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The New Barrens

Garrett Fuller Posted:
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If you have played Horde in WoW over the last few years and started an Orc, Troll, or Tauren character then you know the pain of The Barrens. Blizzard nailed the name on this one perfectly when they created it. It is barren. It was so bad that it gave rise to the “Barren’s Chat” which could be given credit for the return of Chuck Norris. This zone was a nightmare to get through and at such an early level in the game, it felt like a job to get through. Now with the new Patch and Blizzard gearing up for Cataclysm they had said that a lot of the leveling zones had changed. I started a new character to test this theory and experienced the Barrens this weekend for the first time in about three years.

I created a warlock, because well, I always wanted to play a warlock. I was holding out for the orc mage, but the WoW bug came early this year and I started to level again before the expansion. To maintain my credibility, I have an 80 Shaman with a 5700 gear score and an 80 Death Knight with a lousy gear score because I mostly stopped playing him once he hit 80. I may however, turn him into a viable tank for Cataclysm.

The first thing I noticed about the Barrens was the new quest cluster that starts in the Crossroads. In the past, I can remember running around the Barrens to get things done and having it feel like forever. Especially when you had no mount and were forced to hoof it. Now with Quest Tracker (I used Blizzard’s version not the add-on), it seemed like the quests had a better layout. I mean they remained in the same places, yet as you were going to explore The Forgotten Pools there was a lot of Plainstiders on the way. Therefore I collected by beaks as I was making my way to another quest. The biggest thing Blizzard did with the Barrens was to improve the drop rate. I know this had been done a while back, but it is a sign that the grinding days of yore are going away... slowly. So while the quest layout hadn’t changed much, the ability to complete quests in certain directions had changed for the better.

By saying this I mean that Blizzard has thought about how quest hubs should be structured. Crossroads being the Barrens hub initially was a nightmare with four directions to choose from and not a clue where to start. Combine this with a horrific drop rate and you have an early zone that will literally make players quit. I say that, but this is Warcraft and this was at the height of grinding MMOs. So back in 2004 when I first stepped into the Barrens, we played through it. Now however, the four directions to accomplish quests each have a chain that spreads out in that direction. So if you travel north you can do about 3-4 quests in that path. A trip south east to Rachet will give you about 2-3 quests to accomplish in that path. This concept worked out very well at least in my experience. Not only did I feel like I was getting things done quickly, I felt like I was spending less time running around and more time fighting or completing quests. It worked and felt much better, yet it was not perfect.

There were still certain quests that were pointless. One of the things about WoW I had always hated was the flight system. Having to discover zones and flight points may have been fun back in the day, but now seems ridiculous. The quest to run the spore samples down to Thunder Bluff is a huge pain in the neck. I’ll add to this the meat delivery runs back and forth to Orgrimar. Thank god I had donuts in the other room and could get up and do something else while I was flying back and forth. These two quests remained in the patch; I do not know if they will change for the expansion? Let’s hope they do.

Overall, I can say that the Barrens are not as bad as they used to be. There are still quests that are pointless, nothing is worse than the beaten dead orc quest, and quests that make you travel for a long distance with very little point at the end. However, in terms of having direction and quest paths that allow you to accomplish 3-4 things at once, it has gotten much better. WoW has come a long way over the years and the changes to the Barrens are a good sign of how MMOs have changed in general. So this week I am off to Stonetalon again, one of my favorite old zones, to hopefully see more changes for the better. Oh, and PS. I love the Warlock, for all you Warlock players out there.


Garrett Fuller

Garrett Fuller / Garrett Fuller has been playing MMOs since 1997 and writing about them since 2005. He joined MMORPG.com has a volunteer writer and now handles Industry Relations for the website. He has been gaming since 1979 when his cousin showed him a copy of Dungeons and Dragons. When not spending time with his family, Garrett also Larps and plays Airsoft in his spare time.