Some people in my guild were saying how they enjoyed the questing in Cataclysm. I disagreed. The quests themselves were fun, but the entire questing system, in my opinion, was poorly done.
Us old-timers remember questing in the days of vanilla WoW. Quest givers were everywhere and they didn’t show up on the minimap. You had to run around trying to find them, tucked into caves or mines or in houses in the woods. Once you had their quests, then the objectives could also be anywhere, and they didn’t show up on the map. Quests were handed out haphazardly, often making you run back and forth over and over to the same area for different tasks.
That was rough. It sometimes made questing very tedious. You often had a full quest log as you were trying to figure out 20+ different quests simultaneously. It was extremely inefficient.
Burning Crusade was better. It introduced more concentrated quest hubs, so there was less searching for the quest givers. You still wound up with a full quest log more often than not, but the objectives were planned out a little better than in vanilla.
Wrath went the step farther and staggered the quests. A quest giver would give you something to do, and then upon completion you’d get the next set of quests. It made the questline sensible, and allowed for better storytelling within the quests. Your quest log was rarely full. Still, there were side quests and optional storylines that you choose to do or not to do. There were group quests that gave nice rewards if you could find five people to do them together.
Cataclysm has taken it a step farther. Is it too far?
Now, the quest givers give you one or two quests at a time. While leveling, my quest log never had more than 5 quests in it at any time. Once you finish those, they give you the next ones, or tell you who else to go see.
The problem? You cannot skip a quest. An entire zone is essentially one single questline.
In vanilla and BC, if a quest to kill 20 foozles seemed too annoying, or if a quest item had a low drop rate, then you could choose to skip it and move on. Sure, the Loremasters among us would never do that, but for the majority it was an often-used option.
In Wrath if you skipped a quest it might cut you off from finishing that particular questline, and maybe keep you from doing a few more quests and seeing some lore at the conclusion of the story. But it wasn’t crucial to most players.
In Cataclysm, if you skip a quest you are screwed. You can basically cut off the rest of the quests in an entire zone by skipping a single quest. In my opinion, that’s too much.
A common criticism of WoW is that you are “on rails” with no freedom to make choices. I think that the Cataclysm questing has taken that too far, and I truly do feel like I am at Disneyland, blindly following the line as it weaves back and forth to the eventual ride at the end. I am a spectator in the story rather than a participant. (I was a spectator in previous incarnations of WoW as well, but I think they gave a better illusion of having choices). The ridiculous number of cinematic cut scenes in Uldum make it even more like I am just watching events rather than taking part. They aren’t epic, like the Wrathgate was. They are just scripted evidence of my irrelevance.
I preferred Wrath questing better. You had to explore to find the quest hubs. If you missed one it didn’t keep you from questing in the other parts of the zone. If you chose not to fight the 5-man elite quest mobs outside Wintergarde Keep, then it was no big deal.
In addition, this time around I had half the number of levels (5 vs 10) and much greater real life distractions, and I still managed to get to the level cap in significantly less than half the time I did in Wrath. That reinforces my belief that Blizzard has completely de-emphasized leveling in this expansion in favor of heroics and raiding. That’s a bit of a disappointment. With a two year development cycle, you would think that they could get both the leveling/questing AND heroics/raids fleshed out more thoroughly.
Summary: I love the instances, enjoy the heroics, approve of the gear progression system, but don’t like the new questing philosophy.