Editor's Note: This post contains spoilers for the upcoming Cataclysm expansion. Read at your own risk!
Starting Zones Coldridge Valley and New Tinkertown
The dwarven starting zone hasn't changed much physically, but the troggs are more aggressive now, so there's no time for placid mail delivery quests. But there's always time for beer! Eventually, you kill a troublemaking fire elemental that seems to quell the threat here, but an untimely cave-in forces you to forego the tunnel and take an airlift to Kharanos instead. (Alas, this detour bodes ill for the popularity of the famous Dwarven Demolition Team.)
The town of Kharanos, just south of Ironforge, is where the dwarf and gnome starting chains merge. One thing you'll notice is that the entire zone of Dun Morogh remains very linear and streamlined throughout. You'll be going from place to place without ever having more than about three quests in your log at any given time, and quests that have you running halfway across the zone and back are history. Sorry, fans of the epic rivalry between Kharanos and Brewnall, but there are more pressing matters these days.
The troggs' uprising in the starting zones has driven the local Frostmane trolls east, which would be pretty much on top of you. We'll have to deal with that. But first, we visit a couple of familiar locations in Shimmer Ridge (which has somehow shimmied north a bit, closing off the old road between Ironforge and Gnomeregan) and the yeti cave of the Grizzled Den. The quests in the latter location have changed up slightly, as now your goal is to pull back from there so as to focus on the rising troll threat.
Back in Kharanos, we turn our attention to the battlefront just to the southeast. The Frostmanes have a new trick in the form of constriction totems that put Stoneclaws to shame. Fortunately, a dwarven rune of fire allows you to counter those and turn the tide of battle. That taken care of, it's over to Steelgrill's Depot where they're launching (literally) a covert operation to sabotage the building of a new village for the Frostmanes. This set of quests changed slightly in a recent patch, in a way that upped the awesome factor significantly. Two words: shrink ray.
The Frostmanes defeated on that front, it's off to Dun Morogh's primary ram breeding facility ...
The trolls are not done causing trouble, as they now want the ranch's rams for themselves. At least their taste in mounts is improving. After fending off a raid and recovering the rams already stolen, you're sent further still to the east, to ...
Not much new here, apart from a handy flight point. You're digging out artifacts and rescuing miners now, but mostly, you're still killing trogs. Before, this would basically be your last stop before heading out to Loch Modan, but there are a couple of twists in the tale between now and then, as Senator Stonehallow sends you to a brand new location.
This new mini-hub is located just north of Helm's Bed Lake, and the lake is not the boring fishing leveling zone it used to be. The water elementals are agitated and are making dwarfsicles by the dozens. Fortunately, they never try that trick on you, so you dispatch the elementals and free the frozen mountaineers before getting sent even further south to Ironband's Outpost. This location in the southeast corner of Dun Morogh has always been overrun by Dark Iron Spies, but now, as you find out, they now have a plan: They mean to take over Ironforge Airfield.
... wait, what?!
Yes, the region of legend just east of Ironforge is now (intentionally) open to the public. Sort of. You can't just walk in there (not easily, anyway), but a charter flight from Gol'Bolar gets you to the action in short order. And sure enough, the Dark Irons are there in full force, under the command of General Grimaxe, and making all kinds of trouble. After putting out some fires and running around the battlefield planting banners (earnestly announcing, "This ought to help!" is optional), you advance to a bombing run and finally a confrontation with the general himself. After you put an end to him, Commander Stonebreaker brings up the proverbial elekk in the room: What exactly does Moira Thaurissan (née Bronzebeard), supposed leader of the Dark Irons, have to say for herself about all this?
A confrontation with Moira sounds like something that could go really badly, but you buck up and barge into the throne room. Moira is outraged, of course, but with her co-rulers vouching for Stonebreaker's loyalty, Moira has to back off. (Why they couldn't all have just gone over to a window and looked outside for themselves, we'll never know.) However, Moira still disclaims responsibility for what is going on, with an argument not easily dismissed: As far as she's concerned, her son will rule over all of dwarfdom one day, and conflict between the dwarven factions does those aspirations no good.
Instead, one Ambassador Slaghammer is fingered as the mastermind behind the Dark Iron uprising, and, surprisingly, almost suspiciously, he comes along quietly when confronted.
But regardless, that's the end of that, and as for you, Ironforge needs you in Loch Modan. Or what's left of it.
Keeping new players engaged
Blizzard has stated that it was a major goal to keep new players from quitting before level 10, and the revamped and streamlined Dun Morogh is definitely a step in the right direction. The storylines and questing aren't as flashy overall as some of the other starting zones, but then again, dwarves aren't as flashy as other races, so it makes sense in a way. And just the fact that there are a couple of distinct storylines is a significant improvement in itself.
World of Warcraft: Cataclysm will destroy Azeroth as we know it; nothing will be the same! In WoW Insider's Guide to Cataclysm, you can find out everything you need to know about WoW's third expansion (available Dec. 7, 2010), from brand new races to revamped quests and zones. Visit our Cataclysm news category for the most recent posts having to do with the Cataclysm expansion.