My top 10 World of Warcraft leveling zones (for the lore).
World of Warcraft is a game with an exceptionally vast world. Each zone is unique, be it in terms of quests, music, design… to the point where it can be difficult to decide where to go to level up your character. This is even truer now that we have Chromie Time and we can decide in which expansion we want to level up.
Well, I might just be able to help you. Some zones are more important to the overall story than others, and you might want to prioritise questing in those. So, if you’re someone, who, like me, enjoys learning about the lore of the game, keep reading, for here is my top 10 World of Warcraft leveling zones if you’re a lore fanatic! Though, please bear in mind this is purely personal preference.
(All pictures used are screenshots that I personally took)
Westfall shows us that even low-level zones can be incredibly rich story wise. This Alliance-only zone (sorry to all my Horde folks) takes us on a journey towards the rebirth of the Defias Brotherhood, which everyone though was gone since the death of its leader, Edwin VanCleef. Westfall’s story line is kind of like a drama series, with lies, deceptions, and plot twists. The story line also ties into the rogue order hall story in Legion, so you might want to go to Westfall before heading for the Broken Isles.
9. The Dread Wastes
I know the Dread Wastes don’t look like a place where you’d want to spend your summer vacations, but don’t be fooled by its gloomy appearance! There, we help awaken the Klaxxi’va Paragons, and fight by their side to overthrow Empress Shek’zeer, who’s been corrupted by the Sha of Fear. The quests are brilliant, and we form a strange bond, almost akin to friendship with the Paragons. But they never forgot their one, true master, and, sensing the power of Y’shaarj coming back, they align themselves with Garrosh Hellscream at the end of the expansion. New bonds are nothing compared to centuries old allegiances, and we unfortunately have to take them down during the Siege of Orgrimmar raid.
8. The Storm Peaks
If you like Norse mythology, then Storm Peaks is made for you! Not only is the zone full of references (such as the characters Thorim and Loken), but the scenery is also breath-taking!
Storm Peaks is also home to an important quest chain involving Brann Bronzebeard, which sets us on a path to find the two halves of a key to gain access to Ulduar. In doing so, we get to learn about what Ulduar is, and even reunite Brann with his brother, Muradin. Eventually, we also learn about the darkness kept inside the titan facility, and even fight against it in the Ulduar raid. Overall, a brilliant zone which gives more context surrounding one the most fondly remembered raid of the game.
One couldn’t possibly talk about World of Warcraft zones without mentioning Icecrown. Home of Icecrown Citadel, the fortress of the Lich King, one of the most memorable and beloved villains of the game, the quests here see us take the fight against the undead directly to the Lich King’s doorstep. We also find the Argent Tournament Grounds all the way to the north of the zone, where the Argent Crusade, an order fighting against evil, and one of the main contributors in the campaign against the Lich King, is based. This tournament was meant to train the army for the upcoming assault on the Lich King’s bastion, and the culminating point of the zone is of course, the Icecrown Citadel raid.
Dragonblight is most famous for the events of the Wrathgate, which saw the fall of Dranosh Saurfang at the hand of the Lich King, as well as the betrayal of Grand Apothecary Putress, who used his newly developed blight, which affects both living and undead creatures, to decimate the forces of the Alliance, the Horde, and the Scourge combined, which led to the death of Highlord Bolvar Fordragon.
However, Dragonblight is also rich of lore when it comes to the dragons and the different dragonflights. Not only is it where the remains of Galakrond are, but there are also quests involving the Red, Green, Bronze, and Black dragonflights, as well as the Infinite dragonflight (through the Bronze dragonflight quests). All of this is most likely going to be important in the near future, since the next expansion will centre around the dragons.
Most of Legion’s quests are awesome, and Azsuna is no exception. While you get some interesting quests surrounding the blue dragonflight, I’d say that the true richness of the zone comes from its quests about Prince Farondis. Farondis was one of the only people who dared defy Queen Azshara when she made her pact with the demons, and as a result, was cursed along with his people to never experience the respite of death. His people now consider him a traitor, and we embark with him on a journey to retrieve the Tidestone of Golganneth, which we need to fight the Legion.
This zone is even more important considering that the Tidestone makes another appearance later in the game, when Queen Azshara has been able to get a hold of it and uses it to trap us in Nazjatar, her realm.
4. The Jade Forest
This one is definitely a pure personal choice. I’ve been playing the game since I was 6 years old, but the first expansion I got to experience as an actual player (and not a little girl exploring the world on the back of her flying mount) was Mists of Pandaria. The Jade Forest therefore holds a special place in my heart. But it doesn’t mean it doesn’t have any lore implications. First of all, we meet Lorewalker Cho in this zone, who is an important character throughout the expansion, but also in Battle for Azeroth, when N’Zoth has broken free and we go to Pandaria once more. On the Alliance side, we also get to do some quests alongside Anduin Wrynn, the prince of Stormwind, and see him growing as a young, independent man. As the first zone we quest through in the expansion, we also gain a sense of what Pandaria is, and what its inhabitants are like. The fact that the land itself reacts to people’s emotions, and the consequences the ongoing war between the Horde and the Alliance has, is also a recurring theme of the story.
