There are several reasons people disliked Stranglethorn Vale in vanilla WoW. I could go into detail about the confusion that The Green Hills of Stranglethorn presents to new players. I could tell you about the lack of coherent direction in questing. I could harp on the horrors of the multiple quests with low drop rates. I could spend an entire article just talking about the amount of running around you have to do.
Alternatively, I could just tell you that it's all fixed in Cataclysm -- all of it. The usual caveats apply: this is spoiler-heavy, some stuff is incomplete and it's from an Alliance perspective.
The first thing you should know, if you don't already, is that Stranglethorn Vale has been split in two by a gigantic whirlpool, dividing it into Northern Stranglethorn and the Cape of Stranglethorn.
Gallery: Cataclysm Beta: Stranglethorn Vale
Gallery: Stranglethorn Vale
A breadcrumb quest from Duskwood's worgen priestess Sister Elsington sends you to check on the rebels in Northern Stranglethorn. Despite the apparent passage of time in other zones, the rebels there are still fighting Kurzen's forces. It's interesting to see what storylines from vanilla WoW are or aren't official canon in Cataclysm -- Hakkar is dead, for example, but we never actually killed Col. Kurzen. Go figure.
Rebel CampHeading to the Rebel Camp, you see the familiar faces of the soldiers who left Kurzen's employ after he went stark raving mad in the jungle. Surprisingly, the rebels aren't concerned about what Kurzen's been doing lately -- they're concerned that they haven't heard from him at all. They send you to his compound to read the personnel logs and prison manifesto to discern what's happened to the mad colonel. Oh, and they want to collect Jungle Remedy off of Kurzen's soldiers. Some things never change, even in Cataclysm. This time, though, the rebels want you collecting it for a slightly different purpose -- they believe that Kurzen is using the liquid to keep his soldiers under his thumb.
Cutting a bloody swath through Kurzen's Compound and collecting the mind-control mixed drink from his minions, you read the personnel log, finding no trace of Col. Kurzen on the list of people in charge of the compound's operations. Very strange. Things become slightly clearer upon reading the prison manifesto, where you discover that Kurzen was tossed off the top of his own command tower for "incompetence." That's good news, right?
And hey, what's this weird egg you found? A baby raptor! And it seems to like you quite a bit. You take it back to the camp with you.
You let the rebels know of Kurzen's demise, and they're more dismayed than pleased. Not only are the lieutenants who now control the compound even crazier than Kurzen, but according to the prison log, they've also imprisoned several good rebel soldiers. And it's your job to go rescue them, preferably while you're also "terminating the employment" of Kurzen's usurpers.
And, of course, you do so, returning several relieved prisoners to their rightful spot at the Rebel Camp -- as quest givers! With Kurzen and his lieutenants all dead, you're free to focus on other tasks, like ... figuring out why he went crazy in the first place. Apparently, it all started with a strange blue stone he found. The camp's scientist asks you to track down the stone, which is apparently now in the possession of the Mosh'Ogg ogres, who worship the thing, more or less. Maybe their buddies at Fort Livingston, to the south, might be able to discover the origins of the stone, which is "a blue crystal formed of precipitate." That sounds awfully familiar ...
But there's no time to look into the stone at the moment. You have to feed your baby raptor! You kill a bunch of basilisks to feed it and then take it on a trip to investigate some local troll ruins. When you arrive, your raptor darts over to the nearest pile of bones and picks up a troll skull. It seems strangely attached to the skull, too. You return to the Rebel Camp and ask for the expert advice of Osborne Obnoticus, the gnome you saved from Kurzen's prison.
There are apparently powerful energies orbiting the skull, leading Osborne to believe that this troll is of great power -- and great importance. The only way to discover why your raptor is so obsessed with the skull is, of course, to bring that troll back to life. And the only way to do that ... is to find it a new body. The nearby troll warlord should do the trick. You collect the warlord's body in the only way possible and bring it back to Osborne, who performs the ritual to bring the skull's owner back to life. Ready to feel like an idiot?
It's Bloodlord Mandokir. The guy we killed in Zul'Gurub years ago. And boy, is he glad to be back. So glad, in fact, that he agrees not to kill you, as long as you provide him with that raptor that's been following you around. After all, his old raptor, Ohgan, has been dead for as long as he has.
You give up the raptor with some reluctance and dejectedly head south to a familiar locale.
