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The core game already did this very well, dishing out simple critter-mugging missions to start with, then using quest-givers and contacts to move you out to other areas, all the time opening your eyes to the world at large and all the options you had within it. If anything, The Burning Crusade does this even better, with less aimless wandering and more opportunity to stack up quests within a given locale.
Sure, there are still a lot of ‘batter 12 vermin and bring back their teeth’ missions in the early stages, but they’re not generally too transparent. Even in the early stages, there are fun quests – a find the totem chase, a bizarre spot of espionage, a mounted sprint to alert leaders of coming troubles – and these give you a great feeling that there’s more to this game than just grinding. Look at the other players around you and two things hit you immediately. Firstly, that after a long time in which the gap between casual players and hardcore players was turning Azeroth into a slightly intimidating place for occasional visitors and newbies, it’s good to have everyone at a similar stage discovering new things. Secondly, you’ll note that everyone is really having fun doing so.
Blizzard has also done a great job of integrating each race’s quests into wider themes. In the case of the Draenei, for instance, we have a bunch of noble blue-skinned, extra-terrestrial giants who have crash-landed their ship on Azeroth and are vaguely mortified by the effect this has had on the neighbouring fauna and flora. This means that a lot of the early quests seem centred around repairing the damage done and making friends with the locals, whether they’re alliance forces or elemental powers.
The Blood Elves, meanwhile, are a bunch of magic-crazed misfits clawing desperately to hold onto the remnants of their land and culture, and this is expressed in their opening quests. The two races could have felt tacked on, but Blizzard has worked hard to massage their story into the bigger picture, with later Draenei quests pitching them against a bunch of Blood Elf spies and putting the player increasingly in cahoots with Alliance forces. Admittedly, there’s some rather forced teleportation stuff to integrate the new areas into the existing game world, but overall it has all been handled pretty well.
And the new races exemplify what distinguishes World of Warcraft from other MMORPGs. Here, choosing a race and even a class isn’t just a matter of deciding which powers you want more, it’s a statement of intent, helping to define your attitude and your persona. True, each new race has apparent benefits – Blood Elves bring the Paladin class to the Horde alignment and can sap mana from creatures, Draenei can be shamans and have unique healing abilities – but their differences also give you a sense of motivation.
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