After nearly a full decade of MMOing, Blizzard has a lot of work to do to keep new players coming to World of Warcraft and to hold the attention of veterans of Azeroth. Although subscribers have definitely dropped off, the game still retains more than enough players to justify the $15/month subscription model that so many other MMOs aren’t able to pull off. With the launch of this fall’s Warlords of Draenor expansion, Blizzard has to find a way to make the new content appeal to both rookies and the existing player-base to net the most subscribers. With the immediate 90-level character boost included in the purchase of the xpac, the majority of players will base their first opinions of Warlords on the level 90 starting zone so Blizzard needs to make it a memorable one.
With the bulk of players spending their first handful of Warlords hours in the xpac’s starting zone, that experience is likely to shape their decisions on whether or not to continue subscribing to the game for a second month after the new content’s launch. Blizzard needs to create a zone that is friendly to players of all experience levels and offers enough lore, flavor, and challenge to keep the heroes interested. According to the latest update on the Battle.net blog, the team intends to do just that with the Tanaan Jungle zone.
Blizzard explains that the first steps into Draenor will lead players to the savage wilds of the Tanaan Jungle. Before the planet was ripped apart and became Outland, Tanaan was home to the orc clans famous for waging war across the planet.
“In primordial Tanaan, even the plants have teeth. Darkling fronds stab out at unlucky wanderers, or conceal canyons that plunge miles deep beneath the canopy – and these are far from the jungle’s worst dangers. Each day, warlords fell even wider stretches of Tanaan’s wilderness, striving to finally rend the gates of space and time for conquest unending.”
The area is home to some very important figures from Warcraft history and fans of lore are likely to geek out while exploring the zone. Grommash Hellscream of Warsong clan, Kilrogg Deadeye of Bleeding Hollow clan, and Kargath Bladefist of the Shattered Hand will all be waiting for players in Draenor. Azeroth history experts may be excited to meet the iconic warlords, but don’t expect the brutish clan-leaders to offer a very friendly greeting.
From a gameplay perspective, Tanaan will function like many of the starting zones from the more recent WoW expansions and act as a bit of a tutorial level. Players who use the 90-level boost to arrive in the zone may be playing a new class for the first time and some of the quests in the starting zone will be designed to help rookie players get up to speed with their newly-acquired class abilities and mechanics. Despite the emphasis on new players, Blizzard promises that players new and old will be able to join up in the new zone to journey through the dangerous jungle.
The description of the Tanaan Jungle is definitely promising, but we won’t know how engrossing the zone will really be until we see it in action. Hopefully, WoW is able to continue adapting some of the more interesting phased quests and story-lines (first introduced in Wrath of the Lich King) to make the story more engaging, while still delivering the trademark flavor, personality, and humor that have made the game so successful in the past.
Blizzard may be planning to reveal a new MMO at BlizzCon 2014, but for the foreseeable future, WoW is still the company’s main attraction. Some gamers may think World of Warcraft is far past its prime, but the one million pre-orders for Warlords of Draneor definitely suggest that MMO fans are still looking to recapture the magic that made those first few years in Azeroth so groundbreaking.
Does the Tanaan Jungle starting zone look appealing to you or do you think it sounds a bit too familiar? Do you plan on giving WoW another shoot this fall? Let us know in the comments.
World of Warcraft: Warlords of Draenor launches this fall for PC.
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