Spoiler alert: Today's WoW Rookie is nothing but one big spoiler of the changes Cataclysm will bring to existing Alliance newbie zones. If you're aiming to hit the expansion spoiler-free with fresh, unsullied eyes, you'll want to re-join us two weeks from now (since next week's WoW Rookie will look at Cataclysm newbie zones Horde-side).
But for those of you who are itching for a glimpse into what's in store for newly created Alliance characters in the expansion, we've got brief highlights and screenshot gallery samplers of the gnome, dwarf, night elf and human starting experiences. There's not much new to report for draenei in the Exodar, save that their flight point has been moved inside the city. And as for the new Alliance race, the worgen, we've given them their own detailed gallery and write-up, and you can head over to our YouTube channel to watch video of several worgen gameplay segments. Come back next week for a similar look ahead at the newbie zone revamps for Horde races.
And now, screenshot galleries (one last spoiler alert for the road -- Cataclysm spoilers abound!) of each starting area plus written highlights, after the break.
Gnomes: The Train Depot
In Cataclysm, new gnomes begin their lives at the Train Depot found within Gnomeregan (but not inside the actual dungeon instance itself). If you were to take the elevator down from Dun Morogh, you'd find yourself in the Train Depot. After some introductory quests below ground (zap! pow! lots of good, gnomish fun!), gnomelets head up to the surface, where they scrutinize their history and strategic situation via an incredible holographic display in the company of none other than High Tinker Mekkatorque. From there, they help clean up the local trogg problem and then join forces with the dwarves in the war against Thermaplugg. The new introductory material is all too brief, and gnomes will find themselves among the familiar passes and quests of Kharanos all too soon. While there's a massive battlefield just outside Kharanos marking the front between the dwarves and the Frostmane trolls, most of the other local sights and quests there will be familiar.
New dwarves still start their careers in Anvilmar. But while the setting and direction of the starter quest lines may feel familiar, there are plenty of new-era twists. The trogg problem has escalated, and new players find themselves dropped into a bloody, chaotic environment. Almost immediately, players will run into references and pointers toward archaeology. The main thrust of the quests, though, will feel familiar to seasoned WoW players. The big change to this zone is what happens at the end. The trek out of the Anvilmar area through the trogg-infested tunnel in Coldwind Pass is no more; in Cataclysm, players are piloted out for an exhilarating, scenic sweep over the snow-covered peaks and valleys between Anvilmar and Kharanos.
Night elves: Teldrassil
The night elf quests themselves are all very familiar; it's the delivery that's been tweaked for Cataclysm. The starter experience here is much simpler than as originally designed -- and much gentler and safer for unsuspecting newbies, as well. There's no more timed antidote quest in Shadowglen, and Tenaron Stormgrip gives you a buff that lets you jump off Aldrassil (just to see what would happen, of course) and float ever-so-sweetly to the ground below. Remember the cave full of ravenous, aggro-crazed grelkin? Your quest there is a cakewalk, with a targeted seed that roots and insta-kills the vicious little beasties. And the confusion of blundering between multiple objectives inside the dark, reeking tunnels of Ban'ethil Barrow Den are made simple by a green mist that will lead you to each objective when you ask the NPC you're with for assistance. The first appearance of brand new content is impossible to miss: an all-new quest at the end of a familiar quest line that sends you through waves of demons against a new foe, in a sequence featuring a special UI giving you quest-specific abilities.
Then it's on to Darnassus, where you'll see the Howling Tree (a new worgen "district"), Gilnean refugees at the docks at Rut'theran Village and the first signs of the cataclymic changes that have struck Ashenvale.
Humans: Elwynn Forest
The first thing you'll notice when you find your new human deposited in front of Northshire Abbey in Elwynn Forest is that King Varian Wrynn himself is there to recruit you. The next thing you'll notice is that the Blackrock orcs are there, too. If the human starter experience once felt a little too weak and low-key, the new material catapults players head first into the game's storylines. New humans feel powerful, effective and involved. "You no take candle!" is still a zone standard, and you revel in your superiority to these worthless creatures. Once you leave the abbey environs, however, you won't see much in the way of major changes. There's a mounted unit of Stormwind cavalry patrolling the roads, and you'll find that your old friend Hogger now has his own hill ("Hogger Hill"), where he patiently waits to ravage your body and rend your soul.
Come back next week for our look at what's going on in the revamped Horde newbie zones.
Reader tip of the week
Thanks for the steady supply of tips for your fellow players; keep 'em coming to firstname.lastname@example.org. This "battlegrounds for beginners" tip comes to us from Scrambles of Frostmane (EU):
While leveling, look out for the Call to Arms on weekends and try to play whichever battleground is up. During the Call to Arms, you'll be very well rewarded in both XP and honor, even for a loss! Be aware that you'll be placed into a bracket based on your level, each bracket being 10 levels. Battlegrounds tend to be a more rewarding experience towards the end of each bracket, as otherwise, you're potentially facing opponents several levels above you, which can be a little demoralizing. This also works out nicely for item rewards, because from level 18 (and every 10 levels after that, up to nearly 60), the Silverwing Sentinels (Warsong Gulch) and League of Arathor (Arathi Basin) factions (and their accursed Horde equivalents, of course!) offer a selection of nice gear that you can buy for tiny amounts of honor. The vendors are a little off the beaten path, so you may need to look them up. At low levels, you may not be sure if PvP is really your thing, but it might be worth getting these items and keeping them updated every 10 levels anyway.
Visit the WoW Rookie Guide for links to everything you need to get started as a new player, from how to control your character and camera angles when you're just starting out, to pulling together enough cash for mid-level expenses such as mounts and dual specialization, to what to do when you finally hit level 80.