up. In addition to the named sections it is split into three sub zones. These zones are the Kelp Forest, the Shimmering Expanse, and the Abyssal Depths.
Each of the three sub zones is almost big enough to have been considered an entire zone in any past expansion. While exploring the Kelp Forest it is very easy to forget that it is not a zone, but only a third of one.
The Kelp Forest is the easiest of the sub zones and contains vast amounts of underwater foliage, as its name would suggest. Aquatic life abounds throughout the zone, as do shipwrecks and treasure. You even have to find and help Harrison Jones out of another tough situation, this time fighting of the viscous Gnaws with a harpoon and explosives. Hmm, somehow that sounds familiar.
The Shimmering Expanse is the second sub zone of Vashj’ir and is a larger and more open zone. In this are you spend a lot of time exploring a gigantic underwater life form called Nespirah, and you can find the ruins of the city of Vashj’ir itself.
The Abyssal Depths is the last sub zone that you explore and contains yet another of the giant underwater life forms, this one is called L’ghorek. It looks almost like a giant spiny shell with a crab like creature living in it. It is very hard to tell, as the creature is so large it is impossible to get a clear picture of it. In this zone you will also find the Abyssal Breach.
There are a great many quest hubs in the zone as well as well as several single quest locations. One thing that will strike players is just how well organized the quests seem to be and how well they mesh together to form a story. This is especially true in the Kelp Forest sub zone but continues throughout the zone.
In the Kelp Forest you start off by having to learn how to survive underwater. After that you work through a number of missions to help save soldiers and various NPC’s in the zone, setting up strongholds and safe havens. As you keep moving through the zone you also have to complete a chain of quests that eventually allows you to obtain an underwater mount so that you can move through the zone even quicker when not in combat.
Something to note is that Blizzard went all out with the puns and innuendos in this zone. I was left groaning after reading some of the horrible pun named quests such as Once More With Eeling, and A Bottle of Whoop Gnash. Even worse (or better depending on your sense of humour) are some of the quests with strong implications at certain things, such as A Taste for Tail, followed by A Case of Crabs. Over all though the quests are a lot of fun and the names just add to it as you wait to see what topic will be the next one that Blizzard pokes fun at.
I’m going to start by nit picking a bit and pointing out a single thing I don’t care for about the zone. If I had to pick on one thing in the zone as negative, it is that it is almost too linear. Don’t get me wrong, it works and I like the way the story really develops through the quest chains. However, there are several points where you only have 2-3 quests from one hub and that is it. You cannot get any more quests until you finish those. If there is an issue with any of them (and there have been in beta), or if there are too many players in the zone, moving on can be very difficult.
OK, now onto the rest of the good stuff. Many players will read this and think Vashj’ir is just another starting zone in an expansion, why should they care?
I think players really should care about Vashj’ir because of several reasons. I think one of the main reasons players should care is the historical significance of Vashj’ir and its constant mention in the history in Azeroth. This is the site of a great historical tragedy in Azeroth and as such an epic place for exploration.
Beyond the obvious historical significance of the zone, there is a lot about the zone to love. I’ll look at the two main reasons that I like the zone first, and then look at smaller reasons after.
Firstly, as described above it is very different to anything else out there. Different is not always good, but in this case I believe it is. A whole zone that is underwater where you have full time three dimensional control is very cool. Secondly the place is huge. I started exploring and thought the map was a little small but thought, “OK, it’s a very themed zone, I guess that’s fine that it’s small”. Then realized that what shows on the map is just a third of the whole zone. The place is immense and will take players a long time to fully explore. If you come into the zone at 80, you should be able to reach 82 before you leave the zone. That’s impressive.
Next up, the quests and story line tie together better than any previous zone in the game. The quest hubs are all fairly small, you get there, solve some issues, discover larger issues, and move on to another quest hub. The zone flows amazingly well, and draws you into the game. If every Cataclysm zone is this well thought out we are in for a real treat from Blizzard.
Oh, and if you need even more incentive to come to the zone, you can find Harrison Jones there. For any Indy fan out there, his appearance here makes the zone a must do portion of the game.