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We crash land on Azeroth and begin the trek to level 70 as a blue-skinned Draenei Shaman.
By Gerald Villoria | Oct. 13, 2006
If there's something I missed about World of Warcraft since I began my days as a raider, it was the feeling you get when filling up your quest log with assorted missions, and filling your bags with assorted loot rewards, inching your way to the next level. While the level 70 cap will allow me to experience that with my main, I'm enjoying the low-level experience all over again, with my beta test of the Draenei starting area. Since the Draenei shaman offers the most unique experience for Alliance characters, I went that route and began my adventure by swinging my mace and earth shocking things in the face. Just wait until I learn frost shock!
I originally began playing a Draenei Shaman to see how the experience may have differed from the Horde shamans from a lore perspective, since shamanistic culture is such a huge part of what defines the Horde races, Undead notwithstanding. I've found that the shaman-specific quests were very much devoted to usage of the elements, and performing tasks related to elemental forces themselves. Upon entering the Exodar, for example, you are able to quaff a mind-altering potion from an NPC near the entrance, which allows you to see the elementals milling about. While their approach to ritual is far different from that of the Warchief, Draenei shamans seem to fit quite well, and don't seem out of place at all, something that has concerned purists who felt that the addition of these cross-faction class options would throw the storyline out of whack.
My lower level experience in the starting zones was filled with the sort of things you'd expect when a flood of new players all begin racing for those crucial levels. There was plenty of kill stealing, lots of ridiculously inane questions in general chat, and loads of whiners. And this is the closed beta crowd, just wait until the general public gets a hold of this. Still, I love this sort of thing, and did my fair share of tagging enemies before one particularly whiny mage could get her spells off. All's fair when the level grind is concerned.
I took a good look at the Draenei racial abilities, and was intrigued by the possible effectiveness of the Heroic presence ability. If you play as a caster, you and all players in your party gain an extra 1% chance to hit with spells. As a melee class or hunter, you and your party gain an extra 1% chance to hit with attacks. It'll remain to be seen whether this completely renders the other racial options useless, but a party of Draenei hunters grouped together in a raid force would have an extra 5% to hit between them, which for hunters is incredibly significant, considering that they need around 9% total to-hit bonuses in order to reach their threshold, where their attacks stop missing. I doubt that experienced raiders will be required by their leaders to reroll, but this ability will undoubtedly reap rewards for those that decide to start from scratch. As the player of an orc hunter, I'm quite jealous. The shadow resistance, heal over time, and jewelcrafting bonuses are just icing on the cake.
The initial questing based out of the Draenei crash site is intrinsically similar to that of any of the other starting zones, having you kill surrounding creatures for item drops, or until a certain kill count is reached, and the quests are designed in such a way that when done successively, will send your character exploring outside of the quest hub in a steadily outward progression. The quests at the second hub, Azure Watch, were another thing altogether, though. Without giving too much away, there was one quest that had you traveling across the island, meeting with a different NPC at each checkpoint. The quest involved the deciphering of another language, and even included unique character transformations, changes to your perception, and unique player abilities that I've never before seen in the game. At the end, I was seriously wondering if this was as good as any quest implemented in World of Warcraft thus far, easily surpassing any of those that I played in the initial Blood Elf zones. The writing is solid, and aside from a few tedious fetch-quests, Draenei players are in for plenty of enticing adventures.
As you'd expect from Blizzard, lots of the quests include not-so-subtle references to pop culture, like Star Wars and the Aliens and Predator films. One of the more entertaining quests was a race against the clock, tasking me with traveling all over Azuremyst island, meeting with the major NPCs, and warning them of impending danger. What made this fun was an advance taste of the Draenei mount, the elephantine Elekk. It's big, it's horned, and it looks like you could get seriously hurt by those tusks. They're pretty huge, on par with Tauren Kodos, and at epic mount speed, they seem to absolutely fly. This is good news, since Draenei players will have to be quite creative manipulating the auction house in order to make the 5000 gold required for the new flying epic mount skill.
I dabbled in jewelcrafting with my Draenei shaman, to put her racial bonus to work, and was intrigued by how it works. The profession works symbiotically with mining, as you'll need stones, ore, and gems in order to make the different pieces of jewelry and socketing materials. Your rough stone, for instance, can be combined and carved into stone statues, which bear a resemblance to the Guardians that wander Un'Goro, or the golems in Uldaman. The mini-statue then channels a healing spell, ticking for 8 damage healed a second. Not bad for a low level that would otherwise chuck the stone at a vendor. You can also make nifty level 10 and 12 rings with bits of copper woven into copper strands, and in those early levels, every bit of intellect and stamina helps. I suspect that there will be a mad rush for ore and stone as many players will try to level up their jewelcrafting when the expansion hits.
With entertaining quests, strong racial attributes, and interesting character designs, I was more than pleased with the initial Draenei experience. I don't think there'll be much class balance, however, as shamans outnumbered every other class I found by 4 to 1. Shamans will, after all, have a special place reserved for them in Alliance parties, being the rarest of the rare. Still, all indications are that it will be fun leveling one up, at least until you exhaust the early content. There is no new low level equivalent of the Deadmines or Ragefire Caverns, for instance, so will all the new players immediately race out to the Barrens and Westfall as soon as they can? If so, it would almost feel like all the work put into these pleasant starting zones will have been wasted. We'll be playing much more Burning Crusade throughout the Beta period, so stay tuned for more updates.