Recently on the MassivelyOP podcast, we were asked by a listener about our favorite MMO zones. That discussion quickly morphed into selecting certain zones that evoked strong positive feelings in us — excitement, coziness, adventure, or happy memories.
The “feel” of a zone is so important to me, and I thought that I would kick off a few lists exploring MMO regions that hit that perfect intersection of art, sound design, and environment to hit me deep in the emotions. Today, let’s take a trip through the huge expanse of World of Warcraft — and my top 10 zones by feels.
Right away I can tell you that it’s going to be hard keeping this list to just 10 — and not making half of the entries the game’s beginner zones. But I have to include a few of the latter because they made such a strong impact for me (and are still the game putting its best foot forward).
Dun Morogh was the first zone I ever played in WoW, and I have to say that I made the right call in doing so. The snowy valleys and frost-covered pine trees brought out the best parts of winter to me, and even today I don’t mind a tour back through its Dwarven (and Gnomish) stomping grounds.
I absolutely love the American west with its wide-open vistas and pristine beauty, and Mulgore captured this like few MMO zones ever have. The sheer space and eye-catching mesas invite you to explore it. Honestly, I always felt like this zone felt like the best summer camp ever.
Swapping over to a different feel, Tirisfal Glades absolutely nailed the Halloween spirit with its delightfully creepy woods, fields of pumpkins, decrepit windmills, and (of course) crypts and graveyards. This is the Tim Burtonish setting that I want to visit during the fall season.
OK, last beginner zone, I swear. While the Blood Elves had a great starting point as well, I always considered the Draenei as enjoying a better setting with the crystal-and-conifer island. By now, you can tell that any place where pine forests reign rate high on my personal preferences, but this area goes beyond that with a dreamlike dusting of magic and mystery.
Continuing into Burning Crusade, I know I’m not alone in being part of the Zangarmarsh zone cult. We all love its blue overlay, the constant cozy rainfall, the plus-sized mushrooms, and the bright spots of bioluminescence. It’s one of the very few marsh or swamp MMO zones that I actually like.
I could’ve written “pretty much all of Nagrand” in this space and felt justified, but I’ll zero it down to Grizzly Hills as my favorite of the bunch. It perfectly captured a slice of Alaskan/Canadian timberline, with burbling streams, northern lights, and even a gigantic tree shorn off at the stump.
Of course, I speak of the Draenor version — that of the purplest of landscapes, the fluffiest of clouds, and the biggest of moons. This one holds special significance for all Alliance players, as their garrison was located here. For me, there was no better hang-out spot than this.
Highmountain felt like the proper sequel to Mulgore, albeit one that was a bit more wild and wooly than the sedate plains of the beginner zone. I know my love for the one carried right into the other, and I adored spending time poking around this mountainous land.
Say what you will about Battle for Azeroth — many have — but egads were the Alliance zones amazing to behold. Stormsong took the top prize in my book for being one of the most breathtaking fantasy zones ever (including that skybox!). My favorite was going up high into the mountain area and seeing the snow blasting down off the slopes.
I’m going to toss in a wild card for my final entry that many might not agree with (which is fine). But out of all of the latest expansion zones, the design that evoked the best feels was weirdly enough the super-gothic, sun-blasted landscape of Revendreth. I always felt this game can do Halloween environments the best, and this one took Transylvania and had a whole lot of fun putting a spin on it.