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It's day one of E3, and although we tried to hide it from our bosses, many of us here at GameSpy made a beeline for Blizzard's booth as soon as we could. The ability of The Burning Crusade, the first retail expansion for World of Warcraft, to draw us against our will is not to be underestimated. What we saw confirmed the new Alliance race, and shed some light on WoW's immediate and distant future.
Yes, the new race is the Draenei, but those who were swearing that it would be Eredar weren't entirely off. The race that's joining the Alliance is not comprised of the malformed, corrupted creatures that you encounter in the Swamp of Sorrows. That's what became of them after they were subjected to the demon Sargeras' corruption. Here's the full story: Long ago, a learned, magical race known as the Eredar lived in peace and isolation. One day, the race's leaders -- among whose ranks Archimonde and Kil'Jaeden were counted -- were confronted by none other than Sargeras himself. Seeking to subvert the noble race, the demon offered them untold knowledge and power. Velen, a prominent Eredar leader, saw through Sargeras' plot. Archimonde and Kil'Jaeden, however, were swayed.
Sargeras transformed the two into unfathomably powerful demons, threatening the very foundations of the Eredar's society. Velen prayed for deliverance. His pleas were answered by a spiritual race named the Naaru. Velen and his people were delivered by them to a remote planet that they named Draenor -- after the word Draenei, which they called themselves, which in their language means "exiled ones." Draenor, as Warcraft lore buffs will know, also happens to be the Orcs' homeworld.
The Draenei have a very noble, unearthly look to them. The Naaru instilled in them an intense devotion to the Light, which, after a group of Draenei refugees landed on Azeroth, made them naturally inclined to side with the Alliance. The current plan (which, according to Blizzard, could still change) is to allow Hunter, Priest, Mage, Warrior, and Paladin classes to the Draenei. Their racial abilities consist of a heal-over-time spell called Blessing of the Naaru, and a combat aura that increases party members' chance to hit with physical attacks or spells (depending on the Draenei's class); for traits, they have bonuses to shadow resistance and Jewelcrafting professions.
The Draenei starting zone will be situated on a small island in between Teldrassil and Darkshore. Evidently, its environs have been dramatically altered by the arrival of their transdimensional transport vessel when it crashed on Azeroth. Large, semi-interred power crystals dot the landscape, and violent surges of energy cut through the atmosphere -- a keen use of WoW's environmental weather effects. According to the Blizzard rep that we spoke to at the show, the Draenei's capital city has been built out of the largest husk of the crashed vessel, which they named Exodar.
In terms of the starting quests available to the Draenei, there probably isn't much outside of what you've come to expect from WoW. Storywise, the Draenei are struggling to recover from the catastrophic crash on the alien world of Azeroth, and it only just happened -- the first questgiver you encounter is actually keeled over in pain. The early quests you embark on share the same tone; the first one you get requires you to harvest "stim" from the winged lizards native to the crash site in order to recharge Exodar's damaged healing crystals. The very next sends you around the starting area to find wounded Draenei and heal them with a powered crystal. It's like the "Lazy Peons" quest that Horde players get in the Valley of Trials, but with a merciful bent.