Nesingwary ExpeditionHemet Nesingwary Jr. and his strangely-named friends are all still present at the Expedition, which has been fortified slightly -- no longer is it a collection of tents! Now it's ... a collection tents with a fence around it. Better than nothing. Unsurprisingly, the main drive of this quest hub is unchanged: murder about a million animals for no reason. But there are two huge improvements to this are that I feel you should know before going any further:
- The Green Hills of Stranglethorn has been reduced to a single quest with a single-item objective that drops off of the first mob you kill after accepting the quest.
- All of the kill quests take advantage of Cataclysm's new Auto-Quest feature, meaning once you complete one kill quest, you can turn it in and receive the next step in the chain remotely. You never have to visit the camp again, and you're free to kill the panthers/tigers/raptors at your own pace.
Fort LivingstonFort Livingston is a brand-new quest hub located just north of the enormous whirlpool that formed when the cataclysm cracked Stranglethorn in half. It's just a few quest givers, and it's hardly more than a camp, but it still has some interesting surprises -- like a worgen who's in the Explorer's League! The first order of business is to investigate that blue stone, and the worgen is our man for the job. As a representative of the Explorer's League, he's prepared to identify it -- as long as you can go grab it from the Mosh'Ogg ogres. And you do, of course, but ... he has no idea what it is. He refers you to a fellow at the Explorer's League Digsite to the south.
But, before we go, there's a draenei shaman with a poor grasp of Common who knows what ails us. We lost a friend, yes? We had a deep bond, yes? Yes, lady, yes. She has you collect reagents to check on our baby raptor pal, who's alive and well -- inside Zul'Gurub! And, as it turns out, her name is Ohgan'aka, and she's the daughter of Ohgan, Bloodlord Mandokir's deceased raptor. Using the shaman's magic, you're able to establish a soul link with Ohgan'aka, permanently making her "your" raptor. Her name even changes to <Your Name>'aka.
But she's still in danger as long as she's in Zul'Gurub, so you use your link to guide her out. Yes -- you actually play as a baby raptor inside a raid dungeon. You run into several other raptors inside the instance who teach you new abilities you can use to distract and evade the Hakkari guards in the ruins. Unfortunately, after a daunting series of missions, Mandokir still catches Ohgan'aka just outside the instance portal ... and he's accompanied by the shade of Jin'do the Hexxer, everyone's favorite optional boss.
But how is Jin'do repopulating Zul'Gurub? Good question, and our shaman friend wants to know the same thing. You astrally project to the troll ruins on a nearby beach, where you find Zanzil the Outcast (again, alive and well) speaking with Jin'do. Zanzil can brew the potions that Jin'do needs to resurrect several of Hakkar's priests (and thus, Hakkar), and he agrees as a friendly favor.
So now we know that the world's meanest loa is about to be reborn unless we can stop it. But the shaman doesn't know how -- you'd have to physically get inside Zul'Gurub to do anything about it. She sends you further south to the Explorer's League Digsite to get some help.
Explorer's League DigsitePast the whirlpool, in the Cape of Stranglethorn proper, sits a bunch of dwarves, a bunch of boxes and a gnome. Welcome to the Explorer's League Digsite.
Yes, yes -- the stone. An alchemist here offers to carbon date the stone to get a fix on its origins. You gather the necessary materials for the test, and it comes back with an astonishing result: the stone is over 150,000 years old. And the veteran Explorer's League dwarves at the site can confirm that it's not titan in origin. Again: this is sounding awfully familiar. And, sadly, you get sent to yet another "expert" in Booty Bay to help you confirm it. We don't need a confirmation, Explorer's League -- we know it's saronite.
But before you make the trip anyway, a troll named Maywiki (old-school players might recognize her as one of the NPCs from the ZG turn-in quests on Zandalar Isle) needs your help. Conveniently, the Zandalar tribe wants Zanzil dead too, and you've come to the right place at the right time. You kill Zanzil and discover that Jin'do was moments behind -- his portal to Zul'Gurub is even still there! You take the plunge, ending up inside the raid instance -- except this is your own personal Zul'Gurub, where everything is your level.
