World of Warcraft

Starting a fresh character in World of Warcraft sucks. The world of Azeroth is large, intimidating, and incredibly confusing. Add in a player base that isn’t necessarily known for being helpful, and you have a recipe for disaster for anyone who’s trying out the MMORPG for the first time.

I should note that I’m not talking about World of Warcraft Classic here; I’m talking about the modern “retail” version as it exists leading into the upcoming Shadowlands expansion (due out October 27, 2020).

In anticipation of the Shadowlands expansion comes Exile’s Reach, an all-new (and long overdue) starting experience for players. Prior to this, a fresh character would log in, watch a quick cinematic, and then be standing right in front of a quest-giver. That’s it. You’re on your own, kid, best of luck to you. The experience is modernized depending on the class and race you choose — the more modern the race/class, the better the experience — but at its core, you’re still on your own.

Exile’s Reach is World of Warcraft‘s first legitimate starting experience.

World of Warcraft

It starts the same way as every other starting zone: standing in front of a quest-giver. The difference, though, is that this is a more narrative-focused experience. Yes, we’ve seen such examples of this with both hero classes (Death Knight and Demon Hunter), as well as the races introduced since the Cataclysm expansion, but the inclusion of an actual, honest-to-god tutorial puts Exile’s Reach over the top.

Plus, it helps that the zone doesn’t feel limited by the game’s technology.

Both Gilneas and Kezan (added with Cataclysm in 2010) were huge steps forward in terms of storytelling, but they didn’t really do a good job of helping newcomers settle into the game. Exile’s Reach changes all that from the get go, starting with the most basic of approaches: telling you what the controls are.

From there, voice acting, and even a cinematic cutscene (this is a big deal, believe it or not), guide the player to a leveling experience that is far and away better than anything comparable that Word of Warcraft offers. From the absolute beauty of the zone itself to the varied tasks (which include rescuing people in a spider cave, killing bosses that taunt you verbally or appear physically imposing, and even, yes, killing a bunch of boars), Exile’s Reach gives you a crash course into what to expect throughout the world (of Warcaft).

All the little touches add up, pushing Exile’s Reach over the top for me personally. It introduces players to the concept of vendors. It encourages exploration, but it also reminds people that danger, not just treasure, is waiting behind every corner. Most importantly, it properly introduces people to what makes World of Warcraft so great from the very beginning.

World of Warcraft

Classically, there’s always been a lot of BS to put up with before you finally get the “good parts” of the game. Exile’s Reach throws you into one of the good parts within the first hour: a dungeon where you can kill gigantic ogres and a resurrected dragon. It’s a pretty awesome experience that, honestly, left me a little breathless (and this is partially because of how quick the whole experience is).

Yet the game isn’t afraid to keep you moving forward. New players will be taken straight to the Battle for Azeroth questing experience, while veterans will be told to visit Chromie, Blizzard’s favorite retconner, to travel back in time to the expansion of your choice.

No more guessing games, no more clueless adventuring, just moving forward with purpose and experiencing the content you want. The result is an incredibly enjoyable experience that has me itching to level a bunch of characters before Shadowlands officially launches.

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