Hands On: WoW: Burning Crusade - The Dranei
Players: 1+ Player Game | Genre: MMO
The Dranei have been referred to as the most improbable and least attractive Alliance race. Why improbable? Well, much hay has been made in forums about their alien origins and their capital city is, yes, a giant crashed spaceship. On the physical beauty side, even with blue skin and tails, I think this new class will be winning beauty contests long before the gnomes will, but that's because no one likes the gnomes, not even their fellow ankle-biters. The Dranei aren't really new in the Warcraft universe, but like their counter-parts, the Blood Elves, they are new to WoW. The Blood Elves are the Horde race and where the Dranei are lumpy, blue and good, the Blood Elves are slender, attractive, and the only genuinely evil race in the game.
The Dranei storyline focuses on healing the new land they've crashed into of the Scourge's poison, and they attend to this duty with a nobility lacking in even in their human counterparts. You won't hear platitudes like "Be kind to those less fortunate" from General Marcus in Stormwind. This is in stark contrast to the Blood Elves, where you're likely to hear such future Hallmark slogans as: "Death to all who oppose us." So where one race is earnestly endeavoring to cleanse the land and restore Nature; the other is simply focused on ethnically cleansing it of anyone who doesn't look like an A&F model.
The Dranei lowbie zone of Azuremyst Isle is better than the starting lands of most other Alliance areas. (It won't hold a candle to the Blood Elf zones, but that's another review.) From geographic and environmental variety to normally throwaway ambience like background music, Azuremyst and it's big brother island of Bloodmyst are really well done. There's a fair number of quests to get you going and leveled at a good pace, but again, this too, pales compared to the BE starting area. Most of your quests are the standard fare, tailored to your racial sensitivities: kill XX of this mob, collect XX of these items, be a good boy and take this note to so-and-so and wait for further instructions. I don't fault Blizz for this; the nature of the game really closes off a lot of quest avenues other MMOs don't have to concern themselves with.
As a new race, you expect some unique new characteristics. Firstly, you can now play as a Shaman. Conversely, the Blood Elves can select a Paladin class, which truly equalizes the class choices for each side. Totems for the Dranei shamans fit in with the whole "we're aliens" theme; they have a futuristic look to them with an orbiting ticker of neat little alien glyphs. Any party with a Dranei in its ranks also receives a proximity bonus +1% chance to hit and the Dranei all have the Gift of Naaruu spell, a massive healing one-shot that increases with rank. The Dranei also have arguably the coolest mount in game now: a giant war elephant. Did I mention Dranei have tails? Well they do.
A massive underground spacecraft serves as the Dranei capital, and I must admit, it's gorgeous inside. It's also eerily reminiscent of the alien mothership at the end of the Abyss, although I haven't found any of Blizz's sly signature pop culture refs to this fact yet. Anyway, the city is really beautiful as my screenies can attest.
The Dranei starting world is really well done, but like I said earlier, not as fully realized or breathtaking as the Blood Elf zones. As a BE, you'll also have about twice the quests to do, which makes leveling in their world considerably brisker. My only real beef with both these new worlds is with the mobs. There are a few new monster models for each zone, but overall, you'll be battling the same mobs you've seen before at higher levels in Regular WoW. For someone arriving completely new to the game and who just happens to start as a new race, I can almost hear the sighs of disappontment when they battle all the same monsters at 55 they saw at 5. For all the work Blizz has put into the expansion, the exclusion of a significant roster of new monsters is a glaring oversight.
None of this is enough to keep anyone who regularly plays the game from purchasing the expansion though. It's been a helluva long wait, but really, they don't call it Warcrack for nothing. Gentleman and ladies, watch what remains of your lives get sucked away.