ANAHEIM, CA--We got a taste of the new World of Warcraft expansion firsthand today at Blizzcon. In particular, we got to play around with the new Blood Elf starting area in Quel'thelas. As you can see from the screenshots, the art style of the new area and the elves themselves is very reminiscent of Teldrassil, the Night Elf starting area from the original World of Warcraft. The primary difference is that the weather in Quel'thelas seems sunnier and less dark than the skies of Teldrassil and Ashenvale, with more reddish and orange hues as opposed to a purplish tone. The area of Quel'thelas offers a lush, woodsy feel, with trees intermixed among the Blood Elf structures, some of which extend high up into the sky. The structures contain a lot of winding ramps and clickable portals to allow you to move around the high platforms. Six classes are available to the Blood Elves, including priests, mages, warlocks, warriors, hunters, and rogues. The latter two were unavailable for play at the show. We chose to be a warlock as we explored the new area.
One of the things we noticed about our warlock is that it possessed two spells that are not standard on any warlocks in the original World of Warcraft. One of these was mana tap, an instant cast buff that drains mana from an enemy target and imparts an arcane aura upon the caster. This aura can be stacked three times. The aura takes up a buff slot on your character and lasts 10 minutes, but it doesn't do anything by itself. The other new spell is called arcane torrent, and it's related to the arcane auras you can stack on yourself. When you cast this second spell, it consumes your auras, gives you back 12 to 140 mana points for each arcane aura you've stacked on yourself, and does a short area effect silence to casters standing near you. These two spells are racial abilities unique to Blood Elves. But remember that two of their available classes, warriors and rogues, do not use mana. So instead of gaining back mana, Blood Elf warriors will gain rage, and rogues will gain energy from using their racial traits.
It's worth noting that there are short cooldowns associated with both of the new spells, so they can't be spammed constantly. Aside from racial specializations, we took notice of some of the other details about the Blood Elves. Their dance is basically the Chubby Checker "Twist," much like John Travolta did in Pulp Fiction, sans the finger waving over their eyes. Surprisingly, the female Blood Elves do a very similar dance, though they also borrow some moves from the seductive Night Elf female dance.
If you've played World of Warcraft before, then you won't be very surprised at the sorts of starting quests you'll be asked to do, which include killing X number of Y creatures, and possibly returning Z number of items to quest givers. The first one sent us over to a nearby large green crystal, where we had to clear the area of eight ghostly, eel-like creatures. We were then asked to clear out the surrounding area of lynxes and collect some of their collars. Later on, we were asked to explore a mystical tower to the west of our starting town and clear it of wraiths that had overrun the winding ramps and platforms of the structure. Unfortunately, just as we were about to turn in the quest items and get more information on why the tower had been overrun by evil spirits, our time on the station ran out.
An encouraging sign we've seen is that the mobs we were fighting appear to be entirely new character models. The original World of Warcraft had a tendency to recycle basic character models (the Baron Geddon boss in Molten Core looks just like a bigger, orange version of the warlock voidwalker pet, for example). But we didn't see too much of this tendency in our brief taste of the Blood Elf area. The mobs we fought, including the mana eels and the wraiths, all seemed to be fresh character designs.
Blizzard's stated goal with the Blood Elves is to give the Horde side a more "attractive" (in appearance) race and starting area, which will hopefully help address population imbalances across the servers. What we've seen so far has been interesting, but we're definitely eager to learn more and to try the higher-end content available in the Burning Crusade expansion pack. Stay tuned to GameSpot for more details about the expansion pack as information becomes available.