So here we go. After much debate I decided to tour the WoW world as it stands in The Burning Crusade. It added some beautiful areas that are worth seeing, while still being close to the original game. We begin our journey in central Kalimdor.

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Kalimdor, the untamed land. 10,000 years ago or so the elves ruled Kalimdor. Other races were a footnote. Of course, elves being elves they mucked it all up and bits fell into the sea. For a long time nothing happened, except the elves mucking things up some more. Then in recent history an arson attack on the World Tree resulted in exciting new vacancies in the field of world destroying demonhood. And now here we are.

Kalimdor has always been home for me. It being the untamed land is a questionable claim considering that, in-game, every continent is knee-deep in hostile monsters. It certainly feels more rugged though. Kalimdor ranges from the thick forests of the north, to rolling plains down to great southern deserts. The closest thing to the more pastoral Eastern Kingdoms might be the rolling plains of Mulgore. It is Mulgore co-incidentally enough where we begin our tour.

Mulgore is home to the Tauren in game, the peaceful native american, er, kalimdoreans who have just recently joined the Horde. It's a great valley of sorts, filled with meadows and small lakes. Mulgore provides a peaceful start for tauren players, trouble coming in the form of dwarves and corporations trying to despoil nature. The crowning jewel of Mulgore is Thunder Bluff, a city on the bluffs in northern Mulgore. It epitomises the peaceful, harmonious nature of the tauren while also emphasising their ritual reverance for hunting and war. Thunder Bluff is a quiet place, perfect for those seeking respite from the heat of Orgrimmar or the oppression of the Undercity.

Durotar by contrast is an altogether harsher place though still filled with natural beauty. They are the perfect homeland for the orcs, harsh but fair taskmasters themselves. Its canyons are hewn from red rock, not unlike a martian vista. However like all the best deserts its filled with cacti, dinosaurs and orcs. Orcs and trolls alike start in the Valley of Trials and the second orc you speak to threatens to leave you baking in the scorching desert sun. The Echo Isles provide the only relief, a set of tropical isles a short swim off the coast.

Both Durotar and Mulgore inevitably lead into The Barrens. Dominating Central Kalimdor and most Horde players memories the Barrens are an endless swathe of African plains, broken up by the odd mountain or oasis. The African influence is pretty obvious in the fauna, featuring zebras, lions and hyenas. The Barrens links to everywhere in Central Kalimdor and the only way to get there is to cross it.Running through the Barrens time stretches out into forever. The relentless sun pounds upon your brow. An abandoned farm provides a welcome moment of shade. Approaching an oasis, your thirst sharpens at the sight of water, only for the thunder of a centaur herd to descend upon you. All too often your bones ended up bleaching in the sun.

Central Kalimdor is a dry and dusty realm. West of the Barrens lies the wending path that leads up into the Stonetalon Mountains. Lightly wooded, the mountains continued the themes of Mulgore and the Barrens. Nature is harsh here but beautiful. It is also under attack. Windshear Crag has been deforested heavily and much of the focus is on throwing back the destruction wrought by the goblins. Climbing up Stonetalon can be something of a disappointment as at the top the supposed peak is instead a valley. While a beautiful spot it could have been made a true peak, even within the limitations of the engine. Stonetalon also suffers from its limited nature which makes it more a series of tunnels rather than a true region.

The Stonetalon Mountains allow access to the western desert, sadly the most boring. Desolace was designed to be dead, a counterpoint to the dry but thriving lands of the Barrens and Durotar. It's drab, it's grey and it's full of bones. It's also nothing we haven't seen already up to this point. Whatever effect Desolace was meant to have is lost in the effort. The only interesting locations in Desolace are the western strands where there's some ruins and a troll village. Troll villages are always fun.

The final area of Central Kalimdor lies on the eastern shore, nestled against the vastness of the Barrens. Dustwallow Marsh is something of an oddity among the great plains. It is wet instead of dry, gloomy instead of sunny, quiet rather than busy. More of a swamp than a marsh it's easy to lose oneself among the bayous and crocolisks. There are settlements here but many are in ruins and overrun by the marsh. In the furthest reaches dragons nest, hiding their hordes far from human eyes. Theramore is the sole exception to the heavy air. A coastal city only recently built it has the honour of being the Alliance's southernmost port. I never favoured its remoteness, preferring instead to land in Ratchet and make my way from there.

And that's our brief tour of Central Kalimdor. Next week, we'll head north to the ancient forests and the roof of the world.

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