The Cataclysm beta is at times a little off putting. Flying over zones is an alien experience that is still somewhat strangely familiar. There aren't really words to describe the disconnect you feel -- it's got something to do with the newness of the old zones. Suddenly that place that had been a lake for the past five, six years is gone. Suddenly entire rock faces have vanished. And in the case of Azshara, suddenly large parts of the landscape have taken a dive into the ocean.
For Alliance players, Azshara wasn't really much of a zone to begin with -- there are a few quests at Talrendis Point in Azshara, a few more neutral quests here and there, and of course the level 50 class quests and the quests for the Hydraxian Waterlords -- other than these however, Azshara was simply a mystery. At Talrendis Point both Alliance and Horde players can find an NPC named Loh'atu, a tauren who will give quests to either faction. He'll also tell you a little bit about the history of the area, but doesn't really go into great detail.
And that's always been the major problem with Azshara -- there wasn't really anything of significance to be found there, generally speaking. Unlike Felwood, Feralas, Tanaris, Un'goro or any of the other Kalimdor zones in vanilla WoW, Azshara seemed to be a zone that consisted of large amounts of land that you had to run over and mobs you had to dodge to get to the one place that had the one item for the one quest you needed to complete. Everything else? It could be ignored. And so it was -- most players tended to skip the zone entirely after Burning Crusade's launch. There are, however, small bits and pieces of lore and quest lines that shouldn't be missed, quests that will be disappearing entirely when Cataclysm hits.
Check out the gallery below for a look at Azshara as it stands today -- the list of quests, and the reasons why you should do these quests now, start after the break.
Stormers and Rumblers: (Alliance and Horde) This quest is picked up from Duke Hydraxis, a water elemental on a remote island way off the southeast coast of Azshara.
Why you should pick this up: Once upon a time when Molten Core was relevant content, Duke Hydraxis had a series of quests for players to complete. After these quests were completed, he would reward players with an item that would allow them to douse the runes in Molten Core and continue to raid the dungeon. When first implemented, these unique items would vanish after one use -- so several raid members had to be carrying them in their bags if you had any hopes of killing Ragnaros. The chain for the Quintessence has since been removed, and Duke Hydraxis will soon disappear as well, so it's worth paying him a visit while he remains.
Kim'jael Indeed!: (Alliance and Horde) Most players have no idea this quest is out there due to its remote location. The quest starts with the goblin Kim'jael, who asks players to retrieve several pieces of equipment that the blood elves have stolen from him. Among the items? A stuffed chicken and a "Wizzlegoober," whatever that is.
Why you should pick this up: Kim'jael, despite his old model is very much a goblin in the spirit of the new goblin race. The quirky nature of his quest line reflects what you'll be seeing when Cataclysm arrives and the goblins take over in earnest. Bloodsail Buccaneers beware however -- completing Kim'jael's quests will lower your Bloodsail reputation, and raise your Booty Bay rep.
Level 50 class quests: (Alliance and Horde) There are a bunch of these available in Azshara, but here's the bad news: They've disappeared in Cataclysm. If you are a priest, mage, hunter or rogue that has never completed the level 50 quest for your class, you probably want to do that sooner rather than later. These class quests were originally implemented partially because they were trying to breathe new life to dead areas, and partially because there wasn't really anything "important" to do at level 50 once upon a time -- at level 40 you got your first mount, at level 60 you got your epic mount, but the 40-60 crawl was excruciatingly long and had no real perks along the way. With the level 50 class quests, suddenly players had something tangible to look forward to along the way. Not only that, but a majority of them incorporated both Azshara and the Sunken Temple, two zones that were largely ignored during the leveling experience.
Why you should pick this up: The quest rewards were great for leveling, and the quests are unique to each class. Since these are disappearing, it's worth it to run through them while you can!
Stealing Knowledge: (Horde only) This quest is located in Valormok for Horde players. It's a fairly simple fetch and deliver quest that sends players across the world to deliver the tablets once they've been obtained. Smart players that were trying to level quickly usually took a detour into Azshara to complete this chain at level 45. Why? Because by simply grabbing four tablets, delivering them where they were needed, and returning the payment for the deliveries to Jediga, Horde players could grab an astonishing 30,500xp in total, which was upped to 44,150xp when quest leveling experience was tweaked.
Why you should pick this up: It's not so much about the XP with this one as it is the deliveries -- you're asked to steal the tablets for unsavory reasons and deliver them to people for presumably unsavory reasons, and upon delivering the tablets you get interesting tidbits of lore. Particularly of note is the delivery to Magatha Grimtotem.
