Continuing my foray into exploring all of the starter zones in our beloved game, I next took the form of a species that have been vilified throughout the galaxy, including by me. I have never liked the Draenei. Perhaps it was because they exposed my beloved Shaman class to the filthy Alliance; or perhaps it was because, like the cursed Naaru they hold so dear, the Draenei are just so disgustingly warm and fuzzy. They are probably the race I have despised the most as a WoW player, and I have always paid extra attention to hunting them down in the battlegrounds. I have been known to have abandoned key objectives and lost the Horde a battle, purely because I saw a Draenei Shaman nearby and wanted to kill it in the face. So in rolling one of the hooved blueskins I was committing a kind of personal treason. I was also about to find out that I may have been wrong about the Draenei…
Enter Eruditia, the Draenei Mage. Stepping out of my crashed escape pod, I am immediately stuck by the beauty of my surroundings. Looking around the misty forest I have found myself in, I find myself looking at the most beautiful starting area I have ever seen. The landscape has a slightly mystical feel to it, possibly because of the blue-green hues that subtly coat the landscape. Everything about Azuremyst Isle, with its rugged waterfalls and enchanted moths, not to mention the soul-stirring background music, all evokes a forgotten wonderland. Well, forgotten that is until the Draenei pilot pressed the wrong button! The smoking pink-crystal wreckage of our vessel stains the surrounding area, creating an exciting contrast to the sleepy woodland. It’s then that I notice a wounded colleague beside me and my adventure begins.
My first quest is one that is now all-too familiar to me: exterminate the local wildlife. The quest-giver states that “killing is not the Draenei way” but apparently on this occasion we have no choice due to our dire circumstances. I’m noticing that this kind of hypocrisy seems to be a common theme for the goody-two-shoes Alliance races. “Oh yes, we’re SUPER nice and friendly, we’re SO spiritual and kind…… except when the chips are down, and then we will kill ANYTHING who gets in our way, especially if it’s a kitten!”
However, to be fair the Draenei are not too bad in this regard. Once the perfunctory maiming and killing of local fauna is out of the way, a defined story comes together as I help my fellow survivors of the crash. My objectives are pretty simple: first help any injured crew-members I can find, and secondly to reverse the damage that the radiation from our ship has done to the environment of Azuremyst Isle. This second mission actually proves to lessen my cynicism and soon I am capturing some mutated monstrosities for study. Imagine my delight when it turns out that these abominations can be cured of their mutation and turn back into cute little bunnies! Maybe the Draenei aren’t so bad after all?
Moving on, the plot thickens as I try to help an attractive Draenei technician at the crash-site repair her communications device and send out an SOS. This has me wandering all around the crash-site, recovering items and also curing some other beasties who’s biology has been messed around with by our mad-space technology. I am starting to wonder who invented all this wildlife-corrupting technology in the first place, but I try to ignore this worrying detail. The quests had a very nice organic explorer feeling to them, similar to the Night Elf area. Then things got really interesting when my efforts were hampered by the appearance of a familiar enemy… Blood Elves.
At first I am bewildered as to what Blood Elves would be doing so far away from home, but then it all becomes clear. The Draenei fled Outland in the Exodar under attack from the forces of Kael’thas. These Blood Elves I now face have been sent by good ol’ KT to finish the job. Resetting my mind back into where the plot was in the early Burning Crusade era, I am pleased to be involved in the larger storyline so quickly. After all, the events unfolding here at these low levels will go on to expand into some seriously large plot points that affect the whole of Azeroth and Outland.
So I dispatch the Blood Elves with a few choice fireballs and finish repairing the communications device for the technician lady. This allows us to communicate with some of our fellow Draenei who have it seems have made a base camp to the north. I have to say that there was one thing really bugging me about the Draenei here, and that is that their space-goat technology really jars with the typical Warcraft feel. Of course, this is a criticism many have made, but you really see the worst of it in the Draenei early levels. Naaru space trans-dimensional ships I could swallow because they were all crystalline and magical, but here in Azuremyst the Draenei are using holographic communications devices to chat to each other. It was all far too Star Trek for my liking. I kept expecting the Draenei guards to set their phasers to stun…
So, having done my work at the crash-site, I moved on to the next questing area: Azure Watch. This makeshift camp proved to be a great quest hub that kept me busy for many hours with some fantastic quests. Before I get onto the good, let me touch on the bad. One quest that I refused to do was for a hunter who wanted me to kill off the Stags which wandered the nearby forest. Ah, the old kill-defenseless-animals questlines return! Seriously, I’m surprised DEHTA hasn’t nuked every Alliance starting zone from orbit by now. The stags were beautiful, majestic creatures and I found myself completely unable to harm them. So instead I spent quite some time using my emotes to insult the callous quest-giver in Eruditia’s best faux-Russian (and I must say Russian is a most satisfying accent to insult people in!).
However the other quests at Azure Watch were a lot of good fun. One long quest chain involved me helping an injured Night Elf we discovered and then making contact with a nearby Alliance campsite. It seems these Alliance ships had been marooned here by Goblins and we become makeshift allies to deal with our respective problems. This is a very nice touch, as the key moments when the Draenei become involved with the Alliance are enacted by the player. This was brilliant stuff that presumably laid the foundations for the narrative Death Knight starting zone in Wrath. It’s also worth noting that before the Alliance would help us, my first step was to prove to them that the Draenei were nothing like their evil cousins the Eredar. Lots of bonus points for going into detailed lore background there!
However the Alliance questline paled in comparison to the next one I discovered, which involved helping the Draenei make contact with the Furbolg tribes native to Azuremyst. This involved me finding magical means to understand their language, which led me on a fantastic quest all over the island. I hunted down mystical totems of the Furbolg Shamans, each of which put me in communion with the ancestral spirits the Furbolg worshipped and magically transformed me into a variety of cool creatures. This involved some awesome and extremely pretty phasing technology, allowing me to travel the island as a spirit-panther. Not only was this extremely cool, but the Shaman in me rejoiced at this extremely fun questline. Helping the Furbolg evolved into a diverse and thrilling quest-chain, the end of which I won’t spoil for you, but it’s a good story!
By the time I completed the Furbolg quest-chain I was well into level 10 and had completed my sight-seeing goals. However there was still much more to be done, and I hadn’t even ventured onto the neighbouring Bloodmyst Isle that I could so tantalising see across the water. I logged off feeling contented, but eager to see more!
Final Thoughts: I have to admit it, I like the Draenei a lot more now! This is hands-down the best starting area I have ever played, with the possible exception of the Death Knight starting area which came much later. The zone has it all, beautiful evocative atmosphere, fun engaging questlines that link directly into the larger plot of the game, and it firmly puts you in the driving seat as the hero of your people and saviour of anthropomorphic peoples everywhere! I still think the Draenei are stuck-up holier-than-thou types, but I’ve also seen a heroic noble side to them that I kind of love. Plus who can resist the comedy Russian vibe? I will definitely be logging on Eruditia again to finish exploring this magical lost world!
Final Score: 9/10