Location: The Secret Lab, Azshara
Greetings, my friend. We are all interested in the future, for that is where you and I are going to spend the rest of our lives. And remember my friend, future events such as these will affect you in the future. You are interested in the unknown… the mysterious. The unexplainable. That is why you are here. And now, for the first time, we are bringing to you, the full story of what happened on that fateful day in Azshara and the creature only known as… Subject Nine.
For those who are not familiar with Subject Nine, here’s the low down. Subject Nine is a raptor that was given a hat and made into a super genius by the goblin scientist Hobart Grapplehammer (Who belongs to the ‘Oh Why the Hell Not’ school of scientific thinking). You encounter her in the secret lab and assist her in rounding up some of her younglings and shooting them off into space on Nine’s spaceship that she designed: The Velocistar. It’s a quick chain of quests that gives its share of nods, in the usual tone of goblin quirkiness, to pop culture references (Nine’s Plan to Outer Space.)
So what exactly is so odd about this? Well, first of all, I’m fairly curious where the heck Subject Nine came from originally. There’s one point in Kezan where we see her, which means she originally comes from the South Seas. Were raptors a normal thing on pre-volcano’d Kezan? Did they roam the alleys of the Undermine? I know we get to see raptors on the Lost Isles, but there’s no way of telling how close or far the Lost Isles are to Kezan (Okay, there is an in game map that shows them being fairly close together, but that map also puts them within spitting distance of the Maelstrom, so I’m not exactly inclined to believe that it’s a very realistic map). Further more the raptors on the Lost Isles look like Outland Raptors (Well… that kills any theory of them being two species that developed on separate worlds. Now Blizz, explain to me why there FRICKIN’ RAPTORS IN OUTLAND?! Cause you’ve killed my last theory now.) and Subject Nine has the appearance of a Barrens raptor (More notable, a Sunscale raptor).
I’m not opposed to thinking that goblins, the top dogs when it comes to intercontinental travel in Azeroth, would have shipped in some raptors for experimentation. In fact they mention it in one of the quests at the Secret Lab that they DID get them from the Barrens (Her mate – Subject Four – appears to be a Bloodtalon raptor from Durotar). So apparently they got a bunch of raptor eggs and dragged them all the way back to Kezan and then amidst their island being blown up, being sold off to slavery and then crash landing on another island before coming to Kalimdor, Hobart Grapplehammer dragged around a baby raptor (That we NEVER see on the Lost Isles). I’m sorry but this whole thing just reeks of ‘plot hole’. Maybe I shouldn’t be taking anything the goblins do this seriously, but Subject Nine creates some of the most blaring plot holes while leveling from 1-20 as a goblin than any other sole character in Warcraft (with the possible exception of Ronin).
The other issue I had with this whole thing is why choose a raptor to make into a super genius? Raptors are the smartest beasts in WoW already! Don’t believe me? Do some questing in the Northern Barrens – They systematically attack and rob a caravan! They steal the silver from it and run off into the wild. So not only can they outwit and tactically best an armed horde wagon, but also know that silver is apparently worth something as it’s the only thing they took, and then hauled it back off to their encampment. Yes, I said encampment. The raptors in the barrens have set up their own little camps and have started to forge their own little societies. Why are we now deciding to give them the means to build and construct super weapons and send themselves to other worlds? This is just so unethical… so terrifying… and as sad as I am to say it, so very, very goblin.
Still wouldn’t scientific curiosity insist on more of a challenge of taking something smart and making it smarter? How about more of a challenge? Like maybe a crab or a tauren? When you give a species that prides itself of cunning, tactical murder and then give it the means to out think its creator (As Subject Nine actually fixes several errors with the original goblin design for the space craft), one can only hope that it sees us as worthy to be kept as pet. Just perhaps, on your way to the Crossroads, something will pass you in the dark, and you will never know it… for it may be a raptor from outer space.
As an avid achievement junkie, I loved the fact that Blizzard added additional quest based achievements to the old world in Cataclysm. While riding the Rocket Rail from the North Terminus to the South Terminus isn’t exactly the most daunting task, it’s nice to see little things like that make it into the game (Besides, the view and erratic behavior of the rockets can’t be beat.) However, in Azshara there’s a trio of achievements that are tied into the three trials that you must complete for the… um… “eccentric” Archmage Xylem. Essentially the quests require you to obtain a certain amount of stacks of a buff by doing certain things: standing in safe areas, trapping ghosts, or collecting orbs. If you take damage, you lose a stack. However, the achievements require you to do this without taking any damage. Which ramps up the difficulty a little bit.
