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*Spoiler Warning: This article contains story spoilers for the goblin starting zone in Cataclysm.*

The cinematic isn’t complete, but once you escape from the island city of Kezan, as I detailed in a previous installment of Chronicles of Cataclysm, the power yacht owned by Gallywix is embroiled in a naval battle between the Horde and the Alliance. The important piece of information that one must assume before starting to quest is that (like Han Solo) the Alliance shot first. Your goblin boat is destroyed and shards of it wash up onto the beaches of the Lost Isles.

After a few introductory quests, you are reunited with most of the characters that you met on Kezan from levels 1 through 5. Sassy Hardwrench is back, but she is now the go-to-goblin for finding stuff on the island. Gallywix, ever playing the Trade Prince, lords over the broken hull of his yacht as if it were still a throne of industry. Your girlfriend, Candy Cane, has shacked up with another man, however, and she shuns your attempts to get back together. Minor characters round out the standard town services in WoW like innkeepers and class trainers. Your buddy, Gobber, operates as a bank.

Your first task is to grab some of the supplies that the natives have stolen, but, in this case, the natives are intelligent monkeys. Wait, what? You might remember the goblin legend that had their race mining for Kaja’mite as slaves of the trolls thousands of years ago, and that the properties of the strange mineral caused them to grow smarter. There is a source of Kaja’mite on the Lost Isles as well and the same thing has happened to these monkeys, but you do not offer them membership into the Bilgewater Cartel. Instead, you lure them into eating bananas laced with nitro, and then watch the monkey fireworks blow! I’m not sure why, but I get a surge of glee watching those damn monkey shoot to the skies. Perhaps I am part-goblin.

Exploring the island a bit more brings you in contact with two other factions that have shipwrecked on the island, Orcs and Humans. The orcs, led by the female Mag-har Aggra, befriend you after you pass through a few hoops and show them what a clever goblin you are. This is accomplished by using your handy goblin invention, the All-in-1 Der belt, to mow down a field of huge carnivorous plants. I never thought that mowing the lawn could be fun, but running over 100 plant monsters is a nice break from monotonous quest design. I just wish there was more of a game to it; you are invulnerable from attacks during this quest and there is no hint of danger. Cool animations are great and all, but if I don’t feel like there is a (albeit slim) possibility of failure, then it truly just feels like you’re going through the motions.

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Aggra tasks you with infiltrating the Alliance camp, stealing a gyrocopter, flying it to an Alliance ship and picking up a mysterious package. Now that’s a quest! Just sneaking into the camp is hard, unless you were playing Jingo the goblin rogue. A few ambushes and the mooks guarding the gyrocopter were efficiently turned into corpses. I even picked their pockets before stabbing them in the kidneys, just ’cause I could. Yeah, I’m that kind of a goblin. You don’t want to meet the green-skinned 3 foot tall Jingo in a dark alley. I’ll stab your ankles.

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Once a firm friendship is made with the Horde, you are instrumental in setting up the new goblin headquarters. This is done in typical goblin fashion: rockets and steam. In order to get across a shark-infested river Sassy Hardwrench has constructed a giant rocket that will shoot goblins across the river one at a time. Because of your heroics, you can jump the line and are shot into the air. After clearing the space, you activate a handy invention that was salvaged from the wreckage of Gallywix’s yacht: a Town-in-a-Box. Through the clever use of Blizzard’s phasing technology, once this is done, a goblin town is erected, complete with barracks, an inn, a mailbox and a mechanical laboratory manned by the resident mad goblin inventor/explosion expert.

Unfortunately, the location of the new goblin town is in pygmy territory. This new monster type are short humans who live on the Lost Isles and practice a form of elemental shamanism. Despite raiding their village and killing their leaders, they are still a danger as they begin to evoke their fire god, who just happens to live in the cone of an active volcano. In a really fun quest that brings you up against the manifestation of Volcanoth, you somehow manage to fire your rockets and destroy him.

Unfortunately (again), doing so causes the volcano to erupt and rain lava and fire down on the island. Apparently, when you are a goblin PC in WoW, you are a walking geological disaster.

The last section of the story is a race to the docks that Trade Prince Gallywix has erected on the other end of the island (Gallywix stole these components of the Town-in-a-Box and started his own goblin community but the rest of the goblins are loyal to you). You get there in a mining car a la Indiana Jones, which is novel and fun. Then you have to take out some of the goblin antagonists that have been set up through the course of the story, such as Chip Endale, and your ex-girlfriend Candy Cane, who is now shagging Gallywix (the slut!). Once Gallywix is brought to heel in a truly tough fight, I died a few times and had to try different tactics in the mech-on-mech action, the starting area concludes.

Similar to the ending sequence of the Draenei starting area of Bloodmyst Isle, there is a celebration that brings all of the characters you have met from the quests you have completed. Clicking on each of them (you kind of have to, don’t you?) gives you a little flavor text, either congratulating you on your success or expressing chagrin that their plans were foiled.

The whole starting experience of the goblin race is an interesting experiment in storytelling through MMOG quests. In many ways, it’s a single player experience because of the phasing technology. Sure, you may see other players if they happen to be in the same phase as you, and that will happen a lot when Cataclysm is released. But once the excitement of starting new alts dies down, the story and experience will remain intact. I think that was Blizzard’s plan. In the designer’s minds, the starting zones of all races should be single-player experiences. These zones, and the goblin zones in particular, are the elementary and high schools that you must complete before graduating to the more collegiate large cities like Orgrimmar and Stormwind.

Once you do that, you are hooked. Cataclysm merely refines that formula.

Greg Tito is oddly attracted to Candy Cane.

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