WOW fires up the Burning Crusade

Blizzard officially announces expansion to World of Warcraft; level cap raised to 70, blood elves confirmed, social lives doomed; first screens inside

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ANAHEIM, California--On the question of expanding World of Warcraft, the question wasn't "if," it was "when." Said "when" was today. At BlizzCon, Blizzard Entertainment's annual expo, the VU Games-owned developer-publisher officially announced its immensely popular massively multiplayer role-playing game is getting an add-on.

As rumored, the new add-on will be titled The Burning Crusade, and it will chronicle "the Burning Legion's ongoing efforts to destroy life on Azeroth." In the expansion, players will be able to travel through the Dark Portal to take on the Legion on different planes.

WOW players who reached the coveted level 60, and thought their days of growing were over, might want to begin clearing their calendars. The Burning Crusade raises the maximum level to 70, and each class will be able to earn new talents, abilities, and spells.

Those who'd like to start from scratch will be able to do so with two new races. Confirming rumors, The Burning Crusade will introduce the magical blood elves. Appearing as lighter versions of the night elves, though with a penchant for red decor, blood elves are significantly more aesthetically appealing than their Horde brethren. Their inclusion supports rumors that they were designed to help balance out the imbalance between players assuming members of either the Horde or the Alliance, the latter of which is significantly more popular with players.

The official Web site also promised a new "as yet-unrevealed new race" for the Alliance. However, an image that was posted along with leaked photos of the blood elves showed a character-creation screen with a bear-humanoid pandaren on the Alliance side. Blizzard would not comment on the screen.

After being booted from the Alliance for tinkering with demonic practices, the blood elves joined up with the Horde to reach Outland. What's Outland you ask? Outland is the new region of the game, and it can only be reached by passing through the Dark Portal. The area is all that remains of Draenor, the orc homeland that now floats "upon the astral winds of the Twisting Nether."

New content won't be left solely to drifting chunks of Orcville. Azeroth will feature several new high-level dungeons, many new creatures (including "epic world bosses"), new quests, items, and the new profession of jewelcrafting. Flying mounts in Outland have also been included.

Blizzard has also launched the official Web site for The Burning Crusade, which features a trailer and more details on the game. No release date has yet been announced, but Blizzard hopes for a simultaneous worldwide release of the expansion.

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