Cataclysm Questing is Too Linear and Too Short

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.


27 Responses to “Cataclysm Questing is Too Linear and Too Short”

  1. December 27, 2010 at 12:02 pm

    I totally agree. I was thinking about this, and wrote a post about it that will be up in a couple of days (not only on this subject however) and I agree that the rigid linearity of Cataclysm is an issue that needs to be solved somehow. Considering I have plenty of alts to level I would like to go about doing that in at least slightly different manners… but it seems that won’t be much of an option.

  2. 2 Backer
    December 27, 2010 at 12:17 pm

    Posted this in your previous post:

    “I think the biggest change was in game questhelper. When I leveled my first toon through WotLK, I went through Borean (130 quests), Fjord (130 quests), Zul’Drak (100 quests), Dragonblight (105 quests), and started Shalozar Basin (say, 30 quests in). So I dinged 80 at 495 quests.

    This time around, I did Vashj’ir (160 quests), Hyjal (115 quests), Deepholm (125 quests), and about half of Uldum (say 54 quests) which is about 454 quests.

    I didn’t instance in either expansion until I dinged the level cap. The quest volume was a little higher in WotLK, but not doubly so. I’m not sure how much more streamlined the quest hubbing is in Cataclysm than WotLK, since both had a lot of “pick up 2-5 quests from NPC, do stuff, either pick up more or go to next NPC” situations. I really think it’s all the in game questhelper.”

    I do see what you’re saying about entire zones being completely on rails. Wrath was fairly heavily on rails, but certainly not to the extreme that Cataclysm is.

    At the end of the day, WoW is a game almost exclusively focused on gameplay at the level cap, with the questing system designed to provide the story backdrop to set up end game level raids and battle grounds. I think Cataclysm did a much better job of weaving coherent story lines for the expansion (compare against the mess that was the Nexus War storyline. Yikes!), although I would agree with Dinaer that the experience was a bit too linear.

  3. December 27, 2010 at 12:36 pm

    I completely agree, on the first day my friend and I were questing in Hyjal. We did about 5 quests and then…nothing. We couldn’t find a dang quest giver anywhere. We explored the entire zone, found Flight Paths, but no quests. Turns out we flew away after turning in a quest too soon, and didn’t see the NPC had another quest for us. That one quest cut us off from the entire zone. We just thought it was bugged and went onto other zones or leveled up doing Archeology, but it is just stupid that missing one quests could do that.

  4. 4 Celendus
    December 27, 2010 at 2:53 pm

    Part of the reason for the linearity is likely the extensive use of phasing in some areas. They can’t let you skip a quest if continuing the questline phases out the questgiver or quest requirements.

  5. 5 tehsh
    December 27, 2010 at 6:44 pm

    Totally agree as well. I was on my priest, and I skipped the airship quests…mostly because there were just too many people standing around waiting for one of the quest mobs to spawn and I could never get him…so I went back to the Earth Temple. I was unaware that you pretty much had to do those airship quests or you didn’t get the next chains, so I flew around deepholm for about 45 mins just looking for some yellow exclamation marks to pop up. None did, so I said screw it and went on to Uldum (after running a few dungeons to get to 83). Later on, after the crowds were gone, I went back on my hunter and discovered TONS of quests, but yeah, just like you said, I had to do them in order, and many times there weren’t even any gear rewards that I could use, but I just did them anyway for the xp.

    That brings me to another thing…what’s up with all these quests that only give say 3 items, and most of the time there doesn’t seem to be something you’d want to use? Prime example…the questline that’s in Blackrock Caverns. You get to the end, and if I’m remembering correctly, there isn’t anything available that’d be useful to a hunter.

  6. December 27, 2010 at 11:01 pm

    I didn’t really mind, as the questing was fun, and I liked the cutscenes better than the old way of one NPC running to another and talking, or doing some sort of scene – all while the player was already off on his way and flying somewhere else, because he didn’t care anyway.

    As Backer above wrote, it made for much better storyline background this way. After questing in Uldum I now know exactly why I have to go to, say, Halls of Origination or the Throne of the Four Winds.

    Compare that to not even the Nexus war – which at least had some sort of a background through Dragonblight and Borean Tundra questing (though you could skip some quests), compare that to Obsidian Sanctum, which we all went to and slaughtered all the dragons without a single word anywhere explaining why are we even there or what the place is. I still didn’t read that one novel (as it still isn’t released here and probably will never be), so I’m still not sure what did poor Sartharion do to bring the wrath of Azeroth’s heroes onto himself.

