The first thing that strikes us about the beta of World of WarCraft: The Burning Crusade is how much WoW has been polished since our first review, and yet how fundamentally unchanged it is. Though game mechanics, talents, quests, items, classes, and races have all been re-balanced, there is almost no learning curve, an impressive feat considering I haven’t played the game in over a year. Despite several massive patches and the occasional uproar from parts of the World of WarCraft community, the game retains that same easy style and constant flow of tasks. All this translates into the beta very well. For this article we focused on the newbie zones of the new Blood Elf and Draenei races.
The Blood Elves are the new Horde race, Blizzard’s answer to the calls for attractive models and Paladins for the Horde. Continuing the story from WarCraft III, the Blood Elves have split from the Alliance by making common cause with Illidan. Their lands and Silvermoon, their city, lay in ruins. The passage of the Scourge has quite literally left a mark on what were once the beautiful lands of the elves.
Interestingly enough, despite their recent close kinship to the Alliance, the Blood Elves feel like the most evil, and perhaps the only truly evil race in the Horde. There is a subtle, cold arrogance and unnatural feeling to everything about the Blood Elves. Where asking an Ironforge guard for the directions to a rogue trainer results in a funny remark from a suspicious dwarf wondering if he should keep an eye on you, in Silvermoon if you ask for the hunter trainer, the response is one of barely disguised contempt. The reason for this is the new Blood Elf dedication to make their way to Outland, the shattered remains of Draenor, the Orcish homeworld, and the abandonment of their natural environment. In contrast to the Draenei, who crashed spectacularly on Azeroth with their ship Exodar and are also in a ravaged environment, the Blood Elves wish to escape and abandon their realms, as the Draenei seek to fix the damage. The Blood Elves have no qualms about turning on former allies – not just the humans with whom they split, but even close former friends like treants. One quest in the newbie zone has the player killing off the very beings trying to fix the Blood Elf lands on Azeroth.
This split Blood Elf history and image is embodied by their very city. Silvermoon is cut in half by a scar of Scourge, with the western portion being a shattered ruin, a mockery of the beautiful half in the East. The former is Silvermoon Ruins, the land of the Wretched, fallen Blood Elves who lost control of their addiction to magic. It is also where the player initially starts before moving into Eversong Woods and then later to Silvermoon City. Even the ethereal beauty of Silvermoon City is disturbing, however. The new elven fetish for crimson is reflected everywhere in an unpleasant aura of red and gold, and even the representatives of their new Horde allies are disturbed by the unnatural beauty of the place. Silvermoon City is somewhat complicated by the presence of at least two inns, neither of which are distinguished in a quest. To make matters more interesting, Silvermoon Ruins also has an inn.
Blood Elves can be played as Paladins, Priests, Warlocks, Mages, Rogues, and Hunters. Of some interest is lack of a Warrior choice, since they will be the only race without that option. When even the midget Gnomes, of all things, can be warriors, this is somewhat disappointing. This is compounded by the obvious presence of warrior Blood Elf guards across their lands. However, the other classes are a natural fit for the elves and it’s hard to see which class you’d take from that list and replace with the Warrior.