The Dry Hilly Zone

October 19, 2008

If you play enough MMOs, RPGs or even platformers, you quickly become accustomed to (and cynical of) game devs who have fondnesses for “themed” areas. For instance:

  • The Volcano-and-Lava Zone! (Does anyone, ever, like these zones?)
  • The Spooky Forest Zone!
  • The Arid Desert Zone!
  • The Ice/Winter Zone!
  • The Rolling Grasslands Zone!
  • The Swamp Zone!
  • The Zone of Incredibly Irritating and Unnavigatable Landscapes!
  • Cleveland!

And so on. Ever since, like, Super Mario Bros., “themed zones” have been done to death and then some, but unless you want to get totally abstract and bizarre, all zones have to be themed after stuff we know, i.e. “Earth”. This is why game devs have to extra crafty and clever when creating a themed zone, because you want to work with the theme and give it a cool twist so that players won’t go “Hey! This is just like Theme Zone in Game X!” and stomp off in a huff.

We’ll compare and contrast zones in WAR some other time, but I just bring this up to say that I’ve been dithering around in the Dry Hilly Zone (aka “Badlands”) for about a week now, and I’m ready to be done. Can I be done please? It’s just not an exciting landscape, and it has the unfortunate side effect of reminding me of two of WoW’s Dry Hilly Zones: Badlands (coincidence) and Desolace. Or not just a few of LOTRO’s zones. Lots of browns with dead trees and little vegetation, hills and crevices that make navigating it a pain. I’m not sure why level designers always throw in a Dry Hilly Zone, but egads, I’m not a fan. My thought is, if you’re going to put in really annoying mining pits into the middle of an already-craggy zone, you better well put in racing mining cars a la Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom to make it worth my while.

I’m also not a fan of how many MMOs theme zone progression as such: earlier levels = pretty, but as you go on, later levels = ugly blotchy death. It’s like you’re being visually punished for leveling. Bad Syp! Stay in starter zones!

It’s okay in a way — nobody can expect to fall 100% in love with all of the zones of a game, but I do feel a bit trapped. Partially because I’m up against level 29 content at level 25, and partially because I’m stubborn and won’t move out of this pairing. So I guess Syp’s up for 4 or so ranks of nothing but scenarios, maybe Mt. Gunbad, and the occasional world PvP. It’s not a cheery thought.



  1. Yeah, if you won’t move out of your pairing, you’re a bit screwed. 😦

    They need to seriously up the XP in each pairing so we can level separately… I wanted to save each non-empire pairing for my two alts, but that didn’t work out at all.

  2. Try elf lands, they go the other way around. The earlier zones are quite barren/ugly but it gets very pretty around Tier 3 and 4.

  3. I don’t know, the tier 4 WAR zones are pretty epic if you ask me. The tier 3 zones are, as you say, meh, but T4 is just awesome. Chaos Wastes FTW!!!

  4. For years I’ve been calling lava the most tired game mechanic ever.

    What’s really odd is that I think the whole thing started with a game I utterly love: Joust (I’ve got a restored Joust in my living room, I still play it often).

    I think that was the only game that needed it, the rest could have stuck with icey, spooky forest, arid deserts, etc..

  5. Lava eughhhh I know what you mean. I enjoy the more mythical magical zones with trees, wisps, water and the like. WoW’s TBC gave some great lands that I would be more than happy to see repeated.

  6. You will grow to hate leveling up if you don’t move out of your pairing.

  7. I hadn’t realized it till now, but Guild Wars used that exact progression.

    Idyllic Old Ascalon –> Snowy mountains, lush forest –> Sprawling desert –> Island after island of featureless black stone

  8. I’m so glad somebody brought this up!! When I used to play WoW I thought it sucked how you started off in these lands which seemed central to the world and helped you feel part of your character (eg. Dwarf in snowy mountains, Tauren in the Plains etc) ..

    As the game progressed, it became harder and harder to feel involved in the game.

    Good post. Dunno how you keep coming up with new ideas, thoughts to write on.

  9. I’ve enjoyed the Chaos zones, generally give a great impression of war torn countryside. The transition from Tabalecland to the Mountains of High Pass was really well done.

    Although have to say Avelorn is the most hated zone so far! Is it just me or do DE’s get more xp for their T3 quests!?

  10. I am in the same boat (fighting 30s at 26) and to break the grind I go pick up one quest in Elfland when we are RVRing there. One quest here or there isn’t going to feel like the “same old thing” when I get my Elfs that high.

  11. I’ve branched out to two pairings on my SM for T3. doing Elf primarily and then heading to Empire when I’m out of options in Elflands. Which is odd I guess, since my one alt at the moment is a WP so I’ll be doing Empire again. My next alt will probably be a SW as well, so there’s Elf lands again. . .basically I don’t like the Dwarf lands. They’re typically very hilly / mountainous and I abhor mountainous paths. I like to be able to approach camps and quest areas any way I please and travel from point A to point B without going through point J because I’d die jumping down the mountain. Badlands has especially been like this when I have been there. I like to avoid fights when I can (especially when I’m just passing through) and mountainous paths don’t give you the room to avoid mobs.

  12. Lats night I walked into one of the Greenskin T3 zones and the local area was simply called “Da Hills”. Nice, simple Orc logic

  13. You are lucky Gunbad is in dwarf lands, Syp. What about Altdorf? You go there, right? there is a nice dungeon we could check out there for you?

  14. Oh, and another thing, Syp: T3 dwarf scenario quest credit has been bugged, and I know I’ve seen you in non dwarf scenarios. Do you at least travel to elf lands to turn in your Tor Anroc credit? Leveling could be awful if you don’t do that…

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