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The Barrens (27/8/10)

We’ve all heard a whole lot about the Barrens, the zone now famous for low brow general chat. It is home to internet-wide memes about Chuck Norris, Justin Bieber and your mother. It has also long been a dreary level 12 through 20 grind for Horde, but now the Barrens is split into two zones; Northern and Southern Barrens.

The Northern Barrens (Bieber Barrens) is a familiar early levelling zone for the Horde. Here you will find many of the old quests from the barrens, though many of them have been altered to fit within the new area limits; as well as new quests that explain or point you in the direction of new quest hubs.

An early escort quest is a fine example of this and has you playing kodo stage coach quite literally riding shotgun and clearing out Quill Boar as they attack your caravan that is making its way toward your first major quest hub at Grol’Dom farm.

So Northern Barrens is lightly touched with the developer’s +1 mace of destruction. The Crossroads is still there as one of the more significant quest hubs and other than a couple of changes to the story of the zone you can by and large expect the same Barrens experience.

The Southern Barrens (Norris Barrens) is where the major content changes happen. Think back to the original map of the Barrens. Now, there is a molten tear in the earth that stretches from Honour’s Stand to just north of Northwatch Hold. Those of you unfamiliar with the map: Just think “the middle.” Everything below this Magma-Dixon line is around the 30 to 35 level range.

From the moment you make your way across the chasm, the large ecological shift affecting the area is visible. Instead of dull, dry plains you find yourself in a verdant green area flush with new life both aggressive and benign. Called the Overgrowth you can find both Horde and Alliance camps, the first sign of what is to come in the rest of the Southern Barrens: War.

As you push down the zone things start to look slightly familiar; thunder lizards still rumble across the fields and the Quilboar still hold a large chunk of land. And someone’s been teaching the damned things: They’ve up skilled into more defensive structures.

Camp Taurajo has been attacked and looted and there is no rest to be found in the inn as the remnant of the attackers can be found burning what little there is left. Take the road west towards Mulgore, the Tauren starting zone, and you will see a large fortified wooden gate blocking your way. Tauren city planners... “They burnt down Taurajo! Quick, deploy the wooden gate!”

Heading further South I find something I am genuinely excited about. What starts as another, smaller, chasm slowly opens to become an undulating, chaotic battleground known as the Battlescar. Each lip of this scar is home to a newly erected base for the warring factions while the middle ground is littered with burning war machines and battling Alliance and Horde soldiers.

What the actual strategic advantage of this broken earth is I am not yet sure but that doesn’t stop me from landing in the middle and taking on all comers. I have always loved world PvP and though I hope this area isn’t going to be another poor attempt to force the issue, I can see it becoming a no-go for people of the appropriate level as bored 85s hang around making life hard for everyone.

Continuing the war theme, Northwatch Hold on the east coast is now under siege. Spread out before the Hold’s near-ruined fortifications are multiple Horde siege camps and a pair of ships loaded with soldiers.

Finally, down in the southernmost reaches, the Razorfen compound – home to the dungeons of Razorfen Downs and Kraul – have forced their way out, nearly engulfing the road leading to The Thousand Needles in the large thorny vines so prominent in Quilboar architecture today.

The general theme of Southern Barrens appears to be the escalating struggle between Horde and Alliance forces and the encroaching menace of the Quilboar.

Add to that the forced world PvP and I can easily see Barrens and the associated general chat reclaiming its place in the annals of Warcraft.

If there’s anything you’d like to hear about, just let us know in the comments and we’ll bring back whatever information we can, testing conditions pending, obviously!

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

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