Yeah, so Kalimdor has changed a bit in World of Warcraft.
I’m going to be honest and say that I’ve never actually liked Kalimdor very much purely from a continent design standpoint; it doesn’t feel like it’s laid out like an actual land mass, but more like a rectangle someone drew to hold some zones for the game. It’s more of a block of space than a real piece of land; compare and contrast with every other expansion continent. That may just be my issue.
Regardless, Kalimdor has undergone a lot of big changes over the years, to the point where I’m tempted to say that it has actually changed more than the Eastern Kingdoms. A lot of the changes over there feel more marginal; Westfall, for example, has a couple of new geographic features post-Cataclysm, but it’s not all that different (and hence got left off the last column intentionally, not accidentally). Over in Kalimdor, well… it’s not really comparable to what happened in Tirisfal Glades, let’s put it that way.
Well, back in Classic, it existed. It doesn’t now. That is, uh, a pretty big change?
The tree actually weathered most of the other changes in the game without too much disruption, but turning it into a burning mess is a pretty major shift that makes a chunk of the world wholly inaccessible. How that’s going to change when the expansion is over remains to be seen.
Darkshore itself has actually changed a lot since launch; the first time was in the wake of the Cataclysm, which outright destroyed one settlement and started a huge whirlwind in the center of the zone that is still raging. Much like the rest of the world, this was also a chance to put paid to many of the little visual bits that you could see on flight paths but never actually visit, in this case the dark troll village nestled against Felwood.
The second change, of course, was in the lead-up to Battle for Azeroth; now the zone is the functional headquarters of the Night Elf resistance to the Horde’s unprompted invasion and an active war zone, thus completing the slow erosion of Night Elf territory that’s been going on since Warcraft III. At least they can always go hang out in Val’sharah.
The original version of Azshara was a gorgeous place of perpetual autumn, covered in austere ruins and massive elementals. The current version of it feels like all of that has had the neon-based chintzy sparkles of Goblin engineering plastered on top of it, like finding a lush unspoiled paradise replete in biodiversity and deciding that what it really needs is some rusting washing machines and cars without wheels.
Lest this sound like complaining, that is exactly the Goblin aesthetic and exactly what it should feel like. And Azshara always had a problem of looking gorgeous but not actually giving you anything to do therein, but we’ll discuss the game’s underused stuff another day. Suffice to say that Azshara definitely needed some content, and while perhaps I would have liked if the zone had been elaborated from its original concept, its current state gives it a reason to exist.
It’s half the zone it used to be. Yes, the bisection of this zone was definitely a pretty striking visual right away, and the inclusion of actual quests for the Alliance in the southern half gave the zone a very different feel right away. Back in Classic it was just one zone, and it was huge.
This actually worked a bit to its detriment; the Barrens was so large that Horde players often spent an inordinately long period of time hanging out there, and since it funneled a large chunk of players into its substantial bulk it served as a major hub. That also meant it was a frequent target for Alliance raids, although it never reached the same point as Tarren Mill vs. Southshore simply because the Alliance raiders had to arrive via Ratchet.
It’s the first revamped zone in the game! Yes, way back in The Burning Crusade this got a makeover as a mid-level experience for players, bringing the zone up to date with what were (at the time) modern quest designs. In Classic, the area was the zone of quests that don’t go anywhere; the Shady Rest Inn line, the Missing Diplomat line, and a few others just stopped in the middle with no resolution or explanation.
Of course, the zone changed again in Cataclysm, with a bridge connecting Alliance forces across the zones. And then a bomb got dropped on Theramore in Mists of Pandaria. Dustwallow Marsh is a land of contrasts, which isn’t bad for a zone that arguably held the Alliance capital at one point.
Yes, Classic kept dancing around whether Ironforge, Stormwind, or Theramore served as the capital of the Alliance. All three of them had a claim to it. These days, we all know it’s just Stormwind.
The original version of Thousand Needles felt like a very two-layer map, with lots of settlements on the top of the eponymous needles and lots of questing centered around the lower level. It made for an interesting split, especially as you could definitely die from falling and you didn’t have flight to make life easier.
Of course, Deathwing’s rampage sent water flooding in, and now it’s a collection of islands over some pretty easy-to-navigate water, which also means no one’s going to die from slipping off the top of a needle. The result feels like a zone that lacks a lot of the more interesting portions of the original, a much more conventional style of map that hits mostly familiar points. Ah, well.
Water flooded into Desolace to an extent as well, but it didn’t wildly alter the topography; instead, it just brought some life back into the zone, which seems to have some actual growth taking place once again. The original version of the zone was much more grey and lifeless, and it offered little in the way of explanation for why it was so lifeless; it was like something had just blighted it into the surface of the moon without any cause.
Apparently it was just dry? That seems to be the explanation we’ve gone with, which feels like the simplest and least-interesting version, but oh well.
At launch, this was another zone that just didn’t have anything going on. It was present, but there wasn’t much of anything to do other than marvel at the swarms of bugs covering everything. The opening of Ahn’Qiraj and the associated revamp was the only real change made to the zone until the end of Legion, when suddenly the zone got stabbed with an enormous sword in the last moments of Sargeras.
No one considered this to be a great loss; even when the zone went through its first revamp (which will take place during the time of Classic), it wasn’t a well-loved area. It was arguably meant as the first real solo questing hub for the endgame, but it functionally wound up as a grindy mess no one had much fun with. Good idea, but awful execution.
Of course, feedback is welcome in the comments below or via mail to firstname.lastname@example.org, but the Classic-inspired zone tour isn’t over yet. We’ve gone over the spots that changed the most, but next week I want to talk about the areas that definitely needed some changing, the zones that were just not used in any realistic fashion. Azshara’s there, sure, but it’s hardly alone.