    So, it is linear and totally on rails, but as a way to deliver a story it’s much better than letting players choose their quests freely. The game was always about the endgame anyway, now we at least have a cool way there. It will probably get more boring with more alts, but it was like that anyway.

    • December 28, 2010 at 1:46 am

      Yes, this was a much better way of delivering a story. But for all the role I played, I would have preferred to watch a 1-hour cinematic showing the story and then at the end I gain a level and move on to the next zone for another cinematic.

      I somewhat disagree that WoW was always about the endgame. In fact, in vanilla I would say that it was almost totally *not* about the endgame, since vanilla WoW kept us all busy for years and most people never really raided at all. I think that Blizzard has caved in to the gear-hungry raiders and allowed WoW to become about endgame. For newer players, its all about endgame because that’s the way it was when they were introduced to WoW.

      And that makes me sad. I have always preferred questing to endgame. Raids are repetitive and get very dull very fast for me.

      One month into the new expansion and I will have done every single quest in Cataclysm. No replayability. No alternate leveling paths for alts except the initial zone. Bad design, IMO.

      I hope the raids make up for it.

      • December 28, 2010 at 8:41 am

        Well, you won’t be done with every single quest, as they changed the “old world” zones and quests in there as well. Not sure if that counts, but it probably should – I know I will finally level some of my lower characters or alts on weird realms, because I was getting bored of doing the same quests for 80 levels.

        I’m a BC player, so yeah, I guess if you’re used to the way vanilla WoW was it’s a bit different.

        And doesn’t questing get repetetive anyway? In Wrath after a second character you probably did everything.

  7. 9 Toxicwaste
    December 28, 2010 at 3:39 am

    Is it me or are there more kill 10 foozle quests in Cata? 😦

  8. 10 Shun Tzu
    December 28, 2010 at 7:58 am

    Hi there,

    For me Cataclysm is about quest farming, no need to read it, just go where the map say and kill 10 rats, pick 10 stones or speak on someone. I have achievements for Deepholm, Uldum and Twilight and no need to go on Wowhead or even to read carefully quest text. Endgame? What for? To run endless the same raid like ICC in wotlk? No thanks. My hope is on PvP if any.

    Have fun,

  9. December 28, 2010 at 10:39 am

    I wrote a post about this last week. In short, with the removal of choice in this way and the continual use of cut scenes, we are playing and paying for the most expensive single player video game ever. It’s not that it’s difficult to complete the quests with another player; unless you stick together all the time, it is impossible.

    And then we get to a quest like that in Hyjal where you have to ride those crappy mounts around the lava cavern while destroying your index figure trying to keep them in the air. Abandon the quest? Sure, if you want to stop questing in the entire zone, and thus forego all reputation rewards found there. I know that WoW was never a sandbox game, but this is beyond a joke. Can you even imagine levelling another toon through all of that?

    • December 28, 2010 at 2:27 pm

      This version of Joust was hard and crappy? Dunno. I had fun, had no problems with it whatsoever and even got an extra pet, for each their own I guess…

      An example of said choice in Wrath – do I want to do Icecrown quests from the airship (maybe I don’t like bothering with airships) and have access to Knights of the Ebon Blade or not? Do I want to do Stormpeaks, the exact same zone on rails you despise here, to have access to shoulder enchants?

      Well duh, of course I do. Where’s the choice if you *have* to do it anyway? In Wrath you didn’t really have a choice. You had to have shoulder enchants. You had to have KotEB and the Shadow Vault unlocked if you wanted a proper head enchant. You had to do both zones if you wanted to raid. They only fixed it in a late patch and made them both bind on account.

      • December 29, 2010 at 2:50 am

        So what you’re saying is that because they did it in Wrath then it’s okay for them to do it to an even greater extent in Cataclysm. Doesn’t seem like much of an argument to me. It sucked then, and it sucks even more now.

      • December 29, 2010 at 6:31 am

        No, I’m just saying it’s not a choice if I *have* to do it anyway.

        So basically what you’re saying is that they’ve removed some sort of choice you’ve imagined – a choice you never really had. Man, that must really suck.

