Last night I kicked off my exploration of the World of Warcraft Cataclysm beta, with a Worgen Rogue named Whitkin launching me into the new Gilneas starting zone. In a short taster session I played through to level 6. If you're interested in some first impressions, I've got some after the jump (as spoiler free as possible).
Last year we offered up some hands on around the level 6+ starting experience, so if you want to catch their take you can check it out over here. Here in the closed beta we have access from level 1 and up, and as they suggested in their appraisal last year, the 1-5 experience for Worgen makes a big difference to how heavily you buy into their story.
It's no surprise to find the new starting zones are a very 'post-Death Knight' experience. The hero class starting zone was a stellar piece of work, offering a great story and well varied introductory experience. Here in Gilneas, you are served up a delicious story that sets up the history of this new race while offering a series of quests that drive you forward at a rapid pace.
Between launching into the zone and reaching level 6, there has been no superfluous travel time. Every quest flows one to the next with a constant sense of urgency that will push experienced players into a bit of a dilemma. Do I rush onward with the pace the scene is setting up at the expense of reading quest text? Or do I slow down to enjoy the all-new, all-different race content?
I didn't have long to play yesterday, but I'll dive back into the fray tonight to see out the Worgen introduction. Where I left off is just as a second phase of the introduction has begun. So far the diversity of questing has been a very well distilled sequence of fun and excitement, taking in a lot more than just beating up enemies with my class abilities. Horses, cannons, and gunpowder have all been offered up in the mix of play, and taking the time to loot bodies has almost seemed too much time to waste when so much is at stake.
As a side note, there are new interface elements around class trainers, and the timings on leveling abilities seem to have been tweaked. At early levels skills become available not just at even numbered levels but at odd as well, but the style of questing has made paying much attention on that front more of a triviality than something to worry about.
For those who love Lord of the Rings Online, this starting zone experience feels very like the starting zones of Middle Earth. While Lich King is the clear progression, having a similar phased/instance-like experience at Level 1 that is focused on the race's introduction to Cataclysm is a firm reminder that LotRO got this style of play right three years ago.
First impression? A class act. And I've heard the Goblin zone is even better...