So with the news that Patch 4.1 and Cataclysm are not too far off anymore, I figured I should get on with my little project to see all the newbie zones. My final remaining zone to review on the Alliance side was Coldridge Valley, starting area for both the Dwarves and the Gnomish diaspora. This was actually the only Alliance zone I had previously played, having toyed with a Dwarf Rogue once on another server whilst my beloved Argent Dawn was down. I had quite fond memories of the snow-drenched valley and its quirky people so I had decided to keep it for last. This time I decided to try something I never thought I would do and play as a member of that much-maligned (and much-punted) race: the Gnomes!
Enter Trixsti, the Gnome Warlock. Yes, another Warlock, I’ve been finding them quite fun as a low-level class; you basically just set fire to everyone and have an autopilot pet to… well also set fire to people! My initial reaction upon logging in (well, after going “Ohhhh look how tiny I am!”) was that the zone was as pretty as I remembered. Whilst lacking the ethereal beauty of the Draenei starting area, the arctic woodlands of the valley have a stirring effect on me. You really do feel like you’ve just stepped into some remote tranquil corner of the world and the Warcraft music, as always, really contributes to that effect.
However within that beauty I did also feel that there was something rather… lacking. Perhaps it is a result of having spent the last 2 years in the frozen world of Northrend, which despite being an icy wasteland still drips character from every snow-capped peak. By contrast, Coldridge just seemed a bit empty. Pretty to look at yes, but there wasn’t really anything to fill that beautiful space. Except wolves. Dozens and dozens of wolves to slay, which of course I quickly found myself in the business of. Quite frankly I wondered what all these predators were eating, given there only seemed to be about 3 rabbits left in the valley!
I tried to liven things up by making a point of setting every single Trogg I saw aflame. After all, the damned homewreckers had driven my people out of Gnomeregan, it was the least I could do to wage war upon their hairy kind. However even this slaughter quickly became boring. It was also just plain wrong that I was setting myself tasks when the quests should really have been driving into the experience for me. Sadly they did not. Most of the quests were about killing the local wildlife over and over, and delivering hot beer to lazy Dwarves.
I couldn’t ignore that the zone had less appeal to me as a Gnome than it had as a Dwarf. That is not to say that I was disliking my cute little gnome, it’s just that the zone didn’t really offer much background flavour for them. Admittedly their story is focused on the fact that the Gnomes have been forced to shack up with the Dwarves, but the whole experience felt like it was designed specifically for Dwarves and we’d just been stuck in there by a lazy developer. The only cool bit of lore I got was from my Warlock trainer, who explained that some gnomes are disillusioned with arcane magic and tinkering after such things led to the destruction of Gnomeregan. Thus they had turned to more “prudent allies”, meaning daemons. Interestingly the same Gnome didn’t seem too impressed with their alliance with Humans either, which I thought was an interesting idea. I had always thought of the Alliance as an annoyingly happy family, so this discord was rather refreshing.
Unfortunately that’s where the story-telling ended. The rest of my experience in Coldridge Valley seemed to involve killing off the local Ice Trolls for… well no discernible reason actually. They seemed to mostly be living in a cave minding their own business. The worst thing they had done was steal some guy’s engineering tools and another Dwarf’s journal. That’s right, their journal. I was killing dozens of an indigenous population so that no one would find out who a Dwarf had a crush on as a teenager. Also I noticed that I was primarily killing Ice Troll ‘whelps’, which I’m pretty sure means Troll children. Oh Blizzard, when will the killing end?
So, once again, with no real story behind the quests I found myself creating my own amusements. Having slain the troll leader I declared myself rightfully their queen. However my new minions just kind of milled around looking unimpressed, not to mention rather chilly in their little fur bikinis and loincloths. I mean I know you’re Ice Trolls guys, but you live in a frozen cave – at least put on a woolly jumper! Bored of my newly established empire I had to once again go looking for some kind of excitement.
I didn’t find it. Finished with Coldridge Valley I progressed to Kharanos, the next quest hub along the Dwarven path. I say Dwarven because really after this point there’s virtually no Gnome appearances besides the odd cameo, at least until you get to Gnomeregan. I had hoped Kharanos would add some explosive fun to my levelling, with its large inns, crazy drunk characters and a plethora of Steam Tanks. Sadly it didn’t. Again I feel this was a case of having been spoiled by Wrath. If I see a bunch of tanks I expect to hop into them and go blow something up. Imagine my disappointment when I was simply asked to collect some animal furs so that the actual tank drivers could be more cosy. Oh and that quest to salvage some lost ammunition from the vicious Wendigo (yetis)? Well it was rendered ridiculously easy when I saw the quest sparkle glowing from a mile away and it wasn’t even near a Wendigo.
I went and fought some Wendigo anyway, which offered my first challenge as several all aggroed on me at once. However, being a Warlock this was not much of a problem and I quickly learned how to DoT and kite. Once I realised I was more powerful than a Wendigo could ever imagine, I finally gave up. There was no story here, no challenge, no excitement. Taking one last tantalising glimpse at the beauty of Ironforge in the distance, I left this frozen wasteland behind forever.
Final Thoughts: Given that I remembered this zone fondly, I was surprised and disappointed to find it so underwhelming on my return visit. I love the ideas behind the zone, but it just doesn’t come together. There is almost no lore or story, no interesting quests or proper sense of adventure. Ultimately there is a fair bit of character, but this is mostly in the cuteness of the Gnomes and the quirky drunkenness of the Dwarves, hardly enough to create a thrilling experience. I also feel the Gnomes are painfully under-represented here and am pleased to see that in Cataclysm things will be very different.
Final Score: 3/10.