      • December 29, 2010 at 9:25 am

        No, what I’m saying is that while, for example, the shoulder inscription was forced last time, you didn’t have to complete every single quest in the entire zone to unlock it as you have to do this time. It was bad before, it’s been taken to a complete extreme now.

      • December 29, 2010 at 10:05 am

        So, today we’ve learned that it’s extremely bad for an RPG game to have a coherent story and to try to show it to players, because it’s “forcing people to quest”.

        In a game where probably 80%, if not more, of it’s content is questing.

        You can always not quest at all, ever thought about that? Do whatever is necessary to be friendly with a faction (probably not much questing apart from Therazane, which you start hated with), buy tabard if you care about reputation rewards, proceed with farming dungeons or battlegrounds, or whatever.

      • December 29, 2010 at 10:55 am

        I’m with Adam on this one.

        I hated doing the quests on the airship in Icecrown. I did only a couple – enough to get me to Shadow Vault – and then skipped the rest. In Wrath you did have the option to skip quests. I know many people that never saw the Wrathgate cinematic. Yet they still quested through Dragonblight.

        Sure there was a main questline that you basically had to follow. But you didn’t have to do EVERY.SINGLE.QUEST or be hit with a complete lack of content.

        As you say, its easier to tell a coherent story with a single questline. You know what’s an even easier way to tell a story? A movie, with no input from the players at all. That’s what this questing felt like to me. A movie, where I was strapped into a chair following along for the ride.

        Yes, Wrath questing was similar. But it *felt* like you had more options. In a virtual world where immersion is a key goal, your *feelings* about the game are paramount.

        Also – if 80% of the content is questing, then why did I finish it in the first two weeks of a two year expansion cycle?

      • December 29, 2010 at 11:50 am

        But how do you tell a story where the player can skip parts of it at will? You just don’t, it’s impossible. You have to limit player options and make it feel less like a sandbox or else there won’t be any story to tell at all.

        I’d rather have a story (even if a very linear one), than mindless grinding to get to the level cap. Because that’s what it boils down to if you take out the story off WoW, and then what you have left is Aion, the Conan MMO or other Korean grindmmos. You can’t have immersion without either a full sandbox or a set of storylines.

        And about finishing it all in two weeks, you sure? I was pretty convinced there’s also whole 80 levels of quests there, including all the new stuff in the “old world”. You’re counting that as well, right? Because I was in the 80% comment.

      • December 30, 2010 at 2:40 am

        If I wanted a story I’d play Dragon Age origions, (or maybe read a book). This is an MMO: I want player interaction and choice, of which we get neither in a scripted, rail-roaded, and phased quest sequence.

      • December 30, 2010 at 8:49 am

        You’d like Eve Online then.

        It almost doesn’t have a story anywhere ingame. And when it does, like in the Epic Arc missions – it still is a mostly singleplayer experience. What a surprise, eh?

  10. 21 Reigan
    December 28, 2010 at 12:25 pm

    I don’t fault Bliz. for the short ‘lvling’ questing experience in cata…it was designed that way because of us WoW gamers.

    Most of the currently capped player base join the marathon to the lvl cap and will be there 90% of the life on the expansion (if we play 1 toon, 99%). I’d wager that most players (myself included) get their ‘warm and fuzzies’ either from lvling, getting new gear, or achievements. Easiest being lvling up. Once there, our next in-game high can only come from getting that next iLvL up piece. Dungeon grinding it is…’awesome! new staff dropped! look at those dmg numbers soar!’ (tailored to dps, but tanks and heals have similar thoughts) and then when we cap out there (due to raid scheduling/limited playtime whatever) we farm dungeon achievements\lvl an alt.

    The pure explorer buffs are, sadly, a lost breed in blizzard’s mind. Bliz threw them a bone with Archaeology, but I don’t know how successful that’ll be in the end. The renovation of classic wow content might net you the experience you seek. I haven’t hit stage 3 yet, so I don’t know for sure if it was just a change of scenery and quest text or a true remake.

    Also, is it just me, or did a couple of the quest zones’ quest lines run a bit too long. Hyjal and Twilight Shore particular. It felt like they could have ended the story in those zones appx 15 quests before the real ending…in Twilight Shore, the Twilight Citadel part felt tacked on…until the end, ofcourse.

