It is done. Tuesday, November 23, 2010 was the day everything changed. Patch 4.0.3a, appropriately named ‘The Shattering’, marks the biggest change ever to Azeroth’s landscape. Nearly every zone in Kalimdor and the Eastern Kingdom reflects new construction and significant transformation borne of destruction of a truly cataclysmic nature. Not only did it radically change the geography and topography of Azeroth, it changed the face of questing all over the planet. Nearly every quest players will encounter from this point forward is a previous quest that has been tweaked or is one of the hundreds of new quests added. Numerous quests, many of which have been part of players’ journeys since the days of Vanilla WoW, are just plain gone.
Given the staggering changes to the world and its major players, and the rejuvenation of tensions between the Horde and Alliance, it’s obvious Blizzard went to great lengths to prepare for the third World of Warcraft expansion, Cataclysm. More and more, it’s clear that the theme of the forthcoming expansion is “new beginnings.” In addition to the starting areas being introduced for Worgen and Goblins when Cataclysm is released on December 7, many starting zones for existing races have been retooled or totally revamped. The Draenei and Blood Elf starting zones remain essentially the same, but the starting areas for Humans, Dwarves, Night Elves, Orc, Tauren and Undead each have changes in either quests, scenery, lore, or all of the above.
No currently existing race has had such a dramatic important change of opening scenery than the Darkspear Trolls and the Gnomes. If you rolled a troll prior to patch 4.0.3a, your troll shared the starting experience with the orcs. In fact, you probably worked all the way through level 20 following the same path as your orc allies. That experience changed after the end of the world as we know it. New trolls start in the Echo Isles, which were liberated by the Troll leader Vol’jin (with the aid of some level 80 characters) a few months ago. Trolls go through a sort of troll boot camp including combat training and resource gathering, culminating in a wholly captivating conversation with Vol’jin himself and a raid on a naga camp. It proceeds to Sen’jin Village where some familiar, but slightly tweaked, quests await. For example, the wicked centaurs to the west have been replaced by an Alliance advance force. I was happy to learn, however, that crawler mucus is always in short supply.
Gnomes cut their diminutive teeth in a brand new setting as well: the chambers just outside the entrance to Gnomeregan. Last we saw this area, High Tinker Mekkatorque, along with the help of some player characters, had unsuccessfully retaken the gnomes’ hometown, but was able to establish a position just outside the instance itself. New gnomes are no longer fresh adventurers from Dun Morogh, but survivors of the occupation of Gnomeregan. Starting on the precipice of becoming an irradiated leper gnome themselves, new gnome characters battle the leper gnomes and eventually are cleansed of the radiation plaguing them. After returning to the surface world in New Tinkertown, newly-cleansed gnomes fight alongside the High Tinker himself, slugging it out with some of the irradiated creatures that have manifested in the area and eventually beating back some of the leper gnomes that have taken up a position on the surface. These quests, while still of the kill and/or gather variety, are couched in an entirely engrossing new story that is not to be missed.
Whether you play Horde, Alliance, or walk both sides of the street, I’d try a new troll or gnome, if for no other reason than to check out the newly revamped starting zones. The troll starting zone is steeped in some gripping World of Warcraft lore, and brings back a lot of the Horde versus Alliance flavor that some have complained has been missing in the current expansion. The gnomes give a great feel of fighting to retake their home city and reestablish their identity as a resourceful, driven race that stands on its own short legs.
And, if nothing else, running a new character through these zones will kill off two or three hours of these last few agonizing days before Cataclysm drops on December 7.
“Lok’tar Ogar!” – Orcish proverb
Dateline Azeroth updates every Tuesday. Next week we’ll be taking a look at things you simply must do in Cataclysm.