Editor’s Note: To play The Burning Crusade you need to have purchased the full version of World of Warcraft, which is one of the most popular online-only RPGs.
Close to two years ago I achieved level 60. I went on to play for six months doing various instances, raids, PVP, and so forth. Unfortunately after awhile things began to stagnate. Other than a couple new world-bosses and a couple new instances (Dire Maul) Blizzard didn’t really take WOW to the next level. I decided to cancel my account with a caveat to my guildmates that I would return for the expansion. After a three hour ordeal of re-installing the original WOW, then Burning Crusade, patching, and finally activating my account… I kept my word to my guild buddies and returned.
Waiting for an entire year my expectations were high for Blizzard’s first expansion. I’m happy to say that they met and exceeded my expectations.
First and foremost, although only accessible via Dark Portal in the Blasted Lands, the expansion adds an entirely new continent to the gameplay landscape. With it comes lots of everything.
Outland — home of the Orcs and the new Alliance race Draenei — sets the stage for expansion-boss Illidan Stormrage. His mighty proclamation "you are not prepared" is uttered in the expansion’s opening cinematic. Illidan rules with an iron-fist from Black Temple, a 25-person raid, located in the southeast zone of Shadowmoon Valley. Beside Illidan there are other equally iconic Warcraftian characters. Azshara’s right-hand maiden, Lady Vashj, will provide a challenge for many when they encounter her in Coilfang Reservoir located deep within Zangarmarsh.
Besides Outland there are new opportunities on the existing WOW continents. Within Dead Pass the tower of Karazhan is a level 70-only instance whose end-boss, from all accounts, is one of the dragon aspects of ancient times. The Caverns of Time, available to levels 66 and higher, allow players to recreate epic battles from Warcraft’s past (some even seen in past Warcraft games).
Another noteworthy feature is the level cap increase to 70. It felt a little odd when I started seeing the experience bar filling up with blue again. I hadn’t seen that in quite some time with my level 60 Mage. What I like is that at each level I can spend a talent point and receive training.
Quest experience in Outland begins around 3,200 and goes up from there. As you enter tougher zones the experience point increases by about 30%. Most quests also award gold. You have the standard fetch-this, go-kill-that quests with many new and unique ones. One of my personal favorite is a series of bombing-run quests in Hellfire Peninsula that involve riding a Gryphon and bombing targets. "Death from above" takes on a new meaning!
Item drops in the various zones is exceptional. Practically everything sells well in the Auction House. It’s not uncommon to have up to 300 gold by the time you finish Hellfire Peninsula alone. I venture a guess to say this probably has something to do with buying flying mounts at level 70; needless to say they are expensive.
Graphics are excellent and follow the signature World of Warcraft style. You can tell the art style and technology has evolved. Blizzard has created instance quality stuff for all Draenei cities. Many feature purplish lighting and gem effects that help define their culture and cities. There are many new creature models such as the spider-like Reapers, tall Felstriders, and Mana Wyrms (the first creatures Blood Elves hunt in Eversong Woods, and also featured in the opening cinematic movie).
Aesthetically Zangarmarsh is one of my favorite zones. It is a bluish-tint swampland dotted with glowing red and green plants, and mushrooms the size of redwood trees (okay put down the pipe… man!). The Alliance city of Telredor rests on top of one of these enormous mushrooms.
As music and audio goes you’ll hear brand new music for each of Outlands zones. I like how most instances have spoken dialog by mini and major bosses. Warlock’s Voidwalkers say creepy things whenever they are summoned or attack. Several of the zone bosses like Hellfire’s Felreaver (a 40-foot tall mechanical monstrosity) have signature sounds that quickly give away their presence — not to mention make you run away in fear! However all this aside most of it sounds the same as the main game.
Probably the most impressive aspects of Burning Crusade is the game, for the most part, has handled lag and server stress well. While I have encountered a few server lag gremlins, Outland has been a solid experience.
Unfortunately peak time queues on my server have been difficult at times. The most I’ve waited was 45 minutes during peak hours. Blizzard has stated that they were offering free character transfers from highly populated to lower servers as a way to lessen queue times. Blizzard has even threatened to arbitrarily move characters if many don’t take advantage of this free service. Two weeks out and I’ve not seen this message so it looks like many used the free service. Clearly all of this demonstrates that a large chunk of inactive accounts are becoming active again for the expansion.
Let me be clear about Burning Crusade. It does exactly what an expansion is supposed to do, namely expand the game. If you didn’t like WOW in the first place the expansion probably won’t make you like it more. However if your problem with WOW was that there wasn’t enough to do then it’s safe to say that Burning Crusade solves this.
WOW doesn’t really have much to fear from competition these days given that it has more than eight-million accounts. The biggest problem is what many in WOW dub the end-game effect. Before Burning Crusade once someone reached level 60 there wasn’t much to do beyond what I mentioned above: re-roll an alt, instances, and PVP. The expansion brings much needed motion to this end-game stagnation. Level 60 players, along with all their level 60 alts, will be able to move forward and experience new challenges, discover new zones, gain new abilities and talents, and brand new equipment.
I am not sure of the validity of this rumor but I had heard that Blizzard confirmed they would release expansions on an annual basis. This is critical to WOW success that they keep this game growing beyond the current expansion, less it suffer from end-game effect. On the plus side Warcraft has been a work in progress for over ten years. There’s tons of content from past Warcraft games as well as lore history. Offhand there are plenty of other adventures such as Northrend where Arthas/Lich King sits on his Frozen Throne.
If you are a fan of WOW then you’ll definitely want to buy the expansion. I’m going to say that Burning Crusade is fantastic and a perfect expansion for Blizzard’s uber-successful MMORPG. I can’t wait until the next expansion comes out… hopefully soon!