  11. 22 tehsh
    December 28, 2010 at 4:45 pm

    @Adamn: In regards to the single player comment; I’ve always thought that too about the questing side WoW. In fact, I can think of only a handful of questlines that I did alongside other people. One that pops out in my mind is the questline to get the shattered halls key. I had a lot of fun on my healer doing that with a small group. This was always my argument for blizz to give xp in battlegrounds, which they do now, but not to the level that I think they should. The response people usually gave me when I said xp should be available in BGs was “go quest!”, and I’d say “If I wanted to play a single player game, I’d just play Mario Bros. on my emulator and not have to pay a $15 sub. fee!”.

  12. 23 Hraklea
    December 29, 2010 at 11:41 am

    I think the big problem is that they only fixed the old world. You play 58 levels of new content, revamped maps, etc. I simply LOVED to level again in Azeroth, specially Stonetalon Mountains. But then you go to Outland… the same old Outland… and then the same old Northrend.

    It might not be that big problem for new players, but for me… oh lord, nothing in the world could be more boring than Northrend again. Then you go Cataclysm zones. Mobs bugging, linear quest line, ganks everywhere, mobs that rape you easily until you change your gear… I almost cancelled my subscription after half an hour is Mount Hyjal. It sucks. Like hell.

    My point is that 1-58 is so cool that 58-85 looks worst than it actually is. D=

    • December 29, 2010 at 12:02 pm

      They should’ve revamped Outland and Northrend as well. It’s a shame they don’t consider this a high priority.

      Mobs bugging – I didn’t have one mob bugging out on me, most likely it’s fixed already? Ganks, well, I heard on PvE servers they don’t happen. Dunno, I get ganked a bit on my realm, I gank a bit in response. Like always. It probably helped that I just got the expansion recently and skipped the whole first wave.

      Didn’t have to change any of my raiding gear well into level 83 as well and had no problems with mobs whatsoever. I admit that my druid (which I just leveled to 80 yesterday) had to heal herself after each mob, but that’s not really that much of a deal.

      Good to hear that the new Azeroth content is cool, though. I will at some point see it and I hope to like it as well. 🙂

      • 25 Hraklea
        January 3, 2011 at 11:28 am

        99% of bugged mobs are at Hyjal and Uldum. If you level through Vash’ir -> Deepholm -> Twilight Highlands, you’ll probably not see too much bugs. (although phasing in Vash’ir bugs sometimes). I can’t even stealth in Uldum because it breaks for no reason…

        This is the first time I play in a just released expansion, so I don’t know if these bugs are normal or what… I’m not saying that Blizzard did a bad job, I’m just saying it is frustrating.

  13. December 29, 2010 at 7:22 pm

    Btw I was just flying around Twilight Highlands and there are definitely groups of quests in random places to get. I’ve only done the starting chain to get the portal back from the capital, not much else.

    So it’s not as raily as you might think.

  14. 27 Chanel
    July 25, 2013 at 7:02 pm

    Overall I like the new questing in Cataclism. There is a better immersive story behind it. I love the Westfall one. It is a murder mystery with a Defias uprising and class conflict. (By class I mean rich vs. poor, not mage vs. warrior vs. whatever).Even killing the wildlife made a difference. Feeding the poor compels the villain to spare the player’s life. I started in BC. Back in the day all zones were challenging except the starting ones. So I would do all the quests in a starting zone and move on at lv 14. Now I had a hard time with my tauren shaman. She quested to Mulgore well into her teens. Then I wanted her to help the Forsaken in Silverpine Forest. Unfortunately it was a bit too easy because everything was green. I tried going south to get higher level quests. There was nothing for me, because I didn’t want to continue the quest chain. That was the one time that linear questing backfired on me. The starter quests for death knights, worgens, goblins and pandarien are very linear. I didn’t mind because I enjoyed the novelty. Not to mention that I can go all the way through in one playing session.

    I think the balance is to have several large quest chains. There is still an immersive story experience. However It is a lot easier to skip without running out of quests. So far Pandaria has been a nice balance. My human warlock main ventured in. There is a grand story of finding the king’s son. However I was itching to just explore. I visited all regions without doing any questing or killing. It involved copious amounts of dying, but it was worth it. Once I settled down I did the quest chain in Jade Forest. As soon as I was high enough, I skipped to Valley of the Four Winds. Despite skipping quests, I still kept busy enough helping the local pandarien. Either quest chain was still great.

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