It’s getting better all the time.
Altogether, the GR staff has played World of Warcraft for something like two real-time months. Whenever one of us gets up the nerve to type the increasingly frightening “/played” command (which tells you exactly how long you’ve played your active character), there’s always a commotion, followed by fainting, and then the inexorable, “What am I doing with my life?”
Fortunately, we provide our own vicious cycle, er, support group, keeping ourselves hard at play with words of encouragement like “Dude, no one else can make water. Stop crying, it’s only a game! It’s ONLY A GAME!”
There has always been a strong sense of confidence around here that what we were doing was somehow related to work, and that eventually Blizzard would prove us right with a nice, juicy expansion pack. Well, lo and behold, that’s exactly what they showed us at E3. While much of the new content appears to be directed at higher level gamers, The Burning Crusade won’t leave lowbies hanging. Two new playable races, a new profession and a bevy of new skills and talents should please loyal legions and incoming players alike.
[image1]The new races share an interesting thread in that their racial abilities depend on their class. Blood Elf mages, priests, warlocks, and hunters get Mana Tap, allowing them to drain mana from up to three targets. Blood Elf rogues, on the other hand, get Energy Tap, and the warriors get Rage Tap. It’s basically the same ability, but made useful regardless of class. The Draenei, on the other hand, have a racial aura that gives a one percent chance to hit with melee if you are a paladin, hunter or a warrior. That aura then changes to a one percent chance to hit with spells if you are a mage or a priest.
Additionally, both have a second racial ability that levels alongside the character. Blood Elves get an area-of-effect Silence spell that’s particularly interesting because it works in tandem with their Mana Tap. If a Blood Elf Mana Taps an enemy, the Elf gets a counter. When the Elf uses the Silence talent, this counter is essentially cashed in for energy, mana or rage. The elf can store up to three counters, potentially doubling or tripling the energy, mana, or rage received when the area of effect is used, making them a great anti-caster race. The Draenei, meanwhile, get a heal-over-time that can be cast on anyone. We can’t wait to spam Draenei warriors with “HEAL PLZ KK THX.”
Both new races have their own starting and mid-level areas, giving incoming, casual, and re-rolling players new areas to explore. Each of these are large, and coupled with the new high level Outlands zone, there should be another continent's worth of land to explore.
While the Outlands map doesn’t look that big at first glance, the inclusion of flying mounts allowed the developers to build vertically. There are ominous floating islands littering the skies that will only be accessible to those with the fanciest fantasy vehicles. The only winged mount we saw with our own eyes was the Undead black drake, which looked amazing. We can only guess at the others, but we can’t wait to see the already ambiguously gay Night Elves on winged panthers. Mrawr.
[image2]At least one new battleground will be introduced, and evidently there will be new quest-based incentives for world PvP. As if terrorizing Tarren Mill weren’t reward enough, you might now get experience and items for it. Get your noob hammer ready.
The new profession, Jewelcrafting, will grant its practitioners the ability to make rings, trinkets, necklaces, and uber fist weapons (never thought I’d see those three words together); but most importantly, jewel smiths will be able to craft jewels for insertion into socketed gear. Some epics we saw at E3 had up to three open jewel slots.
Jewel stat buffs, like jewels themselves, will come in every imaginable size and shape. From what we were told, if it can be enhanced, there will be a jewel that can enhance it. So you might put a shadow resist jewel, a critical hit jewel, and a stamina jewel on a weapon, and still have room for an enchant. Jewels also come in different colors, and we’ve been told matching colors will give extra bonuses. You’ll never be able to recover a jewel used on an item, although you will be able to add new ones in place of old ones at any time.
To go with our fancy new jewels, Blizzard assured us each class would get brand new skills and talents, including 41 point talents for every single talent tree. Commence drooling, and don’t stop until you get your hands on World of Warcraft: The Burning Crusade. We don’t know how much it will cost or how it will be distributed, only that Blizzard is gearing up to WoW us again sometime toward the end of 2006.