World of Warcraft has launched the Shadowlands pre-patch, and with it comes the brand new player experience and starter zone of Exile’s Reach. Here’s a quick review of what you can expect! Your journey as a new adventurer in Azeroth begins on a boat – you are part of a searching party that’s out to discover what’s happened to an expedition team from your faction that went missing on Exile’s Reach. This story is the same regardless of your faction, and while the characters are different, the flow and overall narrative is consistent. Right from the off you’ll be getting tutorial instructions on how to play the game – it’s basic and caters to MMO first timers, which is cool coming from WoW, so expect to get hit with a dose of modern-day WoW from here on out. Now I did this on two new characters and the entire new player experience on Exile’s Reach took about an hour to finish, and of course there are some conditions about who can get into the ER starter zone. If you are a new player on a new account starting with your first main character, then it’s non-negotiable, you will do ER and then the Battle for Azeroth straight after. For existing players, you will be given a choice of selecting which starter zone you want, unless you’re playing hero classes like demon hunters, death knights, or allied races which start at level 10 in your faction’s main city.
Once on the actual island the fun begins, as you slowly start exploring and questing to find members of the lost expedition, and it’s during this series of quests where you as a first timer in WoW will get a true taste of what the questing is like. You have hub crawls of course, that advances the narrative, moves you along further into the island and most importantly, teaches you the basics of playing your class, and Blizzard has localized the content to fit your chosen class. For example, I finished ER as an Alliance Rogue and a Horde Hunter, the voice-overs and instructions are tailor-made to what you’re playing.
And later on, one of the quests will give you a class skill too, and as a Rogue I learned Poison which is a class staple, so it’s imperative that you new folks try to finish every quest on the island and there isn’t many to begin with, so this shouldn’t be a problem. One of the most over-used kill quests in the history of MMOs is the let’s Kill X amounts of boars type of quest, and as an existing player doing Exile’s Reach for the first time, the moment I saw the boars I’m like okay, here we go again. But Blizzard had something else in mind, and you instead get to play around with a different quest mechanic of resizing boars instead of killing them, and that’s a fresh take on an old trope which is just an example here on Exile’s Reach of what WoW is doing to modernize the early experience, while at the same time, showcase to new players the quirky side of its questing mechanics, one that us existing players have been so familiar with since the beginning of WoW right up till today with World Quests and things like that.
There’s a few optional kill quests as well that shows you what group quests look like, and before you know it, you’re at the home-stretch, the Darkmaul Citadel Dungeon where you need to put an end to the threat on the island, and yes this is an actual dungeon that scales, teaches you about roles and if you’re on your own, it can be done solo. That pretty much is the flow that you can expect, and I have to say putting myself back into the mind-set of a new player, Exile’s Reach is fantastic. The pacing is good so you’re picking up levels and new class skills quick, and they also compliment the stage of questing you’re in, so you’ll feel like you have the tools to for job. I won’t touch on the story too much as I don’t want to spoil that for you but it’s decent, ties into what comes next nicely. As for other tangible benefits of the new starter zone, well you’ll get a free 10 slot bag through questing, and if you care about how you look, the entire Exile’s Reach quest chain will have you earning new equipment, and the full collection is a cool-looking transmog for your faction. This is neat because as a new player, back in my day, earning cool looking transmog pieces in your first 10 levels is unheard of. So this is nice, and a good incentive for existing players as well to do ER and grab the mog pieces.
Now once you’re done on Exile’s Reach, you will be level 10 and ported out to your faction’s main city, either Stormwind or Orgrimmar for a quick interlude. There will be series of tour quests showing you around and you’d better stick to it because you’ll be given a free level 10 mount and have the ability to purchase the first riding skill, but most importantly, the interlude ends with the beginning of WoW’s Battle for Azeroth expansion, which new players on new accounts are locked into, whereas existing players of course can choose where they want to level next.
In conclusion, Exile’s Reach I felt, was an amazing sample platter of what World of Warcraft is all about, and it’s a sufficient highlight reel of what the game has to offer in terms of gameplay mechanics, quirky questing, combat and story. If I had the chance to do Exile’s Reach when I first started, I would have taken it in a heart-beat – there’s less clutter, quicker time between levels as a new player and there’s so much less running around with one skill or just running around to be honest. However, if you feel like you’re missing out on the vanilla starter experience and want a taste of that, then you can always check that out on WoW Classic, which is included in your subscription, or, start another alt after your main and account has progressed further.