The recent ravages of the maddened dragon aspect Deathwing have changed the face of Azeroth forever – and with it the requirements a number of meta-achievements like World Explorer and Loremaster. While the changes to Loremaster have been much more radical, Cataclysm has made achievment of the World Explorer title both easier and at a couple of crucial points significantly harder.
Cataclysm introduced flight in all areas of Azeroth for level 60+ except the Draeni and Blood Elf starting areas, the reduction of the level requirement for Cold Weather Flying in Northrend to 68 for all players and the introduction of a number of level 80+ areas in Azeroth. Unless you toon has been awarded this achievement prior to Cataclysm, you will now need to complete Explorer Cataclysm as well as the Explorer achievements for Kalimdor, Eastern Kingdoms, Outlands and Northrend to get the World Explorer achievement and Explorer title. You can still get the Explorer Tabard for exploring Northrend. Areas explored pre-cataclysm will still count toward Explorer despite the significant changes in terrain (unlike Loremaster where very few of the quests completed in the past count towards Loremaster of Kalimdor or Eastern Kingdoms.)
In this post I will look at the challenges of exploring Eastern Kingdoms, Kalimdor, Outlands, Northrend and the new Cataclysm areas as well as give some pointers to help make the journey easier.
In the days following the launch of Cataclysm and the Sundering (a few weeks earlier), one of the first things I did on various toons was to a) obtain flight in the old world as soon as it was available (the Flight Masters Licence allows level 60+ to fly in Kalimdor, Eastern Kingdoms and Deepholm) and b) fly over both Kalimdor and Eastern Kingdoms to survey the changes. As I mentioned in my original post, I love travel to distant and exotic places in real life – to explore different landscapes, languages, places and cultures. With WOW it is possible to enjoy the variety and beauty of its diverse landscapes without the expense, risk and time demands of real life travel. Okay, not quite the same thing but it is still enjoyable.
And the changes were significant. Northrend and Outlands remained unchanged. However, in Eastern Kingdoms and Kalimdor the only regions untouched were the Draeni and Blood Elf areas. Large areas were permanently inundated or emptied (e.g. Ten Thousand Needles or parts of Durotur under water while Loch Modan emptied with the breeching of the Ironwall Dam), coastlines radically eroded (eg Tanaris, Darkshore, Feralis, Blasted Lands), regions split in two (eg the Barrens divided by a rift into north and south, Stranglethorn divided by a maelstrom into North and Cape, a canyon dividing Loch Modan and the Badlands), factional balances altered and conflict intensified (e.g. major Horde incursions in Ashenvale and Hillsbrand), significant level changes (e.g. Western and Eastern Plaguelands at least 10 levels lower, Southern Barrens higher in level etc), large geographical areas added to the map (e.g. southern part of Blasted Lands as well as a new coastal area) including whole new regions appearing (e.g. the Vashj’ir region, Uldum, The Twilight Highlands), and/or becoming accessible (Mount Hyjal, Tol Barad, Deepholm at the heart of the Maelstrom) and brand new or redeveloped starting areas (for Goblin, Worgen or for Trolls and Gnomes). Incidentally, in my early explorations a number of my toons got the Cataclysm achievement Surveying the Damage for passing by and observing 13 landmark changes across the two continents.
Explorer of Kalimdor and Eastern Kingdoms
- The Isle of Quel’Danas can only be reached by flight path (automatically acquired on reaching level 65) from Ironforge (Alliance) or Silvermoon City (Horde) or by portal from Shattrath City (available once reaching 70) – unless you can arrange a summons by a friendly ‘lock. (For a time, this flight path was available to lower level toons but once again seems restricted to level 65+.) While in theory it should be possible to swim to the Isle if one can heal through the fatigue, in practice there is an invisible wall surrounding Quel’Danos preventing entry.
- Areas defended by aggressive elites remain a challenge especially in major factional cities and towns. In such instances you can either attempt to enter by stealth or mount up, charge in & then use all the protection/heals/crowd control skills you have available (i.e. in major cities such as Silvermoon City or Ironforge). In some cases a lateral rather than a direct approach can save on the repair bill – for instance, it is much safer for Alliance to approach Shadowprey in Desolace from the water and for Horde to approach Stormwind from the Harbour area. Alliance can get credit for Thunderbluff and Undercity on the outskirts of these cities without going up or down the lifts respectively.
Of course, once your toon can fly, hostile high-level or elite NPCs are no longer a problem – even in major factional capitals as long as one flies high enough or in the case of Undercity and Ironforge, fly high and then descend quickly for a quick entrance and get away. Both the Exodar and Silvermoon City have to be entered the old fashioned way.
