World of Warcraft: The Burning Crusade Preview
|Platform:||PC and Mac|
|Release Date:||January 2007 (UK)|
|Writer:||Grant Wilson (Midnight)|
Anyone who's been playing WoW over the last year and a half of its release should have heard about the upcoming release of the expansion pack World of Warcraft: The Burning Crusade. Having been lucky enough to get hold of a few beta keys we've spent the last few weeks running around some of the new areas and exploring what the game has to offer.
I jumped straight into the new stuff by creating a Draenei character, for those who are unfamiliar with the additions to WoW in the Burning Crusade this is a race that apparently came from space to help in the battle. If you're anything like me you'll be a little worried about just how this sci-fi element will fit into the current fantasy game style. The starting area for the Draenei does look quite different with the designs of their buildings looking futuristic, but the actual starting location in a very pretty forest, this helps to bring it back down to earth so to speak. Questing in this area is quite fast and easy as with all starting locations. One thing that is very different is that you start to receive quest rewards that would have taken a bit longer to get in the main game, for instance after about the 3rd quest you start to be given 4 slot bags and health and strength potions which can seem a bit odd at first. The Draenei themselves look very cool, particularly the animations for healing classes. One thing to note is one of the Draenei racial skills called "Blessing of the Naaru" This is a healing spell which requires no mana whatsoever, even Draenei warriors can heal themselves.
Draenei have the following racial skills;
Blessing of the Naaru
Activate to heal your target for 10 + 3 * level every 3 seconds for 15 seconds. 1.5 second cast time and 3 minute cool-down. (At level 1 it heals 65 health, and heals 1100 at level 70)
Increases chance to hit of all party members within 30 yards by 1%. This aura changes depending on if you're a caster or melee class, so caster classes will give party members within 30 yards a 1% hit chance with spells.
15 point skill bonus to Jewelcrafting.
Increase Shadow Resistance by 10.
Dreanei priests also receive the racial ability Fearward. This is a buff that can be applied to other people as well as yourself and lasts 10 minutes.
After venturing out into the main Draenei area you will come across the city of Exodar, the whole city leads underground and looks very impressive. Everything inside is futuristic, with glass floors and ramps leading to different levels within the area. Finding your way around can be pretty confusing at first because of the multi-level design but if anyone has previously played horde and been in Undercity then you'll have no problems. All of the class trainers can be found within Exodar and many are standing around in their Tier 0 or Tier 1 armour, I can say that Draenei male warriors look really good. For some weird reason the Druid trainer is stuck outside the city in a tiny little wooden shack by the boat that links to the main game. Rejected or what? Of course with this being a major city it also has an Auction house and all of the other vendors and trainers that you would expect to see.
The Draenei start in Ammen Vale, situated on the Azuremyst Isles, located off the north-western coast of Kalimdor. The main area with civilization in Ammen Vale is called Azure Watch. Bloodmyst Isle can be found as the adjacent zone, which is a level 10-20 area. In the area of Bloodmyst you will also get your first glimpse of the Draenei mount, a sort of war elephant called an Elekk. Those who chose to play Draenei can pick from the following classes: Warrior, Priest, Mage, Hunter, Paladin and Shaman.
Of course, there is a new race for the horde too, called the Blood Elves. While the Draenei are a darker race for the Alliance, the Blood Elves are a much lighter and brighter race for the Horde. Similar in appearance to Night Elves they are very tall and slender and seem to have a manga influence, especially with their hairstyles. While it's not a huge deal, they do have the best styles in the game. The Blood Elves start in The Eversong Woods, an area that looks very pretty indeed. Questing here seems to be just as easy as with the Draenei starting area and looks very Japanese in design and structure. I have to say this is my favourite of the two new races and has made all of us who played actually want to re-roll Horde. One thing that looks really awesome is the Blood Elf city guards. Known as Spell Breakers, they come with huge shields and double ended swords.
The capital city for the Blood Elves is called Silvermoon and is beautifully designed; it's probably one of the best looking areas in the game for detail and certainly makes the existing cities look kind of bland after you go back to them. Again like the Draenei you can find all manner of trainers and vendors here plus auction houses. Silvermoon and the Blood Elf area are situated north of Eastern Plaguelands on the world map, with a portal linking the 2 areas together. Undercity and Silvermoon are linked by a portal so you can venture between these two areas in seconds which is certainly better than running through Eastern Plaguelands at level 16!
People rolling Blood Elves can pick from the classes of; the hunter, priest, warlock, rogue, mage and paladin. The Blood Elf mount looks like a living version of the gnome mechanostrider. It's called the hawkstrider and is just as colourful as the Blood Elves themselves. One thing mentioned on the Official Forums is that Blood Elf paladins (blood knights) will have a charger-like horse that is black with bronze and red armor. I'd encourage people to roll as male Blood Elves if only for the exact copy of the end dance from Napoleon Dynamite, something that provided much amusement among the beta testers we met in game.
Blood Elves have the following racial skills;
Activate to drain 50 mana from your target and charge yourself with arcane energy for 10 min. This effect stacks up to 3 times. 30 second cool-down. Scales with level.
Activate to silence all enemies within 8 yards for 2 seconds. In addition, you gain 20 Energy / 12 mana for every charge of Mana Tap currently affecting you. Scales with level. (Given values indicative of a level 1 character. At level 70, Arcane Torrent gives 161 mana for each charge. Energy amounts do not scale with level.)
15 point skill bonus to Enchanting (note, this also raises the cap by 15 at each level of enchanting).
Increase all Resistances by 5.
Blood Elf priests also receive the racial ability Consume Magic. Consume Magic dispels one beneficial Magic effect from the caster and gives them 120 to 154 mana. (453 to 488 mana at level 70) - Instant cast with a two minute cool-down.
As well as testing out the new starting areas and races, we had the ability to transfer across our main characters from our standard server of Twilights Hammer. The first thing we did was head straight to Outlands, the huge new level 60 - 70 areas designed for flying mounts, as well as containing plenty of quests and new instances. To access this area you have to go through the iconic dark portal in Blasted Lands.
When first entering the area we witnessed a huge battle with about 40 demons fighting against both Alliance and Horde NPC's. The battle was never-ending with a constant stream of demons marching to the front-line. It is unclear at this time whether this is just an event that will end at some point after the initial release of the game, but for now it was just quite impressive to watch. After running past this it becomes apparent just how huge Outlands is. Outlands itself consists of 7 massive areas each of which is nearly two times the size of the existing Barrens zone - easily the biggest zone in the current game.