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Legion Previews: Highmountain, Halls of Valor & Maw of Souls

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The Legion blog previews continue with Highmountain and two Norse-themed dungeons, Halls of Valor and Maw of Souls.

Welcome to Highmountain! While this zone is advertised as the highest mountain of Azeroth, most of its areas feel pretty tame and relaxing. This is explained by the fact that you step foot in this zone during the season of spring.

Highmountain is the home of the homonymous tribe of Taurens and the Droggbar; these two factions are at war, both trying to get their hands on the Hammer of Khaz’goroth. Highmountain is also home to the Black Dragonflight, so prepare to explore this storyline as well. Lastly, Hemet Nesingwary will also be there!

This zone has quite a few quests, but it can feel a bit grindy since you need to travel quite a lot. It will be easier to explore it once we have flying unlocked. You can check out a preview of Highmountain from the Legion Beta by Manny here.

Blizzard LogoBlizzard Entertainment

In this zone preview, we sat down with Game Designers Zachariah Owens and Ryan Shwayder and Senior Level Designer Matt Sanders to learn more about Highmountain and what you’ll experience there.

The location of one of the largest mountains in Azeroth, Highmountain is a rugged and beautiful place. Here, three tribes of Highmountain tauren are locked in a bitter struggle against the savage drogbar that threaten their lands.

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Highmountain Journey Composed by Glenn Stafford

Q. How would you describe the zone’s ambience? What’s it like?

Matt: The inspiration for Highmountain is a mix of Yosemite, the Swiss Alps, and Everest. We wanted to give players the sense that is the highest mountain, the tallest peak, in the game. We wanted to make parts of it seem almost uninhabitable, with glacial terrain and the kind of treacherous conditions you’d expect to find at such incredible heights.

Because it’s the highest peak in World of Warcraft, so far at least, we wanted to give players a sense of progression within the harsh environment that the tauren and the drogbar have been living in. We wanted to acknowledge altitude, proximity to the ocean, exposure to the sun and shade, and what season it is. Currently it’s spring, so the climate is mild to temperate. Crops are growing, and plenty of food and other resources are readily available. But imagine how cold it would be in the winter. It would be brutal, and most visitors probably wouldn’t survive through the season. So there is always a huge effort to stock up on supplies and protect them from would-be invaders.

Ryan: If you’re familiar with the War of the Ancients, you might recognize the namesake of the zone—Huln Highmountain, a renowned tauren who helped defeat Tichondrius many years ago. After receiving the Blessing of Cenarius, the tauren here have changed—they have moose horns instead of normal tauren horns, among other things—and we think players will enjoy getting to see a unique take on one of the game’s most familiar races.

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Matt: Long, long ago, Highmountain used to be the home of the Black Dragonflight. We didn’t want to dig too deep into that for Legion, but there is definitely some interesting history in Highmountain that we can continue to expand on.

Because the waters of Highmountain flow into Suramar, Stormheim, and Val’sharah, the area also serves as the lifeblood of virtually every region on the continent. There’s a lot riding on the taurens’ ability to maintain balance in the zone. As part of that, the Rivermane tauren established a fragile peace pact between the Highmountain tauren and the drogbar as a means to survive in relative peace. As part of this agreement, they mutually benefit from one another’s resources through trade at designated areas outside drogbar caves.

Drogbar dwell in the infinite caverns deep within Highmountain, serving as overlords of the zone’s “underworld,” if you will. They provide spell components from inedible plants, rare minerals, gems, and other rarities as a trade offering to the tauren. In return, the tauren bring the drogbar grain, fish, leather goods, and lumber. They make a mutual exchange at these ritual sites, then go back to their respective homelands. It’s a symbiotic relationship—they don’t like each other, but they needed each other. We tried to subtly establish that throughout the zone.

Then there are the harpies and kobolds. The tauren used to keep the harpies at bay with the Hammer of Khaz’goroth—until it was stolen by the drogbar. Now, the harpies have been emboldened. The kobolds offer stolen and scavenged trinkets, oftentimes items that would be broken and worthless to anyone else, and the harpies provide protection for their offerings of obedience. The kobold are very prolific and have now become a noticeable nuisance. It is said, “For every kobold you see, there are a hundred more.”

Ryan: The Hammer of Khaz’goroth has always been the tie that binds in Highmountain [Editor’s note: read the comic “A Mountain Divided” to learn more], and as soon as that was taken by the drogbar, each tauren tribe suddenly had their own priorities to deal with. The Skyhorn have to deal with the harpies, while the Bloodtotem warriors—who’ve always been the jerks of the bunch—no longer want anything to do with the rest of the tribes. Meanwhile, the fishermen and farmers of Rivermane have to deal most directly with the drogbar, which isn’t really in their nature.