NOTE: A number of areas that presented a challenge due to the presence of high level aggressive elites (such as the dragon portals in Ashenvale, Duskwood, Feralas and Hinterlands or other areas with elites such as Zul’ Grub or Tyr’s Hand) are now populated by non-elites or, in the case of Zul’Grub, are empty.
- There are still a few hidden hard to find places such as the Hidden Grove accessed through a cave in far north-west of Winterspring or Farstrider Lodge east of Ironband’s Excavation Site in Loch Modan. The change in topography has eliminated some of these (eg Zalashji’s Den in northern Tanaris ). Matching uncovered grey spots on your map with a reference map can help here while flight makes searching for elusive spots less tedious. The Goblin starting area is inaccessible to all but Goblins doing the initial starting quests. However, it is not required for any of the Explorer achievements.
Explorer of Outlands
The main challenge with Outlands was always reaching the four areas impossible to get to without flight:
- Throne of Kil’jaeden in Hellfire Peninsula (a quest in the Isle of Quel’Danas does port you there for toons 70+ but now flight is now available at level 60);
- Skettis in south-west Terrokar Forrest;
- Twilight Ridge in north-west Nagrand;
- Netherwing Ledge in Shadowmoon Valley
While Netherstorm looks like it might be inaccessible there is a bridge from Blades Edge and bridges between the different “islands”.
However, now flight in Outlands (the Masters Licence) is available at level 60 (?58 for druids) which is around the same time that Outlands is accessible (by the Dark Portal at level 58). It is only necessary to fly over an area to receive credit and the only dangers are flying guards at factional towns and a few other flying mobs. Hard core explorers who want to explore Outlands before 58-60 while need to get a lock summons to somewhere in Outlands or a mage port to Shattrath city and a lock summons to the four inaccessible areas detailed above. Needless to say, you need the Burning Legion expansion pack to access Outlands.
Northrend is accessible by boat (Alliance) or zeppelin (Horde) for toons of all levels who have the WOTLK expansion pack. A boat from Stormwind Harbour goes to Valliance Keep in Borean Tundra while another boat goes from the pier in the half-drowned Menithil Harbour, Wetlands to Valgarde in Howling Fjord. The zeppelin in Orgrimmar will take you to Warsong Hold in Borean Tundra while the Zeppelin from Undercity takes you to New Agamand in Howling Fjord.
Obviously the main challenge for low-level toons is the level of the mobs. Aggressive creatures and NPCs are 10 levels above your toon can seem to appear out of nowhere (the aggro circle is very wide at that level difference) and kill you with one hit.
The other challenge for those not yet 68 (when Cold Weather Flying becomes available for training) is reaching a number of areas that are either difficult to get to or appear to require flight to reach or at least get credit for. However, unlike the Outlands, all these areas can be explored by ground mount with a bit of ingenuity (see Flightless in Northrend) or by a mage portal to Dalaran and ‘lock summons to the other spots.
- In Scholazar Basin, credit for Stormwright Shelf can be achieved by running/swimming up the west coast and for The Makers Overlook by jumping down on the roof from Icecrown just north of Winterspring.
- Storm Peaks – the K3 area can be accessed by a pass from Crystalsong Forest. Apart from flying, the only way to access the rest of Stormpeaks is by running east from the Argent tournament, up the mountain to the Snowdrift Plains. For a more detailed explanation of how to get credit for Ulduar, Frost Hold, Temple of Storms, and Engine of the Maker see Flightless in Northrend,
- Icecrown can be accessed from Crystalsong, past the Argent Vanguard and through the breech or by jumping down from Storm Peaks. Onslaught Harbor can be reached by running up the west coast from Borean Tundra.
- The City of Dalaran can be accessed by the portal in the Wintergrasp Keep while your faction holds the Keep (jump down from Icecrown directly behind the Keep).
Exploring the new Cataclysm areas can be surprisingly easy – once flight is achieved at level 60. Transport to each of these areas becomes available on reaching the required level and portals between the new areas and the Earthen shrines in Stormwind or Orgrimmar are opened after completing a few quests.
- Mount Hyjal in northern Kalimdor is inaccessible by ground except perhaps Darkwhisper Gorge. At 80 a quest become available which takes you first by portal to Moonglade and then by dragon back to Nordrassil, the starting area in Mount Hyjal.
- Vashj’ir is a large submerged area with a few small islands off the coast of Dun Morogh and Stormwind. It is dominated by Naga and hotly disputed between Horde and Alliance At 80 a quest becomes available that will take you by boat from Stormwind or Orgimmar to this area (a few vials of water breathing elixir is very useful until this ability is granted by the questline).
