Since 2004, Blizzard has fought tooth and nail to keep players drawn to World of Warcraft and its many secrets that bind through Azeroth. Through new regions being unearthed and races coming to light, the MMORPG has continued to surprise us with each new expansion to the timeline. But while the likes of Shadowlands upscale the realm as we know it, some things never really do change in the smallest crevices of the overpowering world. Like the starting zones, for example.
Admittedly, World of Warcraft has ramped up its storytelling components as new races have been introduced to the fold. Cinematics have been laced between questlines, voice actors have started committing to their roles to a whole new degree — be it a cameo or a fully-fledged character, and the gameplay has evolved from mindless boar slaughtering to deeply immersive conquests.
With that in mind, we do have to give respect where it’s due. World of Warcraft has brought so many fascinating races to life through its starting zones, and, has ultimately forged the very bonds between ourselves and our characters for the long road ahead. However, we do think there are better places to embark from than others. But let’s just take it from the top.
6. Mulgore (Tauren)
Way back when World of Warcraft was still finding its feet as an MMORPG, starter zones never usually pushed past the boundaries of repetitive fetch quests and mindlessly butchering petty wildlife. The Tauren faction, although one of the most visually impressive races to kickstart your journey as, is probably the worst of the bunch overall. And while that may trigger a few Tauren fans out there, there is a genuine reason behind the placement on this list.
The bottom line is: Mulgore is dull and essentially a barren wasteland with very little to swing your jaw over. The quests are about as much fun as you’d expect from an MMORPG initiation sequence — only with half the plotline and double the monotony. And overall, as disappointing as it is — the entire first sixty minutes provides nothing more than an empty tour through some of the most underwhelming regions in Azeroth. And, you know, that’s disappointing for such a spectacular race.
5. Valley of Trials (Troll/Orc)
While The Valley of Trials was once celebrated for being a beacon of pride for the Horde and an overall centrepiece between sibling factions, the deserted canyon has since declined in our books as new races have settled into Azeroth. Of course, that isn’t to say that the Orc and Troll birthplace isn’t a decent place to uproot and branch out from. I mean, sure, the quests are a little fetchy and not a great deal different from the Mulgore chapter — but between the flaws lies a genuinely nostalgic feel — one of which we’re always hungry to revisit over and over again.
It’s fair to say that Orcs are pretty much the go-to race when it comes to pledging allegiance to the Horde. Not only are they fiercely intimidating, but also a well-rounded species that we’re automatically drawn towards from the get-go. And, luckily for us, The Valley of Trials is a true credit to the race and an overall bastion of joy that we’re always keen to represent, regardless of level or status.
4. Tirisfal Glades (Undead)
Because who doesn’t want to wallow in a graveyard for two hours, right? Thanks to Blizzard’s spin on the scourged, players have been able to descend into the realm of the undead and flip gravestones for well over a decade now. As one of the more distorted regions in World of Warcraft, Tirisfal Glades garners some of the bleakest backdrops and bone-shattering backstories you’ll ever have the pleasure of sinking into. And that’s exactly why we love it.
Unlike Mulgore or The Valley of Trials, Tirisfal Glades presents something a lot more unique with its opening segment. The hollow grounds are hauntingly picturesque, the quest chains are woefully wonderful, and the overall concept is truly fascinating, albeit incredibly mad. The undead are a humorous bunch at the best of times, and, despite their lack of vigour, their home still brews an impressive amount of life even after seventeen years. Now that’s impressive.
3. Eversong Woods (Blood Elf)
It’s true — when Burning Crusade filtered into Azeroth, everybody immediately leapt at the opportunity to become the next Blood Elf king of queenpin. Of course, it’s understandable, considering their bejewelled appearance and mysterious demeanour. That said, while the race as a whole is visually appealing to the naked eye — it’s still the starting zone that drives the species to admirable heights. Luckily for us, however, Eversong Woods is a perfect spot to procure such greatness.
As well as being an enchanting place to roam in general, Eversong Woods also unravels a pretty neat opening storyline. Sure, it’s essentially a clash of killing and fetching, as per the World of Warcraft norm — but the Blood Elf scripture is definitely a little more fleshed-out and more intriguing than others. Overall, the Blood Elf birthplace is a fascinating homestead that drools enchantment and storybook backdrops.
2. Wandering Isle (Pandaren)
When you think of portly panda monks in World of Warcraft — you’re likely going to picture mountaintop monasteries and karma wheels plastered left, right and centre. And while that is mostly true, the Pandaren faction is also one of the most riveting realms to enrol in. With a flurry of cinematics to absorb and a looming choice over which party you’ll side with — playing the beloved Pandaren quickly becomes the most exciting way to begin your conquest over Azeroth.
As well as boasting plenty of unique quests, the Wandering Isle also embellishes your journey with some truly remarkable views and historical landmarks to soak up. With lashings of Pandaren culture being sewn into every corner of the map, the cloudy metropolis reels us into its shrouded mysteries and lore. Combine that level of charm with a boatload of compelling consequences that hang over your every move — and you’ve got yourself a truly incredible opener.
1. Kezan (Goblin)
Unlike the other Horde factions, the Goblin race introduces a level of madness that immediately draws us into its origins. From the moment we fill the shoes of our mischievous little friend, Kezan opens up to a jam-packed environment where the locals beckon you to find your place among the wacky townsfolk. Kezan, although rather heavy on the eyes at times thanks to the looping highways and steampunk setting, is perhaps the best place to call home in the whole of Azeroth.
As far as quest chains go — Kezan definitely presents one of the more compelling tales that wallow in the ever-changing world. The senseless killing and fetch quests are trimmed down to pint-size tasks, and the overall concept is far more entertaining than your everyday grind. All in all, the Goblin faction, although totally insane, is perhaps the most attractive community to absorb. In fact, if given the choice — we’d be more than happy spending our first twenty levels roaming the ashen city. Well played, Blizzard. Well played.