Yes, I finally did it – I’ve rolled a Death Knight. I wanted to put in an appearance at the “bloggers’ guild” <Single Abstract Noun> on Horde-Argent Dawn-EU and didn’t have any desire to level another alt (or to sit gormlessly reading guild chat on a level 1), especially not on a different server adrift of all my carefully constructed New Alternate Character Support Networks. But as the last time I saw the much-praised Death Knight starter zone was fairly early in closed beta, I figured I could spend some time experiencing the content ‘n shizz. Aight, peace out.
Uh anyway, moving on.
Well I should’ve blogged about this a week ago when it was still fresh, but I’m sort of getting into the groove of weekly updates here. Suffice it to say that the DK starter area is a lot more polished than it was when I last played it and I have to say, a lot of fun. I even enjoyed the quests that I didn’t enjoy on beta, and some of the quests that others have slated as being rubbish (such as the dragon-riding and LHC battle events). And being on a roleplaying server has given me the chance to really let that side of my play come out, which suits the Death Knight starter storyline perfectly.
You may remember that my characters’ “stories” are a very important part of whether I end up liking and continuing with a character or not. As it happens, despite having never had any interest in a DK before, I happened to hit a sort of story sweet-spot with Chaiah. A perfect combination of race, gender, looks, name, class and backstory which meant that instead of just “experiencing” the start zone and moving on, I got hooked! Like a fish! On a fishing line! Where, you see, the fishing line is my new Death Knight alt and the fish is me and the hook is my enjoyment of playing the character.
(I really need to work on my similes.)
I’m also finding the Death Knight resource system a lot of fun, especially for tanking. It’s challenging but in a satisfying way – at least, for so long as I’m prepared to smile and endure the DPSers who patiently listen as I explain that I’m new, and that I need a few seconds for AoE aggro please, and that if I’m not pulling there’s always a reason… but then immediately launch into hyper-AoE button mashing before I’ve so much as reached the group of mobs (turns out DKs don’t get a short cooldown taunt until level 65, and DnD isn’t available until level 60 – harsh). And there are some great combinations of moves available even as an unholy DPS spec. In complete contrast to my tank druid, there are a satisfying number of buttons to push and many of them are very effective. And in complete contrast to my tankadin, tanking isn’t a simple faceroll where my biggest concern is whether I’ll reach the next group of mobs before Divine Plea fades or not.
I can, however, imagine it being very, very frustrating tanking for overgeared trigger-happy DPS at level 80. And the rune/RP/GCD requirements for emergency buttons seem like they would necessitate a certain amount of caution and planning when tanking hard-hitting bosses that’s entirely absent for my other tanks.
This wouldn’t be a proper blog entry without some whining, right? Right. OK.
Outland quest gear.
This is a problem that Blizzard realised was a problem and largely fixed with Wrath of the Lich King by making quest and instance rewards upon entering the new content generally inoffensively designed and pleasingly matching. With the exception of a few very silly looking weapons and shoulderpads and whatnot, a character geared from Northrend quests will look pretty decent. And of course, a character coming out of the Death Knight starter zone will look fantastic, in a full set of lookalike tier 7 with a dazzling Runeblade gifted to the player by Darion Mograine himself.
Look at how awesome that character looks, and she’s only level 58! It’s pretty much the perfect set of Death Knight fashion accessories. And playing the game looking like that is fun. I cannot overstate how much enjoyment I get from just running around looking good. Doing quests looking like that makes the quests five times more fun. Doing dungeons looking like that makes the dungeons ten times more fun. And boy is it easy to feel like a death knight of Acherus when you’re swinging that Runeblade in peoples’ faces.
The trouble is that your WotLK Death Knight has to pass through old TBC Outland before reaching WotLK Northrend.
Now, as I’ve mentioned, I gave tanking a try quite early on, and continued to do so as I realised I could manage it. The problem was that there are some really good healers levelling up through Outlands, and some who are not so good. I got such a run of the latter kind that I began to seriously worry about whether or not I should be clicking the “tank” button. Was my starter gear really OK to tank with? Was my DPS spec really giving me enough survival? I got really paranoid about this because I really care about not imposing a hopelessly undergeared incompetent tank on poor random PUGers.
I was a bit concerned in Underbog when my healer was constantly OOM and my health kept scraping against the 10% mark, until I realised he was spending most of the time DPSing even on twin bog giant pulls.
I was really really worried by the time the LFD tool was dragging me repeatedly into Mana Tombs. That place has always been harsh on tanks and healers, and I caused my first wipe here by pulling a two-ethereal patrol with a void spawn (I did it twice on two separate runs, which is galling for a perfectionist like me who goes out of his way to avoid stuff like that). My health would see-saw like crazy, I’d have to use my ghoul to pull and offtank to maximise my survival, and I churned through a whole stack of super health potions in my several trips there.
The reason I felt so bad about this is because I looked, if you remember, awesome. I was still tanking in my DK reward gear, partly for RP reasons and partly because it looks awesome (remember?). I had, however, accumulated a set of “upgrades” from Outland questing and instances, which I could equip if there was truly a situation where I needed maximum survival.
My normal gear is on the left. My emergency upgrade set is on the right. See if you can detect my dilemma.
A huge amount of my enjoyment of the character came from how she looked, and from how that in turn fit in with her RP backstory and continuing character development. To consider equipping that hideous collection of cardboard-and-poster-paint Renaissance Faire reject costumes just utterly broke me.
Mercifully, I ended up tanking Mana Tombs with a level 62 druid healer who’d had the game for less than a month, and who was so good at being a level 62 druid healer in Mana Tombs that my health never dropped below about 80% even in my precious starter armor. We did the same place repeatedly with that healer and each time was just as safe and simple, to the point that my own confidence and thus enjoyment was fully and entirely restored, and the poster paint cardboard clownsuit remained unused.
And – I’ll keep this short because I’ve already rambled on for far too long – it’s things like that which I find affecting my character herself. Remember, I’m playing on an RP realm with FlagRSP profile and everything. And I have a very strong sense of who my character is, what drives her, what her fears are, what her goals are, and so forth. Playing through Outland quests and instances, making those odd sort of in-game decisions which had very real repercussions for both my own enjoyment and the character’s psyche, actually ended up really developing the character in ways I had not intended. Not in the sense of fleshing her out and adding detail, but in the sense that she changed and grew in my mind as various situations affected her: Chaiah felt the uncertainty and fear that her player felt as she struggled to protect her party through the Mana Tombs, and so she felt my exultation and relief as she realised she could in fact keep them safe.
And the other way in which she changed and developed I had almost anticipated, but definitely not planned. Playing through the Hellfire, Zangarmarsh and Terokkar quests suited her character perfectly and allowed her to come to terms with who she had been, what had happened to her, and what her future could be.
I won’t bore anyone with the details of the story (I could fill entire posts with boring story details!!), so I hope that’s not too vague to make sense.
Now, all this is to an extent normal for my characters – they all have their little stories and quirks. But because Chaiah is on an RP realm and has to fend for herself without heirlooms, BoE gear or a comfortable endgame waiting for her if she just levels fast enough, I’m finding that the RP aspect is seriously magnified. Sure I’m enjoying the Death Knight itself, but if it was any other Death Knight I’d already be bored of it. The character herself is what’s keeping me interested.