Having seen the majority of the content in Burning Crusade, I think I can now state that it is one of the more interesting and original fantasy worlds in recent years. They're moving away from traditional Tolkien-ripoff fantasy with plots about elves, dwarves, and a hundred Goddamned dragons and going more towards a trans-dimensional conflict that has a very science-fictional feel at times.
For those that don't follow the Warcraft story: it was revealed in Warcraft III that the Orcish invasion of Azeroth through the Dark Portal was the result of the machinations of the Burning Legion, an army of demons working for the corrupted creator-titan Sargeras. In Warcraft III, they begin the next phase of their invasion, creating the Undead Scourge to soften up the opposition and then finally coming to Azeroth in person and just ruining shit. Fortunately, with the help of the overly popular Night Elves, they were defeated.
The majority of the plots in World of Warcraft dealt with comparatively conventional threats: dragons, undead, elemental lords, evil dwarves and trolls, etc., etc. But the Dark Portal, after it was reopened in Warcraft III, never really closed. So Burning Crusade takes WoW through the Dark Portal, to the Orcish homeworld of Draenor, now shattered and crumbling from demonic corruption and various magical explosions, and simply called the Outland. It is an opportunity to fight the Burning Legion on their own turf, to assault their advance positions and maybe begin to figure out a way to take the fight to them. Blizzard's been hinting that a lot of the Warcraft plot from now on is going to involve fighting the Legion across dimensions and worlds (there is little distinction between the two in the Warcraft universe), so, as weird as Outland is, it's only going to get weirder.
I hit level 70 (the new level cap) and got my flying mount a few weeks back, and I realized that I could basically just fly around and take pictures. Therefore, this is a first part of a series documenting the more interesting parts of Outland. With pretty pictures!
The Dark Portal, entrance to Outland, as viewed from Azeroth-side. By the time I got there on the day of the release there had already apparently been a massive battle. There weren't many people there, but that entire ramp was littered with corpses.
The Dark Portal, Outland-side. Hellfire Peninsula, the first zone, resembles what Outland looked like as of Warcraft III. When you first come through the portal, you enter onto the Stair of Destiny, a sanctuary where Alliance and Horde cannot attack each other. Not that we would've, back then, there was a definite air of camaraderie, both sides working together to help fight the Legion rather than senselessly fighting each other. Of course, the peace didn't last long. But between that and the dozens of people all questing at the same time, it felt like the momentous event it was intended to be, the heroes of Azeroth gathered in one place to fight side by side. Everybody was a newbie again.
Just at the base of the Stair of Destiny, a massive battle rages between the forces of Azeroth and the Burning Legion. Since the way forward is blocked by ridiculously high-level demons, you have to take the flight path around rather than walk to your next destination.
Thrallmar, first outpost of the Horde in Outland. Note the sky: those beams of light crossing it are the Twisting Nether, the dimension that connects the worlds together. The fact that it's visible here would seem to be a bad sign; the barriers between Draenor and the Great Dark are collapsing. I can't exactly go pay a visit to Thrallmar, seeing as how it's Horde territory and all; shortly after taking this picture I got shot down by a patrolling bat rider. It hurt.
Honor Hold, fortification of the Alliance Expeditionary Force that went through the Dark Portal in Warcraft II. Many important NPCs from that game are here. I never played anything except Warcraft III, so I'll just have to take everybody else's word on that. Periodically Infernals fall from the sky onto this place and the guards have to fight them off. Good times.
Draenor slowly collapses into the Great Dark. Bits of it float, perversely sustained by whatever force keeps the planets fixed in space.
Shatter Point, another dramatic example of the collapse, is the staging area for the Alliance's bombing runs. Bombing runs are always fun.
Alliance cannons and Horde blade launchers face off against each other in a perpetual stalemate over the Path of Glory.
The Path of Glory is the road the Orcs took when they marched out of Draenor to attack Azeroth. Not visible in this picture is the fact that it is made out of thousands of Draenei skeletons. The Horde all but destroyed the other races on Outland while under demonic influence.
Hellfire Citadel, once the stronghold of the Fel Orcs. Well, it's still the stronghold of the Fel Orcs, actually, they're just under different leadership. Illidan, the corrupted Night Elf Demon Hunter, has taken control and made the Fel Orcs into his minions. This is the first dungeon in Outland, and the first wing of it is harder than Hell. Fucking dragon.
The Burning Legion's Forge Camps and Invasion Points both pump out machinery and supplies to fuel the Crusade and serve as portals to bring in more demons. There's a lot of these all over Outland.
This is a Fel Reaver. The scale is a little difficult to tell here, but he's huge. He did not want to stand still while I took his picture, either. Fel Reavers are the Legion's special way of welcoming you to Outland. There's a couple of them just wandering around Hellfire Peninsula, waiting to squash you into a thin pulp if you're not paying attention. I mean sure, they shake the screen with their footsteps, and they let off an unearthly metallic scream when they get close, but sometimes you're just busy to move out of the way. And then you die in about two hits.
This is the Pools of Aggonar. It's not actually a very interesting place, I just liked the picture. If you look closely in the background you can see the remains of a demon. His taint corrupts the once-pure waters, or something like that.
Next: Zangarmarsh! (The most fun-to-say zone.)