After spending several hours going over the new customizations for races in Worlds of Warcraft’s Shadowlands pre-patch, I decided on four new characters to play for Shadowlands. To make sure I did not have an alt problem, I went back to the Realm select screen to tally up my characters I’ve made over the past 16 years. Seeing how I only have 28 characters over six servers, I figured 1.75 characters each year is not too bad. Most of the time, I just make several Warriors, Priests, Warlocks, Demon Hunters, and Druids. Sadly, I have only gotten three Priests, 3 Demon Hunters, and two Warlocks to max level. To balance it out, this time, I am going to get a Warrior and a Druid to max level in Shadowlands.
I went into the pre-patch blind. I did not want to watch spoilers on YouTube or participate in the beta. I wanted to see Exiles Reach and the level squish with fresh eyes. My initial character through Exile’s Reach was a Warlock (don’t judge), but for the sake of ensuring I got proper impressions of the new starter zone, I brought my new Warrior through the zone. As I played through the zone a second time, I took my time to really soak in what the new player experience had to offer. As a WoW vet, here are my thoughts on the new area.
The zone graphics are top-notch for World of Warcraft. It does make me wish that Blizzard would go back to all the old zones and update them. I know there is a lot of real estate in Azeroth, but it would be a nice touch now that the game has better replayability with the new time warp function. The Burning Crusade and Wrath of the Lich King are extremely pixelated compared to Battle for Azeroth and Exile’s Reach. Exile’s Reach is so beautiful; I wish I could have spent more time in the zone. I can’t wait to see the new zones added in Shadowlands. If Exile’s Reach is any indication of the artwork, Shadowlands will be glorious eye candy.
For new players, the tutorial is very well done. I enjoyed each tutorial pop-up and thought they were beneficial for new players. Of course, being a 16-year veteran (though I still need to get my hands on that sweet, sweet collector's edition), I did not need the prompts, but they were masterfully placed throughout the new player starting area to help if I needed it. The only thing I was a bit annoyed at was the gear placement prompts; if is chose not to put the gear on, the pop-up annoyingly kept flashing on my screen. After two new gear pieces, I turned the tutorial off because it would not shut up even though I was in full heirloom gear. Again, if I were strictly a new player that never tried World of Warcraft, I would have found the tutorial prompts extremely helpful.
While the tutorial prompts had their ups and downs, the flow of the tutorial was superb. I felt that the tutorial was not too long and not too short. I had time to eat some porridge without feeling overwhelmed by the bears. I did kill daddy bear while I was on Exile’s Reach, and it was satisfying. I thought that the quest chains and the game's basic mechanics were expertly shown to me throughout the whole experience. I won’t spoil it, but the end of the tutorial is bone-smack the teeth good. The experience told me that Blizzard is making sure World of Warcraft spans several decades and becomes something history teachers will be teaching about in the future.
While Blizzard made the new starting area an excellent tutorial for new players, I feel it could have used more pizzazz to keep new players playing. There are parts of World of Warcraft the new starting area totally ignored that I wish they hadn’t. Even though the experience showed me how to equip gear and spells while teaching me basic combat mechanics, it ignored some of the game's core mechanics altogether. One of the most important aspects of the game I wish it taught me about was the professions. I left Exile’s Reach and made my way to Battle for Azeroth expansion without even knowing professions existed. I was not pointed in a professions trainer’s direction or even told they existed. I know crafting in World of Warcraft is not that exciting, but to ignore it altogether is a big mistake.
The second thing I wish Blizzard added to the tutorial was pet battles. Pets are so cute and fun to collect. I would think everybody would want to collect pets and play the pet battle min-game. At the very least, everyone should collect Willy. Man, I love my Willy! When I am questing, I always have my Willy out. Who wouldn’t want to learn more about having a Willy in World of Warcraft? Oh man, my Willy fell asleep…
Finally, I think the new starting area should have more achievements to get. Nowadays, achievements are a core part of any game, and getting them is very satisfying. The only achievement I got was finishing Exile’s Reach. I wish they took the time to introduce more achievements in the new area to get players hooked on the experience. A Murloc is such an iconic part of World of Warcraft that they should have had an achievement for killing your first Murloc without dying horribly. Just little details like that would have added to World of Warcraft's pop culture within the game itself.
Overall, I thought the new starting area was a fun romp. I feel it could be expanded upon to add explanations of the game's core features that have been around for a decade or more. Knowing how to equip your gear and murder Murlocs in their sleep is essential but not as important as getting players informed about what the whole game can offer them. With no firm release date for Shadowlands, there is still ample time to improve upon some of the downers in Exile’s Reach.
If you tried the new starting area in World of Warcraft, what did you think?