Can wars bring back the WoW factor in Blizzard’s meal ticket?
Let’s face it: nothing can top the climax of World of Warcraft’s last expansion, Legion, in terms of stakes, theatrics, and endgame battles. So instead of trying to outshine it with another expansion that may diminish what was accomplished, Blizzard opt to follow up with something a little different.
Not necessarily less epic, but a little fresh and a little darker. WoW’s Battle for Azeroth will be the seventh major expansion for the long-spanning MMO that still gets away with a subscription-based model (next to FFXIV:ARR). To prep you for its release on 14th August, here are some key features & tidbits you need to know in case you’re not up to speed.
Also, don’t act too shocked if your colleagues are taking leave during the week of 12th August.
New & Revamped Locales
For starters, areas like Kul Tiras and Zandalar look more impressive than ever and are way beyond the mountain bulges of 2004.
We also get new areas like the dark woods of Drustvar (for the Alliance), a new instance filled with cult members and ancient spirits. The Horde get to muck around in the cursed swamplands of Nazmir that’s filled with derelict temples and a sense of dread. And that’s not counting the blood trolls you’ll be fighting and the Troll gods you have to interact with.
Something about these areas in WoW feels a bit more mystical and darker in tone compared to past expansions. It’s a shame that the quests themselves are the typical MMO busywork. Perhaps they’re saving the best for the final game, but for now, the alpha build is a case of “all filler, some killer”. Blizzard spared no expense in crafting out new environments and remaking old stops.
Wars. All The Wars
Blizzard didn’t call it the Battle for Azeroth for nothing. With a revamped world PvP system and a new battleground for players to fight in, the company will be introducing new ways to contribute to the war effort without engaging other players too much.
That’s where the Island Expeditions come in. Once unlocked, you and two other heroes will participate in a PvE-ish environment where you race against an opposing faction or two to collect Azerite from any of the random islands you’re assigned to. This mode comes with its own mob and boss fights, so there’s a lot of fun to be had here. If you need PvP in this, you can opt to fight other online players in Island Expeditions.
There’s even a new mode called Warfronts where 20 players co-op with each other to battle against an enemy fortification ala the Warcraft RTS trilogy. Your 20-man team fight in the Arathi Highlands; you start by building a Townhall, then collect resources to build new structures while figuring out where to go on the building tech tree. Yes, we’re going into RTS-lite territory here.
You’ll be battling AI armies using your own soldiers. These AI fodder are commanded by a specific enemy commander who has his own strategies and army composition. There are also randomized events that might pop up, like goblin merchants who will sell powerful mercenaries.
Coupled with the game’s new open-world PvP policy and new PvP Brawls, it’s clear as day that “war” is the keyword that Blizzard is hammering home to its huge fanbase.
The Heart Of Azeroth Will Replace Artifact Weapons
Back in Legion, players had Artifact Weapons which can be leveled up and customized. That’s going to be replaced with a new necklace item called the Heart of Azeroth.
The Azerite resources you’ll be collecting will be feeding this new necklace and unlock new powerups that will unlock new armour bonuses. You get Azerite from the aforementioned expeditions, exploration quests, dungeons, and raids. Each piece of armour in Battle for Azeroth has 4 rings, and each ring is unlocked if you level up your necklace to greater heights.
New Features For Chat & Socializing
For one, Battle.net voice chat will be integrated into WoW, so no need to use third party programs like Discord to sort your communication needs. Players can now use WoW Communities, which is similar to the guild system but now you can have multiple communities while still committing to your original guild.
Communities have rosters and roles so that there are people moderating them, meaning that the already-robust socializing aspect of WoW has opened up further. So if you want to build a community inside WoW that worships Tracer’s original win pose, no one’s stopping all 10 of you sad sacks.
A Ton Of Story Videos Leading Up To Its Launch
Just like with Overwatch, Blizzard is setting the tone of its story with animated clips of WoW’s lore. Right now we have Jaina’s Warbringer story, told in lovely 2D stills and animation. Warcraft III fans might get some nostalgic tinglings just watching this.
We’ll be seeing shorts for Sylvanas and Aszhara soon. Brace yourselves for some hot and heavy WoW Lore action!
With a level cap of 120, you may need to start grinding if you want to experience all of the features this expansion has to offer! And that’s not counting the extra dungeons and raids that will be introduced soon. While this WoW expansion is not going to cap off the overarching story and be the be-all-end-all episode, its myriad of features and modes is enough to warrant another trip back to Azeroth.