Last week, we took a look at five different Horde zones that offered unique moments, excellent gameplay, and a heck of a lot of story. But Cataclysm isn't a one-sided story. The Alliance has its own issues to deal with in the new expansion, and it received plenty of zone revamps to play through as well. Although the Horde side of the coin offers a lot of lighthearted fun along with the dark, the Alliance side of things seems to contain more dark than light.
This isn't to say the Alliance zones aren't worth playing through. Alliance lore is heavy on all sides in the varying zones -- whether it's the continue saga of the Defias, a look back at the history of the kaldorei, a standoff at the site where the first war between orcs and humans began, or the simple desperation of a battered faction trying its hardest to hold on when both the world and the creatures on it seem to be doing their best to tear it apart.
For the Alliance, sheer tenacity in the face of devastation is the name of the game. These five zones highlight that tenacity and offer some unique moments in Alliance lore that should be experienced.
Where to start To start in Ashenvale, head to Orendil's Retreat in northern Ashenvale and speack to Sentinel Shyela to being the series of quests that will send you throughout the zone.
The story Ashenvale has been torn apart, both figuratively and literally. The Horde are pressing from Azshara into the Ashenvale forests in search of lumber, resources, and general land domination. The land itself has been torn asunder by the Shattering, as evidenced by the gigantic volcano splitting the zone in half. On top of all of this, the general unrest in the zone has left the remnants of the Burning Legion a nice foothold for pushing forward and trying to make a move of their own. Between the faction fighting and elemental unrest, Alliance players will find Ashenvale a hotbed, frantically trying to heal the forests while fighting back both the Horde and the demonic forces of the Burning Legion.
But in between the fighting, Ashenvale has some pretty interesting moments and some pretty cool quests. One of the more notable quests in the zone has you struggling to find a cure for a sick girl in Astranaar -- a quest that was present in vanilla but has been altered for Cataclysm. The end of that chain is a curious one, with interesting implications for the future.
The driving force between this and many Alliance zones out there is survival, the sheer tenacity to hang on when the very world itself seems to want to cast you out. Ashenvale doesn't spell an immediate victory for the Alliance, but the fight is ever present. That fighting between Alliance and Horde is one of the thematic undertones for Mists, according to what we heard at BlizzCon.
Where to start The Swamp of Sorrows quest chains for Alliance players start out in the neutral goblin town of Bogpaddle. Have a chat with Trade Baron Silversnap to start the quests; you'll bounce around the zone from there.
The story You wouldn't think the Swamp of Sorrows would be a terribly fun or interesting place to visit, but you'd be dead wrong. The Swamp holds special meaning to the Alliance, because it's the location of the very first conflicts between Horde and Alliance during the First War, way before World of Warcraft ever came around. And for the draenei, this place is home of the Lost Ones, a group of draenei who were so badly mutated and devolved by the events on Draenor and subsequent trip through the Dark Portal that they have no real hold over their own senses anymore.
In vanilla, this zone was primarily Horde, and the Alliance didn't really have a foothold here to speak of. That changed after the Shattering. Since the Horde are so intent on grabbing as much land as they possibly can, the Alliance are just as determined to keep the Horde from it -- particularly in the Swamp of Sorrows, which is mere days away from Darkshire, Redridge, Elwynn Forest and Stormwind.
Secondly, you get to beat the ever-loving snot out of the Horde forces, and who doesn't love doing that? Let's face it -- it is really rare to find a zone where the Alliance absolutely has the upper hand and takes advantage of that upper hand. That's honestly a little disappointing, and depressing on top of that. Swamp of Sorrows is one of those places where the Alliance is definitely banding together and doing something about the Horde, and it was a breath of fresh air to see.
Thirdly, you get the odd, interesting, and entirely mysterious chain of events in the Harborage, which includes a surprise appearance from an Alliance lore figure that we really haven't seen all expansion. The whole dynamic between draenei, broken, and Lost Ones is one that hasn't really been explored too deeply yet, but we see some of that interaction here -- and frankly, any draenei lore is awesome in my book.
Where to start Head to the Emerald Sanctuary in Felwood and have a chat with Tenell Leafrunner. He'll get you started on the chains that will eventually carry you through the entire zone.
