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Throne of the Tides (6/8/10)

Before I get onto The Throne of the Tides, thoroughness (and my editor) dictates that we round out the Vashj’ir experience. Fortunately, a series of fixes and a hefty patch means that I can finally continue on through the zone atop my new mighty stead: Land Biscuit the Seahorse.

It’s hard to continue the aforementioned manly art of getting lost while riding a dainty seahorse so, as I make my way to the second zone Vashj’ir has on offer I pull over – repeatedly – to ask for directions, use the bathroom and find myself a rebellious boyfriend who I can hope to tame. Maybe the water pressure is getting to me.

With the Naga threat in the Kelp Forest temporarily suppressed, the Earthen Ring sends you on your way to the Shimmering Expanse by way of the Damplight Chamber – an extensive tunnel that contains a dry underwater cavern part way in to provide a small quest hub before exiting on to The Shimmering Expanse itself.

First off, after a swim like that, your new contact from The Earthen Ring asks you to sit and smoke a bowl with him. Together you travel to the spiritual plane, discover what it is that has enraged the local elements, and totally space out to some Pink Floyd - Dark Side of the Moon.

This vision quest sets the tone for the coming area as you are shown the Abyssal Breach – the entrance to plane of elemental water, ruled by Neptulon the Tidehunter – and the forces at work against you. The naga and the Twilight Cult are now working together.

When you return to your body, you’ll discover naga, joined by Fathom Lord Zin'jatar, attacking the camp. With some effort he is driven off, thus setting up a zone-wide quest arc as you chase him down.

The Shimmering Expanse is a beautiful hodgepodge of underwater life. Where the Kelp Forest was at times claustrophobic, the Shimmering Expanse is just as advertised. In every direction this beautiful zone has something peeking through just at the edge of your vision: Vivid coral reefs with huge swaying sea anemones that retreat into themselves as you swim past, enormous crustaceans and – as I finally get a glimpse at the ruins of Vashj’ir – a goblin submarine in the shape of a giant squid soars overhead.

Vashj’ir really is a zone you have to experience for yourself, so the rest of the zone I’ll leave to you. The zone itself sweeps you towards a new dungeon, the Throne of the Tides. Its location is revealed to you at the completion of the final quest in the zone and your entrance into the dungeon is appropriately dramatic.

In Wrath of the Lich King, dungeons became an exercise in rolling your face over the keyboard. Tanks were able to collect whole rooms while the damage classes used area effect abilities to bring the whole lot down.

The Throne of the Tides is a level 82 to 84 dungeon and it has to be one of the most beautiful instances I’ve seen to date. It's something like a giant undersea structure made of clean glass, force fields and corals. It is a shame there is no way to look at this from the outside to get a full understanding to how exactly it all fits together.

As you enter the first hallway naga swim from the open ocean through the force fields and bar your way, a recurring event in this dungeon and one that can have you scrambling to recover.

The group I joined in the Throne was a mixed bag of the experienced and newer players – when our tank called for “CC” he was asked to elaborate on what “CC” means, exactly: Crowd control. The frequency with which we nearly wiped as controlled mobs were broken due to loose damage was amazing. And refreshing: It’s been some time since we’ve had to look at a group we were about to fight and plan the pull carefully.

This first group of naga perfectly demonstrate how it is now comes together. Tehy’re composed of two melee and two casters, Spiritmenders, who heal for large amounts and must be controlled. Meanwhile, the melee have a devastating stacking damage over time effect and must be put down as fast as possible.

It is easy to fall back into old patterns but you are quickly slapped on the wrist for it as uncontrolled casters are more than capable of keeping their melee alive and they can quickly overwhelm your tank.

After the first battle you reach a four way intersection, two of the paths are blocked by large tentacles as you notice a large squid-monster straddling the place and trying to force his way inside.

You’ll deal with him later.

As you make your way through the Throne of the Tides you will need to dispatch four bosses from a Lady Vashj clone, to a brain slug (it’s afraid!) up to the final encounter that, sadly, is not yet available for testing. All of them are more than capable of cleaning up your group if you take a laissez faire approach to the encounters.

Throne of the Tides is a full experience with planned ambushes, a gauntlet event and a thoroughly enjoyable in-game cinematic. It’s a promising taster of the upcoming dungeon and raid experiences that Cataclysm will have to offer.

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If there’s anything you’d like to hear about, just let us know in the comments and we’ll bring back whatever information we can, testing conditions pending, obviously!

Click through the pages below to find earlier entries in Gameplanet's Cataclysm beta Diary.

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