I sure hope you like trolls, because Battle for Azeroth is full of the lanky buggers. I’ve been logging hours all week, questing through the new island of Zandalar with renewed enthusiasm. We’re now in week three of the expansion, and so much has already developed. I wish I could thoroughly explore all three zones here, but there’s not enough time in the day and not enough words on the page. Instead, I’ll run you through my personal highlights for each one. Read on whether you’re an old player on the fence or have never touched World of Warcraft in your life. This is a Horde perspective, and will contain spoilers.
This awe-inspiring jungle vista is the heart of the Zandalari empire and the Horde’s foothold in this new world. Steep cliffs teeming with pterodactyls, deep caves full of wealth and a storyline rich in political intrigue. That’s the last thing I’d have expected to find here, in this ancient settlement of a long forgotten people.
The Horde landed in Zuldazar at the behest of the king’s daughter, who believes a new relationship may be beneficial. Unfortunately for The Horde and Princess Talanji, the king’s advisors have other ideas and throw the mother of all coups right as you’re trying to earn their favour. It must be a nightmare to live here, considering the constant risk of death by fall damage.
Meanwhile, you’ll need to assist the Zandalari with recontacting the Loa. They are ancient spirits that defend the Zandalar and are revered as gods. It just so happens that they’re real and physical; not to mention happy to chomp down on a traitor or two. A lot of the region’s questlines focus on lending them a hand and earning their favour, all a means to an end as the Horde secure a new ally. There’s a Loa of the Sky, Loa of Kings, Loa of wisdom; basically they’re a dime a dozen as per usual in Warcraft lore.
My usual gripe with gods is that they’re a very serious bunch. Bwonsamdi, Loa of Death, is a pleasant exception. He’s got a dark sense of humour that somehow doesn’t stick out like a sore thumb. You first meet him during a time of desperate need. The King has been poisoned and is barely clinging to life, so you beseech the spirit of death to save his soul and save the empire. He agrees, of course, but sends you to do a few errands first. Bwonsamdi’s a refreshing little morsel on the very serious plate that is Zuldazar, and I’m glad that he’s a regular extra in the story.
A lot can change from one region to the next. The swampland and quagmires to the north are inhabited by a wide cast of baddies. Giant frogs, blood trolls, snake people and ancient unspeakable horrors. Word has reached the Zandalari capital that the hostile blood trolls inhabiting the region are practicing dark magic and attempting to summon up their own god, G’huun. Before the Cataclysm sent the area sinking into the sea, Nazmir was a lush forest and original capital of the empire. That doesn’t really excuse the blood trolls trying to bring about the end of the world.
Torga’s Rest is the very literal name for a questing area up in the north-east. Travelling there to seek the wisdom of Torga’s spirit, you instead find the ancient god’s corpse filled with cultists. The blood trolls are siphoning the powerful energy within the husk in an effort to fuel their evil-doings. It’s brilliantly written and enjoyable to play through, despite only being 5 or 6 quests long. Somehow, the spirit of Torga showing up to thank me for cleansing his body even tugged at my heartstrings a little. I guess whether we are man or ancient turtle spirit, nobody wants tusked cultists performing blood magic in our bellies.
If warmer, drier climates are what you seek – then Vol’Dun is the prime destination. The third segment of Zandalar I visited contained sandy ruins, sand, and enough snakefolk to cobble dogs with. Also a lot more sand, I can’t really overstate that. There’s a Zandalar general who, rumour has it, is plotting with the traitors against the king. To begin with, nobody knows exactly what he’s up to – but unravelling the puzzle is part of my task in Vol’Dun.
Vol’Dun is one of those regions with a self-contained story. The ending (which is great, and I won’t spoil) definitely spills over into the rest of Zandalar, but aside from that everything starts and finishes right there in the sands. Over the events of one region, I visited a temple where everyone was called Akunda, liberated a slave camp of a new (and adorable) race of fox-people, and I defended a long-lost faith against those who sought its destruction.
Ordinarily, World of Warcraft has a way of just throwing numbers and objectives in your face and sending you on auto-pilot. Here, I was reading every quest description and following everyone’s dramatic monologues closely. You pick up allies along the way and it all comes to a satisfying climax, after which I took on the final battle in the ‘Zandalar Forever’ scenario.
Zandalar is pretty great. You definitely get the sense that this is a newly discovered civilization. And you get the sense that it all could’ve gone downhill if The Horde hadn’t arrived in time. All the evil-slaying, spirit-saving and fun-having that the troll homeland has to offer is just one half of the fun revealed with the latest expansion. To the east, The Alliance are making their own moves to secure the pirate nations of Kul’Tiras; a totally separate island that will explore a lot more of the faction v faction conflict surrounding the mysterious Azerite. Before diving into that bloodshed, it’s been a great week questing through Zandalar; one that took me back to the WoW days of old. From here on out though, it’s all blood and thunder!