Even more so than they are in retail World of Warcraft, WoW Classic’s capital cities are the central bustling hub of commerce and staging for grand adventures. Chances are that your hearthstone is set to one of these, as they offer ideal places to resupply, train, bank, and encounter likeminded players.
For today’s “why not?” column, I wanted to rank all eight of Classic’s capital cities, including the two new ones coming in Burning Crusade Classic. Which are the best, which are the worst, and which are floating somewhere in between?
For the record, I want to say that this entry isn’t because of my well-known dislike of Elves, nor is it because of the city’s visuals. I actually kind of dig the nature aesthetic of Darnassus. My problem is that it’s a cul-de-sac of a city that you generally visit only if you’re a Night Elf, and only then at the earliest point in your career. It’s a city where you have to use a teleport to get to your flight master, where there’s just a little too much running around, and where some basic trainers are missing entirely. Visuals are a good B+, but convenience is a D.
And as much as I really do love the Draenei as a race, their smashed-up spaceship makes for a terrible capital. It’s another question of location and travel, as the Exodar is too out-of-the-way to make it a regular stop. Points for a good clustered design that reduces running around, but once you leave this island, you tend not to come back to it.
Pretty much everything I said about Darnassus also applies to its sister-Elf city: It’s extremely pretty, but it’s messy, sprawling, and not very useful as a starting point for a daily adventures considering its extreme northern location on Azeroth. I found it to be a bit of a ghost town every time I visited it back in the day.
As the de facto main capital of the Horde, Orgrimmar enjoys privileged status and is where a bulk of that faction’s players tend to congregate. But does that make it a good city? Ehh. It’s nicely located in the middle of Kalimdor and has a full array of services, but for my money, its too spread out and inefficient for when you want to get stuff done quickly. The flight master is also annoying to access, as you constantly have to run up or down a tower. It’s fine, but it’s not as good as its population suggests.
Stormwind is the Orgrimmar of the Alliance, albeit a little more organized. More grid-like, at least. The canals and bridges add to travel time, but the city gets points for having all of the essentials — auction house, inn, bank, flight master, repair vendor — all in the same small section. I do think it suffers from looking rather “fantasy generic” compared to some of the more fantastic and visually evocative designs of other cities.
Ironforge is a serious rival to Stormwind in a way that I don’t see between any two of the Horde’s cities. A lot of players, myself included, prefer this as their Alliance base of operations, appreciating the hub-and-spoke design and more unique theming. It’s also very close to Menethil Harbor, which is helpful when you want to hop over to the other continent.
For the theme alone, I adore the Halloween vibe of the Undercity. It’s absolutely incredible and one of the reasons I love playing a Forsaken. The skulls, the underground catacombs, the mad scientist laboratory, the green river… all of it. It’s Nightmare Before Christmas: The City, and it also sports a workable hub-and-spoke design. And while the bridges are a little annoying, another point in its favor is having the zeppelins right outside of the city, which is a huge transportation boon.
By far, the best capital city in WoW Classic is probably the one a lot of players wouldn’t suspect: Thunder Bluff. People, this city is amazing. Not only does it have a faux Native American style, summer camp vibes, and a gorgeous skyline, but Thunder Bluff is the most compact and travel-friendly city out there. In the main area, you’re just steps away from the inn, the bank, a forge, the auction house, the flight master, and even a pond to go fishing. You’ll never be running very far in Thunder Bluff to get to whatever you need to do, and all of that combined for me makes this a winner.