Matt: Yeah, the Rivermane have always been the diplomatic, reassuring caretakers. The Rivermane just care about the agriculture and their shamanistic ways. They’re very peaceful, and you’d never see them getting into boxing matches or big fights like the Bloodtotem.

The Skyhorn are essentially the wise masters of the skies. They can get to places no other tauren can because of their relationship with the eagles in the area, and help players navigate all the way to the peak.

Because of that, the Skyhorn are also the tribe that’s sort of “running the show.” But that’s caused some tension with the Bloodtotem—the first chieftain of all the Highmountain tribes was a Bloodtotem, and they’ve long felt that they’d make the best leaders because they’re the strongest. That’s made them more reclusive, and unwelcoming to outsiders. They also have a predatory side—you’ll walk into their area and they’ll be watching you, but you’ll never know it.

Zachariah: That’s where you get all of your Feral and Guardian Druids—the savage bear forms. They were the warriors of the tribes, the enforcers.

Matt: They’re kind of a mix between the personalities of the trolls and orcs. The trolls have a very rich and mysterious culture, but it’s one that outsiders can never truly know. The orcs are very savage.

If you are not as strong as a Bloodtotem, they’ll probably kill you because they can’t stand you. And if you are stronger than they are, they’ll try to kill you because they want to prove themselves. So the challenge comes in finding a way to make them think you’re useful. For example, the Rivermane provide them with food, since there’s no longer enough to hunt because they killed everything off. But you still know the Bloodtotem are looking down at them thinking, “pathetic little Rivermane.”

Zachariah: All of the tribes had a very strong dependent, symbiotic relationship with each other. They also had a symbiotic relationship with the drogbar that ran deeper than either side would wish to acknowledge. They all kind of required each other, so when a wedge gets driven between them all, it essentially becomes chaos.

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Q. Which locations would you say are some of your favorites, and why?

Zachariah: Highmountain Peak. Just the hike up to the peak is such an amazing experience. You can just see the diversity of the ecosystems there. And there are just some places that are so harsh, places where nothing really lives, that make you feel like an explorer.

Matt: You feel like you’ve climbed Everest. You’re able to look down upon Suramar, which is beneath two completely separate layers of clouds—sort of like what you see when you’re climbing or descending in a plane. That helps further establish the feeling that this is a place where no one—certainly no outsiders—could naturally survive. So when you see those huge, isolated outposts up there in the freezing cold, you know how challenging that outpost must be to maintain.

One of my favorite aspects of Highmountain is its cavernous nature—it’s not just a solid piece of rock. It’s riddled with networks of tunnels, with steam and warmth radiating from its caves, implying potential volcanic activity without showing lava.

If you go through Neltharion’s Vault and start navigating the passageways between the mountains along the main road, you realize how deep things go, giving you a sense that you could keep going down and down and down until you reach the coast—or just get completely lost. But my favorite specific place is a cave where you emerge from a tunnel and see all these drogbar bridges that keep going into the depths. If you look down, you think, “Wow, there’s a whole world within this mountain that is left up to the imagination.”

Ryan: My favorite place is the beaver dam in Pinerock Basin where the rapids give way to calmer waters. The river cascades its way down toward the farms, Thunder Totem is behind you, and you're surrounded by beauty in all directions.

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Zachariah: The zone is full of little surprises here and there. We try to reward exploration in all our zones. If something looks like it’s a trail that might lead off somewhere interesting, chances are it does. You will keep finding new places, treasures, and events as you explore.

Q. Why do you think a player would want to start in this zone first?

Matt: Tauren are awesome. So are kobolds. Other than that, I’m torn. In one way, it’s fun to do Highmountain last, and eventually be able to look down upon other zones you have explored. On the other hand, you could always take the Demon Hunter gliding into Suramar or fly into Stormheim, and have a cool sense of scale based on where you just came from. From the height of the mountain, the possibilities seem endless—“OK, I’ve conquered the mountain, now what am I going to do?

Either way, we wanted the ground path between Highmountain and Val’sharah to be awesome. Same with going to and from Stormheim. We wanted players to feel just as rewarded by just traversing the land the “classic” way, walking or running on their mount. There are a lot of World of Warcraft players out there who love to explore this way, and we tried to provide them with plenty of those opportunities.

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Q. What is it that will bring them back to this zone?

Matt: Unlike some of the other mountains in World of Warcraft, if you go mountain climbing here, you’ll find that it’s filled with playable space and tons of stuff to discover. You’ll stumble upon a vignette here or some kind of a camp there, or a story—we really wanted to reward exploration.

