On the first day of E3, Mygamer was fortunate enough to get some behind the scenes access to World of Warcraft: The Burning Crusade. Matt Cook, the PC Editor, and Alex Ely, the Nintendo Console editor (and avid WoW fan, the reason he was there), joined a Blizzard representative in a private area of the booth. Though we didn't get to play the current build of the expansion, our friend at Blizzard led us through some of the new features coming to the world of Azeroth.
One of the exciting announcements that came with this E3 was that of the new Alliance playable race. The new Horde race the Blood Elves had been known for a while. The new Alliance race was still a secret. Well no more. The Draenei will join the Humans, Dwarves, Night Elves, and Gnomes in the league of the Alliance. The Draenei are also known as the "lost ones" and have played a smaller role in previous Warcraft games. The Draenei's homeworld was the same as that of the Orcs and was similarly destroyed in the came cataclysm that orphaned that race. They have made a new life for themselves on Azuremyst Isle, off the west coast of Darkshore. Blizzard did not clearly explain how the Draenei made it from Outland to their new home, however they did show us some tantalizing glimpses of a crashed ship of some sort, one that carried the Draenei from the Outland (the shattered remains of their homeworld) to Azeroth.
The Draenei are an enormous race, appearing to be almost as tall and physically imposing as the Taurens. They have a reptilian tail along with several tendrils that hang around their head like hair. While we saw the new character creation screen, Blizzard did not let us experiment with all of the different appearance facets. As of this build, the Draenei classes are warrior, paladin, hunter, priest, and mage. Blizzard had not finalized the racial passives for the group.
Blizzard has shared images of the Blood Elves before. As of this build, their class choices are warrior, hunter, rogue, priest, warlock, and mage.
We did not have enough time to fully delve into the changes being made in the classes with all the new gear, professions, and the level cap being raised to 70. The main features Blizzard wanted to show us involved the many new locations in the expansion including the entire new world beyond the portal in the Blasted Lands leading to Outland.
First, however, we stayed in the realm of Azeroth, and we were shown glimpses of the new starting zones for the Draenei and the Blood Elves. The Draenei start in a new island off the coast of Darkshore called Azuremyst Isle. The Blizzard representative led a new Draenei around the starting area, which had already been populated with spawns and quests up through level 20. The environment for the region had that ethereal quality that is similar to the Night Elf areas. While the primary colors for the Night Elves seem to be blues and greens, though, Draenei architecture had frequent use of a pink crystal.
The Blood Elves begin their journey in a new zone above the Eastern Plaguelands. We saw the capital city of the Blood Elves which is called Silvermoon City. Like their name, blood red glass is used prominently in their architecture. Silvermoon City had also been populated with NPCs and quests. Following the storyline introduced in Warcraft III, much of Silvermoon is a shattered ruin, legacy of the violence that so devastated the elves in that game.
Finally we took the plunge into Outland. We did not get to physically walk through the portal in the Blasted Lands, but we came into the new realm exactly as if we had. Hellfire Peninsula is a player's first contact with the totally new world of Outland. At first glance, it is a shattered world evident of the destruction that was visited upon it when the portal was sealed. The sky is a very alien purple with streaks of astral phenomenon scorching the horizon. The land appears ravaged and barren. Two outposts flank either side of a path coursing through the Peninsula, one for the Alliance and the other for the Horde. These outposts are watching over one of the new dungeons on Outland: the Hellfire Citadel.
The Outland, however, is not a completely shattered world. Blizzard warped us around a few places in the realm and some of the areas were a healthy green. And one of the coolest parts about traveling around in Outland was the vantage point from which we were viewing these new lands. Only in Outland, players will have the ability of purchasing flying mounts. Yes, you heard me. Flying mounts. There will even be epic flying mounts. While in the demo, we saw the Nether Drake, a flying creature similar to a dragon. The Drake can run along the ground like any other mount, but that would be a tremendous waste of its impressive wings. Drakes will only be available at level 70, which means that players entering Outland at level 60 will have to endure a ground-based existence for a while, but the reward of the Drake should prove to be quite a temptation for players.
While we didn't get to control the Drake, Blizzard told us that the game play mechanic for controlling the mount in midair will be similar to swimming. Furthermore, at the current time, there are no enemies that will attack you during flight. Blizzard told us that they took a careful approach to Outland's world design with an aerial vantage point in mind. We do have to say that the vistas we saw were indeed impressive, and the Nether Drake itself was frickin' sweet.
We also got to see some of Karazhan, the home of Medivh in Deadwind Pass. They warped us to some point deep in the instance. A giant chessboard rested in a stone hall, with Alliance and Horde minions populating either side of the board. Blizzard explained to us that this chess game was going to be a part of an elaborate boss battle. While we didn't get to see the action play out (the control scripting that will allow you to take control of the life-sized "pieces" is still being worked out), our interest was extremely piqued by the many exciting possibilities inherent in such an idea.
Another note for some of the newer instances. Blizzard told us that they had received a lot of user feedback about instance layouts, with Dire Maul surfacing as a good example of what they'd like to replicate in the expansion. Blizzard told us that many of the new instances will be separated into various zones that will correspond to raid and non-raid areas, with portals located near the entrance area of the zone. Players won't have to fight through long areas for no reason in order to get to the inner raid portion of the dungeon, which should come as welcome news.
On the floor, Blizzard had terminals that were loaded with several high level characters of the existing races, and a couple low levels of the new races. It was exciting to see level 62 characters decked out in new epic gear. Also, each of the upper level characters had the jewelcrafting profession, which gave players a taste of that new feature as well. While both male and female Blood Elves were playable, I only saw a male Draenei on the few terminals I played. It was a lot of fun to try out some of the different emotes for the new races. The male Blood Elf dance will have numerous film fans falling out of their chairs (think Napolean Dynamite).
Overall, our time with Blizzard was absolutely amazing and over way too quickly. It was extremely exciting to see the new Alliance race as well as some of the new locations. Oh and an important point for reiteration: FLYING MOUNTS LOOK AWESOME.