World of Warcraft Battle for Azeroth Preview
Every time I start a new World of Warcraft expansion I find myself saying, “Whoa, that’s sick” a lot. Battle for Azeroth is no different.
Blizzard has continued to kick goals with its art direction with awesome looking zones, armour sets and new monsters. It genuinely feels like brand new lands with new content and not just reskinned Elves.
*cough* Nightborn and Void Elves *cough-cough*
Battle for Azeroth
The trailer and even the title hint at a serious faction war, something that has been lacking from the Warcraft narrative for a while. Most expansions focus on the Horde and Alliance pooling their resources together to stop a purple demon guy or frosty undead dude.
Or big underground Dragon.
Or helping the previous purple demon guy beat some green and red demon guys and so on.
I’ll avoid spoilers but players will be thrown into the chaos of the siege of Lordaeron from the cinematic. Designed to emulate a huge PvP experience, you embark on a series of quests to help or hinder the Forsaken in the defence of their home.
This is a strong recurring theme throughout the expansion, with island expeditions and warfronts emulating PvP encounters against AI controlled enemies. Battle for Azeroth sets itself up as a war on a massive scale that looks to leave much of Azeroth in flames, literally.
Azeroth in flames
The levelling experience in Battle for Azeroth is smooth. It does feel a little linear, however, as in the current trend you aren’t required to group with or meet other players.
With a focus on casual players hopping on for a few quests and jumping off again, the game is designed for ease of play and a solo experience. Purists may complain that this removes player agency and the need of an MMORPG, but I found myself able to play at the pace I enjoyed and soak in the story.
I was initially sceptical of levelling in only three zones. It seemed that the world might feel small and not worthy of a whole new expansion pack.
That is not the case.
The story engaged me and whilst the levelling experience wasn’t particularly long, any World of Warcraft player worth their salt knows the game starts at the level cap. I missed the open PvP of levelling on a different continent to the Alliance. Also at the time of levelling, world PvP wasn’t enabled, but that’s a small gripe in a rather flawless and smooth experience.
Wear your Heart on your sleeve
The zones looked great and felt like real places, I am also of the unpopular opinion that Voldun is the best zone. The barren desert and snake people known as Sethrak really grabbed me and dragged me in.
I won’t go into specs, talents and builds too much since a lot of it will change before launch. I loved my protection warrior in Legion but then they changed it and I had to learn to love it again.
There’s still love for my protection warrior in Battle for Azeroth as I relearn how to play it. The gear, however, is a whole other thing. With the departure of artefact weapons comes the introduction of the Heart of Azeroth. The Hearth of Azeroth is a neck piece that grows in power as you collect artefact power similar to the artefact weapons from Legion.
That being said, the artefact power you collect is immediately applied and you only have one Heart of Azeroth. That means no more juggling between specs to boost artefacts or having bags full of tokens you need to sit and apply,
As your Heart of Azeroth climbs in level, it unlocks traits you must choose on special pieces of loot called Azerite gear. This is gear crafted from the rare and powerful resource that is the focal point of the campaign. Azerite comes in head, shoulder and chest slots.
Show off your bling
As higher level gear drops it will require you to have a higher level Heart of Azeroth. An upgraded chest piece might not be perfect to throw in straight away if you still need to finish tanking this Mythic dungeon. Each piece has three tiers of choices, like talents for that piece of gear.
It is also worth mentioning that the armour graphics are phenomenal. There are some amazing looking items and I can foresee some awesome looking transmog sets coming out of this expansion.
It’d be impossible to talk about Battle for Azeroth without touching on Island Expeditions and War Fronts. I absolutely love both and plan to spend much of my time there when the game goes live.
Firstly, Island Expeditions, wow what a great idea and so much fun. Pitting a team of three players vs a PvE AI team of the enemy faction on either normal, heroic or Mythic difficulty.
You need to race to sweep the island mining Azerite nodes, killing rare monsters or packs of creatures. When you complete events on the island you race to collect 6000 Azerite, disrupting the enemy team and their efforts.
Expeditions across Islands
At the time of writing, there was only one Island to play but Blizzard promises a few different island layouts and enemy team compositions to create a varied experience each time.
Enemy AI will behave differently based on their class and race too. I never found the Alliance AI difficult to defeat but I only played on normal. They were a nuisance when chaining stuns and healing their buddies as they got low though.
Island Expeditions definitely feel like a simulated PvP encounter as I mentioned before. You can participate in the war even if PvP isn’t your main thing.
Which brings me to War Fronts.
Big ol’ Wars
War Fronts are awesome. A huge scale battle with masses of NPC troops where you play as the battlefield heroes similar to Warcraft 3. Peons collect ore and lumber, which you are allocated a small portion of, to build and upgrade buildings and troops.
You’ll need to keep your eyes out for incoming troops, including siege engines that lay waste to your fledging base, balancing frontline fighting with resource management. Let me be clear, there are no ’10 mins no rush kthx,’ this is an all-out war in the Arathi Highlands.
The War Front tests were only open for a few hours though and it was quite laggy as everyone charged into the queues. With hundreds of NPCs on screen at a time, it’s an ambitious goal that will be amazing if successful.
The mechanics of the war and enemy behaviour feel real as hunters sit on top of hills and warlocks rain fire onto choke points while warriors and paladins hold the line. All this kicks massive goals for Battle for Azeroth feeling like a war on an unimagined scale for World of Warcraft.
A Winning Expansion
I’m a gushing fanboy for this stuff and I only hope that as Arena seasons come and go we get new warfronts that help permanently shape the world across the next couple years.
Battle for Azeroth is exactly that, a Battle for Azeroth, with delicious new zones and interesting new gear systems there is a mountain of content to get through.
I expect Blizzard will receive a lot of backlash over class balance or weapon drop rates. There’s sure to be issues with catch up mechanics for people who haven’t farmed enough artefact power for their Heart of Azeroth too but I sincerely believe that to be the minority.
Many people expressed concerns over Battle for Azeroth looking and feeling like a filler expansion like Warlords of Draenor, but I’m confident that this expansion is here to stay.
I just renewed my sub for six months and look forward to diving back in.
World of Warcraft Battle for Azeroth was played during the closed beta period with a code provided by Blizzard.