Announcements at BlizzCon and since have talked up the return of faction-specific capital cities getting added in the expansion: Horde would get Bladespire Fortress in Frostfire Ridge (the liberation of which is one of your earliest quest chains while there) while Alliance would get the Temple of Karabor in Shadowmoon Valley (the defense of which was a notable part of previous floor show builds since the expansion’s announcement). Stockton’s response to a question about the faction capitals was this:
@Vigilate_MW Nope, the faction hubs for Alliance and Horde will be on the outskirts of Ashran.
— Mumper (@mumper) June 27, 2014
Like the removal of specializations, I can understand the logic behind this: putting the faction capitals around Ashran helps to emphasize the strategic importance of the place, which in turn raises the profile of Ashran as an area that all players will want to participate in instead of it simply being a compartmentalized PVP zone in the tradition of Wintergrasp and Tol Barad.
That said, I was really impressed with the appearance of Bladespire Fortress, and knowing that it’ll simply be a large piece of real estate for the Frostwolves now instead of the Horde is pretty disappointing. And while I haven’t had the duplicate experience with the Temple of Karabor yet, I felt that having the place as the Alliance faction capital would have presented a lot of opportunities for easter eggs about the location’s possible future as the Black Temple. And this is putting aside the straight-up cool factor of the place.
I don’t think anything can really top Karabor for me personally as a location, but I know the game is bigger than my preferences. All I can hope for now is that both locations get to have more than just a single notable moment in the expansion, because a lot of love is evident in the design and they deserve to be more than just a one-time set.
Having the alpha available makes dramatic shifts like this much more evident than they’ve been in previous expansions; most people remember the huge Jade Forest revamp from early in the Mists of Pandaria beta, for example, but things like aerial combat getting scrubbed out of Wrath of the Lich King are just not as well-known.
However, this does link up with some other notes Stockton dropped: the Mage Tower garrison building, which was previously slated to give you city portals via specialization, now starts off with a portal to Ashran. Overall, it’s a much more accessible method of getting back to the capitals then having to farm up a specialization plan.
More iteration as it happens.