The story Felwood has a really long history for the night elves. It's the place where Illidan consumed the Skull of Gul'dan and turned into the largely demonic entity we see in The Black Temple. The Burning Legion tried to take over this place by force in Warcraft III, and it's because of these events that Felwood is how it appears in World of Warcraft.
After the Shattering, the Emerald Circle is still valiantly trying to get Felwood back to its natural state, with some small success in Whisperwind Grove. But Felwood still holds dark secrets, and the taint of the Burning Legion has far from diminished.
However, it's not all about Illidan here. There's also the fact that the worgen have taken hold up at Talonbranch Glade and are launching an all-out assault against the goblins of the Horde, who see Felwood as nothing more than lumber waiting to be harvested. There's an awesome chain where you team up with the worgen and beat the stuffing out of the goblins. There are plenty of new quests with the Timbermaw that are engaging and fun. Honestly, this zone has a really good balance of fun and lighthearted quests and darker, more story-driven quests, and it makes it a heck of a lot of fun to play through.
Plus, Illidan. Man, it was nice to see Illidan again.
Where to start Head south from Elywnn Forest, and you'll stumble upon an overturned cart, two dead bodies and a dead horse. Talk to Lieutenant Horatio Lane to begin the quests that will carry you through the zone.
The story Westfall is full of vagrants and homeless people who have traveled to the area because they literally have nowhere else to turn. Most of these people place the blame firmly on Varian Wrynn, who has done little in the eyes of the homeless to help the people of Stormwind since the devastating losses of the war in Northrend.
Westfall was hit hard during the Shattering; the zone is littered with tornadoes, a giant cyclone swirling endlessly in the heart of the zone. And on Sentinel Hill, Marshal Gryan Stoutmantle desperately tries to keep a handle on his home, which seems to be rapidly falling apart.
Trapped between it all is Gryan, a man who proved in vanilla WoW that he and his militia at Sentinel Hill could fend for themselves without need for Stormwind's help or a king that had gone missing. That man then came back into the service of the crown in Northrend and, upon returning to Westfall, found the place an absolute wreck. Gryan was an interesting character who just got more interesting as time went by.
Beyond that, there's the lead up for the revamped Deadmines. If you have not played through Westfall, it's likely that you don't know anything about the new bosses in Deadmines or why they are there. Westfall tells the story of their banding together and the story of a little girl who wants nothing more than to carry on her father's legacy -- even if that legacy isn't necessary the right choice.
Where to start You can begin the Darkshore series of quests by heading to Lor'danel in Darkshore and speaking with Priestess Dentaria. She'll start you on the chain that will eventually lead you through the entire zone.
The story There's a story behind every zone affected by the Shattering, and there were losses in every zone. But none of these stories or losses are quite as heartbreaking as what you will see in Darkshore. The town of Auberdine has been destroyed by the waves washing in and Deathwing's fly-by -- a scene that was actually in the Cataclysm cinematic. And in the center of Darkshore, a cyclone threatens to rip the land apart, save for one kaldorei who is valiantly holding it in check. There's a reason Malfurion is holding that cyclone in check, and it's not the reason that you -- or Malfurion -- might think.
And beyond that, it's a keen and heartrending look at just how much devastation the night elves and the Alliance have suffered in Cataclysm, not just at the hands of the Horde but at the hands of Deathwing and of nature itself. Given that perspective, you're also given a much deeper impression of the Horde's doings. They are taking advantage of a moment of weakness, and they are wreaking havoc on a society that is crumbling due to natural disaster. Honestly, after playing through Darkshore and Ashenvale, what I really wanted to do was go punch some Horde in the face for what they are doing and have been doing throughout Cataclysm.
Even though both Alliance and Horde got plenty of new zone revamps in Cataclysm, there are zones out there that both sides can play through and get the same experience. Even more interesting, there are some zones out there that can be played through by either side that give you two very different experiences as you play them -- two sides to a story, both with their own points to be made. And when you play through both, it offers an enlightening look into Cataclysm and the stories behind it.
Next week, we'll take a look at these dual zones and which ones you should be playing through.
While you don't need to have played the previous Warcraft games to enjoy World of Warcraft, a little history goes a long way toward making the game a lot more fun. Dig into even more of the lore and history behind the World of Warcraft in WoW Insider's Guide to Warcraft Lore.