World of Warcraft: Burning Crusade Classic is on the way, bringing WoW Classic‘s model into the first expansion’s era. The Burning Crusade added eleven new zones to the game, including long-awaited areas first seen on Azeroth in Warcraft 3 and the entire shattered world of Outland, once the home of the Orcs and Draenei.
Not all Burning Crusade zones are made equally, however. Some new areas saw WoW’s traditional fantasy setting give way to new science-fiction influences with great success, while others were less able to stick the landing, so here’s how zones which will be making their second debut compare in World of Warcraft: Burning Crusade Classic.
The Burning Crusade introduced some of WoW’s most beautiful zones. The rolling and occasionally floating hills of Nagrand are a fan-favorite, showing the tranquil life many Orcs left behind when they invaded Azeroth in the first Warcraft RTS game. The zone also provided a sequel to one of Stranglethorn Vale’s most memorable quest lines, the adventures of big game hunter Hemet Nessingwary.
Also in the S-Tier is Zangarmarsh, a swampy lowland filled with giant mushrooms, druid groves and a Naga-infested reservoir. Zangarmash is one of WoW’s most alien zones, resembling a more vibrant version of The Elder Scrolls’ Morrowind and making Outland feel truly outlandish.
The Blood Elf starting zones of Eversong Woods and the Ghostlands also make it to the S-Tier. New Blood Elf players get to explore a collapsing kingdom, from its beautiful but sinister architecture in Silvermoon, its golden forests, and its Scourge-infested badlands to the south which serve of a reminder of the recent horrors suffered by the Horde’s latest addition and all that the Blood Elves have lost.
In the A-Tier are Hellfire Peninsula, the first zone players see in Outland, and Terokkar Forest, home to The Burning Crusade’s new city of Shattrath. Hellfire is a great introduction to Outland; players enter through the enormous Dark Portal to find a world lain to waste. New enemies like Fel Orcs lurk around every corner, making Hellfire truly feel like the frontier to a strange new world.
Terokkar Forest is a complete change of pace. Its silvery forests are a blend of beauty and danger, home to the Dark Crystal-inspired Arakkoa. The capital city of Shattrath isn’t just visually impressive, but was the first neutral city in the game, creating a strange truce as Horde and Alliance players explored the same strange streets for the first time.
The final zone in the A-Tier is Netherstorm. This literally-named zone is fulling of floating purple islands and huge electric storms, making it one of The Burning Crusade‘s most sci-feeling areas. It’s even got its own “eco-dome” run by a goblin named Shauly Pore, bringing some greenery and much-needed humor to one of WoW’s most aesthetically striking areas.
The Burning Crusade B-Tier starts with the Draenei starting zone of the Azuremyst Isles. The idea of a space-ship crashing on Azeroth to form a new city, The Exodar, is one of the expansion’s coolest concepts. However, the zone is hard to get to for non-Draenei players, and feels like a mix of elements already seen in Terokkar Forest and the Night Elf starting zone nearby.
Shadowmoon Valley is another zone with a great core concept that could have been executed better. The Black Temple dominates Shadowmoon Valley as Illidan Stormrage’s base of operations. However, between its blighted land and green lava pits, the zone feels like a reskinned version of Hellfire Peninsula, making it one of the less interesting to explore. Illidan’s rather anticlimactic demise in the expansion’s first major patch doesn’t help, even though he was brought back in the Legion expansion year
The only entry in The Burning Crusade’s C-Tier is the Blade’s Edge Mountains. In theory, this zone has a lot going for it, as it’s dominated by Ogres and gives the opportunity for some insight into the race’s backstory. WoW’s ogres have always had a strange relationship with their cousins and occasional allies, Warcraft‘s Orcs. Ultimately, however, the Blade’s Edge Mountains miss the opportunity. Though the huge stalagmites from which the area gets its name are visually striking, the Ogre settlements are almost identical to classic orc encampments, and the area’s tight valleys lead to a more linear exploration through the zone some other areas introduced in The Burning Crusade.
Nostalgia, however, is a powerful thing. Well over a decade since The Burning Crusade’s original release, it will be hard for returning players to separate these zones from their memories of the expansion’s initial release. Players who started as Draenei in 2007 and have stuck with those characters to the present day may have far fonder memories of the race’s starting zone as their introduction to Azeroth. Players who remember getting their Netherwing Drake from Shadowmoon Valley may see it as the sight of one of the MMO’s most memorable moments. Druids who spent weeks trying to get their Flight Form in Zangarmarsh may never want to see another mushroom again.
One of the most exciting parts of World of Warcraft: The Burning Crusade Classic will be seeing old areas like Silvermoon brought to life again by an influx of new players. Though players can visit any of these zones now in more-or-less the same condition they were in in The Burning Crusade, but without players to populate them the areas are unable to capture the same feel they had during the expansion’s heyday. For returning players, World of Warcraft: Burning Crusade Classic will be another chance to relive the good old days. For new players, the release will be a chance to see The Burning Crusade and its original zones in all their living, breathing, and genre-bending glory.
World of Warcraft: The Burning Crusade Classic releases 2021.