Posted November 25th, 2010 by Kharin

Chasm in BarrensJust before maintenance on Tuesday, I heard the rumours that something dramatic was about to happen.  The portals to the Elemental Lords had been opened “permanently” to allow the last access for a few short hours before everything closed down for extended maintenance.  Trade was abuzz with speculation that the shattering was upon us and that portals in Dalaran and Shattrath would be no more.  The extended maintenance, which was extended further, eventually drew to a close.  As World of Warcraft finally came back on online, I logged in with great impatience and anticipation – not to be disappointed.

The world of Azeroth had been remade in a fiery cataclysm.  The elemental invasion was over and Deathwing the Destroyer, leader of the Black Dragonflight had emerged from the elemental plane Deepholm (in which he has been sulking for years on end) and wrecked havoc across the cities and continents of Azeroth.  Coastal areas had been hit by huge tsunamis, lakes had been emptied and others formed, cites and town had been devastated and in some cases wiped out completely, volcanos had erupted and dividing chasms had been rent deep into the crust to change the face of the world forever.  Since the disaster, many cities and villages have been rebuilt and new ones established, political alliances and influence changed, some areas reclaimed and other lost, new settlements and new alliances established.

So what has changed?

  • Stormwind Park totally destroyed, the entrance towers scarred, the Stormwind Keep precinct upgraded and a new cemetery and parkland area with fishing pond and farm added north of the Cathedral and Dwarven districts;
  • Virtually every district in Orgrimmar scarred by inundation, zeppelin towers moved to central roof area accessed by lifts, goblin slums added in Valley of Spirits;
  • Both Stormwind and Orgrimmar now have 2 banks and 2 auction houses;
  • New fishing and cooking dailies (available to all levels) in Stormwind and Orgrimmar;
  • Jewellery trainers in more capitals (Stormwind and Orgrimmar for example);
  • Flight trainers and flying mount vendors now available in Old Azeroth (e.g. Stormwind for example);
  • Portals to faction cities in Dalaran and Shattrath removed and replaced with class trainers.    Dalaran does still have a portal to Caverns of Time, while Shattrath retains the portal to the Isle of Quel’Danas and there is a portal to Stormwind and Ogrimmar next to the Dark Portal;
  • Now able to use flying mounts in Dalaran;
  • Major geographical and political changes to many zones (i.e. splitting of the Barrens into north and south, remodelling of Ashvara including a entrance into the region from a new rear Orgrimmar gate, dividing of Stranglethorn Vale into north and south, new coastal areas in the Blasted Lands, a great chasm between Searing Gorge and Burning Seppes in the south and Dun Morgh and Loch Modan in the north, Southshore fallen to the undead) and at least minor changes to most regions;
  • New areas on the map (e.g. Twilight Highlands, Gilneas, Grim Batol) though these are still inaccessible;
  • Direct flight routes connecting Darnassus and mainland Kalimdor with the two Draeni islands and a direct ship route between Teldrassil and Stormwind;
  • Direct portal between Darnassus and Exodar and vice versa;
  • Many new flight points and some new settlements and towns (e.g. Haven of Green Warden in Wetlands, Fuselight in the Badlands, Bilgewater Harbour in Ashvara);
  • A pass between Burning Steppes and Swamp of Sorrows;
  • New starting zones for Trolls (the Echo Isles) and Gnomes (outer areas of Gnomeregan and New Tinkertown);
  • Further class and talent changes with greater access to different classes for different races (e.g. trolls can now be druids);
  • Artisan (epic) and Master riding training available (cost 4250g each) – though not flight within old Azeroth as yet;
  • New achievements (e.g. All the Squirrels who Cared for Me) and major revamping of old ones (e.g. the addition of Cataclysm quests and areas to Loremaster and Explorer respectively);
  • New Hero’s Call Board (Alliance) and Warchief’s Command Board (Horde) in factional captials that give lead in quests to new level appropriate questing areas;
  • A variety of new level one critters, new mobs and quests at all levels;
  • Gathering resources now give experience;
  • New singing sunflower pet from Brazzie just south of the Dalaran crater.

Changes yet to be implemented and which will no doubt require expansion pack:

  • Ability to fly in the old world;
  • New raids, dungeons and PvP;
  • Availability  of new superior and epic Cataclysm gear;
  • New races of Worgen and Goblin and their respective starting areas;
  • New secondary profession – Archaeology
  • Ability to level from 80 to 85;
  • Active portals to new 80+ areas.

There is no doubt that major changes have happened.  As with many stories of catastrophic upheaveal, the old world has been remade, and out of the old a brave new world has emerged.

For most, it will be fascinating to explore the new face of Azeroth to see what has changed and what has stayed the same, and to enjoy new scenery.  It is also appealing to have some new starting zones and new cooking and fishing dailies, a whole raft of new quests (though mainly for lower level characters so far) and new race-class combinations.

However, the almost complete removal of portals from Dalaran and Shattrath, particularly a couple of weeks before flying in Eastern Kingdoms and Kalimdor and much of the new content can be activated, is less than exciting for higher level toons.  It seems that Dalaran is destined to be the dead end ghost town that Shattrath has long become, peripheral capitals such as the Exodar, Darnassus and Silvermoon are likely to be even less inhabited and the new hubs Stormwind and Orgrimmar liable to become lagfests (Lagwind and Lagrimmar).  Indeed, just getting around (despite the new flight paths and streamlined travel in some places) will be that more time consuming for all but mages especially in the time gap between the removal of the portals and the introduction of flight in Old Azeroth.  Portals to Stormwind and Orgrimmar in Dalaran would at least ease some of the pain.  Time will tell how the developer’s strategies –  to make the old world cities more lived in (though Stormwind, Ironforge and Orgrimmar were always well inhabited in my experience), to encourage players to enjoy the new scenery and to reduce lag – will work out.  And I for one will miss the synergy of having a sanctuary town, where horde and alliance somewhat uneasily rub shoulders, as a major hub.

Nevertheless, there is a lot to enjoy and plenty of new content to unpack in the short time left to launch date.


The background and official story of the Shattering

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