Saturday, July 9, 2011

Micro-Transaction Mounts: A Review

Yesterday I bought myself one of the new Winger Guardian mounts from the Blizzard store. I've loved lions since I was a child, and a flying armored lion was just too much of a temptation. As I had already managed to get the Mountain O' Mounts achievement, I had no more qualms about buying this beauty!

Seeing as I own both of the mounts that can be purchased from the blizzard store (The Celestial Steed being a gift from Matt from... two years ago now?) I thought I'd make a review of each of them. Some general facts about the mounts:

  1. Both mounts count toward any mount specific achievements.
  2. They count as both ground and flying mounts and therefore can be used anywhere.
  3. They scale with riding skill, and can be used as soon as you train Apprentice riding at level 20, and will scale all the way up to the Master 310% riding skill.
  4. All current and future toons associated with your account will recieve an in game mail containing the mount.
  5. Each mount costs 25$. (This is the U.S. amount, I'm not sure what they cost in other regions!)
So buying just one of these mounts can be very nice, especially if your an altoholic. Whatever the server, any character on your account will receive the mount! You still have to train the riding skill, but you won't have to buy any mounts unless you want them. Other than this, and counting towards the mount achievments, this mount offers no in game advantage what-so-ever. Purely cosmetic.

Celestial Steed

Visual Appeal
This mount looks nice, the star effect is very dynamic and looks really good when standing idling. This is a spectral type mount, so it's see-through, and going with the star theme has what looks like a constellation of stars inside. The armor is also very visually dynamic, appearing to flow almost like water. It feels a bit small though, and the legs are slightly too short, giving it a somewhat stocky look one wouldn't associate with a horse- much less one made of stars!

The run animation is where those stocky legs look a little funny. It takes decently long strides now that Blizzard has slowed down it's run animation slightly, but when running it looks like the legs are far to short. The walk animations look good, and I find them preferable to the run as they look far more stately.

The flying animations are solid, even if the legs get a bit... flaily. I'm not a big fan of this mounts moving it legs while it flies. It looks good on say, the Headless Horseman's mount, as the horse seems to have an invisible solid plain that it's running along, make it look very realistic. The Celestial Steed almost seems to move it's legs for the hell of it. Overall, the effect is decent. Any movement whether running or flying seriously lessens the effect of the stars it puts out while idling, with stars slowly trailing behind, but not enough to be very noticeable.

Mount Special and Sound
This is a special animation that can be caused by either typing /mountspecial, or by using the jump button while standing still in an area where this mount cannot fly. The Steed will rear up, flapping it's wings and extending them up and out, striking a briefly heroic pose, before setting back down and resuming it's idle animations. It will also whinny, the Steed's vocalizations being ghostly sounding to match it's spectral appearance. The sounds the Steed make are not for everyone however, so I'd recommend finding one in game, or listening to a youtube video with the sounds included. The steed does have a very appealing 'thrumming' sound as it flaps it's wings, which sounds VERY nice.

Overall, I like this mount, though I think it looks better visually idling on the ground or in the air than in movement. The spectral skin it has can make for some lovely lighting effects in the various places of the world however!

Winged Guardian

Visual Appeal
This mount just looks imposing. It really feels like it's got some weight to it. Between the muscled build of the lion, the curled wings, and the heavy armor, the Winged Guardian is large and in charge! The top of the mane, tail tip, eyes, and feet all have a flaming effect on them, and anywhere where the color is lighter has a glow. The dark grey of the belly and sides breaks away to the lighter color down the legs and tail, giving it a look like rock breaking apart into lava. As it idles it bobs back and forth, each of the five braids of it's mane moving with it. It also looks left and right, and occasionally growls. One truly feels epic sitting in the saddle o this mount!

As I said before, everything on this mount moves. The fire twists, the braids sway as it moves, the tail swings back and forth and wings bounce slightly with it's motion. Even sanding still the mount has a lot of energy. The run animations are very graceful, but also with the air of it being heavy cavalry. The mount has that same air of bigness; you wouldn't ant to get trampled by this beast! The walk animations are a graceful prowl, with the head slowly moving left to right with each step. Both animations are thoroughly cat like, with all the regalness of a real lion.

 The flying animations are smooth with the Guardian holding his front legs close to the body back legs stretched out and bobbing with his body. He has both a flap and glide animation unlike the celestial steed, with the glide being particularly impressive as you can see the feathers of his wings shudder in the wind. What's best about his flying though is the light effects coming from the winds and tail, which leave a long trail behind you as you go. My only irk is that the wings seem to be too far forward and up on the body, so they look a little funny, but it's not a major detraction at all.

Mount Special and Sound
The Winged Guardian's mount special is to stretch his body out like a cat, throw his head back and roar while stretching those wings (You can see them quiver as he strains), shake his head at the end like a yawn, fold his wings back, and return to his idle animations. It's all very smooth, and I find this to be one of the more impressive and original mount special animations.

Soundwise, the Winged Guardian's vocals are a lot less in your face then the Celestial Steed with the growls and roars being slightly quieter. They sound excellent however and very menacing- it gives the feeling that if it wanted too, it could ROAR. But it doesn't want to cause... it's a cat. Sometimes they just like to be lazy! The wing flapping leaves a bit to be desired for me, as I greatly enjoyed the very loud sounds the Celestial Steed makes when it flies, and the Winged Guardian is very quiet.

Overall- I like them both. I think Blizzard did very well with the two purchased mounts, giving them impressive features that would appeal to a wide audience. These are an excellent option for people looking to get more impressive looking mounts, but aren't able to raid, or don't have the time to farm for one. And with the bonus of being account bound, your alts never need worry about purchasing a mount of their own, which does save a lot of gold.

If I had to pick between the two, I would definately have to go with the Winged Guardian. I feel he's a step up from the Celestial Steed in quality, being more impressive overall, although both will have their little niches of fans!


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