Every so often, I get tired of the self-seriousness that infests some of (OK, most of) the other work I do here and get the urge to write something purely for fun. After our series on evil achievements and the relentless misery of School of Hard Knocks, I'd like to spend some time on achievements that are nothing but an absolute joy from beginning to end.
This week we continue our series on World of Warcraft's most entertaining achievements. This is the full series to date, if you're just catching up with us:
- OverAchiever: Pure Win
- The 25 most entertaining achievements, #25-21
- The 25 most entertaining achievements, #20-16
- The 25 most entertaining achievements, #15-11 (today's post)
15. Well Read
Like its considerably more evil counterpart Higher Learning -- not an achievement that's fun to do if your server doesn't have a specific chat channel dedicated to it, or if the channel that exists is inactive -- Well Read requires you to read a number of books. Unlike Higher Learning, the books you're looking for never disappear, reappear, spawn dummies or break your heart with a despawn a second before you reach them.
Azeroth is an incredibly expansive world, and I like to imagine the legion of patient but nameless scholars there who have no idea just how far their life's work has traveled. You'll find books about Azeroth's past, conjecture on the motivation of its greatest heroes, and speculation about its future scattered everywhere: grimy goblin workshops, dusty corners of distant dungeons, resting in the bedrooms of ordinary citizens everywhere, and occupying places of honor at the Stormwind and Scarlet Monastery libraries.
While reading them, I wonder about the circumstances that led to a copy of Sunwell -- The Fall of Quel'Thalas appearing in a night elf town, the anger with which an academic struggling to remain neutral might have penned The Betrayer Ascendant, and what kind of reaction a human browsing the stacks might have to The Kaldorei and the Well of Eternity. While finishing off the last few books I hadn't read during my druid's travels, I kept thinking to myself that most of these books would have to have been written by night elves, or at the very least heavily influenced by their records. And is there anything the night elves chose not to include? What portions of Azerothian history are known only by the nerubians, qiraji and the trolls?
Damn you, Destron Allicant; I can't do a single thing in the world anymore without thinking about this stuff.
Well Read is a sign of just how much thought, work and love went into this universe, but it's also a rather interesting historiographical puzzle on its own. If I ever do a list on the most thought-provoking achievements in the game, Well Read will have to be among the top 10 for that reason.
14. Rare mounts
OK, yeah; there's more than a smidgen of evil to the existence of rare mounts. Having to grind these things out is no picnic, and there's always the nightmarish possibility that, however many hundreds of times you kill Attumen or Anzu or the Baron, their best and coolest drop is just never going to materialize. A friend of mine has farmed High Priest Thekal in Zul'Gurub for years trying to get the Swift Zulian Tiger and has yet to see it once. Another trundled into Zul'Gurub to farm Zandalar rep on a lazy Sunday afternoon and got it without even trying. Yep, evil.
That said, it's the rare player who can't manage to get his hands on at least one or two dropped mounts, and it's only going to get easier as we advance into Cataclysm and pick up another five levels and a ton of health. The explosive joy you feel upon finally seeing the Reins of the Raven Lord or the Swift White Hawkstrider usually makes up for the effort you had to expend to get it, and if you're lucky enough to be toting around something like the Ashes of Al'ar or the Reins of the Onyxian Drake? That's even better.
13. Medium Rare and Northern Exposure
Their "Gotta catch 'em all!" counterparts in Bloody Rare and Frostbitten are firmly among the evil achievements, but finding just one rare out in the wilderness isn't hard -- and quite frankly, it's an awful lot of fun. Let's face it; whenever you see a silver dragon around a mob's portrait, it's kind of exciting, and it's almost impossible not to go stomp the thing just to see what drops. The Outland rares just drop blues with stats of varying usefulness, but the Northrend rare mobs all drop gold, a blue item and some cloth and motes as well. Frostbitten is actually a pretty decent achievement if you're looking to make some money -- as long as you don't mind going nuts trying to do it.
12. Lil' Game Hunter
From OverAchiever: Pure Win:
There's something wonderfully addictive about tracking down as many little pets as you can and then pulling out whichever suits your mood ... If you're going for any of the pet achievements, you'll get acquainted with all of the pet sellers in your faction, do some farming, a little questing, pester chicken farmers and -- one of my personal favorites -- kill a deranged Kael'thas. I used to think that my pet obsession was just a personal quirk, and then I was introduced to Warcraft Pets. Compared to some, I'm a piker. And yeah, those little pets mean a lot.
11. The Empire of Zul'drak
While a zone-wide achievement, I like to think of The Empire of Zul'drak as the more interesting portion and successor of its counterpart Guru of Drakuru. The latter -- the most compelling bit of which is entirely encapsulated by Zul'drak questing -- sees you pitting your wits and luck against a wily troll who decides to sell out the entire Drakkari empire to the Scourge. Why? He wants a captaincy among what he sees as the side fated to win, and it's a self-fulfilling prophecy. In Grizzly Hills, he'll spend the entirety of your quest line outsmarting you, but by Zul'drak, the tables have turned.
"Victory" or no victory, Zul'drak's story arc is the stuff of nightmares. Even with Drakuru finally vanquished, you spend the rest of the zone surveying the damage that -- let me remind you -- you as the player helped orchestrate and are in no position to reverse. It's a hellish land marked by dead gods, trolls who are refugees in their own country, the Ebon Blade's utter indifference to the moral issues raised by their plan to get ahead, the Argent Crusade's swinging its fists in the air for all the good it ultimately accomplishes, and -- amazingly enough -- even the Zandalari in the thick of it chronicling the fall of the Drakkari empire as it happens. If Edward Gibbon had pulled up a courtside seat to the barbarian invasions of Rome, this would've been the result.
More than a year ago, we talked about peoples' picks for the best zone of Wrath, and with the benefit of hindsight and more experience playing both Alliance and Horde across the continent, I've wondered whether any zone is really the undisputed "best." Wrath is full of superlative questing, period, and Zul'drak is a perfect example of how Blizzard nailed the expansion's morally ambiguous feel.
Working on achievements? The Overachiever is here to help! We've covered everything from Glory of the Hero and Insane in the Membrane to Master of Alterac Valley and Lil' Game Hunter, and you can count on us to guide you through holidays and Azeroth's special events.