Review by Kimari

Reviewed: 04/28/08 | Updated: 11/23/11

Blizzard creates a great expansion with 'The Burning Crusade'

That’s right, I threw that word out there- perfect. It’s not a word I use very often to describe anything. There have been only a couple dozen or so “perfect” games, but I won’t get into that now.

What I’m discussing here is the perfect expansion, because let’s remember one thing- this is NOT a stand-alone game. To me, all games are relative. It’s hard to say Halo is a better game than Gran Turismo. They’re in completely different genres, and often the comparison isn’t fair. Expansions are sort of in a genre of their own, and when it comes to MMORPG expansion games, ‘The Burning Crusade’ does everything any fan of the original should hope for.

World of Warcraft was released in November 2004 and quickly became a big hit. In fact, it was a big hit even before its release. Unfortunately I didn’t discover the game until the summer of 2006, but I quickly became hooked. It skyrocketed up there to one of the most, if not THE most, addicting game I’ve ever played.

Fast forward to January 2007: Blizzard is releasing their first expansion to their incredibly popular game more than two years after its release. Players have conquered Azeroth in so many ways, so many times. The large content patches have provided plenty of new adventures, including zones, quests, and the ultimate Azeroth dungeon, Naxxramas, but members of the Alliance and Horde are ready to venture to new lands with new foes and learn new spells.

They’re also ready to play as one of two new races, soar the skies in flying mounts, tackle new raid dungeons, reach level 70, create an Alliance Shaman or Horde Paladin, and undertake jewelcrafting as a new profession. ‘The Burning Crusade’ gives us all the opportunity to do that and so much more.

You Are Not Prepared

…or are we? These are the words of Illidan, the infamous villain from the lovely new cinematic for the expansion. He’s warning us that none of us are ready for all of the expansion’s new features, but everyone is in disagreement.

But prepared were millions of players to enter Outland, the new continent of World of Warcraft. The Dark Portal was opened up, and in January 2007 players got to enter the old orc home world.

Outland is separated into seven gigantic zones. Though this continent has far less zones than either of the two original continents, we must remember that this is an expansion. Plus, the sheer size of just one zone kind of makes up for it. The starting area, Hellfire Peninsula, is one of the largest in the game.

Each of the seven zones is home to hundreds of new quests, NPC’s, towns, and monsters to vanquish. Also unlike the original Azeroth, and something that adds to the size of Outland, is that all but one of these zones has a dungeon. Some are raids, some are 5-player crawls, and some are both. Many of the new Outland dungeons have several wings of varying difficulty levels, and you can then try these dungeons again later on Heroic difficulty.

There is one new major city in Outland called Shattrath, and it’s the only city in the entire game that is neutral. You’ll see both Alliance and Horde players wandering around. Shattrath is also home to the Aldor and Scryers, two new factions that you can dedicate yourself to to earn a bunch of fancy new equipment.

As always, major towns and Shattrath are connected by flight paths, but one of the big new features of ‘The Burning Crusade’ is the ability to obtain a flying mount. Available at level 70, you’ll be able to fly over Outland and access flight-only areas at your leisure. It costs a pretty penny, but it’s worth it. There are also epic flying mounts that cost even more, including the Nether Drake.

You can also grind your way to level 70 in Outland. It is a much longer process to increase in level after 60, but the new areas, quests, and dungeons makes it flow fairly smoothly. Casual players may complain that sometimes it can take a bit too long, but enough dedication should get you to 70 soon enough.

The Draenei and Blood Elves

Don’t want to head to Outland quite yet, or you don’t have a level 68 character (68 is the minimum level to enter the Dark Portal at this time)? Another major draw to the expansion is the ability to create a Draenei for the Alliance or a Blood Elf for the Horde. These two new races each have their own separate starting zones on the original continents, and Blizzard has made the start of the game more seamless and interactive than ever.

The Blood Elf race is by far the more popular of the two. The Blood Elves start in the far north of the Eastern Kingdoms, and for the first time, you can create a Horde Paladin, as well as several other classes for the new race. Likewise, an Alliance Shaman is now possible through the Draenei. Both of these combinations were and still are very popular in the world of Azeroth.

As said, both new races have a new starting zone, and then their own new level 10-20 zone. That’s four new zones added to the original continents. What’s more, each race has their own unique new city. In my opinion, Blizzard spent a little more time handling the Blood Elves, because not only are their starting zones better, but their city, Silvermoon, is far better designed.

Changes to Azeroth

What about the old Azeroth though? Are the new races’ zones the only new additions to the old continents, or are they long forgotten now?

The answer is a definite “no”. Several new features are present in Azeroth, the two more important being the two new dungeons- Caverns of Time and Karazhan. Not only that, but fairly recently another new dungeon was added to one of the Blood Elf starting zones, named Zul’Aman. Even though they are located in Azeroth, you of course need the expansion to access them.

Speaking of the original world, remember the original professions like Herbalism and Alchemy? Add another to the list- jewelcrafting. Through jewelcrafting, you can create rings and trinkets for you, or other characters, to wear. It’s a great addition to the economy and blends in nicely with other similar professions such as Blacksmithing and Tailoring.

Can They Do Better?

I consider ‘The Burning Crusade’ to be the perfect expansion because it gave all the players what we wanted and more. It went above and beyond my expectations, and there is more content in this single expansion than any other I’ve seen in online gaming.

But as of this writing, Blizzard is looking to one-up themselves. ‘The Wrath of the Lich King’, the second expansion, is on its way soon, with the new continent of Northrend, another level cap increase, more dungeons, and the highly anticipated Death Knight class, the first Hero class in the World of Warcraft.

If ‘Lich King’ is better than ‘Burning Crusade’, even just slightly, then I’ll be a happy gnome. A new class instead of a new race will be an awesome and interesting addition to the thriving world of Azeroth. Until that time, though, Outland still has plenty for me to explore.

A Change

When looking back on this review's score, it didn't feel right. I wrote the review before Wrath of the Lich King was released, and you know what? Lich King is the far better expansion. So much better, in fact, that it defined what a "10" is for an MMO expansion. I had no choice but to downgrade my Burning Crusade review from a "10 to an "8".

In retrospect, this expansion had its problems. The raid system was too complex and overwhelming, which Blizzard later corrected with Lich King. Leveling to 70 through Outland wasn't nearly as fun as it would later be, and took too long because of it. The story also wasn't very prevalent.

For those reasons, I have changed the score of this review from a "10" to an "8". I have also changed the subject line accordingly, as I called this expansion "perfect".

Rating:   4.0 - Great

Product Release: World of Warcraft: The Burning Crusade (US, 01/16/07)

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