A few disclaimers before we move forward:
- Traveling Thoughts is a means of putting down my thoughts in a bit-by-bit process that will eventually lead up to a formal review of the overall subject. These posts will be more personal than objective, though one should expect a good amount of both as is my personality of habit.
- These posts will absolutely contain spoilers. Read at your own risk.
Now that the March of the Movies block has ended, I can finally get back to writing about this gargantuan game at a relatively comfortable pace!
My experience with the aesthetic part of video games has covered a large variety of settings. Swamps, caves, deserts, forests, big cities; you name it. Something that always seems to suit my fancy (not just in games, but in real life) are snowy mountains—silent, dominating, and pristine in its colorless light. Ice/snowy areas resonate with me more than most other areas throughout my life (a hint to my personality?), with games such as Donkey Kong Country, World of Warcraft, Metroid Prime, and others supplying an ample dose of this specific aesthetic to appeal to my lonely taste. This has only a little to do overall with Dun Morogh, but I felt it was necessary to instill some context to my appreciation for the area’s structural make-up.
Home to the dwarves and gnomes (prior to Cataclysm), Dun Morogh is a mountainous region covered in perpetual snowfall, and one of two starting areas in the game that is shared between two races (Durotar). When starting my decade-plus affair with the game, I wasn’t overly fond of either gnomes or dwarves, so my younger experiences with the area are fairly murky. My prominently, I remember having to face trolls in ice caves north of the safe zone within the initial starting area—and I remember it being really annoying.
Here’s the humorous part: With my current dwarf warrior, I got through the starting area in little more than a breeze. Every quest I recall being impossible as a teenager was otherwise fairly trivial now; so much so that I began to laugh at just how easily I destroyed every combatant. “I found this hard?” I would say to myself. Perhaps it was because I didn’t pick a warrior all those years ago. I distinctly remember it being difficult with a gnome mage. That makes sense, at least to me, because I still, to this day, don’t care for casting classes (but more on that later). What this all amounts to is that the initial starting area for Dun Morogh is pretty easy, perhaps easier than any other starting zone.
One should not take this as an attack on its quality, however. Dun Morogh has the distinction of being more realistic with its quests and quest locations. In most initial starting areas, nearly all of the quests are available to the player in one specific spot on the map, save a few isolated individuals or the occasional drop-quest. Dun Morogh moves around some, placing the first questgiver right in front of the player upon booting up (as normal), while others are located in a base camp a little further out in the wilderness and in a fortress connected to a higher part of the mountains surrounding the area. It feels a lot more like one is part of the area to have people out and about, to give little details as to the character of the race by instilling some sense of adventurous spirit. Most of these character are dwarves, however, as gnomes seem to be a little more sporadic throughout the starting zone.
As evidenced above, the atmosphere and aesthetic of Dun Morogh is that of wintry highlands, with the entire map covered in thick snow and inhabited by cold-based creatures. The accompanying track is rather quiet and almost triumphant, which is a perfect backtrack to the qualities that I adore with this type of environment. The immersion of fighting and questing in a bitter-cold portion of the world, a sense of pride in being one of few to brave the brunt of nature to strengthen one’s endurance is something that oozes personality. I really do love icy aesthetics, especially in adventure games.
Outside the initial starting zone, one can come upon Kharanos, the obligatory second stopping place, and a variety of other places scattered throughout the seemingly endless terrain of white (that almost feels like a Jordan Peele edit). Dun Morogh feels massive compared to other starting areas, with things to do in almost every corner of the zone. I can’t recall a time when I ever got through every quest I could possibly do before reaching a level recommended to move on. As for the variety of quests, they are certainly varied, but some are a lot more of a hassle than fun.
Truth be told, with Kharanos and beyond, Dun Morogh is among my least-favorite places to quest. I complimented the space between questgivers in the initial starting zone, but outside that, it’s very time-consuming, especially with the growth spurt in area to traverse. On top of that, no place tends to have a whole lot to do, at least outside Kharanos. It feels as though the player goes all that way to do two or three quests, only to run five minutes west just to do two or three more.
Travel time aside, a lot of the quests one has to do in Kharanos and beyond have an entertainment factor that is foreign to most other races. Some of the benefits of playing as dwarves and gnomes is that their temperaments are a little more silly, resulting in sillier duties and personalities throughout their established areas. Dwarves are essentially Irish stereotypes (haha?) in that they they adore a good physical tussle and drink a lot, while gnomes are just, er, weird. Because of this, some of the things required of the player involve indulging some of these qualities, including a quest where one has to distract a dwarven guard with alcohol in order to switch out a brand of alcohol for another for a competing company. Stupid stuff like that is good for memorability.
I think if I had to rank them in terms of experience, Dun Morogh would be a little closer to the bottom of the list of starting areas for me. Somewhat like Durotar (ironically the other starting area shared by two races), the expansiveness of it all feels disheartening and cumbersome, especially with all the travel time and the sporadic placement of quests. Aesthetically, it makes up for this with its isolating effect and chilly monotone of colors… again, kind of like Durotar. Oh, wow, are Durotar and Dun Morogh just the same place, but one is red and hot and the other is white and cold? They both even start with “du.” I… seem to have stumbled upon something very strange. Well, uh, in any case, next time, Traveling Thoughts will cover one of two starting areas exclusively available to the Burning Crusade patch. Can you guess which one?
For more posts on this topic, feel free to check out the accompanying archive!
Thank you for your time. Have a great day.