Val’sharah’s story is centred around one thing: the ever-growing influence of the Emerald Nightmare. The Emerald Dream and its corrupted counterpart (the Emerald Nightmare) has always been an important aspect of the lore, and we finally get to experience it with Val’sharah. The story there is simply exceptional. It takes us on a journey to gain the Tears of Elune, one of the Pillars of Creation. On our way to talk to Cenarius, we find that the Wild God has been infected by a form of corruption, and we seek the help of three Archdruids to invoke the dragon aspect Ysera so we can heal Cenarius. But, as one could easily guess, not everything goes as planned, and the story culminates in a fight against Ysera herself, who’s been corrupted by Xavius.
The death of Ysera at our hand during Legion is something that deeply shook the community, so it was definitely a rollercoaster for all of us to find her involved in the Ardenweald questline. And what a questline! While not all of it focuses on Ysera, it is an essential part of the zone’s story. Ardenweald is in the Shadowlands, and it’s where the Wild Gods and spirits of nature go to after death. It therefore makes sense for Ysera to be there, into a wildseed, waiting for her time to be reborn. However, Ardenweald is facing a drought, and we’re on a quest to save Ysera’s wildseed before it’s too late. During this, we get to experience the events of Val’sharah from Ysera’s perspective, which opened up an old wound.
In the end, it’s the Winter Queen herself, the leader of Ardenweald, who saves her, and seeing Ysera again, in all her might and splendour, is something that gave (and still gives) me goosebumps.
1. The Badlands
To someone who’s never done the quests in this zone, it might seem like an odd choice. But the Badlands are actually home to the origin story of a very important character: Wrathion.
Indeed, we encounter Rheastrasza, a red dragon who is experimenting on black dragon eggs. Rhea’s task is to obtain an egg devoid of the black dragonflight’s corruption. And for this, the red dragonflight is ready to do anything, even take prisoner Nyxondra, a black dragon, and force her to lay eggs. With our help, and the help of a gnome called Doctor Blam, the experiment succeeds, and we get the first uncorrupted black dragon egg, which will eventually hatch and give birth to Wrathion.
As someone who loves dragons, and is fond of Wrathion, I adore this zone, and quest there on pretty much all my alts.
Tirisfal Glades is worth questing in for its lore importance. Indeed, it is where the ruins of Lordaeron are, kingdom of late king Terenas Menethil, who was murdered by his own son, Arthas Menethil, later known as the Lich King.
Suramar is only an honourable mention purely for the fact that it’s not a leveling zone. But the story is one of the best storylines in modern WoW, and was a real breath of fresh air after the max level experience in Warlords of Draenor. The questline sees us work with First Arcanist Thalyssra to lead an insurrection against Suramar city and overthrow Grand Magistrix Elisande, who’s aligned herself with the Burning Legion. While a very long questline, we really get a sense of the rebellion that is happening, and the Nighthold raid, which acted as the culminating point of the story, was nothing short of epic.
The Broken Shore
As a Horde character, I’m afraid there’s little to nothing the Broken Shore can offer you. As an Alliance character on the other hand… The questline about Anduin is beautifully sad. It starts with a compass we find in the sea, and that we bring back to Anduin in Stormwind. It turns out that this compass is the one Anduin gave to his late father, King Varian Wrynn. The memento brings back memories to Anduin, and we follow him in his pilgrimage in the streets of Stormwind, and then on the Broken Shore, all the way to where his father died. The cinematic that we get at the end of the questline is one of my favourites, and we really get the sense that Anduin is growing, both as a man and as a king.
The last zone I’m going to talk about is Drustvar. There, we follow Lucille Waycrest, daughter of Lord and Lady Waycrest, who are part of one of the four noble houses that lead Kul Tiras. Dark things are happening in Drustvar, witches execute sinister rituals, and we need to uncover the truth behind all of this. With the help of Lucille, we reassemble the Order of Embers and fight against the witches and the Drust… only to find out that it’s Lord and Lady Waycrest themselves who are behind all of this, Lady Waycrest having requested the help of the Drust to save her husband. However, they were only pawns used by Gorak Tul, whom the people from Drustvar thought was dead. While this story seems isolated at first, we find the Drust again in Ardenweald, so Drustvar does have its importance in the overall lore.
World of Warcraft of course has many more zones with interesting stories, and with the upcoming Dragonflight expansion, there’s no doubt that we’ll experience even more amazing storylines.