WoW! Thoughts! — On What a Long, Strange Trip It’s Been

Thoughts on the year long meta-achievement after having earned it.


With Brewfest having come and gone this year, I was finally able to complete my nearly two year long mission to attain What a Long, Strange Trip It’s Been and earn my violet proto-drake.  I’d been counting down to this year’s Brewfest since last year’s Brewfest, when the launch of Mists of Pandaria suddenly shifted the level cap and prevented me (and plenty of other players) from completing many of the tasks required of the achievement – in particular defeating Coren Direbrew, who at the time was level 90 while I was merely level 85.  After all this time, I expected to be more excited by the resolution of this goal, but at the moment, I find myself surprisingly disaffected.

I remember playing through some of the holidays – in particular Brewfest – on my first tour of duty in Warcraft, during vanilla and Burning Crusade.  Achievements didn’t exist back then, so the holidays were fun distractions that both made the world feel alive and also diverted my focus from leveling.  It wasn’t until I returned just before Cataclysm that I was able to discover the insanity of meta-achievements.  Over Winter’s Veil, I tried my hand at earning the Merrymaker title, but I didn’t see the purpose in striving for the year-long meta-achievement if I didn’t know how much longer I’d be playing the game.  Both my prior subscriptions had only lasted for months before I either lost interest or life prompted me to move on.  I knew that some of the achievements involved would be significant time sinks, and there was no point in working towards them if I was not going to be able to see the process through to the end.  Plus, I had seen other players complain about certain achievements, and I did not feel compelled to subject myself to that frustration for nothing.  So I did the achievements at my leisure, never completing any of the holiday events throughout the first year of Cataclysm.

That all changed in October of 2011 when Blizzard announced the annual pass.  By agreeing to subscribe for one year, I would be given a free copy of Diablo III.  Given that I planned on buying the $49.99 game anyway, all I needed to do was keep playing WoW for seven months to save money on the deal.  While there were some weeks in the summer of 2012 where I was only logging in once per week to get a screenshot for this column, I know that purchasing the annual pass was the right move.

However, it wasn’t until about a week after I had received Tyrael’s Charger (a reward from the annual pass) that I realized the opportunity that lay before me.  Knowing that I would be residing in Azeroth for a full calendar year, I was guaranteed to have an opportunity to complete each of the holiday achievements and earn my violet proto-drake.

Hallow’s End 2011 served as a test run – if I could complete all of the achievements for that holiday, then I knew I could complete them for each of the others.  My commitment began in earnest when I trick-or-treated my way across Azeroth.  In Razor Hill, while dousing fires caused by the Headless Horseman, I found compatriots who were also working on the achievements, and we were able to transform each other into ninjas and pirates and skeletons as needed.  I remember stepping into Alterac Valley, hoping that no one would notice I was neither geared properly for PVP nor that I had the G.N.E.R.D buff, but I got my 10 kills fairly quickly and then slipped away after our side lost.  I remember finding the Headless Horseman encounter so quick and easy that I was able to run it on my warlock alt, and earned the Headless Horseman’s mount with minimal effort.  (I still feel guilty when I see people complain it has yet to drop for them.)  Hallow’s End was good to me, and the end result was that I now had to carve out some time around the holidays going forward.

I earned The Pilgrim title just to further prove that I could handle the road ahead, since Pilgrim’s Bounty isn’t required for What a Long, Strange Trip It’s Been.  I remember camouflaging my hunter atop some of the buildings around Kharanos, waiting for some fresh dwarf rogue to come levelling through.  I shot the dwarf with my turkey shooter, but I had attracted the attention of some other high level alliance  in the area, and was summarily killed before I could escape.  It didn’t matter, because the achievement persisted through death.

I finally earned Merrymaker at my parent’s house just after Christmas.  Yes, I was a grown man playing WoW in my parent’s basement.  Not all memories are proud ones.

While honoring an elder for the Lunar Festival, I became PvP-flagged, and fell to a  a warlock who found me as I was trying to mount.  If there’s a recurring theme I discovered, it’s that I’m not a fighter, and given the chance, I would rather stealth or sneak in to complete my task than try to take all comers.  That strategy served me well overall, despite causing a few corpse runs.

The reputation of For the Children proceeded it, and I documented my frustration with Children’s Week.

