Whenever discussion about Burning Crusade turns to which zones players like the best, it’s almost always focused solely on the seven additional Outland regions (for the record, I’m a big Zangarmarsh fan). But let’s not forget that when Blizzard released this pack back in 2007, it came with 11 zones, as four new areas were brought in to help Draenei and Blood Elves cruise from level 1 to 20. And these zones were fantastic.
Well, fantastic for the time; World of Warcraft has made better beginner zones since. Still, I have a great fondness and respect for these four regions, especially since Blizzard didn’t really have to make them in the first place. Think about it: The studio could have well shoehorned these two new races into existing beginner zones and called it a day. It didn’t need to expend what had to be a considerable amount of resources for content that a very limited number of races would usually see.
This week, WoW Classic’s Burning Crusade pre-patch is hitting with these four regions (and their respective races), and I thought I’d spend a few paragraphs ruminating about what made them special.
The way that Burning Crusade originally rolled out, all of WoW’s existing players had to choose on day one whether to jump into Outland or roll up new characters. The combination of new races, new zones, and Draenei Shaman and Blood Elf Paladins certainly made the latter option tempting.
It also helped to spread out the playerbase, which was vital considering that a majority was trying to cram itself through a small door and into a singular and (then) non-layered zone of Hellfire Peninsula. The more players that could be lured away to reroll, the better things would go all around. I know that when I installed the expansion after getting my midnight copy (and yes, I waited outside Gamestop like many of you for it), the reroll was ultimately more alluring than Outland.
So looking at it from this angle, if Blizzard did the whole “shoehorning” races into existing zones thing, it certainly would not have been as attractive an alternative.
From a leveling perspective, Azuremyst, Bloodmyst, Eversong Woods, and Ghostlands showcased some of the improved questing flow that would become a trademark of the expansion. There was no zone hopping or quest hunting needed; the two pairs of zones would be all your new character needed from start through level 20. That was a good start to your leveling journey, and very little of it had to be spent making long-distance travels.
I always felt that these zones did an excellent job introducing you to their attached races, too. The isles were generally nice Pacific Northwest biomes that got more and more corrupted by the Evil Crystals as you progressed into it, and seeing the towering figure of the crashed Exodar helped to cement the idea that the Draenei were fugitives from another world entirely.
Of course, I definitely think that the Horde got the better of the deal. To go with the prettiness of the Blood Elves, Eversong Woods was heart-achingly beautiful to behold. The reds, oranges, and yellows of the twisty trees came across as an emboldened autumn while still being somewhat otherworldly. And Ghostlands, while not as pretty, had a cool Halloween vibe running through its corrupted woods. I definitely found it more interesting than Bloodmyst.
Another great touch for Blizzard’s storytelling was having all of the zone arcs tie up into a final scripted, phased event. Before leaving these regions, it was touching to have all of the NPCs you impacted with your adventures show up for a farewell.
Plus, let’s not forget the new fauna that arrived in these zones: the dreaded KILLER MOTHS and brutal DRAGONHAWKS. I laugh because the running theme here is “critters that may fall apart if you look at them sternly.”
I know that there are a whole lot of WoW Classic guides and pros advising smart players to get off of these undoubtedly crowded newbie zones in favor of the older ones, but that’s advice I can’t follow. These zones have their DNA woven into the new races, and what kind of monster would separate them?
In any case, happy pre-patching — and have fun exploring these old-new haunts all over again!