As the years have passed in the World of Warcraft, I find myself meeting more and more players who have no idea what I'm talking about when I mention some memorable quest or tiny hideaway in a level 50 zone. This is by no means unexpected in a game as old as WoW, but I find it quite tragic that those near and dear to me are missing out on things that once captivated me. So what do I do? Well, I grab my semi-interested guildmate and whisk him away on a field trip; I take on the role of an Azerothian tour guide. Sometimes I even wear a funny hat.
I really enjoy the concept behind achievements like The Loremaster and World Explorer. It has a very "go see and experience the world for yourself" feel to it that I can agree with. The problem is I think those achievements are a bit overwhelming for the average person, myself included. I really can't imagine actively going out and doing the hundreds of "gather 10 berries/feathers/saliva samples" quests for fun. What I'd really like to see is an achievement system that focuses more on quality than quantity: Loremaster Lite, for example, or World Explorer's Top 20 spots. Kind of like Blizzard's way of saying, "Hey, here is the stuff we are most proud of. Go see it."
Blizzard is busy, though. But hey! I'm here, and I even have a funny hat to wear in real life! It's not an explorer hat; it's a squid hat. (It looks like a squid is eating my head when I wear it.) As I sit here, allowing my brains to be munched on by this crocheted Cthulhu, I have to wonder: are all those things I love about the old world going to exist once Cataclysm comes out?
Suddenly I'm stricken with worry. What if I never get to see those things again? Worse, what if some people never see them at all?! So today I'm going to remedy this anxiety with one tiny step in the direction of furthering Azerothian awareness, and I'm going to start with the beautiful night elf warrior, Arko'narin.
If you don't know already, Arko'narin is an escort quest NPC found in the heart of Felwood, deep in the demon-infested burrow known as Jaedenar. When you first come upon Arko'narin, she is locked up in a cage and stripped to her undergarments. She is cold, worried about her missing friend, Trey Lightforge, and begging for your help. What kind of dragon-slaying, white knight of a nerd would you be if you didn't help her out?
To help her, you will need to find a quest starting item off one of the mobs in the burrow: the Blood Red Key. The item has a high drop rate, so it should take you little time to find one, provided you meet the level 49 requirement for the quest. (As a precaution, the quest can easily be soloed in the mid 50s, but if you're lower level you may benefit from the help of a friend or loyal pet.) Once you find the key, you will have to open the keyring on your bags to accept the quest and then you'll be able to free Arko'narin from her captors.
From here on out, if you'd like to do the quest on your own without spoilers, you should stop reading and check back later. As further incentive, I can tell you this is my favorite escort quest in the game, and Arko'narin has a few surprises outside of the ordinary escort NPC. She has a strange blend of combat abilities, combining warrior and priest; she also has some unique character animations I've never seen anywhere else in the game. Anyway, spoilers are ahead; you've been warned.
Once you've freed Arko'narin she will lead you deeper into Jaedenar to find the gear that was taken from her. Typical of most escort quests, she will provide some amusing commentary on the slow walk through the caverns. It's slow going, but bear with her; as soon as she is in range of her armor she will rush forward, throw on her gear (Wonder Woman-style) and take hold of the Lightforge, the sword of her lost companion. This is the point where the flavor of the escort take a big turn.
Ready to go, Arko'narin will charge forth with a battle cry and commence fighting a slew of demons that spawn. This might not seem like anything out of the ordinary, but in vanilla WoW it was definitely not the norm for escort quests. To see a character actively and respectably engaging in combat, especially with as much gusto as Arko'narin does, was one of the most amazing things I ever saw back in vanilla. She really gets in there, calling down Holy Fire and swinging her fiery sword in midair as the Jaedenar demons knock her back. The only drawback to the quest is that after she gets her gear, she continues to walk (I guess she's still cold) so the wait can be boring if you're higher level. Be sure to watch her fight and kick butt though, as she puts on quite the show.
When you finally get out of the burrow, Arko'narin faces once last challenge: the corrupted spirit of Trey Lightforge, who accuses her of betrayal. Arko'narin is clearly confused as she is forced into battle with her former companion. Aid her in defeating Trey and you'll finish your quest objective. Unfortunately, when all is done, poor Arko'narin seems guilt-ridden and horrified at what she's done; she runs off, never to be seen again.
When you turn in the follow-up quest for your reward at the Emerald Sanctuary, Jessir Moonbow will task you with a couple more quests to tie up Arko'narin's loose ends by seeing Trey's remains put to rest. Upon completing those quests, I expected to see Arko'narin show up again, but to my dismay, she did not. This left me feeling quite ... unsatisfied. At the time, this was a very vividly presented story for WoW and I wanted more. All we got was this snippet of a story of these two characters, but there is never a full explanation of who they were or what they were doing in Felwood. Were Trey and Arko'narin friends, comrades or something more? Is she a paladin? Is he? What's the story behind the Lightforge? What is she going to do next? The story of Arko'narin, while complete, leaves me wanting more.
Loose ends aside, I still think it's a fantastic quest. Blizzard clearly put some extra effort into this one little quest, and that isn't something I can honestly say about every quest. To be extremely vague while also very specific, it's "one of those quests." What I mean by that is that is that Arko'narin's quest is one of those quests you always remember; the ones really worth doing to get the experience of WoW. If you go try the quest out for yourself, or have already done it, let us know what you thought of it.
I just hope we'll see Arko'narin again in Cataclysm.