We’ve been handing in resources, spending hard earned gold on crafting materials and being price gouged on the Auction House but it was worth it. Warfronts are here ladies and peons.
But what is a Warfront and why was I so eager to get into it?
Warfronts are the new ‘faux’ PvP scenarios that Blizzard introduced to help drive the narrative of a Faction War; the main focus of World of Warcraft’s latest expansion Battle for Azeroth.
Battle for Azeroth Warfronts
It began with the Alliance in control of Arathi Highlands, having recently retaken Stromgarde (NOT STORM GARDE!) from the Ogres that made it their home. As the Alliance completes their repairs of the recently reacquired fortress, Alliance players could roam the zone completing bonus quests for gear and other rewards.
Meanwhile, the Horde readies their forces to launch a full-scale invasion, establish a base and conquer the enemy base. Very Warcraft 3.
As soon as the War Effort ticker reached 100% the Horde was able to queue for the Warfront scenario and have a shot at glory, triumph, honour and of course the main reason people play World of Warcraft, sweet new loot.
It’s important to note that while the premise of Warfronts sells itself as a faction war scenario, it’s not actually a PvP encounter. There are no enemy players in a Warfront, it’s like playing Warcraft vs a computer AI.
I enjoyed the Warfronts during the beta for the brief window they were open, and despite the lag, I enjoyed the concept.
What’s a Battle?
Players establish a base, find and control a lumber mill and mine, build up your base and train troops whilst researching upgrades. All from a 3rd person RPG perspective, what a cool way to help highlight the Horde vs Alliance storyline without forcing people to PvP if they aren’t into that style of gameplay.
The scenario starts with the Horde parachuting in off a hovering Warship and cleaning out the bones of an old Horde base of all Alliance forces. Once control has been established, players are ushered towards either the mill or mine to secure the vital resources for the coming battles.
You can quite literally roleplay as a peon just collecting lumber and ore whilst being a boon to your team, ZUG ZUG.
From there NPCs bark orders to turn in more lumber, secure the next control point or defend against the enemy forces. All the while the AI spams patrols and concentrated forces of Alliance knights, footmen, archers and priests at you to draw your attention away or give you some opportunity to fight.
I don’t see how anyone could lose at a Warfront scenario, it’s paced so that as long as half your player’s aren’t AFK you can win.
Don’t Go AFK
And AFK players are a real problem. Some players are just looking for an easy gear upgrade without doing anything. It’s not a new problem in WoW but still a troubling one.
Most of the active players police this themselves, taking note who has been inactive for a while and then vote kicking them. This mostly handles the issue but I did see a few people abuse it to remove someone they don’t like.
I’d like to see the Warfronts get tuned up to be a bit tougher, stronger, require more communication and coordination, perhaps like with Island Expeditions they could include Heroic or Mythic difficulties. Because at the moment it feels like a chore that you know you’ll get finished it’s just a matter of when.
Now don’t get me wrong, I thought the Warfront was very cool and fun, the first couple times. But each time we finished the Warfront, which is a limited time event, we got a piece of new loot which may or may not be an upgrade.
I’m not complaining about free gear, except that it wasn’t as available to Alliance players as it was for Horde. This made me feel cheapened or guilty as Alliance players, some of them friends, banged on about how unfair it is and that Horde are scum for exploiting and farming the Warfronts.
That got me thinking, is it exploiting to farm an event for gear? Was I being cheap by gearing up my new Demon Hunter in the Warfront? Is this Blizzard favouritism towards the Horde?
Ultimately I think the answer is no.
It’s perfectly fine and one side had to get the Warfront first. The Alliance got free uncontested access to rare spawns and a World Boss for a whole week before the Horde even entered the Warfront scenario, it’s up to them to use that time.
In addition, it’s already been confirmed that the next Warfront is Darkshore and the Horde starts in control of it, meaning the Alliance gets the first run at ‘free loot’ as they described.
As with all things a new tier of Warfronts will yield higher gear, the same as raids, and thus the Alliance get their chance to be the exploiting Warfront farming scum. It’s the circle of Warcraft life.
Overall I think Warfronts are a success. They build on the scenario tools that we saw and have been using so much since Mists of Pandaria to do something bold and new.
Instead of three player groups attacking Demon ships or roaming around an Island looking for treasure we see a genuine attempt to push the narrative of Alliance vs Horde. There’s a reason why World of Warcraft is often the last MMORPG standing and that’s because they aren’t afraid to try a new direction in their content creation, some swing and miss but others stand up as genre defining innovations.
Warfronts are on their way to being one of those genre defining innovations, with a bit more tweaking and development I wouldn’t mind putting money on seeing them carried on as a theme through upcoming expansions.
Battle for Azeroth was reviewed on PC using a code provided by Blizzard.