I can’t remember spending a lot of time in Thundering Steppes with my main character, Davyydeous. This was at a time when I didn’t really know the game well and was just following the quests that I found, and naturally, given that he is from Freeport, he was led from the Commonlands to Nektulos Forest. It was also a bit of a chore for a Freeportian to make their way to Thundering Steppes at the time without the use of the mariner’s bells, as I can remember the run through Nektulos to the docks being no easy task.
When I finally did head into Thundering Steppes, it was mainly to head into Ruins of Varsoon. I’ve found that the characters that I’ve played after Davyydeous have mostly skipped over the quests in Thundering Steppes. I suppose that’s the problem with those who have played the game for some time now and have either grown tired of the older zones and moved on to the new, or simply dart into the zone to tackle the essentials and then get out. I would fall into the latter camp, where I’m just eager to move my new characters through their twenties as quickly as possible. So, from that perspective, the first thing I do upon heading into Thundering Steppes is head over to a griffon tamer and get the quest to enable the griffon tower access. After that it usually becomes a choice between heading into Ruins of Varsoon, or doing the Splitpaw Saga. The one heritage quest that I always do is Hadden’s Earring, which is started by talking to Kerath McMarrin on the docks. Finally, Thundering Steppes is where you’ll find two Lore and Legend quests, for giants and centaurs.
If you’re planning on questing in Thundering Steppes, there are quests available for characters in the twenty to thirty level range. The guy to see would be Jacques who is on the path by the gates to Antonica. He’ll send you on a few quests throughout the zone, some with additional sub quests, such as A Scrying Shame, which I can remember as being particularly annoying, but it does reward you with a spiffy coloured torch, but does anyone actually equip torches in their charm slots any more? There are also quests available from people standing around on the docks, in Thundermist Village, and a few quests on the Bridge Keep which will reward you with all hours access to the bridge doors.
There are three heritage quests that start in Thundering Steppes. The aforementioned Hadden’s Earring which rewards you with a very useful earring, the Polished Granite Tomahawk series which is started by talking to Obsid Boulderbloom at the southern end of the zone (make sure you speak Krombral first), and finally Stiletto’s Orders Intercepted which starts by examining a drop off of Stiletto, a gnoll which you’ll find wandering around the southeast. This last HQ will reward you with a Manastone, an item that will convert some of your health to power which many people still use well into the later levels.
As for the zone itself, I think it has stood up fairly well over time. Unlike Nektulos Forest, the terrain varies in Thundering Steppes, from grassy plains, to forested areas, and some rocky valleys. Aesthetically and architecturally the zone is quite nice, and has a nice “feel” to it. I especially like heading down the river valley and coming up to Bridge Keep; it’s one of my favourite scenes in the game (I have a thing for bridges). It’s also a fantastic zone to harvest in, much better than Nektulos. There are a few hotspots where I always head, such as around the Ruins of Varsoon, or near Coldwind Point, but really, there are plenty of harvest nodes all over the zone.
All in all, I do enjoy Thundering Steppes despite not doing a lot of the quests there. The only criticism I can think of off the top of my head is that I don’t remember getting a sense of the lore of the zone. What has brought the gnolls there? The giants? But to be honest, I’m not the biggest lore buff around so I most definitely could have missed something. The other criticism I suppose I’d make is that Thundering Steppes is probably the one zone in the game whose music I don’t like. There’s just something about it that gets on my nerve. I think for your twenties, Thundering Steppes is a great place to go, certainly much more enjoyable than Nektulos in my mind.