Ryan: Sometimes it’s just finding somewhere that you’re going to decide is your favorite place—maybe just an awesome view. There might not be anything there, but it could be like, “This is where we’re going to hang out. Me and my wife really want to chill here all the time.”

Q. Is there anything else players should know about this zone?

Zachariah: I would say this is the “explorer’s” zone. This is the zone you go to when you just want to happen upon things, go on a spontaneous journey up a path, or wander down to the coast. Every nook and cranny has something.

Ryan: There’s a lot of cultural exploration, too. The tauren here are familiar, but different. The drogbar are completely new.

Matt: And everything is interrelated. The harpies are in some way related to the Skyhorn. The drogbar have a relationship with the Rivermane.

Ryan: It’s like an ecosystem.

Matt: Even the murlocs on the coast—the kobolds would bring these trinkets to the harpies in return for their protection. A lot of these trinkets would fall down the side of the mountain and land on the coastline where the murlocs would find them.

Ryan: “Mglrmglmglmgl!” Translation: “The murloc gods have blessed us.”

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Zachariah: Just another note for when you’re in Thunder Totem: leave the music and sound on, especially when playing through the first time. There are a lot of sound treats in general, and a lot of great voiceover in the right places to get the stories across.

Matt: There are so many subtle details, and we really wanted to show a visual progression based on an awareness of the geography. We have different types of erosion because of the harsh climate. We considered details based on whether an area is shaded, whether snow would be melted in a particular location, or whether you’d encounter more plant life in an area. There are some cool and rewarding reveals, like a cave where you’ll come upon a spot with a marine layer and full sun. Little spots where plants grow and proliferate.

Ryan: Highmountain is really about exploration and discovery. We never direct you to most of the stuff that’s in the zone—but if you keep your eyes open, there’s plenty to see.

(source)

Blizzard also released a preview of two dungeons inspired by Norse mythology, both located in Stormheim: Halls of Valor and Maw of Souls. Halls of Valor is a long leveling dungeon, sporting 5 bosses in total. Warriors might be familiar with the setting, since their Order Hall is located in an area of the Halls of Valor.

While the Halls of Valor are the equivalent of Valhalla in WoW, the Maw of Souls is the equivalent of the Naglfar. You will encounter and enter the Maw of Souls while questing in Stormheim, but in the dungeon you will be aboard a ship heading straight towards this grim underworld. Pay attention to the last boss Helya, since we will probably encounter her again in the small raid between Emerald Nightmare and Nighthold that will wrap up the story of Stormheim. This small raid will be part of the recently announced Patch 7.1: Return to Karazhan.

Blizzard LogoBlizzard Entertainment

Many challenges await the heroes of Azeroth in Legion, and among the most dangerous are the dungeons found in and around the Broken Isles. In this preview, we take a look at two of the expansion’s new dungeons: Halls of Valor and Maw of Souls.

Halls of Valor

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Minimum Level: 98
Location: Stormheim
Bosses: 5

In the clouds high above Stormheim, the titanic keeper Odyn has called the greatest vrykul warriors of Azeroth to be his Valarjar. Amidst feasting halls and hunting grounds, these ascended vrykul test themselves and prepare for the great war that is to come. Adventurers must pass through these halls and prove their worth if they hope to stand before Odyn and claim the Aegis of Aggramar.

Developer Insights: The look and feel of this dungeon was inspired by the Norse mythos of Valhalla, and we began by asking ourselves: What would the greatest and fiercest vrykul warriors look forward to as their eternal reward? Our answers to that question defined each of the major locales within the Halls of Valor: feasting, drinking, hunting, smithing, and testing their combat prowess. The scale and architectural style hint at the titan influence over the vrykul, as well as Odyn’s origins as the titan Pantheon’s Prime Designate charged with watching over Azeroth before the turmoil chronicled in the Storm Peaks during Wrath of the Lich King.

The Halls of Valor can be found in the southeast of Stormheim. You’ll need to fight your way to the Gates of Valor to gain access to what lies beyond. In this multi-level dungeon, you'll prove your worth against five mighty bosses.

Fields of the Eternal Hunt

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Fenryr: In the Fields of the Eternal Hunt, the greatest vrykul champions keep their skills sharp, competing to see who can fell the largest beast. But man and beast alike give a wide berth to the fearsome worg Fenryr, true master of the Fields, who stalks his prey and pounces with unnerving quickness.

