Warlords of Draenor: Shadowmoon Valley

Anne Stickney
A. Stickney|08.03.14

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Warlords of Draenor: Shadowmoon Valley
Of all the new zones introduced in Warlords of Draenor, the one I was looking forward to the most was Shadowmoon Valley. The scarred, desolate landscape in Burning Crusade told nothing of just how gorgeous the land once was -- but it was home to the draenei once upon a time, untouched by the Burning Legion or the orcs, and I really wanted to see it. And I have to say, Blizzard did not let me down the slightest with this zone. Everything from the trees to the sky to the individual blades of grass that sway with movement as your character walks through them is a sublimely crafted work of art.

Although home to the draenei, Shadowmoon Valley is also home to the Shadowmoon clan of orcs, as well as a variety of other denizens, some friendly, some ... not so much. But it's the draenei architecture and scenery that really stands out in this zone. I can't really put in words how ridiculously detailed the environmental art is in Shadowmoon, but I put together a gallery of assorted screenshots so it can be shown. Be warned, there are a few spoilers along the way, so those that are wanting to see everything for the first time when you log in on day one should avoid it.

But enough about the scenery. How does the zone play?

Shadowmoon Valley is the first zone Alliance players experience in the new expansion, and it's appropriately beautiful. It's also the home of your garrison, which you will slowly build over time as you continue your journey around Draenor. Although you and your motley crew of friends have managed to successfully escape Tanaan Jungle and the wrath of the Iron Horde, your problems are far from over. The orcs of the Shadowmoon clan, led by Ner'zhul, seek to prove their place in the Iron Horde ... at the expense of everything the draenei hold dear.

In a way, we're revisiting that piece of history in which Karabor fell, highlighted in trailer for the Black Temple from Burning Crusade. But this time around, we're re-writing the story ourselves. And although this is a different Draenor, the victories still feel like an absolute triumph -- and perhaps because this is a different Draenor, the stumbling blocks along the way feel just a little more tragic. Yes, the draenei were beaten senseless in our version of history. The old Horde, backed by the Burning Legion, managed to wipe out almost the entirety of their civilization. So when we stumble in our journey in Shadowmoon, there's almost the sense that we've failed not once, but twice -- like we've let history down for a second time.

It's kind of a heartbreaking experience in that aspect. But make no mistake, although the zone is elegantly woven through with conflict and heartache, the experience itself is ultimately triumphant. Alliance players will definitely come out of this zone feeling like they've done some real, tangible good with long-lasting effects. At this point in the beta, there are still areas that feel like they aren't quite implemented yet -- placeholder NPCs, spots where it seems like there should be a vignette experience that hasn't been properly placed. But as a home for Alliance players and their garrisons, and as an introductory experience to the draenei and their history, Shadowmoon really works -- I wasn't disappointed in the slightest.

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