Developer: Blizzard Entertainment
Release Date: Q1, 2007
How can I possibly write up a preview of the upcoming World of Warcraft expansion that won’t just be a cookie-cutter regurgitation of fact-sheet bullets? Well, the ugly truth is… I can’t. Not really. As a result, I’m not even going to try. All you get today are my personal impressions, loaded as they are with bias and subjective opinion. Be forewarned, dear reader, that what you are about to absorb is drenched in love for the Horde and more than a little fanboy gushing.
So what does the title mean? What is the “Burning Crusade”, exactly? Well if you’re at all in the know as regards the mythology and lore of the Warcraft universe, you know that a pretty colicky gang of demons has been doing it’s, uhh, “damnedest” to invade the more or less nonchalant world known as Azeroth. They’ve done some pretty underhanded things during this process, including (but not limited to) enslaving an entire species through infected blood. They keep getting smacked down at the zero hour, but you have to hand it to the infernal pests; they’re nothing if not dogged in their determination. This expansion details yet another attempt on the demons’ behalf to vent their feelings of angst and ennui on Kalimdor and the Eastern Kingdoms. Also there are new Elves and European space aliens.
Now, I’m going to run with the assumption that if you’re reading this, you’re a fan of WoW, you’ve already read up on this expansion, and you already know the main points that Blizzard are offering with this little software package. As such I don’t really need to explain the two new races (Blood Elves and Draenai), the new end-game content known as Outland, the new level cap of 70, and that the Alliance will soon as have Shaman and the Horde will soon have Paladins. You already know all this, so I don’t have to inform you. Well, anymore than I just did, at least.
What I would like to do is look a little more closely at the things that I personally thought stuck out the most during my time with the beta, those couple features that I feel will have the most dramatic impact on the game overall. I will begin with the new “Looking for group” function. I’ve been raving to anyone who’d listen since World of Warcraft launched that this is one of the most severe oversights the developers could make. I guess Blizzard couldn’t hear us complainers over the sound of their cash-counting machines, so it only makes sense that they’ve just come to include this now. It works like this: You have an LFG window with three groups of two drop-down menus. In the first menu, you choose “I am looking for a: quest/raid/dungeon” and in the second menu you select the name of the quest/raid/dungeon you want in on.
You can choose to auto-join a group that is looking for more, and from then on you go about your business waiting for a group to assemble, using the companion “looking for more” window. This is somewhat similar to the Battleground queue system. The ramifications of this are quite immense. No longer will players who aren’t part of a raiding guild be forced to sit around Orgrimmar or Ironforge begging for a pick-up-group. Now Blizzard does the begging for us. Thanks guys! There are still some bugs to work out, but its well on its way to being the unsung hero of the Burning Crusade expansion.
Next up we have the new talent abilities. Each class gets new ones, part of that whole “you can level up to 70 now” deal. My only level 60 character is an undead warrior, and my spec is tweaked for protection. This particular path isn’t frequently chosen (not on my server, at least), but for the style of play I enjoy the most it’s the only logical option. What Blizzard has given me is like a bolt of liquid gold from the heavens. It is called Devastate, and it has completely changed the effectiveness of my class. It increases the damage I do, and generates more hate from the enemies I’m trying to annoy. In short, it greatly assists my efforts. I have found that returning to the pre-Burning Crusade WoW lands is like chopping off a new-found arm. It sucks. From what I understand, all the classes get nifty new abilities like this. Oh yes, good times indeed.
Loot? Forget about it, it’s unreal. Common vendor-trash green items now rival or exceed rare blue items from the higher level dungeons in the basic game. I have been amused listening to the mournful cries of elitists, wringing their hands and gnashing their teeth at the tragic obsolescence their hard-fought Molten Core purple items now face. It makes me giggle; as if the obsessive fools aren’t going to be instantly mollified the second they win a roll on a new weapon or armour that is once again best of the best. Their foresight is as foggy as a cars windshield in lovers’ lane. New tiers, nerds! Think about it! That means even more rare loot with which you may compensate for your lack of a Ferrari in the real world.
How about the new races ? There was much noise made about how the Horde was finally getting a “pretty” race and the Alliance was finally getting sacked with some ugly mutants. Well this isn’t the case at all. Sure, the Blood Elves are gorgeous- but they’re also the haughtiest, most arrogant tools you’ll ever encounter. Like all the “beautiful people” we went to high school with, the Blood Elves think the entirety of existence owes them naught but praise. This makes them nigh-insufferable. If only they weren’t so damn metrosexual and hot. (I do get a kick out of their /silly emotes… “I hate Thunder Bluff… You can’t find a decent burger anywhere!”)
On the flip side, the Draenai have this whole kinky-eastern European deviant thing going on, accent and all. I spent very little time with this new race, just long enough to see that you can make their female avatars look like elegant Goths (“ugly” race? Not even close) and then stand around typing /flirt, /dance, and /silly to see what in-jokes Blizzard has tacked on. I would have to say that the Draenai are a much-needed dose of personality to the Alliance line-up.
As for the new areas, they’re as interesting as they are plentiful. Ghostwood, the 10 to 20th level area for the Blood Elves that sits above the Eastern Plaguelands is haunting. Roughly analogous to Tirisfal Glades, there is a sense of past tragedy to this area that hints at a deep mourning, as if the land itself were still weeping for past glories. Plus, it has Deatholme, and that’s just beyond cool. A dead city of the dead? I sprout claws just thinking of it. Then there’s Outland. I could easily do another thousand words on this place. It’s huge, it’s frightening, it’s beautiful and it’s ugly in equal measure. I recommend you surf the screenshots, because no description of mine will do justice.
Is Burning Crusade a “must have” when it releases? I think it will be. All that remains is some bug-squashing. Will the servers be in terrible shape from the millions of stuck up Blood Elf paladins and warped Draenai shaman? You bet! Will your life suffer a serious drop in productivity when this goes live? Sadly, this is a given. One can almost smell the lack of hygiene now. Will we all be gleefully happy despite this? Once again, I’m fairly certain the answer to this question is yes. I know I will.
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