The High Gate

Hymdall: Clad in gleaming golden armor, with an imposing frame that looks to have been chiseled from granite, Hymdall remains ever vigilant at the gates of the Halls of Valor. Tasked by Odyn to keep the unworthy from entering the Halls with deadly storm drakes circling nearby ready to heed the call of his horn, he will never falter in his charge.

Hyrja: In life Hyrja was a warrior without equal, defending the Valkyra from all threats. Her valor and courage drew the attention of Eyir, a titan watcher. Upon her death and ascension to the Halls of Valor, Eyir has awarded Hyrja with her greatest honor, transformation into a Val’kyr.

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Halls of Valor

God-King Skovald: Gul’dan approached the vrykul king Skovald with a simple proposition: he could join the Legion and receive ultimate power, or he could see his people destroyed. Dreaming of conquest and glory, Skovald has taken up the Legion’s offer and been set to a single crucial task. He must claim the Aegis of Aggramar from Odyn in the Halls of Valor and deliver it to Gul’dan. Only then can his endless conquest begin.

Odyn: Odyn, a titan keeper, was empowered by the titan Pantheon to lead the titan-forged armies against the Old Gods. In the aftermath, he raised the Halls of Valor into the skies, assembling a force of the greatest vrykul champions to defend Azeroth. But when Ulduar fell into the clutches of Yogg-Saron, he was betrayed by Loken and cursed by Helya, now trapped within these halls for eternity.

Maw of Souls

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Minimum Level: 110
Location: Stormheim
Bosses: 3

While the greatest vrykul warriors are spirited away to the Halls of Valor to glory eternal, shiny and gold, the cursed and damned find themselves on the shores of the Maw of Souls. Amidst fog and mist, they await the Naglfar, a fearsome ship formed from sinew and bone, which comes to deliver these poor souls to Helheim, and the clutches of Helya.

Developer Insights: This max-level dungeon is the direct counterpoint to the Halls of Valor. If the Halls were based on Valhalla, the Maw of Souls was based on the mythos of the Naglfar. We decided early on that, just as the Grimrail Depot dungeon in Warlords had largely taken place on a moving train, that the ship itself would be the location for most of the action in the Maw of Souls. Our art and encounter team explored a few different concepts, including an eerie sea of mist and ghosts, before one of our effects artists demonstrated a prototype of a tumultuous ocean that did an incredible job of making the player feel like they were caught in a terrible storm. Once we saw that, we quickly honed in on that vision, and the rest was history.

Beginning in the Hellmouth Cliffs, players will make their way to the cursed ship Naglfar to experience a cruise of a more sinister kind.

Hellmouth Cliffs

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Ymiron, the Fallen King: Ymiron, one-time king of the vrykul of Northrend, was a mighty warrior held in awe by his people. The gates of the Halls of Valor awaited him in the afterlife. But, hungry for more power, he struck a dark bargain with the Lich King. When adventurers struck him down, he found the eternal Halls closed to him. And so, the damned king waits in purgatory on the shores of the Maw of Souls.

The Naglfar

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Harbaron: The mysterious ferryman of souls stands at thehelm of the Naglfar, gathering the damned and bringing them to Helya’s domain. His connection with the fallen queen of the val’kyr is unclear but when the breeze catches Harbaron’s cloak, an expanse of shimmering stars unfolds beneath. Strange.

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Helya: Helya, fallen queen of the Val’kyr, was once at Odyn’s right hand, raising the spirits of vrykul champions to the Halls of Valor to prepare for the final battle for the fate of Azeroth. But following Loken’s betrayal, she was persuaded to join him and turn upon her master. She now lurks in the shadowy realm beneath the world, plotting her revenge.

(source)
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Man, would be awesome if Blizzard made the Vrykul a neutral playable with an expansion entirely dedicated to them, like the Pandaren and Mists of Pandaria. Their inspiration on Norse Mythology has a lot of room for great raids, bosses and zones.

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TAUREN WITH MOOSE ANTERLERS!!???  I want this....really really want this. Bliz please make this an option/quest for Tauren. 

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15 minutes ago, Bonse said:

TAUREN WITH MOOSE ANTERLERS!!???  I want this....really really want this. Bliz please make this an option/quest for Tauren. 

ab173014ae70275ae3c255fbdf4bda6d1aef4881

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1 hour ago, Tectonn said:

Only 8 more days to stop reading/dreaming about legion, and actually start playing this xpac!

Agreed! Can't wait... this xpac seems so flavorful and lore oriented... that's awesome!

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On ‎8‎/‎22‎/‎2016 at 6:29 AM, Tectonn said:

Only 8 more days to stop reading/dreaming about legion, and actually start playing this xpac!

Don't forget about waiting in server queues to get online!

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