The New (Worgens in Gilneas, Goblins in the Lost Isles)
Many people like the Goblin story for its sheer uniqueness - there are a lot of vehicles and other gimmicks, along with a storyline that continues into the new Azshara. For some reason, I wouldn't rate it so highly. I don't know why - the content is pretty, and the comic relief fits with the personality of the race. Somehow, it felt like I was spending more time watching travel than I did in other zones, and like almost every quest involved some gizmo from my amazing toolbelt. Maybe I was just burned out by the time I got to this one (which I saved for last because it got such good reviews).
By contrast, I really enjoyed Gilneas, which I felt captured the feel of an old school werewolf story nicely, while bringing in clear reasons for the Worgen to side with the Alliance against the Horde.
The Abandoned (Eversong for Blood Elves, Azuremyst for Draenei)
It appears that these areas did not get significant attention for the Cataclysm. Both have new voiceovers explaining what the races have been doing for their respective factions in the four years since TBC. Azuremyst has at least one new flight point, and Eversong has two. Unfortunately, it looks like that's where the changes ended. I didn't see any new content in Eversong, and I gave up on my Draenei when I realized that all the quests were still set in the immediate aftermath of the crash of the Exodar four years ago. (Sorry, gang, just didn't feel like doing that arc yet again, even for the blog.)
On the plus side, these areas are both a bit less linear (especially Eversong) precisely because they're older, which I guess is good if you miss that sort of thing. However, both areas are more isolated than ever now that lowbies from the other races get equal quality loot in their new areas. The BE still at least have some personality, but the Draenei would have been better off if the Exodar had been destroyed in the Cataclysm so that they could start somewhere else (perhaps Elwynn?).
The Half-Stories (Trolls in a corner of Durotar, Gnomes in a corner of Dun Morogh)
Both races get their own content from levels 1 through 5-6 before joining their Orc/Dwarf comrades on their leveling paths. As with most new Cataclysm content, expect significant quality time with NPC voiceovers. The intended epic feel of these stories is cut short by the abrupt endings; it's hard to build that much accomplishment into a story that ends at level five. Also, I'm not a huge fan of the zones that either of these feed into.
The remaining six races got a range of updates. There are limited changes to the geography. (On the other hand, there appears to have been an conscious effort to Cata-splode all of the level 10-20 zones except for the abandoned TBC areas.) All zones also got significant travel improvements - at least one new flight path, and often some one-way rides from one hub to the next to save some time running without a mount. Some of the zones got a more dramatic scripted event as a finale. The rundown:
- Durotar (Orcs, later trolls): The level 1-5 section was completely untouched. The north west chunk of the zone has been partially flooded, and feels poorly paced - you're sent on a long circuit around the area, but it's not clear what quests you need to do first, and I found myself outleveling them (perhaps because I went out of the "correct" order?). Also, the zone storyline just ends with routine breadcrumbs to The Barrens.
- Dun Morogh (Dwarves, later gnomes): Level 5 characters no longer need to run through the cave of troggs - an NPC gives you an airlift out of the starter valley. Beyond that, the content seems to have gotten a fair amount of attention, but there's actually too much of it. They could have easily left out at least one quest camp and still had enough exp to go around. Instead, there are too many quests and you end up feeling dragged around by the nose as you go somewhere to be told that you only need to kill 6 rats (or whatever) before being sent on. At least this zone does get a finale event.
- Teldrassil (Night Elves): The major change here is that there are no more quests that require players to run all the way back across the zone to talk to the dude by the lake in the far eastern corner. Your quests will either be turned in near where you did the killing, or at the next hub. Also, the zone has a finale event. Considering that this was the most painful zone to start in previously due to insane travel, making it up to average status is a huge improvement.
- Mulgore (Tauren): The story here is similar, many quests provide one-way travel on to the next location, and the zone got a finale event (before putting you on a flight path to Ogrimmar to hit The Barrens). I've always loved the look of this zone, and now it's just a bit less painful on the travel. That said, if you've done this zone before, you're probably going to find it very familiar.
- Elwynn Forest (Human): The newbie area has been attacked (and set ablaze) by Blackrock Orcs and Goblins. I don't know if your average newbie realizes that these guys are NOT the factions in The Horde, but they're certainly more memorable than the previous residents of the area. Travel time out to the lumber camp on the far east of the zone has been fixed with a much needed new flight path. The finale is the most epic-est encounter that any level 11 will ever attempt and (possibly) survive.
Also, I might have been doing things wrong by trying this on a completely un-twinked warrior (a class that really suffers from outdated weapons), but this was far and away the zone that challenged me the most. Elwynn seems to have more social mobs than most areas, there's a few areas even a perfect pull brings multiple mobs, and one quest target who has a whopping three helpers in his hut with him.
- Tirisfal Glades (Forsaken Undead): Among the existing zones, this was far and away the most dramatic revamp. All of the lore has been re-written to accommodate the fall of the Lich King. An additional mini-hub has been added to avoid some previously long travel time. We get some new supporting characters who will apparently be following us to Silverpine. Overall, I give this zone the highest marks, both for the improvements and for creating the most compelling storyline - if I had to delete ten of the eleven new characters I created for this exercise, the undead is the one storyline I would choose to continue.