Well, the imminent Gamescom expansion announcement has blown the wind of out of my sails (pun not intended). I was 90% certain we’d see the reveal at BlizzCon, and thought I’d have several months to outline Age of Azshara before the real expansion was announced. I guess we’ll see what the expansion is, and if its similar enough to this I might as well stop. Until then, though, here’s a list of the zones in Age of Azshara and their backgrounds.
The Broken Isles (1-12) – Several months before the raising of the seafloor around the Maelstrom, Azshara has unleashed her newest creation: “Shorestalkers,” naga whose legs have been magically restored to serve as the front line in her invasion of the surface. Upon meeting Alliance and Horde scouting parties and discovering that Azshara has made a new ally out of Gul’dan, the Shorestalkers will begin to question their loyalty to Azshara…
Notes: This is the playable naga’s starting zone. It reflects the Broken Isles as they appeared in WarCraft III, as an actual risen island chain. At the end of the starting experience, Azshara and Gul’dan raise the land around the Maelstrom, transforming the Broken Isles into the level 105-107 zone Suramar.
Kul Tiras (100-102) – The battered island nation of Kul Tiras has kept to themselves ever since their Grand Admiral’s death following the Third War. Feeling that the Alliance turned their backs on them by attempting peace with the Horde, the Tirasians sought no aid during their succession crisis, or when the Cataclysm nearly destroyed their island home. Only now have they finally called out for help, as legions of naga threaten to overtake them. Jaina Proudmoore has traveled to Kul Tiras in an attempt to mend fences between her people and the rest of the Alliance. However the people of Kul Tiras are slow to regain trust, and not all of them are fond of this renewed partnership…
Notes: After Mists of Pandaria gave characters from Lordaeron German accents (in Scholomance and the Scarlet Monastery instances), I felt it would be interesting to give Kul Tiras a cultural flare as well. Kul Tiras is heavily inspired by Spain in their age of sea-fairing colonialism. The zone itself resembles the Mediterranean coastline in terms of geography and architecture, while Tirasian culture has a Spanish tinge. For example, one of the most important (friendly?) groups in the zone are a faction called the Conquistadors. This zone contains the Crestfall Cistern dungeon.
Kezan (100-102) – Mount Kajaro’s eruption during the Cataclysm forced the goblins to evacuate their homeland in mass, leaving the isle abandoned for several years. Kajaro has finally gone dormant once more, and the Cartels have begun to return and reclaim their old holdings. Trade Prince Gallywix has a plan, to capture Undermine before any other Cartel and declare himself Trade King of all goblins. Seeing Kezan as an excellent staging ground against the naga, the Horde has given him full backing in this endeavor. But there is trouble lurking in Kezan. The Venture Company has been bought out by Azshara, who is seeking something deep within Undermine…
Notes: Kezan’s environments range from destroyed goblin cities covered in dried lava to pollution scarred wastelands. It’s a very “urban” themed zone, except for all the lava and remnants of explosions. The most impressive of Kezan’s features is the Uberzepplin, Gallywix’s personal flying fortress and the Horde’s capital city for the expansion. It is shot down by the Venture Co. at the start of questing, but is rebuilt as the player levels. This zone contains the Undermine dungeon.
Plunder Isle (102-103) – Naval fleets sent by the Alliance and Horde to combat Azshara are facing constant attacks by the pirates of Plunder Isle. With its sheer cliff walls leaving them safe from the naga, the Bloodsail Buccaneers have rallied pirates from all of Azeroth to take advantage of the increased ship traffic and treasures freshly risen from the seafloor. Baron Revilgaz and the Blackwater Raiders have come to end the Bloodsails once as for all, but Plunder Isle is a deadly land. Aside from the countless pirates, the jungles are stalked by trolls, mur’gul, giant parrots, zombys, and even strange banana-men.
Notes: Plunder Isle is basically Pirates of the Caribbean, the zone. Dense jungle, pirate shantytowns, Haitian-style voodoo zombies (called zombys to distinguish them from the undead variety) and hidden treasures. It’s a “filler zone,” of sorts, with little to no naga involvement so as to prevent any Warlords of Draenor type “naga fatigue.” This zone contains the Bloodsail Hold dungeon.
Tidemarch (103-105) – The staging ground for Azshara’s invasion of the surface, Tidemarch is a constant reminder of how devastating the raising of the Maelstrom has been. Sunken ships, drowning sea life, volcanic trenches and dead reefs dot the landscape. Even the life that has survived has been left in a precarious position as Tidemarch has become the main battlefield for the Alliance and Horde against the naga.
Notes: Sort of a Vashj’ir but above the surface type zone. Tidemarch has many sub areas meant to represent different types of deep sea environments, like the Drowned Reaches, where pirates are looting the hundreds of sunken ships, or the Boiling Terrace, filled with volcanic black smokers. Most of the more aquatic based new creatures in Age of Azshara first appear in this zone, such as the merren and cephalari. This zone contains the Abyssal Maw raid.
