What Are WoW’s Best Leveling Zones For You?
With the level scaling and chapter systems implemented in old expansions, many of us are stopping to ask themselves which zones offer the most enjoyable content. This non-technical WoW leveling guide will help you determine which zones are right for your particular preferences by thoroughly examining the storylines, themes and other criteria of every zone and neatly presenting the info to you.
Needless to say, all articles published within this series are spoiler-free.
Elwynn Forest (1-20)
- Human starting zone
- Forest (surprise!) with giant trees
- Peasant farm life and outlaw themes
- Very peaceful ambiance with bird chirping everywhere you go
Those of you who played Warcraft 3 might immediately capture the resemblance that Elwynn Forest has with the beginning of the human campaign. After a 5-year wait, Warcraft 3 welcomed us back into the franchise with the human campaign’s intro set in Lordaeron’s forests, where we helped peasants against your typical forest bandits; gnolls and murlocs. Only weeks later, hell broke loose across the entire continent, which has given this relaxed setting a special significance for me.
The forest has a very peaceful ambiance and revolves around the primary themes of peasant life and the Stormwind militia’s efforts against outlaws.
Beside the human starting zone of Northshire, Elwynn Forest has three main questing hubs:
Goldshire (center) has you dealing with kobolds.
Eastvale Logging Camp (east) has you dealing with murlocs, a human criminal and helping the logging camp.
Westbrook Garrison (west) has you dealing with the gnoll gangs and their notorious leader, Hogger.
There are two farms (south) which have you running errands for the peasants.
The vast majority of Elwynn Forest has not been altered for Cataclysm. As such, the zone lacks consistent storylines and memorable characters found in many post-Cata zones. Most of the storylines mentioned above simply have you being commanded by officers to go to the offending outlaws’ den (kobold mine, murloc beach huts…etc) and slaughtering big numbers of them. Despite that, the zone has a tad of flavor and a tiny bit of plot complexity, whereas you come across a letter detailing illegal activity in Eastvale which sends you hunting. One of the camp’s officers also has you go collecting lumber, which was a nice stroll to relax with away from the killing, amidst the logging camp’s wood chopping sounds and laid-back atmosphere.
While lacking in story focus, characters or memorable quests, Elwynn Forest is a very peaceful zone that’s worth passing through at least for the sake of its casual and lighthearted nature. The sky never rains infernals and there are no giant beasts to devour you whole; just bird chirping and your good ol’ “no take candle” and “ggrgrrrrrggrrlllgrgr” troublemakers.
- 66 quests (Alliance only)
- Yellow prairie land with a lot of crop fields
- Zone thoroughly revamped in Cataclysm except for Captain Sanders’ quest chain.
- A consistent story revolving around a murder mystery
- Recurring characters
- Zone-altering climax
Post-Cataclysm Westfall builds upon the original zone’s theme of chaos, the Defias Brotherhood’s power and the absence of order and law. As with a lot of post-Cata zones, most of the zone follows one consistent story with a cast of recurring -and somewhat memorable- characters.
The main themes are crime, famine and refuge. Since vanilla, Westfall has been depicted as the zone neglected by the kingdom of Stormwind, especially in the face of the rising power of the Defias Brotherhood outlaws. The native residents of Westfall only have it much worse with the Cataclysm, with the numbers of the homeless and refuge-seekers higher than ever.
With its consistent, central storyline, Westfall will lead you in linear fashion from point to another without the usual, scattered questing hubs. The zone begins as you enter it from Elwynn and discover a crime scene. Captain Horatio Laine, who happens to be the detective on the scene, sends you to search for clues. As with crime fiction (this zone acts as a simplified version of which), you will keep coming across clues which are at times arbitrary but at other times profoundly relevant (those are the hardest to notice!) and tie up to something great at the end. Eventually, the mystery is solved and the story culminates in a zone-altering climax.
Westfall is one of the community’s favorite Alliance zones for a reason, which is its unique story-telling style (crime fiction in an MMORPG? Count me in!), its engaging setting as well as its climactic ending. If you ever play Alliance, Westfall is a MUST-DO!
Redridge Mountains (15-60)
- 61 quests (Alliance only)
- Autumn-colored mountains and canyons with a big lake in the center
- Zone thoroughly revamped in Cataclysm
- Humans vs. orcs theme
- Consistent story driven by memorable (somewhat) characters
- Zone-altering climax with a couple surprises
I was not fortunate enough to play the pre-Cataclysm Redridge Mountains, but the post-revamp version shares some of Westfall’s storytelling elements, such as consistent characters which accompany you through a centralized storyline.
During Draenor’s sundering (to become present day’s Outland), several orc clans managed to flee through the Dark Portal to settle in various locations in the Eastern Kingdoms. Among them are the Blackrock clan, which has never been affiliated with Thrall’s Horde. This orcish clan constitutes the zone’s primary antagonist.
Redridge Mountains continues where Elwynn Forest left off in paying tribute to Lordaeron’s story (human campaign of Warcraft 3). After you’re done with helping the peasants and bringing the forest’s bandits to justice, you’re now up against an entire orc clan that’s preparing to invade a small human town.
Aside from a few gnoll-related quests at the zone’s entrance, the real story begins at the city’s townhall, where the mayor informs you about the Blackrock clan’s threat to the town of Lakeshire. After the clan’s full attack scheme is uncovered in a couple quests, the mayor sends you on a mission to re-recruit John J. Keeshan, an elite veteran who has killed orcs beyond counting in the three past great wars. When the process proves difficult, you embark on a mission to the Blackrock camp to rescue whoever is still alive from Keeshan’s “Bravo” Company. That is when things start to get interesting. The story culminates in a massive battle involving you, all the squad members and a couple surprises!
Redridge Mountains is by far my favorite zone due to its top-notch story consistency, surprises and its significant and somewhat memorable characters.