Casually Classic: Fondly looking back at World of Warcraft’s Burning Crusade beginner zones

    
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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!

Stepping back into the MMO time machine of WoW Classic, Justin Olivetti offers up observations and ground-level analysis as a Gnome with a view. Casually Classic is a more laid-back look at this legacy ruleset for those of us who’ve never stepped into a raid or seen more than 200 gold to our names.
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drownoble .

They didn’t have to make 4 starter zones, but this was pre-Activision so Blizzard actually still cared about quality.

More than just blood elves & drainei used the zones. From higher levels farming the bandit mask, to others wanting a fresher starting experience the new starting zones benefited everyone.

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David Goodman

Nagrand for sure. I was never a big blood elf fan (my wife will disagree of course, ’cause she was one of am.) But I was huge on the Orc history and backstory in the area.

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Hirku Two

I only played it in Retail, but Azuremyst was topped only by the Wandering Isle as my favorite starting zone in WoW. Loved the music and ambience and the science-fantasy feel of the Draenei and the Exodar.

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Utakata

Obligatory…

WoWScrnShot_050119_091553.jpg
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Utakata

“Psst…I don’t think there where any playable Goblins back in TBC, Uta…”

…details, details! /sigh

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jealouspirate

Azuremyst is still one of my all time favorite zones, largely due to the soundtrack there. It is so chill, just the perfect vibe. I will still sometimes play an “Azuremyst music/ambiance” youtube video in the background while I’m doing whatever.

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Hirku Two

Heh, I’m listening to it now as I read the article/comments.

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styopa

Let’s not forget this was Blizzard’s FIRST expansion.

Nobody really expected WoW would explode the way it did, and while we can quibble about some mechanics changes (clearly, they didn’t future proof even their basic MATH in vanilla) and this, the birthing of their ridiculous expansion scaling that continues to plague them…this is still one HELL of an expansion.

It was VASTLY different than the old world. Nothing in TBC felt anything like old Azeroth.
It massively expanded the IP.
The dungeons were IMO quite well designed (although they did start us on the slippery slope of ‘design for convenience/speed’ not ‘design like it might realistically be’.
Karazhan vies in my memory for potentially the greatest instance with Blackrock Depths for just pure, vast SCOPE. And then to discover there’s a secret basement is just bad ass squared.

The main issue between the uptake of Belfs vs Draenei was that Belfs were sexy AF (the horde had no sexah races) and Space Goats were ..space goats. I will say that BOTH the Belf and SG cities were possibly the worst, most atrociously time-wasting designs in the history of the game until BfA stinkfest.

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Bruno Brito

At least Silvermoon looks great and wasting time there feels good. The Exodar is just a bright hole in the ground full of jewelry that has no QoL and it’s absolute dogpoop to navigate and enjoy.

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Malcolm Swoboda

Exodar/Isles are one-and-dones, and needed much more love in order to become proper capital areas. Silvermoon was beloved and would have been a great go-to hub for longer (it stayed as such for RP servers) if the game design didn’t keep moving players away.

But some definitely like the atmosphere of the Draenei zones more, and sometimes I consider myself one of them.

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Estranged

The Blood Elf music made it as well. I still listen to it. Tis fun to roll a new Blood Elf character.

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aYates

Ah, my end-game will be farming the firefly pet around the waterways of Zangarmarsh :-)

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Danny Smith

Honestly as an alliance player back then i still preffered the BE zones. The music is some of the best in the game and Ghostlands really feels like “oh yeah this is the zone connecting to the plaguelands” in a way hillsbrad foothills never did. Its like its own micro content island with the wandering elites, the tranquillien rep and the cool Amani stuff as well. It felt like such a natural fit onto the existing eastern kingdoms map even if it was stuck behind a loading wall.

Meanwhile i found azuremyst and bloodmyst to be more off brand night elf feeling but mechanically did some really interesting stuff. The finale where you leave a building and all the main npcs across both zones are there with velen to cheer you on as a hero heading out into azeroth was like nothing i’d seen in the game at that point and will always stick with me as a fond memory of playing WoW.

I’ve heard some people complain they didn’t get updated with the cataclysm but either a dreanei starting in the exodar crash or a blood elf at the height of their hubris in the aftermath of the scourge are such good origin points for players most of the cata revamp starter zones are just so generic in comparison that i don’t feel trying to streamline azuremyst or eversong is worth tonally what you would lose by updating them.

Its one of the few things i’m glad Blizzard has never messed with and still recommend a player who pics that race goes through today.

Fisty
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Fisty

Nagrand is my absolute favorite of the BC zones, but close second is without a doubt the one-two punch of Eversong Woods and Ghostlands. The flow, the stories and beauty of them really had a different feel from the Vanilla world. Getting to dive back in tonight will be wonderful. I just hope people come back to my server for this.

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styopa

Always loved Nagrand, bittersweet as it was flying there (I remember precisely where I was) when I witnessed in gchat the petulant and pointless dissolution of Bad Moo Rising. /salute BMR. Great bunch until the very end. I fear it was the restructuring of raids that ultimately did it.