I did have a rough inkling that I wanted to head to Mount Hyjal, because I wasn't huge on the idea of a zone totally underwater. After all, who wants to swim everywhere? That's just silly. However, after being unable to find "The Big Board" in Orgrimmar which a guildy kindly informed me was the path to Hyjal, I decided to go to the other way, after all a conveniently timed vision of Thrall as I entered Orgrimmar directed me to Vash'jir. And there would be less people there. So why not give it a shot?
Onike's Disclaimer: This is NOT a "real" leveling guide. It's just a rough outline of the zone, and my initial thoughts on Cataclysm questing. If you want a step-by-step for the 80-85 zones, look elsewhere.
Before you leave...
Train your professions! This is really important. Don't be like me, and forget that to get to 525 skill, you actually need to visit a trainer. Especially if you're packing mining, which is now worth experience (presumably herbalism is as well... but I don't have an herbalist, so I can't be 100% sure). That way as you're travelling around, you don't have to worry about getting skill ups for your effort. First Aid is also handy to carry around, especially if your class is lacking in self-heals.
|Level 80s, bound for Vash'jir|
After an exceedingly awesome cut scene, you'll find yourself at the bottom of the ocean. Now this is the part where I want to stress something. You know those old quests that would have you swim to the bottom of lakes and kill mobs, etc. etc.? And how boring they were? Vash'jir is nothing like this. You get a zone wide buff which allows you to breathe under water, and swim faster, and about halfway through the first zone, you're given a seahorse mount to swim around on. The seahorse increases your swim speed by a ridiculous 450% while in Vash'jir, and it makes it so that you often forget you're actually under water.
A wake-up call
If you're like me, and used to being all epic-ed out at level 80, running about 2-shotting mobs on your dailies, you're in for a wake-up call. Mobs hit hard now. Really hard. You'll find yourself frequently stopping to rest, and actually blowing cooldowns on pulls of more than one mob. In fact, I'd advise against pulling more than one mob, if you can avoid it. They've got around twice as much health as Northrend mobs, and a few fights with even the entry-level 80s, will take you down pretty low on health.
Also, a friendly warning. If you use a lot of AoE spells (read: Howling Blast) regularly in your rotation, make sure you're not in range of other mobs, which it's all too easy to accidentally pull. In Vash'jir, there are a huge number of non-agressive wildlife mobs, which hit as hard as the aggressive ones, and it's easy to pull them by mistake, turning a simple fight into a very difficult one.
|Release the Kraken.|
It's not a term you're probably used to hearing. But the way zones in Cataclysm are structured, it really feels as though you're progressing through a story. Vash'jir has a plot, and so do all the zones which follow. I HIGHLY recommend reading quest text, at the very least for the main quests. You'll feel like you're really a part of the story, and it makes leveling way less of a drag than it has been in years past.
Anyways, after pushing your way through the Kelp'thar forest you'll eventually be told (literally- there's a lot less guess work in terms of where to go next than we're used to), to go to the Shimmering Expanse.
The Shimmering Expanse
|Not quite Atlantis. But close.|
In general, this zone is GOOD. Not amazing, but a lonnnggg way from the grind that vanilla content was. I think it was about halfway through this zone that I stopped counting the experience points until I leveled and finally started really enjoying the process.
The Abyssal Depths
|When a goblin says "surface", he means it. Now where's my parachute?|
Trust me, if you stick it out to The Abyssal Depths, if you aren't already in love with the zone, you will be.
Final Thoughts on Vash'jir
Although a lot of people will probably go into Vash'jir just because it's less crowded, if they actually allow themselves to get caught up in the story, like I did, I guarantee it's worth what some min-maxers are already dubbing "the long way from 80-82". It's absolutely, 100% worth it. So grab a bathing suit, and go swimming. You'll have a blast.
Vash'jir aside, leveling in Cataclysm is a whole 'nother animal than vanilla, BC, or even Wrath content. If you though leveling in Wrath was fun (and I honestly didn't- I found it got old very quickly), you will LOVE Cataclysm content. And if you hated leveling in Wrath... you'll LOVE Cataclysm content. It's amazing all around, and from what I've been told by my min-maxing friends, the content only gets better from here.
It's kind of like being a little kid at Christmas. You want to play with everything at once, take it all in in a few seconds. But don't worry, those quests aren't going anywhere. So enjoy the ride. Trust me, it's not hard.