When I say a ‘little bit’ I mean a little bit. The Trials of Fire and Shadow are exceptionally easy to do the achievements for. The tasks are easy to see and not standing in the bad is pretty easy to follow, so not getting hit isn’t a grueling task. However, if you’ve attempted the achievement for the Trial of Ice, you may have been pulling out your hair out how tediously painful that achievement can be. The waves of ice routinely will hit you when you are no where near them, the orbs aren’t always picked up regardless of how close or how long you touch them, and the runes seem to trigger whenever they want at different ranges. I spent about 30 minutes trying to figure out exactly how this achievement works and I’m here to happily share some of my tips with you if you are also struggling with this.
TIP #1: DON’T WATCH THE STACKS: To complete the quest, you are required to gain 20 stacks of a buff given by the Icy Orbs that float around. These stacks will wear off after a minute of not gaining another stack. This puts a strict time limit on how long you have to navigate the ice to grab your next orb, and can put a lot of stress on you if you’re attempting to not take any damage. The biggest turn in doing this achievement is realizing that the stacking buff has no bearing whatsoever on the achievement. Go ahead! Track the achievement. You can grab an orb, sit outside the ice as long as you want, let the buff wear off and you’ll still have 1/20 toward the achievement. You can take as long as you want to get these just as long as the ice beams don’t hit you!
TIP #2: STAND BEHIND THE BEAMS: The Ice Beams are very tricky. They will routinely hit you far ahead of where they actually appear to be, and I can only imagine it’s worse if you have sub-optimal latency. The trick to avoiding being hit is to not attempt to out run the beams, but to walk behind them. This is easier to do on a mount or with some speed boost (Travel Form, Ghost Wolf, or Aspect of the Cheetah) because the beams move much faster than your characters walk speed, especially when you’re moving around trying to nab the orbs. Sometimes the beams will catch up to you while you’re grabbing the orbs (because they take a bit to register being picked up sometimes), which brings me to Tip #3…
TIP #3: KNOW THE SAFE ZONES: There are several places around the plateau where the beams will either not reach or just not hit for some reason. These ‘Safe Zones’ are the best places to hide when a beams heading your way and you’re running about. I’ve made the following map to show the couple that I used:
The important things to note about these spots, other than the one at the portal, is that they are very temperamental. In order to avoid being hit, you need to make sure you are either a place where the ground has turned to rock or becomes darker in color. In terms of the bottom safe zone on the map, it’s actually a small ledge that puts you below the height of the beams. So duck down there to avoid being hit. I am sure that there are probably a couple more around the island that you can use, these are just the few I figured out while doing the achievement. Using these safe spots, I was able to run around the entire area and gather orbs and still manage to avoid the beams.
TIP #4: AVOID THE RUNES: While Xylem will be quick to inform you that the runes on the ground can either help or hinder you, my experience would suggest that the chance of hindering you far outweighs the chance to help you. Technically, you could use them to launch yourself up in the air to avoid the beams, but the beams and runes are fickle enough that you land just as likely a chance to fall down right into the beam, or the rune won’t trigger immediately and you’ll get hit by the beam. It’s best to just avoid the things entirely that deal with the possible headaches they can create.
TIP #5: STAY AWAY FROM THE ICY GROUND: This one really is the simplest and most obvious tip of them all. The icy ground around the giant beam-emitting balls will slow you down if you step into it. Just avoid it. At all costs. If an orb spawns in the icy ground, just ignore it. Resist that temptation at all costs. I was screwed over more than once by grabbing that orb because I figured the beam was no where close, and I only needed two more or something. BAM! Back to 0/20 on the counter. Regardless of where the beam is, the icy ground is just going to screw you up in the long run.
There’s really two strategies currently available, but I’m sure that a third will emerge once you can fly in Azeroth. The first is simply find a good safe spot, run in and grab one or two orbs, then go back to the safe spot and wait for the orbs to respawn. It’s certainly a valid strategy, probably the easiest one as well, but a bit on the time consuming side (Hey, if you’re bothering with these achievements, you don’t mind time consuming, do you?)
The other strategy is the one I used, simply make your way around the island counter-clockwise (all the beams go counter-clockwise, so you can follow behind them this way) and duck into the safe zones when you reach them. You’ll get the achievement done quicker, but you risk resetting the counter by getting hit a bit more than say standing by the portal and running out to grab one orb over and over.
Hopefully, this will help all of you achievement hunters out there have a bit less of a hair-pulling experience attempting to be a glutton for icy punishment!