Flame Keeper is the only title I did not earn on my hunter.  Thanks to the (imminent at the time) introduction of account-wide achievements, I didn’t need to.  In summer of 2011, my hunter was level capped, so I spent most of my time playing my warlock, and earned most of the Midsummer Fire Festival achievements on that character.  Thus, in 2012, it was easiest to keep playing my warlock to completion.  Earlier this year I tried to go back and earn everything properly with my hunter, but the combination of Mists’ sublime end game and a lack of motivation meant that it wasn’t going to happen. There is always next year…

Finally, Brewfest.  I remember having done the holiday long ago.  I still have my Blix’s Eyesight Enhancing Romance Goggles that makes everyone appear as female orcs, which I’ve never understood as a tauren should see tauren women as a romantic interest. (Or perhaps a mixture of races and genders to be inclusive).  I had successfully defended Brewfest from the intruding Dark Iron Dwarves once or twice, but I recall getting overwhelmed easily during the attacks and failing more often than not.  This year I made sure to earn that achievement as early as possible to ensure there were enough fellow keg-defenders present.  I killed Coren Direbrew in short order, and I only needed to farm him and the Dark Iron for about a week before I earned enough tokens to subscribe to the Brew of the Month club.  The achievement was earned, but completing it amongst a militarized Orgrimmar may have diminished the accomplishment.  It’s hard to be excited about transporting beer kegs when you are racing next to Kor’kron Wolfriders that you know you’ll be slaying before long.

When World of Warcraft gets boring, achievements exist to give players a way to change their play and stay engaged with the game to get their money’s worth.  Mists of Pandaria has been one of Blizzard’s best efforts to keep the game from getting boring – between pet battles, raid finder and flex raiding, scenarios, brawler’s guild, and now the Timeless Isle, it’s hard for a max level character to have nothing to do.  The result is that sprawling achievements like What a Long, Strange Trip It’s Been become low priority or can be ignored due to the amount of time required  over the course of an entire year.  One can argue that overcoming the temptation to not do the holiday events is part of the meta-achievement.  After all, not giving up on a journey half-way through is what makes the journey successful.

Furthermore, although I earned the Brewmaster title, all I got for my efforts was a giant purple dragon.  I already have too many mounts to choose from at any given time, and even have a proto-drake (albeit in green).  I remember back in vanilla and Burning Crusade, when mounts took forever to purchase, were restricted to level 40 characters, and were not equally available to all races. At the time, one of the reasons I rolled a warlock was to have the opportunity for a class mount.  Now, mounts are so widely available that it’s fun to note what mounts people are riding.  You still see assorted drakes and proto-drakes, representing work put in during Wrath of the Lich King and earlier.   I want to ride my proto-drake, but I like my Onyx Cloud-Serpent and Red Flying Cloud too much to switch.  It is a shame that something I worked so long for will be used so rarely.

Overall, I am glad I finished the meta-achievement.  I may have started this quest expecting to earn a purple dragon, but what I really earned were memories and experiences.  I’ve PVP’ed more than I otherwise would have.  I died a few times more than I otherwise would have.    I remember looking at the checkboxes back in 2010 and thinking this was something I would never do.  Time is funny in how it can change you.  My hunter has more than just progressed from levels 85 to 90 over the last two years, and it’s not the only thing that’s changed.  While I’ve worked on this achievement, I’ve moved, become engaged, and started writing about WoW on a (semi)weekly basis.  It may be a Grateful Dead reference, but the name What a Long, Strange Trip Its Been is an apt one.  Lucky for me, while the achievement is complete, the trip can keep on going.  And now I’ll have a violet proto-drake along with me, even if I won’t ride it all the time.

WoW! Blurbs!

Characters are disappearing on Connected Realms!  This is just Blizzard’s way of connecting people back to the real world…

Its Method vs. Midwinter in the Blizzcon Live Raid this year!  Who says Hardcore Raiding isn’t PVP???

Travis Fimmel of History Channel’s Vikings is rumored to star in the Warcraft movie!  What use would they have for an actor with experience playing a foreign invader that raids human settlements? 

Nick Zielenkievicz
Nick Zielenkievicz
Nick Zielenkievicz

Senior Producer

Host of WoW! Talk! and The Tauren & The Goblin. Sometimes known as the Video Games Public Defender. Wants to play more Destiny and Marvel Heroes but WoW is all-consuming. Decent F2P Hearthstone player. Sad that he lost the Wii that had Wrecking Crew on it. Would be happy if the only game ever made was M.U.L.E. Gragtharr on Skywall-US. Garresque on Ravencrest-US.

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