After mulling over Vanilla WoW last week, it’s time to move on to the next phase of World of Warcraft: the Burning Crusade. This was the first expansion pack for WoW, and people weren’t really sure what to expect. They had only ever had Vanilla to experience, and weren’t really sure what was possible.
We were all in for a treat. Released on January 16 2007, Burning Crusade offered a number of new features to the world of Azeroth, and more importantly the new continent and world of Outland. Two new races, a new profession, flying mounts, socketed items, a streamlined endgame, just to name a few features.
Like Vanilla and all other games, there were things that are remembered as successes and some that are remembered as failures. All in all, I like to think of my time in Burning Crusade as being a lot of fun.
(reading music: “Wake Up” by Arcade Fire)
Leveling and Gameplay
Burning Crusade was my first reroll on the Horde side. I went from a level 60 Orc Warlock to a brand new Blood Elf Paladin, since our guild was short on healers at the time and we wanted diversity in the healing core. Unfortunately, I wasn’t very fast at leveling, so I missed out on the first parts of Karazhan and other dungeons while people were going from 60 to 70. To this day, this is one of my biggest regrets from the BC era – I wish I would have leveled my Warlock to 70 before I rerolled my Paladin.
That being said, I enjoyed playing my Paladin. The talent trees were exponentially better than what they were in Vanilla, in the fact that you could be something other than a healer and still be viable. I personally wasn’t a big fan of the retribution tree for leveling, as I was running out of mana constantly and didn’t have much of survivability. I tried leveling as Protection, and found it to be much better for my style at the time. Reckoning was lots of fun, and I didn’t die nearly as often.
Once I hit 70, I started gearing up and joined the guild in the raids of Karazhan, Gruul’s Lair, and Magtheridon. Karazhan is still one of my favourite raids in the game, and is my favourite from the BC expansion. The design and layout of the raid was excellent, as well as the storyline – I’ll expand on this later on. We eventually were going through Serpentshrine Cavern and Tempest Keep, but by that point I had moved on to my Druid.
During Burning Crusade is when my wife was able to start playing WoW with me. She rolled a Tauren Shaman and I rolled a Tauren Druid, since I was never able to level one solo. The two of us had a blast leveling together, and the classes complemented each other by being able to keep each other alive (when we remembered) and give support with buffs and other mechanics.
With BC we saw the first expansion of the talent trees to be 41 points (up from 31). People was excited because the new talents were ones that you actually wanted. Every single talent spec was viable in some way, and we first saw different tier sets being set apart for the different specs. Blizzard saw that when you have a class like the Paladin, with each talent tree focusing on completely different stats and priorities, you need to give them the gear that complements it.
Dungeons and Raids
For the first time, dungeons were actually worth the effort to do while leveling, using the Outland model. There were good quest rewards, there were good drops from bosses, things that actually encouraged you to go through them. As well, it didn’t take three hours to do a single dungeon.
The first experience of the BC dungeons for most people was Hellfire Ramparts. I enjoyed it because it gave people what they wanted: an experience that they enjoyed, it was doable within a short period of time, and it gave good experience. Another nice thing is that it gave an easy way out at the end, as previously you would have to use your Hearthstone to get out of any dungeon when it had been completed. Apart from the fact that I never got the feral staff from the last boss there, I consider it to be a big success.
In my mind, the only dungeon that I truly did not like going to was Arcatraz. It was quite long and didn’t really have the fun factor of the other ones that were available. Shattered Halls is a close second for the exact same reasons: lots of trash pulls that were a royal pain to keep corralled, and bosses that were just plain annoying.
Heroic dungeons were also introduced during BC. However, at least for our guild, we didn’t run them very often. There was no dungeon finder, the loot was only marginally better than what you would get in a regular dungeon run, so it was hard to get people to go. More often than not, we would do runs of regular Mechanar, Black Morass, things like that. It wasn’t until Wrath that heroic dungeons actually made it to the spotlight.
As I mentioned earlier, I really enjoyed Karazhan. I wasn’t there for the first times that the guild tried it, but I remember listening in on Ventrilo and hearing them laugh because they kept getting feared into the next packs of horses. What was even funnier is that they had to keep a timer for when the trash respawned before Attumen because of how long it was taking to clear up to him.
My favourite fight of the raid was probably Shade of Aran. It was a fight with so much stuff going on at once that you really had to pay attention, but still able to go all out on damage since he didn’t have an aggro table. Of course, there was the infamous Flame Wreath: like all guilds, we had our own few people who kept moving in it and kept on blaming them for any wipe that would happen afterwards. The Chess game was also fun, since it was something completely new for the game and easy loot.
