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Cataclysm Beta: Western Plaguelands

Michael Sacco

In Cataclysm, everything is changing; we know that much. But it's hard to actually describe how much the entire world has changed without having you, the reader, actually sit down and play the expansion to see for yourself. It's not just geography. For nearly every zone, the changes also involves completely re-working quest lines, in some cases culling or replacing them completely.

Zones like Redridge and Westfall benefit from years of feedback and the overall shift in Blizzard's design philosophy when it comes to questing -- but they don't change much geographically, which is fine. A zone like Western Plaguelands, on the other hand, benefits from the fact that a huge change just makes sense, given the events of the previous expansion.

And what we're getting is a huge change. Spoilers abound after the break, as I take you on a tour through one of Cataclysm's major success stories. Bear in mind that the zone's revamp isn't 100% complete and several quest lines can't yet be completed. This is also from the point of view of an Alliance character.

To summarize in a sentence: Western Plaguelands is all about new beginnings.

Gallery: Western Plaguelands | 28 Photos

Gallery: Cataclysm Zones: Western Plaguelands | 11 Photos

Upon entering the zone, Chillwind Camp's Argent Crusade NPCs inform you that they and the Cenarion Circle have succeeded in purging most of the plague from the zone following Arthas' defeat, starting with Sorrow Hill. You're asked to perform a few tasks there, including collecting hawk feathers for Argent arrows, urging some lingering spirits to pass on with holy incense, and asking Uther's spirit for his blessing on behalf of the Westfall refugee farmers who want to move in. You also get a quest from Nathaniel Dumah, who is finally ready to reclaim Northridge Lumber Mill, his old family business.

Unfortunately, both the spirit quest and Uther's blessing quest are not completable in this build. Time to head north.

Heading to Andorhal, you meet the Alliance's Ebon Blade representative Thassarian, back from his Northrend war efforts and serving the crown now that Arthas has been defeated. The Alliance and the Horde (read: Forsaken) are fighting over Andorhal, but there are still some Scourge holdouts there, led by the forces out of Scholomance (which, by the way, has been retuned to level 35-40 as well). Thassarian sends you on cleanup duty, helping both factions take out the abominations, ghouls and skeletons that remain in the city.

Afterward, you eliminate Araj the Summoner and Rattlegore, and Thassarian sends you to "deal with" Darkmaster Gandling. While you engaged Gandling, who has a ton of health but hits like a girl, Thassarian and Koltira appear and seem to have a discussion while you take care of business. At 1%, Gandling ragequits Andorhal and says, "The Cult of the Damned doesn't need this pathetic city. You can fight over it all you want." Score one for the good guys. We know where he lives, anyway.

Note: When you've finished these quests, the Scourge mobs phase out and other friendly NPCs are in their place.

Thassarian congratulates you on the victory and tells you that he "made a deal" with Koltira for now and that you'll have to "wait for the right moment" to attack the Horde. It's unclear if this is where the chain is supposed to end.

You head to Northridge Lumber Mill. Nathaniel and his wife have set up shop there, and Tirion has sent along some new Argent recruits to make sure the operation runs smoothly. There's just one problem: spiders. Big ones. Nathaniel recommends you avoid bloodshed by using a horse to scare the spiders away. It works, but they don't go far, so the next step is to round up the spiders (à la Red Dead Redemption) and send them to the Argent recruits to kill.

After you do that, Nathaniel's wife, baby in tow, sends you to make sure that life remains a little less dangerous at the mill: First you eliminate some rabid foxes, then you steal weapons from the Redpine gnolls (who have moved back into their territory now that the plague is gone) so they can't attack the mill. Being a mom, she figures it's a better option than genocide.

Once you've secured a bright future for the Dumah family, Nathaniel sends you to Hearthglen to see Highlord Tirion Fordring, who's returned to his home after many long years. The Scarlet presence has been purged from Western Plaguelands, and Hearthglen has been rebuilt and filled to the brim with new recruits, including several worgen. Tirion is happy to meet you after hearing of your help at the mill, but he has nothing specific for you to do. Instead, you do some favors for his subordinates. One sends you to train new Argent recruits and then to kill a huge spider that's taken up residence in the Hearthglen mine.

One of Tirion's priests sends you to get rid of the gnolls who are vandalizing the tower where Taelan (Tirion's son) died. Using Mind Vision on you, she sees that there are far more gnolls than she thought, and they've all been riled up by something, so she sends you to find out why, investigating the local camp. The quest is broken, unfortunately, so it can't progress. What you do see is a camp full of gnoll necromancers. I wonder where this is going?

The third and final Hearthglen quest line is from Del Gahrron, as in Gahrron's Withering. Tirion sends you to Mender's Stead, located at the old Dalson's Tears location, to see what you can do for Del, who's just returned to WPL after years in the service. Meeting you at the Stead, Del sends you to his old property at Gahrron's Withering, where you pick up some old family mementos: a finger painting from his dead daughter and a prayer book that belonged to his dead wife. He weeps.

Back at the stead, you meet several Cenarion Circle and Argent Dawn reps, who are on the edge of the non-plagued territory making sure the good work that's been done so far isn't undone. The farms in the area are doing quite well, but something's amiss. You dig up several plagued veggies from the farm, discovering that there's a plague cauldron still active somewhere in the vicinity. You're sent to cull the remaining plagued animals around the stead, and an exasperated Cenarion druid asks that you let a newly recruited troll druid named Zen'Kiki follow you around to train.

Zen'Kiki can't aim his Wrath very well and isn't particularly good at timing his shapeshifting, either, but he's really earnestly trying. When you kill the animals and return to the stead, the head druid insists that you take Zen'Kiki up to the top of a nearby hill to help him improve his aim by shooting down some plagued hawks. He's still terrible.

You take him with you to investigate the last active plague cauldron and destroy it for good, and then track the source of the plague to Instructor Malicia's nearby camp, where Zen'Kiki releases several plagued bears from their cages and cures them. Turns out he's great at it! You take out Malicia and follow the trail of plague to a nearby cave where Dr. Krastinov's students are creating new abominations. You destroy them and their work.

Returning to the Stead, you're informed that the goons you killed were the last remnants of Cult/Scourge activity in the Plaguelands proper and that nothing can stop the complete healing of the land now.

And? Zen'Kiki decides to be a resto druid from that point on, proudly walking around in treant form.

World of Warcraft: Cataclysm will destroy Azeroth as we know it. Nothing will be the same. In's Guide to Cataclysm you can find out everything you need to know about WoW's third expansion. From Goblins and Worgens to Mastery and Guild changes, it's all there for your cataclysmic enjoyment.

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