Avatar was a fantastic movie. A feast for the eyes and a halfway decent storyline, Hollywood actually got it right. But I don’t think that I was as amazed at the imagery as the larger population, and I can trace that disillusionment back to one place: my time in the World of Warcraft and a lifetime of gaming in general. So if you thought the stuff you could do and see on the world of Pandora was bad-ass, take a short walk with me through Azeroth.
Let’s start with the whole concept of an avatar. The Dictionary.com definition lists its use in computer circles as “a graphical image that represents a person, as on the Internet.” Geeks use the term to refer to the icon next to a forum post, or to describe the polygon representation you control in a gaming environment. James Cameron’s movie takes that concept to the next level. So to get started in World of Warcraft, you need to build your avatar.
And unlike the movie, you don’t have to grow them in tanks, and you get an even wider selection of far less human forms to choose from. Fans of the Na’vi will want to go with a Draenei. They’re big, blue, have tails, and actually are aliens in Warcraft lore.
Another big part of Avatar is the connection that the Na’vi have with the environment around them, flora and fauna alike. WoW’s got you covered there as well. Every WoW avatar plays as a certain class, which dictates all the battle actions you can take. Mages cast spells, Warriors hit stuff, you get the idea. There are 10 classes in all.
A Na’vi fan will want to choose a Hunter (“at home in the wilderness and have a special affinity for beasts”) or a Druid (“shapshifters with an affinity for the plant and animal kingdoms”). Hunters can tame and train nearly all the wild animals they’ll come across in Azeroth to fight by their side, and fight primarily at range with a bow. Hunters also have the ability to track any living thing: animals, beasts, even undead. Their training would do Neytiri proud. And some of the beasts you can control look like they belong on Pandora, like the Warp Stalker.
Meanwhile, Druids use nature-inspired abilities to attack enemies and heal allies. An “attack” druid will transform into a cat or bear, while a healer-style druid will transform into the Tree of Life. That’s right, a walking, talking tree.
And you though the voices in the Tree of Souls were cool.
You do have a bit of a decision to make, though. If you want your big blue Draenei, you can be a hunter, but not a druid. If you want to go the druid route, your choices are limited to the Night Elf (who’s big and blue without a tail), or Tauren (Huge! With horns and a tail, but not blue).
Much was made of the colorful settings that we saw Jake Sully and Neytiri stomping around, but again, WoW has left me jaded. Everyone thought that the floating “Hallelujah Mountains” were cool, but I’ll be impressed when they build a city on top of those rocks, like Dalaran.
And there’s plenty more. Personally, I don’t think Turok has a prayer.
Of course Dalaran is just one of the locales you can soar around, and some of the destinations in Azeroth would give Pandora locales a run for their money. Avatar fans will particularly enjoy exploring and questing the alien landscapes of the Outlands, especially Zangarmarsh and Terokkar Forest.
Finally, there’s one aspect of Pandora and Azeroth exploration that is identical: the smell you have from spending way too much time wandering around either one. To that end, Dr. Augustine and I provide the same advice: get up, shower, have a bite to eat.