Suramar (105-107) – Suramar has born witness to many history changing events. It was the birthplace of Tyrande Whisperwind, Malfurion, and Illidan Stormrage. It later came to house the defeated Avatar of Sargeras, and later still became the site of Gul’dan’s death and where Maieve Shadowsong’s thirst for vengeance began to overtake her. Today, the Gul’dan of Draenor seeks to reopen the Tomb of Sargeras and resurrect the Avatar inside. Khadgar, Yrel, and Grommash Hellscream have traveled here to put an end to Gul’dan once and for all, but Gul’dan has made a tenuous alliance with the naga. In exchange for their help, he has transformed portions of Azshara’s forces into fel-corrupted monstrosities…
Notes: Another zone meant to give a break from pure underwater/naga themes. Suramar is the “tie into Warlords of Draenor since its supposed to lead into the next expansion” zone. Grommash’s apperance is very important to the storyline, as it helps give him an actual redemption story and show he regrets his actions as Warchief of the Iron Horde, thus making his out of nowhere being forgiven in 6.2. a little more tolerable. This zone contains the Izal-Shurah and Felscale Fortress dungeons, and the Tomb of Sargeras raid.
The Black Forest (107-109) – This twisted, dreamlike forest was not raised from the seafloor. It merely appeared, fully formed, in an instant. The druids of the Cenarion Circle believe this forest is a portion of the Emerald Dream, tainted by the Nightmare and somehow made manifest in Azeroth. The naga are searching for something in its pitch black glades, while feral worgen and formless beings of pure nightmare stalk the woods. What interest does Azshara have in the Emerald Dream, or this corrupted mirror of it? And who is the mysterious figure leading the worgen here, a being calling itself “the Nightmare Lord?”
Notes: Much like Mount Hyjal in Cataclysm, the Black Forest serves as the setting and driving force of the first raid patch for Age of Azshara, with its current leveling quests setting up those events. Worgen finally get thrown a bone (pun fully intended) here, as they have a large role in the zone’s storyline. Alpha Prime is back (spoiler alert: as the new Nightmare Lord), his spirit tied to the Emerald Nightmare, and working as Azshara’s liaison to N’Zoth. This zone contains the Black Rook Hold dungeon.
Wavebreached Expanse (108-110) – Once known as the Scintal Reef, the largest collection of living beings in all of Azeroth, this area was hit hardest by the raising of the Maelstrom. Most of the reef is dead, while great naga forges, warcamps, and strongholds occupy what is left. The naga have built pumping stations across the expanse, which they use to ensure what little water remains goes only to those who pledge their loyalty to Azshara.
Notes: When thinking on the concepts for Age of Azshara, I remembered that Coilfang Reservoir in Zangarmarsh showed that the naga are actually a really technologically advanced civilization by Warcraft standards. Aside from being one of the reasons I thought tinkers would be a good class for the expansion, it also inspired this zone. It highlights the technological power of the naga and shows their enslavement of many other races, who might have been our allies otherwise. As the final zone in the leveling path, it contains a major story revelation. Here players learn why Azshara has raised the land around the Maelstrom, and what she has been searching for. This zone contains the Mak’aru and Vault of Ageon dungeons.
Nazjatar (110+) – The great city of Nazjatar now stands proudly above the waves once more, a testament to Azshara’s power and glory. Her Eternal Palace dominates the horizon while the naga’s greatest champions prepare for a full invasion of the surface. The city is too well guarded for the Alliance and Horde to hope to launch a direct assault. Instead, strike teams and scouts courtesy of SI:7 and the Siame-Quashi are their only chance at toppling Azshara’s stronghold.
Notes: While every zone in Age of Azshara would have level 110 content, I really liked the idea of having a main endgame-only zone at launch like the Vale of Eternal Blossoms (or Tanaan Jungle for 6.2., which due to its size feels less like a patch zone and more like the aforementioned vale). Gameplay would revolve around assaulting different portions of the city each day to keep things interesting. This zone contains the Eternal Palace raid.
Tel’Abim (World PVP) – Tel’Abim is known for one thing only: bananas. Lots of bananas, enough to feed an entire army. In desperate need of resources for the battle with Azshara, the Alliance and Horde have both attempted to claim the island. Unfortunately, the island isn’t large enough to supply enough for both factions, and old hatreds rise to a boiling point…
Notes: World PVP, sort of a mixture of Ashran and Wintergrasp. Each faction has its own large base, and the objective is to conquer the enemies’ base. There’s also the Venture Co. Banana Processing Plant, which can be captured with siege weaponry and provides a strong bonus to the faction who controls it.
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