You ascertain that Jin'do must be about to resurrect High Priestess Jek'lik (the bat priest), and you fight to destroy her body and stop the ritual before she's brought back to life. But Jin'do can still realize his goal of resurrecting Hakkar by bringing another priest back to life -- this time, it's Venoxis (the snake priest). You rush through Jin'do's portal again, battling him at Venoxis' altar and making the priest un-bring-back-able. You emerge from Zul'Gurub victorious.
You return to Maywiki, who's floored by your success. She only wanted you to kill a lowly witch doctor, and you ended up destroying two of Hakkar's most powerful priests all by yourself. But what of your raptor pal? We don't yet know. Mandokir remains at large, despite your meddling.
It's time to head south again.
Booty BayYou check in with your Explorer's League contact regarding the blue rock, but she tells you she'll need a while and that you should stay and enjoy Booty Bay for a bit. It's held up surprisingly well, being a port city after a global catastrophe. Some things never change around here -- the Stranglethorn Fever quest still exists, for example, though the quest giver remarks that it should probably be called "Cape of Stranglethorn Fever" nowadays.
The big changes come where the Bloodsail Buccaneers are concerned. You're tasked first with finding out what exactly the pirates are up to by looting their plans off of ... a worgen? That's strange.
But that's apparently not the strangest thing. The Bloodsail are planning a direct attack on Booty Bay. Fleet Master Seahorn and Baron Revilgaz are baffled, because they know that the Bloodsail fleet is smaller than it's ever been. They could never stand against Booty Bay. They must know something you don't.
And so begins your mission: infiltrate the Bloodsail Buccaneers and find out what they're hiding. You start out by heading to the local Bloodsail recruiter, who points out that while your enthusiasm is appreciated, you do look an awful lot like the guy who's been running around murdering pirates left and right. He asks you to perform one simple task to prove your worth to the Bloodsail: bring him the head of Fleet Master Seahorn. Yes, that's right, your quest giver. This could get complicated.
You report the news back to Seahorn, who notes that those Bloodsail low on the totem pole usually aren't as bright as the guys in charge, and that you could fool the recruiter with a bit of subterfuge. You kill and behead Bessy (Booty Bay's favorite cow, may she rest in peace), buy a pirate hat from the clothier in town and let Revilgaz and Seahorn kick it around for a bit. Looks like a tauren pirate to me.
The recruiter is fooled and suitably impressed with your offering, sending you to the Bloodsail ships off the coast. You board the first ship and are welcomed into the crew ... as a deck-swabber. Gross. You play a little minigame where you have to keep the grime from building up on the deck, and after completing it (along with several other horribly dangerous jobs), you're identified as a pirate who's going places.
And the place you're going is apparently over to ship #2, where they have you investigate a missing shipment of limes, which the pirates need to prevent scurvy. After hunting down the culprit, your boss admits that there really aren't that many competent pirates around and that you appear to be the only one worth a damn. And that's how you become the captain of your very own pirate ship.
On your ship, you find out about a new group of pirates that the Bloodsail has added to their ranks, called the "Brashtide Crew." You've never heard of them, so you investigate by talking to some Brashtide pirates. It turns out that they're all former Gilnean sailors who were displaced when King Greymane closed Gilneas' ports -- and they're very, very angry about it. With the addition of a whole fleet of Brashtide, "sea dogs" in the most literal sense, the Bloodsail can finally lay siege to Booty Bay. You do your best to stop this from happening by sabotaging their cannonballs, murdering their best pirates under the guise of mutiny charges, and ruining their grog, then you report back to Revilgaz and Seahorn.
It looks like you couldn't stop it all yourself, though -- when you arrive back in Booty Bay, a phased event begins, and the city is under siege! There are Brashtide worgen everywhere, the harbor is full of Brashtide and Bloodsail ships, and the city is ablaze. You fight back by swinging from ship to ship and taking out their captains, commandeering a gryphon and bombing the ships, and fighting alongside Seahorn and Baron Revilgaz in one of the coolest and most unexpected events in Cataclysm's new Azeroth, eventually retaking the city and ending the Bloodsail once and for all. A fine end to a fine couple of zones, and an experience not even remotely resembling the horrors of pre-Cataclysm Stranglethorn.
But what the heck was that rock?!
World of Warcraft: Cataclysm will destroy Azeroth as we know it. Nothing will be the same. In WoW.com's Guide to Cataclysm, you can find out everything you need to know about WoW's third expansion. From goblins and worgens to mastery and guild changes, it's all there for your cataclysmic enjoyment.