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Gilneas (8/7/10)

The word of the day is phasing. The technology introduced to World of Warcraft in the second and most recent expansion, The Wrath of the Lich King, plays a significant roll in both the Goblin and Worgen starting zones.

As I write, the starting areas are being tinkered with to balance the experience gained for the zones - they are expected to guide players from level 1 to level 12, before dispatching them into more mainstream areas.

Both races start in a zone that takes them from 1 to around 7. These early levels are heavily phased.

The Worgen introduction begins years in the past, when the Greymane Wall was first closed. A little lore for the uninitiated: The kingdom of Gilneas was a member of the Alliance during the Second War. At the conclusion of that conflict, King Greymane decided that the Alliance needed Gilneas more than Gilneas needed the Alliance and chose to seal his kingdom behind the Greymane Wall, a foreboding barrier at the southern end of Silverpine forest that has remained closed ever since.

So, you begin as a human. Over the course of these early levels, you’re treated to a plotted history as to how Gilneas succumbed to the Worgen epidemic. The story itself is a grim tale of desperation that culminates with a present attack by the Forsaken, led by Lady Sylvanas.

Heading out on my first Worgen quest I walked perhaps 100 yards to find a body. After inspecting and completing the first hand in the entire area changed. Where before stood an army preparing to defend the city, now there is all out chaos as soldiers fend off bestial Worgen attacking from the rooftops. As I make my way through the city completing context-heavy quests, the areas behind me constantly change as the Worgen overrun more of the city and we’re are driven to the outer farmlands to regroup.

Now, compare that to the “vanilla” levelling zones filled with dry “kill X of Y" or "collect A of B” stodge and you’ll discover that Blizzard’s liberal use of phasing technology breathes some much needed life into the tired and routine early levelling zones.

Gilneas itself is a brooding and grim setting, perfectly suited to the Worgen and the fictional cues that inform them. The city is composed of tall, overbearing almost Edwardian houses and damp, narrow, cobbled streets lit by meek lanterns peeping through the fog; towering gothic architecture replete with flying buttresses and steep, shingled roofs.

The second Gilnean area is much broader with its dark and haunted forests, abandoned towns and windswept, winding mountain paths – somewhere between the Brothers Grimm and Bram Stoker.

Across these areas you’ll be tasked by the standard quest hub setup but the quests themselves frequently incorporate what Blizzard is starting to use to good (better) effect: cut scenes and vehicles.

For example, in the quest “You can’t take ‘em alone” you will be asked to kill Forsaken abominations with the help of a friendly NPC. Your job here is to find barrels of gunpowder and throw them at the abominations. Once you’ve crowned your target with the barrel a panning cut scene shows the NPC taking aim and firing. You watch on as the bullet finds its mark and the abomination explodes. Good times.

Next up, Goblins. ‘Til then.

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Click through the pages below to find earlier entries in Gameplanet's Cataclysm beta Diary.

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