The Two Big Quests You Absolutely Should Not Miss
Fallen Hero of the Horde: (Alliance and Horde) This quest chain starts out in the Blasted Lands; for Alliance players it's with the quest Petty Squabbles in Nethergarde Keep, for Horde players it's the quest Fall From Grace obtained from the Fallen Hero of the Horde that stands on the border between the Swamp of Sorrows and Blasted Lands.
Why you should pick this up: This is one of the most overlooked, yet most epic chains in vanilla World of Warcraft. It sends you all over the world -- including to Azshara, where you encounter a demon hunter named Loramus Thalipedes who will send you to gather ingredients for a powerful weapon. The ingredients ... well I won't spoil the surprise, but the chain itself ends high atop a peak in Blasted Lands with lightning crackling down from the skies around you. This chain is a must for people looking for lore, and it will be disappearing when Cataclysm hits. Go do it. Do it now while you can.
What Tomorrow Brings: (Alliance and Horde) This is the beginning of the now infamous quest chain that will grant you the Scepter of the Shifting Sands, the item that was once required to open the gates of Ahn'Quiraj.
Why you should pick this up: While it is no longer necessary to open the gates, the chain is easily one of the most entertaining, sweeping, epic things to come out of vanilla WoW. This quest also will require groups in several portions of the chain, as there are things needed from old world raid zones. Thankfully it's fairly easy these days to take four or five people into Blackwing Lair and clear it. Why is this applicable to Azshara? The Scepter itself has been split into three shards: Red, blue and green. The key to the blue shard lies with Azuregos, a blue dragon that wanders the hills of Azshara. Talking to Azuregos is one of those experiences that is best done in person -- funny, quirky and quite possibly insane, Azuregos is not just a blue dragon, he's a fully-fleshed character. Azuregos will no longer be roaming the hills when Cataclysm hits, and several other portions of this quest line are disappearing entirely, so if you want to experience this chain, do it now while you still can.
There are other quests out there in the hills of Azshara that haven't been covered, and exploring the zone itself is encouraged -- the abandoned entrances to what could have been a battleground are still there for now, and of course there's an elemental invasion every now and again. That, and the zone itself is fairly peaceful and quiet.
Pretty much every quest you know of currently in Azshara is disappearing. Gone, kaput, vanished without a trace. The serene landscapes are being ravaged by goblins, who have terraformed the whole of Azshara to resemble a giant Horde symbol in appreciation for Thrall's offer to let them join the Horde. The Alliance will no longer have any quests in Azshara, as it's been changed to a goblin zone, and is now part of the goblin leveling experience.
Pretty much every quest you know of currently in Azshara is disappearing. How is that good, you ask? Because it's all being replaced -- and it's being replaced by some of the most engaging, lore-heavy, entertaining quests I have ever played through. I didn't even notice I was leveling until I'd reached the end of the zone. Remember how I mentioned at the beginning of this post that Loh'atu gave some brief, minor descriptions into the lore of the zone? About that -- everything mentioned is expanded on in great detail. Ever wonder why Lake Mennar is there, and what the blue dragonkin are doing tromping around? That's explained. Ever wonder what's up with Archmage Xylem, and why he's stuck in that tower? That's explained. Ever wonder what's going on with Ravencrest Monument? That's not explained per se, but you get a much better look into why the naga are there. The characters that appeared in Azshara originally are still there but in a much bigger way than before -- Azuregos is still present, and Kalecgos makes an appearance that reveals more of the lore surrounding the aftermath of Malygos' death in Wrath of the Lich King.
On top of all of this, there are the quests that involve the goblin's emergence into the zone and their conflicts with the natives of the area, and a look into the Horde and Alliance conflict that is prevalent throughout Cataclysm. The goblins themselves are quirky, eccentric, and most of all fun. Quailing at the thought of traversing the length of the zone? Don't -- there's a goblin highway that makes its way through one end of Azshara to the other, making it incredibly easy to get from one quest hub to the next.
I was really wary of the changes, the first glimpse of the new map had me wondering what exactly Blizzard was thinking by wrecking what was a beautiful zone -- but by the end of the leveling experience, I simply didn't care. Blizzard did a phenomenal job in turning an often-ignored zone into a paradise for leveling goblins, and I highly recommend everyone give the zone a playthrough upon Cataclysm's release.