Well that was Kalimdor, the untamed continent. We journey on to waters more familiar, though no less safe. On a whole they are known as the Eastern Kingdoms, the realms of men, elves and dwarves. The Eastern Kingdoms are supposedly home to more than half a dozen different human nations. How that is represented in-game, well we'll see. In terms of climate it a few different regions. The major temperate zone that makes up much of the center, the blasted wastelands around the Redridge Mountains and the infected scourgelands of the north. We're starting on the subcontinent of Azeroth, our ship is just pulling in to harbour below.

Eastern Kingdoms Azeroth Highlighted
It starts as every human does in Elwynn Forest. If there was ever a Green Hill Zone then Elwynn certainly qualifies. It's a peaceful, green forested region interspersed with farms and other friendly human settlements. Goldshire, despite a reputation for licentiousness, is hardly the most interesting settlement. It's just a pit stop for people on their way to the glorious Stormwind, capital of humankind. Stormwind was one of the most populous cities in its time, probably because it feels like a city not a spectacle. It has districts, including a dwarven one, and long sprawling canals that don't go anywhere but are nice all the same. The entryway is certainly impressive. That bridge could handle a whole horde. However despite the pomp Stormwind retains a homy feel, matched by the forest beyond. In terms of starter zone its no Azuremyst Isle but its a break from the gloom and doom that you'll find elsewhere.




Elwynn Forest also progresses very naturally into Westfall. A breadbasket, Westfall is given over to farms and fallow ground. Its long beaches and deep mines are superfluous in the face of all that agriculture. Westfall is often the second region Alliance players visit as the game starts to branch out in its myriad world. In practice it is a lot like the Barrens. It shares the same soundtrack. The ground is a similar shade of yellow. The quests involve a lot of running around. However Westfall is the polar opposite of the Barrens in other ways. Where the Barrens is vast, Westfall is fairly compact. Where Westfall has a similar theme running throughout the Barrens has space for variance with its oases. Finally, while the Barrens has some of the similar enemies you'll see in Mulgore and Durotar they're limited in range and outweighed by the exotic array of animals. Westfall suffers from Defias overload, with the more interesting fauna being confined to the furthest reaches. Still Westfall has one major success over the Barrens. The Deadmines, a perilous journey through a Defias infested mine is a lot more popular than the Wailing Caverns.




At this point we need to detour towards the Redridge Mountains. Redridge is one of those few places I never spent much time in. This tour allowed me to get acquainted with it. Redridge provides something of an alternative to Westfall, being in a similar level range. Redridge is a taster zone, offering the first opportunity to engage with orcs and dragons. It is a lighter counterpart of the blasted steppes beyond and a few of the quests were innately charming. However it's not very distuigished as a region. Stonetalon in Kalimdor has more character, while other early zones are more fleshed out. Redridge also doesn't see the crowds Westfall does, giving it a pleasing solitude but the flip side is there's no one to fight alongside.




Crossing the pass in northern Redridge is one of those rites of foolery a new character can get up to. Doing so leads to a blackened waste. The Burning Steppes was one of the end game destinations for characters and even with the advent of Burning Crusade it retained a certain danger. Being mostly an open area the Steppes are criss-crossed by lava flow, dwarven ruins and the war camps of the Blackrock orcs. Dragons roam near the lake of fire, while the Altar of Storms nestles towards the rear of the zone. One feature dominates all else though. Blackrock Mountain's entrance is a tenuous bridge over the lava through great obsidian doors into the ring of the volcano. Once inside adventurers would find a region relatively free of monsters but no less dangerous. Those who aren't careful risk falling into the lava below, especially when navigating the great chains that allow access to Blackrock's dungeons. And of course being a major hub for end dungeons there is the risk of a rogue in the shadows, a priest with mind control or, for those very unlucky few, 39 players waiting to start a raid on Blackwing Lair.




