*Spoiler Warning: This article contains story spoilers for the goblin starting zone in Cataclysm.*
My main character in WoW has been an Alliance paladin since the game launched. My buddy who signed up with me didn’t want to play “the bad guys” of the Horde and I capitulated, but I always had a soft spot in my heart for those crazy orcs and trolls. The Horde always seemed like they were more fun and had the more interesting questlines. So when I found out that the goblins would be a playable race in Cataclysm, added to the fact that my buddy no longer plays and my alliance characters were feeling stale, I decided to roll Horde when the expansion dropped.
I was also interested to see how Blizzard would present the heavily steampunk-influenced goblins. Unlike other fans, I have no problem with WoW pushing the boundaries with what usually constitutes high fantasy. The “spacegoats” of the Draenei and the technologic anachronisms amuse me. I was happy to find that the goblin starting zone doesn’t shy from the race’s affinity with explosives and superior technology.
No matter what type of character you create, you spawn on the tropical island of Kezan and play the role of a rising corporate star in the Bilgewater trade cartel. Kezan is a bustling metropolis, complete with bright billboards hawking Kaja’Cola, a series of paved highways and a professional footbomb team, The Bilgewater Buccaneers. As an executive in the cartel, you have a staff which also doubles as your questgivers. Of note is Sassy Hardwrench, your long-suffering executive assistant, and Megs Dreadshedder, the marketing whiz who gives you keys to the company hot-rod … you know, to keep up the corporate image.
From the quest text, you can infer that your character is gunning for the position of Trade Prince, which is currently held by a rich goblin named Gallywix. There’s a party planned in honor of your recent promotion (for which you have to prepare by buying a pimping outfit picked out by your bimbo girlfriend, Candy Cane), but Gallywix tries to sabotage it by hiring some South Sea pirates to attack the festivities. Appearing astride a mechanical walker, Gallywix says that all of this political maneuvering is pointless, not because he suddenly had a change of heart, but because Mt. Kajaro is erupting and every goblin on the island must evacuate or burn to death from the liquid hot magma.
(Oh yeah, did I mention that during an earlier quest you might have, just maybe, kinda sorta accidentally kicked a footbomb into the volcanic mountain in the center of the island? That’s right, it’s erupting because of something you did; in fact, the whole reason that the goblin race flees the island, and eventually joins the Horde, is your fault. Awesome.)
The rest of the initial quests involve you trying to liquidate your assets to pay for your passage on Gallywix’s yacht. All around you, rocks and fire rain down as you struggle to break into the bank, steal priceless works of art like the Goblin Lisa, and the last bits of Kaja’mite, the mineral on which goblin society was built. The last quest on Kezan culminates with a race to the docks in the company hot-rod with Sassy Hardwrench at the wheel and a Dukes of Hazzard-style jump onto the boat.
The most interesting thing that Blizzard has improved for Cataclysm is the quest design. While there are a few of the standard “Kill X number of snakes” quests, most of the tasks set before you are fun and engaging in a much more creative way. From the collision mechanics on your hot-rod that has you running over pirate raiders and goblin passersby alike, to a safe-cracking mechanic that has you pressing 5 buttons when they are called out by the UI, it is apparent that a lot of time was spent crafting the story-telling experience. Also, Blizzard has gone a long way in streamlining these first fifty or so quests. Gone are the days where you have 5-10 quests in your log and you have to hop from one side of the zone to the other. Quests are doled out in chunks of 2 or 3 at a time so that you never feel overwhelmed.
I was expecting a starting zone for a new race in Cataclysm to be way more polished than vanilla WoW and even the excellent Burning Crusade race intros. And all I can say is that, yeah, Blizz totally exceeded those expectations. It only gets better after the escape from Kezan and the shipwreck in the Lost Isles and eventual meeting with Thrall. Not only are the quests interesting but the whole goblin vibe is hilariously referential as always, from the constant whizzing of spells between the Mage and Warlock trainers to the gas station populated by ridiculously good-looking goblin supermodels.
The worgen starting zone has a lot to live up to if it wants to compete, and I look forward to Steve Butt’s coverage of those crazy werewolves next week. From what I little I’ve played, all I can say is that I love the cockney British accents that Gilnean women are sporting. (Must … resist … Austin Powers joke.)