This Means War
What a long, wild trip my time in World of Warcraft has been so far. Since beginning to play during the closing days of the Burning Crusade, I've lead my various characters on an adventure that has become a staple in my gaming lineup for over a decade now. I've braved the days of 'vanilla' content's unforgiving leveling speeds, I've tackled the pvp-heavy Outlands, I fondly remember the frozen wastes of the Lich King's domain, the literal reshaping of the world in Cataclysm. I've seen fabled races become playable, seen alternate realities, and we even saw a former villain get a redemption story.
An already massive game with six expansions under its belt, WoW brings in the seventh expansion with loud war drums and the sounds of clashing swords. In the last few weeks, the Horde Warchief Sylvannas Windrunner burned a longstanding region of the Warcraft lore, Teldrassil, to nothing but a charred husk. In response, the Alliance attacks the Horde capital, The Undercity, only for it to meet its own end. The opening weeks prior to the formal launch of the expansion saw two longstanding, iconic landmarks to the franchise wiped out from both sides. The war is on.
New Lands, Renewed Conflicts
While the last few expansions have had the Alliance and Horde overall united against common enemies, with some clashes here and there, this expansion is going back to what people remember most about the early days of World of Warcraft. This is a pure, bloody war between the Alliance and Horde. After the events at Teldrassil and the Undercity, all bets are off as the factions make their way to open waters for new allies in the hopes of tipping the war in their favor. The Alliance heads to the island nation of Kul'Tiras, and The Horde to the nearly mythical troll empire of Zandalar.
Each faction primarily operates in their respective areas for leveling, but once you break into the War Campaign you will go to the other faction's islands as the war efforts pick up. My time with the expansion has been spent primarily on my Alliance warrior, speaking with a friend 'behind enemy lines' for how the Horde half of the expansion plays out.
After brief introductions, players are introduced to massive new cities that in my opinion more than make up for the loss of the two regions the Alliance and Horde suffered. These cities are by and large the biggest in World of Warcraft to date, and with styles so distinct that they even put the often popular Dalaran to shame. I think these will become two staple cities that will stand the test of time. From these new hubs, factions will branch out to into one of six new zones. For Alliance Players on Kul'Tiras, they'll venture into the coastal hills of Tirigarde Sound, the haunting forests of Drustvar or the lush and rainy farmlands of Stormsong Valley.
The Horde players however are treated to the jungles and grasslands of Zuldazar, the waterlogged and foreboding swamps of Nazmir, and the blazing hot sands of Vuldun. Both new island continents are the type of high quality environments I've come to expect over the years, with enough variation among them to keep players like myself eager to explore while questing.
During the general leveling experience from 110 to 120, players will stay in their respective territories. When it comes time for the War Campaigns, the players will dive into the other continents in the form of an invasion questline where you seek to subvert, destroy, assassinate, and decimate enemy forces.
Down In The Dungeons
Beside normal questing and the War Campaign questlines, we also see the return of a must-have staple in Battle for Azeroth: Dungeons. With the launch of the new expansion comes 11 new dungeons along with their heroic and mythic variants. During levels 110-115, factions will only have access to four dungeons with four more opening at level 20, and two being locked behind various play-gates: One tied to faction specific achievements and another only accessible in the Mythic difficulty. While I haven't gotten any time with the two that are locked away yet, the 9 that I have been able to dive into in both normal and heroic difficulties have had a surprising, but welcome, upturn in the mechanics throughout.
While the last few expansions have had dungeons here and there that had unique mechanics to them, each and every one of the ones in Battle for Azeroth really shine. It's not just the mobs you're against, but sometimes the dungeons themselves have been actively designed to work against you. Be it booby traps, incredibly claustrophobic hallways, or less than obvious ways for the enemies to get to you, the new dungeons were made with a balance of challenge and fun in mind.
But while the dungeons certainly are fun, what isn't all that fun is that the drop rates of gear seem to have taken a major hit this time around. While that's good on one hand - as people won't gear out and go "what's next!?" too quickly - it's also incredibly inconvenient when you're trying to prep for the raid content when it starts going live next month. Taking that into consideration, it makes every new upgrade you get feel special and it makes rewards from world quests feel more than just throw-away gear.
World PVP Reborn
With the introduction of War Campaigns and War Mode, new life has been brought back into World PVP, making it a real treat to experience. There's nothing quite like a typical quest run suddenly turning into a kill-or-be-killed situation as you're up against an enemy player. But this isn't a free pass for max level players to gank easy targets: kill too many players and you'll find a hefty bounty placed on your head and you just may find yourself in a hunter-becomes-hunted scenario. Of course, you could use it to your advantage and bait yourself to lure in the enemy towards fellow faction members lying in wait. Just have fun with it!
It's a blast to see a few small dust-ups turn into all out battles between a few dozen players at once. It's something I've not seen at random outside of Battlegrounds in quite some time. So while the questing is a blast, and the dungeons are great, the star this time around is seeing fresh life breathed back into world pvp.
Let The Battle Rage On
After all, this is the Warcraft franchise. This is something that was built on the Alliance versus the Horde. After the many big bads we have fought along the way, it's good to take some time to remember that we're supposed to be fighting each other, too. So whether you rep the Alliance or the Horde, Battle for Azeroth has something for everyone. But if you were missing world PVP, it especially feels like a love note from Blizzard to the gamers.
Fantastic new continents abundant with quest content, new capital cities are among the largest in game yet, War Mode / War Campaign brings life back into world PVP, New Dungeons are equal parts fun and challenging.
Drop rates in dungeons leave a lot to be desired.