Alright, back on track. One of the great things about the Stormwind region is the closeness of the zones. As you're adventuring in Elwynn or Westfall you can see Duskwood just across the river, a green forest tempting you to explore. Don't. My first memory of Duskwood was chasing up that bank, the darkness pressing in around me until a spider leapt from a tree and bit my arm off. Duskwood is a place of shadow and death. The Scourge's southern foothold, Duskwood has huge problems with the cemetery taking up almost a third of its area. The other major problem in Duskwood is the Worgen, alien wolfmen from beyond. Together these problems plague the town of Darkshire, whose night watch brave the dark armed only with torches. Duskwood is an excellent zone with plenty to do and a first taste of the darkness of the world after the sleepy Elwynn and dry Westfall. The only problem with Duskwood could be considered an asset from a certain angle. A huge caldera takes up the center of the zone, making travel a hassle. By chance your character may happen upon an entrance and creep between the mountains burning with curiousity. What they find there is just another hint of what is to come...




But enough of that! It's time to journey to Azeroth's southern tip. Stranglethorn Vale is another zone that brings back fond memories, both for what it is and what happened there. Stanglethorn is far and away from the rest of Azeroth, being a tropical jungle filled with overgrown troll ruins and goblin industrial ventures. The biggest of these ventures is Booty Bay, a home away from home for most people and a a regular site of fishing competitions. It also hosts the Ratchet Transport ship, a vital link in continental travel. Away from Booty Bay, Stranglethorn is a jungle at war. The Horde have a significant presence here and most of the quests are offered to both sides. Stranglethorn is the first choice for World PvP. Fighting a tiger takes on a whole new level of stress when an undead rogue emerges from the shadows. Of all the races trolls have the most claim to Stranglethorn and they are prolific throughout. They are at their strongest in the eastern jungle where the ancient city of Zul'Gurub rests. A significant raid in the original game Zul'Gurub fell out of use in Burning Crusade, a shame since it was one of the more delightful locations.



There's still a good portion of Azeroth to get through. The entire Eastern half in fact. Like southern Kalimdor much of it is locked behind single entrance zones, the first of these is Deadwind Pass, reached by taking the road from Darkshire. A desolate, dark place Deadwind Pass has little to interest the traveller. Most of it is a large ring road that circles the ravine in center. There are few enemies, vultures and ogres with little in the way of treasure. The only location of interest is Karazhan. The tower of the Last Guardian Karazhan is a piece of Warcraft history and with the Burning Crusade a massive dungeon to challenge even the mightiest warriors. I only saw a little of Karazhan in play, what I saw put me in mind of Shadowfang Keep but on a grander scale. Its form looms over the pass, providing a darkly scenic outlook.




Across the pass the path slopes down into the Swamp of Sorrows. One of the more remote areas of Azeroth the Swamp sees little traffic, much of it Horde. It is home to another of their outposts, Stonard and their scouts litter the roads that wend their way between the bayous. Like its counterpart Dustwallow there isn't a whole lot to do in the Swamp and it is the home to dragonkin liable to devour the unwary. Those who do plunge through the pools and streams may eventually come to the Sunken Temple, a vast Troll complex struck below the waters long ago. The Sunken Temple was never a very popular dungeon, its twisting passages confusing and the links it held to the troll storyline rendered moot by the abandonment of Zul'Gurub. Travelling further on one might eventually find one of Azeroth's rare eastern coastlines. The beaches here are narrow and infested with murlocs. There's little else to look for but the passage south.




Ahh, the wastes. Would you believe the Blasted Lands were once a swamp like the Sorrows to the north? If the Blasted Lands have a cousin on Kalimdor it's Winterspring. They are the most remote point on their continent and a significant portion of their zone is a network of valleys infested by high end demons. There's a few quests in the Blasted Lands, amidst the ogres and the beasts and the constant lightning strikes. There's also Nethergarde Keep a strangely well fortified location for such a remote region. It's almost as if the Alliance expected something. There's nothing of note to the Blasted Lands though, nothing except the Dark Portal. With Burning crusade the Blasted Lands became the destination of every level 60. The Portal itself squats in a crater, surrounded by siege equipment and a few lost demons. What's on the other side though... will have to wait for another post.


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