However, it is possible at level 60 to fly to this area (through the fatigue) from Dun Morogh. Most of the area can be explored by flying over it with the exception of the area to the north-west where you will be dismounted. From there you can explore this by swimming (though of course you are more vulnerable to high level aggressive mobs). Don’t forget to pick up the one flight point above water (the one specific to your faction) on Sandy Beach near the Shimmering Expansebefore leaving.
- Deepholm is a subterranean area beneath the Maelstrom in the middle of the map of Azeroth. A quest available at 82 will take you to Thrall at the Maelstrom and then send you into it. After the completion of a few quests, a portal back to Stormwind or Orgimmar becomes available in the Temple of the Earth.
As far as I can discover, there is no other way to enter Deepholm. It is not possible to fly to it from Vashj’ir as there is an invisible barrier preventing one from flying closer too it. Dying by fatigue next the barrier transports your toon to a grave yard in Westfall (Alliance). It may be possible to be summoned to the area.
- Uldum is south of Tanaris. The entry quest (and the quests that set up the portal to it) only becomes available at 83. However, it is accessible by the Gate into the area in the southwest of Tanaris. A couple of areas in Uldum are only accessible by flight but the area is very easy to explore once flight is available.
- Twilight Highlands are to the east of Wetland and the north of Loch Modan. The entry quest become available at 84 with a plane flight from Stormwind Harbour (Alliance) or from Orgrimmar (Horde). Only once the base is secured and necessary parts are obtained from the Twilight Cult that the portal to Stormwind or Orgrimmar is established. Apart from a couple of areas with elite hostile dragons flying about, Twilight Highlands is easy to explore by flight at 60.
- Tol Barad is a PvP area – a couple of islands west of Wetlands and south of Silverpine Forest and Gilneas – which is accessible by portal in Stormwind or Orgrimmar at level 85. Like Deepholm it has an invisible barrier around it preventing entry by flight. However, this area is not necessary to obtain Cataclysm Explorer or the Explorer title.
In summary, it is possible to explore Kalimdor, most of Eastern Kingdoms and Northrend without assistance and, with a lot of time, tedium and determination, at even low levels. All the needed Cataclsym areas except Deepholm can be explored at level 60 with a flying mount. However, without assistance Outlands (due to four areas inaccessible apart from flight) can completed at minimum level 60 and a flying mount, while Eastern Kingdoms (due to the Isle of Quel’Danos) needs level 65, and Deepholm requires level 82. It is a long wait from 65 to 82 as as one of my toons knows, though at least she has the Northrend Explorer Tabard to console her.
Nevetheless, you don’t have to wait until 82 to to explore. Along the lines of my original post, I would suggest:
- Start early – explore as you level. It often doesn’t take a lot of extra time to uncover all the areas of a map when you have been questing in an area – and it saves you time later.
- Remember to grab flight points as you go.
- You don’t need to cover every point in the map. In some areas you may only need to cover 5-6 points of each area to get full credit though lower level areas and the new Cataclsym areas require more like 8-10. Of course, exploring additional areas gives you additional experience points (for toons below 85).
- Track the achievement for exploring that area to see what points remain to be uncovered. Use resources such as maps provided by sites such as www.gamepressure.com (still accurate in Northrend and Outlands) or reference sites like www.wowhead.com if you are having problems finding a spot.
- Remember to think laterally – sometimes the points to uncover are on the edges of the map, through caves or round promontories.
- Don’t forget that flying, once you can, is a much easier, faster and less dangerous way to explore. And in some cases, it’s the only way you can get there.
- You may wish to methodically explore or you can combine exploring with other activities such as gathering herbs or ores, fishing schools, digging archaeological sites, waiting in dungeon or pvp queques, even getting achievements for low level dungeons etc. Do what works for you.
- You can get this achievement largely on your own or you may wish to enlist the help of a friend or pay gold to friendly mages, ‘locks or, indeed, someone with a two-seater flying mount to help you.
So there you have it – a tabard in the mail after exploring Northrend and new title after uncovering all those spots on the map across Outlands and the shattered and reshaped Azeroth.
Along the way don’t forget to enjoy the views. For me at least, two of the joys of the Azerothian World are the vast variety of its landscapes and peoples – from picture postcards winter landscapes of Winterspring; the sylvan Old England woods of Elwyn Forest; the golden Tolkienesque arcadian glories of Eversong Woods; the desolate desert landscapes of Burning Steppes; the Africaneque dry savannah of the Barrens; the jaggered spears of Blades Edge Mountains; the giant Mushroom forests of Zangermarsh and the surreal beauties of Nagrand’s floating islands and steams to name just a few – and the sheer joy of flying through them all. The recent cataclsymic events have not dented that those pleasures at all. Buen Vijae.