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More of the same

29.03.2010

Continuing on from Darkshore, the typical Nightelven character ventures into Ashenvale. And it is a long trek from the entrance to the main settlement, passing by Elven outposts, ancient ruins and barbaric hut villages.

The setting of the zone is moody, mysterious and quite a bit grittier than the previous zones. The Horde has several camps here, and plots that started in Darkshore unfold fully to lead you against dark wizards and their demon armies. Personal drama ensues as you try to save a young village daughter from a deadly poison. And when you think you finished the quests, another group becomes available, this time deep in the forest, where a few brave Elves have set up camp in the ruins of an old forest retreat.

This zone, then, has it all. Involving storylines? Check. Varied plots instead of search and kill? Check. Magical places and ruins? Check. Encounter with Horde and demons? Check.

Why then, am I slightly tired of it, even on my first character through here? Why has my second character skipped Ashenvale and taken the chance offered by an early quest to travel to Stonetalon Mountains and stay there? Or venture forth into the Barrens?

Objectively, Ashenvale is a brilliant zone, for questing, storytelling, even as travel hub of sorts.

However, Ashenvale has a problem: The target audience. A Nightelf starts out in Teldrassil, which is a moody, mysterious forest with Elvish ruins. That is okay, the first step into Azeroth, it is all new and confusing and exciting. Then the Nightelf travels to Darkshore. Which is kind of cool, larger, deeper plotlines, and a moody and mysterious forest with ancient Elvish ruins. And now the Nightelf heads into Ashenvale, which has long storylines, and is a moody and mysterious forest with ancient Elv… oh why bother.

Now, have a look at the other races, shall we?

Humans start out in the lush Elywnn Forest, head to the rolling hills of Westfall and then to Redridge Mountain or for a change of environment to Duskwood. A dark and mysterious forest, granted, but that’s new for a human.

Dwarves and Gnomes start in the cold snow of Dun Morogh, travel to Loch Modan – or take the tram to Stormwind and Westfall, though why anyone would prefer Westfall to Loch Modan is beyond me – and then usually end up in the marshes of the Wetlands.

A Nightelf, however, gets three dark, moody and mysterious forests in a row. Granted, Darkshore has the coastal regions and Ashenvale has some more enemy camps, but it is essentially the same. It is stunningly executed, but when it comes to pacing, it is a bit wasted in this ‘slot’.

If you like the Nightelf forests, though, it is decidedly “more of the same, please!”

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