As an aside, I truly hate the Maiden of Virtue. For the only reason that every single time I went, it would not drop the Shard of the Virtuous for my Paladin. I eventually gave in and got Light’s Justice from Prince Malchezaar. I was sure that the next time we did Maiden after doing this, that it would drop, but it was a few months afterwards that I eventually got it. I will never ever get rid of that item.
Prince Malchezaar was the epitome of fights where randomness will screw you up, because of the placement of the infernals. For those who don’t know, there would be infernals that would drop from the sky at regular intervals, which would do a flame attack to anyone within a certain radius of it. You could have them all drop on the opposite side of where you were positioned one fight, and the next they were all on top of you. Combine that with Enfeeble (which brought you down to 1 health until the debuff expired), it offered some fun wipes.
The progression of raids was fairly linear. You would start at Karazhan, Gruul’s Lair, and Magtheridon’s Lair for your introduction to raiding. Once you had received all the gear you could from there, you’d move on to Serpentshrine Cavern and Tempest Keep. After that, you would do Hyjal and the Black Temple, before moving on to the final raid of Sunwell Plateau. Our guild was only able to get through SSC and TK during the actual time frame of BC, getting everything down except for Kael’thas. The others had to wait until Wrath, unfortunately.
Storyline and Zones
At this point, I’ll be speaking strictly from a Horde point of view. I have my original Alliance Mage in Zangarmarsh right now, but that’s the farthest that I’ve been able to get on that side.
Every zone had some sort of storyline specific for it, with the only problem being that you had no clue where Illidan fit in with anything. You had Pathaleon the Calculator show up in Hellfire Peninsula under the orders of Kael’thas, there were tons of Naga in Zangarmarsh under the orders of Vashj, and minions of the Burning Legion in most of the other zones. It wasn’t until you got into Shadowmoon Valley and did the quests right around the Black Temple and Netherwing Ledge that you actually realized that Illidan was even out there.
All in all, the zones meshed together quite well. There were good breadcrumb quests that led you from one zone to the next when you were the appropriate level, the quest hubs had a fair amount of quests that kept you occupied for a while. Fortunately, there weren’t many quests that were in random places that you wouldn’t have even thought of, and probably the best improvement is that there was a noticeable reduction in the amount of escort quests.
If I had to choose a favourite zone, I’d definitely choose Nagrand. After the reduction in experience required to go from 60-70, by the time I’d finished with Nagrand, I’d usually be part way through 68 and ready to go to Northrend. Not only that, but the quests are enjoyable and fairly easy to do. I learned to enjoy grinding quests, so when the Nesingwary quests said to kill 30 of each animal, I looked at it as that much more experience that I would get. On top of everything else, the zone itself was just beautiful. Floating mountains with waterfalls coming down, and a sort of Mulgore look to it, it was quite nice. (When I first saw the movie Avatar, the first thing that came through my mind when they went up to the floating mountains was Nagrand)
For a zone that I liked the least, it would be Terokkar Forest. To be honest, I don’t know exactly why I don’t like it (for the same reason I can’t explain that I’m not a big fan of questing in Mulgore), but it just wasn’t for me. Possibly because I don’t like zones that have quest hubs without an inn where I can log off easily, and there were two hubs that were far enough away from the Horde outpost that just made it annoying to run or fly back and forth all the time.
Flying mounts were by far one of the best additions to the game. I’m very glad that I first experienced Outland by running all over the place before they reduced the level to get a flying mount to 60. I believe I was able to get a good appreciation for the zones before I could just fly overhead directly from one place to the other. Being able to fly also gave another perspective of the world and just how much work they put into making it look complete.
The last patch of the game brought in the Isle of Quel’Danas and what would eventually be the Sunwell Plateau raid and Magister’s Terrace 5-man dungeon. Now I realize that it was basically a first version of the Argent Tournament in Wrath, but at the time it was a very welcome addition. It was nice to have a place where I could do daily quests and earn some good cash, while getting good reputation and rewards out of it at the same time.
Burning Crusade improved the game tremendously from Vanilla. There were so many changes that were made to streamline the classes, making more specs viable for all aspects of play, raiding enjoyable and more available, and allowing us to fly! Blizzard realized what needed to be improved, and it was improved… for the most part. Like everything, there is always more work to be done and more to do even after that.
As with Vanilla, I enjoyed my time in Burning Crusade. I learned a lot from it, and I was able to expand on that as I moved forward through Wrath. It was a fun time, but I’m glad it’s over.