For those who’ve played the heck out of World of Warcraft like I have, you should be familiar with most of the zones in the game. Some are more popular than others with mobs and items on a continual respawn, while others remain abandoned for days. Either way, we can all agree on one this: Each zone provides its own distinct atmosphere and storyline. And we’re here to take a look at some of the zones that are easily overlooked or underappreciated in the game, at least from my perspective.
Tanaris (Kalimdor, level 45-50)
“Oh look, sand, sand, and more sand!”
Unfortunately for Tanaris, many people find questing in the desert dull and unappealing. Even getting to Tanaris is a chore: It’s in the bottom right corner of Kalimdor and the closest you can be teleported to is Dustwallow Marsh, two zones above it. Despite these setbacks, Tanaris provides a unique experience to understand the Gnome and Goblin technology war as each race has set up various outposts to undertake different tasks. In addition to the quests, Tanaris holds what remains to be one of my favorite classic dungeons: Zul’Farak, a dungeon that is overrunned by Sandfury Trolls. All in all, the quests are spaced enough apart that you can view the scenery while traveling through the dangerous sands. Tanaris is also home to the Caverns of Time, which, depending on the dungeon, will let players go back in time in Warcraft lore and experience events as they happen. For example: Thrall’s escape from Durnholde or Prince Arthas’ attempt to purge Stratholme from the scourge plague. You’ll also want to avoid getting sand in… uncomfortable places.
Vashj’ir (Eastern Kingdoms, level 80-82)
“Under the sea. Under the sea. Darlin’ it’s better. Down where it’s wetter. Take it from me”
With the release of Cataclysm, the world (of Warcraft) as we know it was torn asunder: new places opened up and some places have been changed forever. One of the areas that opened up is the underwater zone of Vashj’ir, which is actually comprised of three smaller subzones, all taking place underwater. The initial quest has your character waiting for the boat at the docks along with other NPC recruits. After boarding the ship and spending a few minutes at sea, a travesty can be seen off the port bow: One of the other ships was destroyed and some survivors are seen on the ship’s remains crying out for help. As the vessel slows down to take a closer look at the wreckage, giant tentacles emerge from the depths sending everyone in a panic. While some of the recruits abandon ship, the rest manage to stay and take up arms, but the attempt is seen as futile.
As the crew slowly bites the dust, the player is eventually captured and is thrown out to sea — their lifeless body floats down towards the ocean floor along with the rest of the crew from both ships. Eventually, the player recieves a zone-wide buff that increases swim speed and removes having to breathe, which makes Vashj’ir more tolerable. However, the real reward comes when the player recieves their Abyssal Seahorse, which allows them to swim ridiculously fast underwater, but only in Vashj’ir. Vashj’ir also has some interesting storylines, including going back in time and playing as a soldier in the Naga army, and helping a strange man take down a dangerous shark named “Gnaws” (+10 points if you get the reference). To me, Vashj’ir is one of the richest zones in World of Warcraft, if not for the graphics, for the excellent storytelling and huge array of memorable characters.
Netherstorm (Outlands, level 68-70)
“The Edge of Reality.”
Tucked away in the top right part of the Outlands is Netherstorm, a zone that can only be described as unique. Looking up at the sky, the player is treated to a variety of awesomesauce (do people still use that word?) graphics. The zone is broken up into different sections, each accessible through conveniently placed bridges. There are no lack of quests as the player progresses through the zone. One of my favorite questlines also exist in this zone, which allows the players to visit Kirin’Var Village, a decimated ghost town that’s been overrunned by mana residents. The player can find personal items for some of the ghosts and return them to their proper place, effectively putting the ghosts to rest. Goblins have set up various outposts in order to dole out quests. Some of those quests allow the player to make contact with the spirit of an Archmage, attack a Blood Elf garrison, and find out more about the origins and lifestyles of the Ethereal. Just make sure to watch your step. Otherwise, you’ll end up somewhere in the Twisting Nether. My hair is still growing back from the last incident.
Swamp of Sorrows (Eastern Kingdoms, level 52-54)
“I should have worn my galoshes.”
Let’s face it, who doesn’t love a good swamp? Specially one that contains so much lore in such a small area. Players will get to participate in classic Orc vs. Human skirmishes, as well as find some members of the Lost One tribe out and about. In addition, the green dragonflight clan is exploring the corruption taking place inside the Temple of Atal’Hakkar. Being a smaller zone, Swamp of Sorrows is easily bypassed by members of both the Horde and the Alliance, so it’s nice to get some recognition here.
Grizzly Hills (Northrend, level 73-76)
“Looks like a good place to hibernate for the rest of my life.”
While maybe not as overlooked as some of the other zones on this list, due to its “smack-dab right in the center” of Northrend status, Grizzly Hills is probably one of the least talked about zones in Northrend. For some reason, this place just screams lumberjacks, flannel shirts, and game hunting. But that may be because that’s a good chunk of the zone. While fighting off the wildlife players will encounter an outpost of Humans that suffers the curse of Worgen, exploring some Troll ruins for Harrison Jones (+10 for this reference!). There’s also another meeting with a familiar face, Gyran Stoutmantle, who was recently promoted to Captain of the Westfall Brigade. God, I just want to bust out a flannel shirt and hat when I’m in this zone. Anyone want some stag jerky?
Arathi Highlands (Eastern Kingdoms, level 25-30)
“Lucy in the Sky within the Highlands”
Godawful puns aside, Arathi Highlands breaks the barrier between the Northern and Southern half of the Eastern Kingdoms. Passing over the Thandol Span, things start to become more serious as the Syndicate, a notorious crime group comprised of mostly Humans, has set up operations in Arathi Highlands. In addition, Boulderfist ogres have been causing trouble for the denziens. Some members of the Blackwater Raiders had their ship wash up among the shore of Arathi Highlands, requesting the assistance of the player in order to get their navigation charts back. Much like some of the zones above, Arathi Highlands has a lot of scenery and wildlife flittering around the hills but players should mostly be safe traveling on the main road. Arathi Basin, a battleground, is based off this zone. Arathi Highlands along with the adjacent Hillsbrad Foothills is notorious for ganking on PvP servers, so it usually remains abandoned.
World of Warcraft has a huge amount of zones to explore and considering most zones quest for both factions, it would take a decent chunk of time to experience everything on one character. With World of Warcraft: Legion just on the horizon, now is time to experience as much as you can.