World of Warcraft’s next expansion ‘Battle for Azeroth’ is set to come out August 14th of this year, and its beta is already open for a lucky selection of people. As with every new installment, Blizzard does some things that may not always be seen as so favorable by the community, and with Legion’s generally agreed upon success, there’s a lot of eyes on BFA to make sure we don’t get ourselves another ‘Warlords of Draenor’ fiasco. There’s still plenty of time to go until its release, but for now, I’m here to outline the good, the bad, and the ugly.
Returning Spells – Over the last few expansions, Blizzard has done a lot of pruning to remove spells that don’t necessarily fit into the game, didn’t fit the fantasy of the class, or just plain weren’t all that useful. A lot of the older players – myself included – were dismayed by their removal and felt like our classes were getting less and less per expansion rather than being built up. Thankfully, we’re seeing a return! Many spells like druid’s ‘Hibernate’ are being implemented back into the game to inject in some of that flavor that’s been missing from constant ability removal.
Things Feel Bigger – Let’s face it: Cities in WoW are just kind of pathetic in size, which makes sense. Canonically, Azeroth is much larger than how we see it in the game but as old as it is, we just can’t expect them to make a sprawling, massive cities with every bit of flavor and detail we’d like to see… at least until now. Though it began with the beautiful Suramar city, Blizzard is keeping to its more recent designs and making big things feel more grand and massive. The Alliance and Horde cities Boralus and Zuldazar are big and beautiful, and that’s not all. What would a faction conflict expansion be without war? I’m not talking tiny skirmishes between ten NPCs either. Battles are becoming much greater in scale to truly feel like a gigantic conflict rather than just a schoolyard scuffle.
New Modes (For PVP and PVE) – Yes, it is at heart an expansion about the battle between the Horde and the Alliance, but many of us don’t care about that kind of thing at all. Fortunately, Blizzard’s trying to make a bit of something new for everyone! Expeditions are small scenarios that send you and a few of your allies off to new islands in an attempt to claim them for your side. While there is a player vs. player option to it, those more inclined to beat up on computers rather than people can choose to do battle against a faction of NPCs instead.
Aside from that, there’s also Warfronts – a new kind of PVP where you work with twenty other players from your faction to set up outposts, supply lines, and more in an attempt to push the enemy from their stronghold. As a lover of Guild Wars 2’s World vs. World system that gave the game such a sense of true scale in war, I am very excited to see how this plays out.
The Game is Becoming Prettier – I don’t just mean in terms of pure graphics. No, WoW is retaining its iconic cartoon-ish style as you can clearly tell, but that doesn’t mean it can’t advance with the times. Not only are classes being updated with new animations, spell effects, and impactful sounds, but the game as a whole is becoming more cinematic. Blizzard is clearly devoting itself to making this feel like an epic struggle, and they’re pulling it off with large-scale wars, more in-game cinematics with increased action and tension, and even smaller things like unique animations given to NPC’s just to add a bit more life around the game world itself.
Unfortunately, it isn’t all good news…
Get Gutted – As you’d expect, the departure from Legion means saying goodbye to our artifact weapons. It’s back to questing greens and blues for us, and that means also losing our abilities and talents we got along the way. While Blizzard has made an effort to keep many of the artifact talents and abilities in via the talent tree or just baking them into the class itself, many other unfortunate ones are simply left to feel gutted and empty, with less coming out of Legion than they did going in.
PVE May Take a Back Seat – I mentioned above that there are options for PVE fans, but much of the early expansion seems to be focused heavily on the player vs. player side. Warfronts and War Mode, as well as a few smaller changes most certainly take the spotlight, and if Blizzard isn’t careful about balancing, it may end up not being all too great of an expansion for our raiders and casual dungeoneers.
Global Slowdowns – Blizzard has made changes to the global cooldown that puts many offensive cooldowns, as well as offensive trinkets and similar things back onto the global cooldown – a move that has been almost universally panned as a generally bad idea. What this does is slow down classes and add more time in between using abilities, which is especially painful for classes without many cast times such as warriors, rogues, and hunters. They’ve already rolled back a couple of abilities from these changes, but we’ll just have to wait and see if it remains a detriment.
No Innovation with Classes – This may not be true across the board, but many classes feel essentially the same as they did in Legion, or even longer. It’s understandable with a game this old, they can’t revamp or add new, amazing things to classes every expansion like Final Fantasy: A Realm Reborn does with theirs, but when you pair this with the removal of many things we gained in Legion, it simply feels awful to have no new, exciting things to fawn over.
That might all sound bad, but there’s yet more to watch out for.
Let me explain a little first. What I’m about to discuss is neither good or bad, at least right now, but it sure may not end up pretty. These are the things to keep an eye on as we progress through beta and ultimately the expansion itself.
The Heart of Azeroth – BFA’s answer to artifact progression, the Heart of Azeroth is a necklace that the player powers up to enable certain talent selection on certain gear powered by the new substance known as Azerite. Sort of like a hybrid between artifact talents and the relic forge in 7.3.5, the goal is to give you some customization in your builds. The thing about this is that it’s much more complicated. Not all gear is able to be upgraded and may prove very difficult to balance in the long run. Some people have already made posts about how this system simply doesn’t work, but we’ll just have to keep an eye on it as we get closer to release.
Allied Races – Rapid addition of new races sounds wonderful, doesn’t it? On the surface, yes, but we should remember to tread lightly. After all, many of the allied races thus far such as void elves, light forged, and Highmountain tauren are simply existing models with new hair and colors available or some that already existed on NPCs. Some are higher effort than others, of course, but it’s a risky path to take in which the developers could potentially become lazy and offer these easy allied races rather than adding more substantial races and classes to the game. Looking around, it’s not hard to tell that they like to cut any corner they can when it comes to building new animation skeletons.
“Morally Grey” – If you browse Reddit or really any discussion threads about WoW, you’ve likely seen this discussion already. Blizzard has had some questionable writing leading up to this moment, and while they claim that the aim is to have both sides seen as shades of grey with their own motivations and weaknesses, it’s not hard to see that the Horde is most certainly several shades darker. Many people even claim that Sylvanas is cartoonish levels of evil, and it’s not hard to see why. We can only hope that their writing staff progresses things into a more even and interesting balance, and perhaps with the new addition of popular writer Christie Golden, we’ll see a truly great story.
It’s no secret that this expansion has already proven divisive among long-time fans of the game, and there are many reasons for both sides to either look forward to or dread ‘Battle for Azeroth’s’ release. In any case, it’s important to keep in mind that there’s still a lot of time for things to change and evolve, and there’s so much of the story we don’t yet know.
There’s much more to see before this battle comes to an end, and with luck and patience, this expansion may just go down as one for the ages.