The Lore Corner: Behind The Starting Zones Of World of Warcraft

The Shattering is upon us. In the coming weeks, thousands of alts will be made as members of the dirty Horde and heroic Alliance to experience all the changes. Quest design, zone design, progression, flow, old-world dungeons — there’s an obtuse amount of adjustments coming thanks to Deathwing. With the influx of characters, players may want a refresher on exactly what the hell is going on for different races at the very early stages of WoW.

Due to the very nature of the early levels – how speedily we get out of them – it makes sense that Blizzard didn’t spend an obscene amount of time creating memorable stories.  Why invest money into something that players will complete in a few hours?  To leave a good impression on new characters of course!  Blizzard has given starting areas more depth since vanilla WoW, but even the untouched zones still contain a sense of cohesion in the opening territories of the game.


  • Draenei:  The spacegoats attempt to make contact with the rest of the Alliance while they recover their own people from the crash and clean-up the ecosystem that their ship, Exodar, tainted with foreign energies.  The story actually makes the MMOG staple kill and gather quests quite logical. Al Gore would be proud.
  • Dwarves:  Players will continue the civil war with the Dark Iron clan while battling pockets of Trolls in their lands.
  • Gnomes:  Thanks to a pre-Cataclysm event, Operation: Gnomeregan, the gnomes have been given a starting storyarc to rival that of the humans. The ankle-bitters no longer play second fiddle to the early-level dwarves outside Ironforge. New players begin their lives as irradiated gnomes. Immediate quests will see players attempting to rid themselves of the toxin before it can do permanent damage, then joining the on-going war to reclaim Gnomeregan from the leper gnomes.
  • Humans:  Initially the race is worried about a kobold threat, only to realize that Van Cleef and the Defias Brotherhood, a disenfranchised group of blue-collar workers that rebuilt Stormwind, are far more troublesome.  Arguably the earliest, longest, least subtle and best starting chain in the game. WoW Insider & WoWWiki have fantastic wrap-ups of the whole ordeal, one that stretched into vanilla WoW’s endgame.
  • Night Elves:  Young night elves battle with demons attempting to taint nature, an aspect the Night Elves hold dear. Sound familiar?
  • Worgen: Like their goblin counterparts, the worgen are given a restricted zone (other races can’t access it) for their first six levels. The opening story arc showcases the creation of the worgen through the civil war of Gilneas. Upon completion, the rank-and-file members are recruited to defend the now-tainted city from the encroaching Forsaken that is looking to expand their lands.


  • Blood Elves:  Although destroyed by Arthas during his initial campaign across Azeroth, the area around Silvermoon City is strikingly gorgeous.  The rapid rebuilding of the once-decimated land is thanks to the race’s heavy use of magic.   However, players will quickly come across numerous abominations of the magical kind in the fabled woods.
  • Goblins: As one of the two new factions to Cataclysm, goblins are introduced with their own all-new, restricted zone (other races can’t get there). The first six levels place newborn goblins on the isle of Kezan during the Second Sundering. Once finished with the opening quest line, a character will begin its journey to the mainland, only to have its ship wrecked by the Alliance which forces them to seek refuge on the Lost Isles.
  • Orcs:  Orcs continue to fight for survival in Azeroth, which to many of the clans means defeating the Shadow Council that have tainted and controlled the noble creatures. Considering the council’s role in The Shattering, it’s only going to get worse!
  • Tauren:  The Horde’s nature lovers will tackle the wild bristlebacks before moving on to two factions they believe are defiling the world, the Venture Company and Bael’Dun dwarves.  Tauren players used to enjoy the most impressive early experience for the Horde thanks to quest pacing, introduction to reoccurring factions and the art design of the opening lands. Now that title has been passed to the troll or goblin race.
  • Trolls:  Like the gnomes, the Trolls are a race anew. The revamp to the opening troll experience created an entirely new area for the lanky race, removing them from rubbing orcish shoulders in Durotar. The opening quest experience explains the struggle against Zalazane and introduces the political upheaval surrounding Orgrimmar.
  • Undead:  In a twisted variation of the Draenei’s starting quest (although this obviously came first), the Undead are also trying to find their place in the world.  Severely isolated from their un-trusting allies of the Horde, the Undead are left alone to fight pockets of the Alliance sooner than any other race.  The battle against the Lich King won, the Forsaken have taken to the offensive, assaulting surrounding areas held by the Worgen and other nearby Alliance territories.

Learn more about the Azeroth’s favorite werewolves in the just-released Extended Universe comic mini-series from Wildstorm, Curse of the Worgen.

Thanks to the retooling of gnomes and trolls and the new experiences developed for the worgen and goblins, WoW now has seven well-designed opening areas with interesting storyarcs. The new additions, along with dreanei and blood elves openings and the offensive actions of the Forsaken, bring these experiences in line with the human arc that’s been held up as the epitome of good design to this point. At the same time, we see the age of the other entirely unremarkable zones.

Who else hopes that Blizzard continues to fine tune older experiences? Or do you see it as a waste of time because most players are past that point?


  1. Back about a year ago when I tried rollig an undead toon, I had lost interest after about 15 levels, because nothing really caught my eye and held my attention, so I deleted him. Now that the new content has dropped, I decided to give the undead another shot, and I have to say that it’s MUCH better this time around. I’m up to 29 now, and still enjoy it.

    As for Blizz continuing to revamp the old-world experience, I’m all for it, as long as they don’t go overboard with it.

  2. The lore behind the new forsaken is definitely difficult to ralley in a post Lich King world, but I’d say Blizzard did a good job of it.

  3. You’re wrong on the human starter. They changed it out. Now, thanks to the Sundering, Blackrock Orcs are invading into Elwynn Forest, they’ve even burned down the old grapevines! Kobold are still a problem, but only once you get out of Northshire. Also, the Defias were defeated soundly by a group of plucky young adventurers, and in the wake, a new threat has sprung up in Westfall. Join Horatio Laine and his investigation into the homeless problem and murder.

  4. My GF and I are Recruit-a-Friend right now (300% xp, summoning, all that jazz) and we have rolled quite a few toons together since 4.0.3 dropped. We’ve done the BElf’s adn Trolls. The new troll questing line impressed me. I am just sad that we leveled past the content before we could conclude any quest chains to the end!

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