The Shadowlands pre-expansion patch has arrived and as foretold, World of Warcraft’s sixteen year history has been sliced up and stacked like a deck of cards, allowing players to level up to 50 via the expansion of their choice. Yet, Blizzard has also provided a way to experience the events of WoW in order, for those who did not play during the early years, or just want to revisit days past. The adventure does not start with Chromie, our time warping little friend. It does not start with the retail version of World of Warcraft. To truly begin your hero’s journey, you must install and play through World of Warcraft Classic.
Please note, however, Chromie’s time walking does not unlock until you have a character at level 50, so this is something to pursue after you complete your first Exile Reach and Battle for Azeroth play through.
The Burning Crusade Classic (TBC Classic) is free with a paid World of Warcraft subscription, and provides content for level 1 to 60. While the TBC Classic launch includes many life improvements, it is still not like the present day game. You will fight, flee, and die many times. Some quests require strategy or teaming with other players to complete. I happen to really enjoy the Classic versions. I find they provide a challenge lacking in the current game. For our purposes, they show Azeroth before Deathwing’s destructive return in Cataclysm. There are online guides to set you on the optimal leveling path. Rolling any of the Horde races will have you traversing lands impacted by the Cataclysm, particularly The Barrens, Thousand Needles, Silverpine Forest, and Hillsbrad Foothills. The dwarf and night elf starting zones offer a more stark contrast than the human areas, so even if you roll human, you may want to head to Darkshore, Loch Modan, and Ashenvale. Once in your 50s, quest through the Western and Eastern Plaguelands, to view the Lich King’s power at its peak.
You should be aware of your levels because once you hit 50, you are automatically kicked out of Chromie time. You have to temporarily turn off experience gain to prevent this from happening. For Horde, visit Slahtz in Orgrimmar, and for Alliance, Behsten in Stormwind. I suggest turning off experience at 45. At this level, Battle for Azeroth professional skills and food and drink become obtainable. This may change once Shadowlands is live.
After you complete TBC Classic, go to Chromie, and head off to the beautiful, treacherous lands of Northrend to face Wrath of the Lich King. Upon finishing WotLK, it is time to dive into Cataclysm. However, instead of going straight for the expansion zones, play through the low level areas you traversed in Classic. Click on the “Show Trivial Quests” function on the mini-map to see how the story and quests in these regions has changed. I recommend traveling to Badlands for the immensely educational quest, “The Day That Deathwing Came.” Likewise, a return trip through the Plaguelands shows a world healing from the Lich King’s grip, but not without lingering horrors.
Your journey follows a linear path after Cataclysm, through Mist of Pandaria, Warlords of Draenor, Legion, Battle for Azeroth, and, soon enough, Shadowlands. Remember to turn experience back on when you return to BfA.
This journey is not necessary to enjoy Shadowlands or the game, but for new players, it is a way to become immersed in Azeroth’s history. Yes, this will take time, but the game came out in 2004. It should take a while to experience and appreciate its history. Take the time. We seem to have plenty of it these days.
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