I'm just starting WoW for the first time...

My question: Is the storyline and quests that I'm doing the same as what players did when the game started (in 2002 or whatever)?

Or have events happened in the game that have progressed the entire timeline/story of the game for new players?

  • 7
    They overhauled the whole world with Cataclysm. Most quests are the same, but the areas are different and questing is way faster. Also, many quests got removed such as the class quests. Commented May 20, 2014 at 18:57
  • Additionally, the character spells and talents are almost 100% different. And dungeons feel very different, though that's because the gear and LFG have changed, not the dungeons themselves. Commented May 20, 2014 at 23:41

3 Answers 3


Each continent roughly corresponds to an expansion e.g. an arc in the timeline.

  • Outlands: Burning Crusade (2007). It is unmodified.
  • Northrend: Wrath of the Lich King (2008). It is unmodified.
  • Eastern Kingdoms and Kalimdor: Cataclysm (2010). This expansion completely replaces the quests and map from the classic version of the game. The classic story arc is no longer available on the main servers. Thrall is no longer warchief, Garrosh is.
  • Pandaria: Mists of Pandaria (2012). It is unmodified except for the Vale of Eternal Blossoms, which was destroyed. You can't go back to the original Vale. Also, the legendary cape questline is removed from the game.
  • Draenor: Warlords of Draenor (2014). The legendary ring questline is removed from the game.
  • Broken Isles: Legion (2016). Weapon artifacts still have stats and can be leveled up, but they no longer have abilities. Legendary items, besides your weapon artifact, are disabled.
  • Kul Tiras and Zandalar: Battle for Azeroth (2018). Azerite armor, the Heart of Azeroth, the legendary cloak all seem to still be in the game - expect none of these to be useful in shadowlands. Corrupted gear is no longer attainable and corruption effects are deactivated.

You can play in all of the above content to get to level 50. You can start any or all of the expansions, switch expansions at any time, switch back. Whatever you want to do.

For levels 50-60, you'll play in the new Shadowlands (2021) content.

There is one more bit of content to mention:

  • Original Eastern Kingdoms and original Kalimdor: Classic (aka Vanilla) (2004). There is a separate installer/server for this content. You can create a separate character to play this content.
  • 1
    please could you tell me what the "original story arc" is? Thanks Commented May 21, 2014 at 10:07
  • 6
    Sure. Classic wow was about the events following WC3 (mainly human, dwarf and night elf leadership drama) leading up to the opening of the dark portal. Here's the best article I could find: wow.joystiq.com/2013/12/18/…
    – Amy B
    Commented May 21, 2014 at 11:24
  • 1
    In Northrend, the Veteran of the Wrathgate quest chain was truncated. Commented May 30, 2014 at 2:28
  • 1
    There is a caveat to this, which is that the Draenei and Blood Elf starting zones are unmodified from their Burning Crusade release, and are located geographically in Kalimdor and Eastern Kingdoms, so if you create either of those races to start you'll be going from Burning Crusade content to Cataclysm content. Commented Apr 15, 2018 at 16:19
  • 1
    I'm looking to update this answer, mainly on the matter of the Vale of Eternal Blossoms. I have heard that it is now possible to go back to the original form of this zone.
    – Amy B
    Commented Jan 19, 2020 at 18:42

With each expansion, in the World of Warcraft universe, the level cap of your character increases by 5-10 levels. There is a general "theme", and throughout the release and consequent patches, there are some significant events that take place in terms of storyline.

Each expansion is catered predominantly for players within its respective level group. Burning Crusade content caters to levels 60-70, Wrath of the Lich King caters to 70-80 and so on.

Each consequent expansion can, in theory, both limit and improve your ability to experience the story line of its predecessors.

Most end-game content is designed for groups of players, in anything from 5 to 40 man dungeons. There is a reliance on being able to play alongside other players, in order to have a chance against completing some of these events.

With most players leaning towards current content, there can be fewer players available to participate in older content, however, due to the level increases with each expansion, you can often find older content a lot easier to handle given fewer players.

As for if you miss out on any content, no, not really. While there is a lot of content, to begin with, you still have access to most of the major events surrounding the World of Warcraft universe. For example, you can still easily handle the major end-game raid released for vanilla World of Warcraft, Ahn'Qiraj, with only a handful of level 70s. However, the event that precipitated its opening no longer features, and can not be experienced.

You will still be able to experience the majority of each expansions story. The only difference is, you can experience it in a different order, given the ability to freely roam within your characters level restrictions.

Eastern Kingdoms and Kalimdor, the two major regions from Vanilla WoW, have undergone a massive redesign with the release of Cataclysm. You will likely experience a difference, here, in comparison to the original WoW. Most of this has been Blizzards way of bringing the vanilla content up to the standards reached with Burning Crusade and Wrath of the Lich King, and you will still experience all the "original lore" storyline in your initial character progression.

For reference, here is a list of expansions, along with their general themes and included "racial backstory". You can generally focus on the content from a particular expansion, to experience the story surrounding its theme.

  • The Burning Crusade (60-70): Explores Outland, the old homeland of the Orcs and Draenei, featured in the events of Warcraft 3: The Frozen Throne. Plot involves the storming of The Black Temple, and the overthrow of Illidan, the threat of the Zul'jin and his Zul'Aman empire, and the betrayal of Keal'thas Sunstrider, in attempting to summon the demon lord Kil'jaeden through the Blood Elves Sunwell. The Draenei and the Blood Elves are also introduced.

  • Wrath of the Lich King (70-80): Explores Northrend, a forgotten contintent to the north, featured in the events of Warcraft 3. Plot involves the discovery of an old titan complex, an old prison built to hold an Old God, and the war efforts in fighting the undead scourge, leading up to the penultimate battle against The Lich King, himself. This expansion also introduces the Death Knight, a special hero class with their own backstory, and play style.

  • Cataclysm (80-85): Introduces a massive apocalyptic event known as The Cataclysm, during which a great majority of The Eastern Kingdoms and Kalimdor undergoes a considerable change, including the appearance of the Maelstrom region. Plot involves the alliance and uprising of the Zandalari trolls, the defence against the firelord, Ragnaros, and the fight against the rouge dragon, Deathwing the Destroyer. This Goblins and Worgen are also introduced as more prominent races.

  • Mists of Pandaria (85-90): Introduces the newly discovered islands of Pandaria. Plot focuses on the renewed fight between the Horde and the Alliance, as well as the civil disputes within the factions. Further plot focuses on the return of the Mogu, the and siege of Orgrimmar. The Pandaran race is also introduced as the games first natural race.

  • Warlords of Draenor (90-100): Introduces an alternate timeline, as well as the planet Draenor, which eventually became Outland after being torn apart. Plot focuses on an altered timeline, where the orcs do not drink the blood of the demon lord Mannoroth. This leads to an unnatural uprising of the Iron Horde, and a major invasion of Azeroth.


The whole world has changed into a cataclysmic world. It should be the same but with more quests and a higher level cap.

  • So it's not the same? Commented May 21, 2014 at 1:40
  • 2
    You kinda are contradicting yourself, here. It's either the same, or it has gone through a cataclysmic event and thus is not the same as it was.
    – user11502
    Commented May 21, 2014 at 13:43

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