Release Date: August 14, 2018Platform: PCDeveloper: BlizzardPublisher: BlizzardGenre: MMORPG
World of Warcraft: Battle for Azeroth went live the evening of August 13 in the U.S. and Den of Geek has spent much of the few weeks adventuring across the new continents of Kul Tiras and Zandalar. The expansion features plenty of the kind of content fans have come to expect from a new WoW expansion, like new quests and dungeons. But Battle for Azeroth also introduces several features that offer entirely new ways to play the game, including Warfronts, Mythic+ dungeons, and Uldir, Battle for Azeroth‘s first raid.
While we published our Battle for Azeroth Review in Progress back in August, we’ve now played through everything this new expansion has to offer to give our final thoughts as well as a review score. Here’s what we think about World of Warcraft‘s latest expansion after a month of play:
After traveling on a spaceship to Argus in order to save the world from Sargeras and the Burning Legion, Battle for Azeroth offers players a very welcome back-to-basics storyline: the Alliance and the Horde are at each other’s throats again. Blizzard has done an outstanding job with Battle for Azeroth‘s storytelling both in and out of the game. You don’t need to read Christie Golden’s Before the Storm novel or watch the Warbringers: Jaina video on YouTube to enjoy the story, but Blizzard has included numerous nods to events that have taken place outside of the game as a reward for its most dedicated fans.
As Battle for Azeroth begins, Horde warchief Sylvanas Windrunner has taken the torch to the Alliance city of Darnassus/Teldrassil and blighted her own Undercity to prevent the Alliance from capturing it in the Battle for Lordaeron. The initial impetus for both factions is to seek out a new ally who can help them in this ongoing war.
Players are treated to two unique and completely separate stories based on their faction of choice. Alliance players accompany Jaina Proudmoore to her homeland of Kul Tiras where she must face her past, while Horde players explore a new partnership with the Zandalari trolls. This reviewer has played Alliance since vanilla, so Kul Tiras is where I’ve spent most of my time, but I have been leveling a Horde character across the three zones of Zandalar and I’m happy to report that Blizzard has done a fine job putting together an initial story for Battle for Azeroth across the board. Both faction storylines pack an emotional punch while dropping hints of what’s to come in the months ahead.
Questing and War Mode
Battle for Azeroth features so many different quest lines that it can actually feel a bit overwhelming, at least in the first few weeks of play. I started the expansion with an empty quest log and quickly found myself having to drop certain side quests to pick up new ones because I repeatedly reached the quest log limit. To be clear, it’s pretty easy to get to 120 if you just focus on the main storyline, so there’s no real obligation to do all of the side quests. But if you are a completionist, you might be a little annoyed by the cluttered mess your map and log can become.
Just to give you an idea of how many side quests there are, I have friends who managed to hit 120 while only playing through two of the three zones each faction begins with. Once max level is reached, players unlock even more content in the form of repeatable daily World Quests and are also given additional access to the opposing faction’s three zones. I’ve gotten things under control in the last day or so and I probably shouldn’t complain about there being too many things to do in an MMO, but I did feel like the game was pulling me in one too many directions at times. The minor annoyance aside, if you like questing in World of Warcraft, Battle for Azeroth will give you all the quality content you can handle and then some.
If you need a break from all of that questing or want to take your frustrations with your overflowing quest log out on somebody’s face, Battle for Azeroth‘s War Mode has you covered. Prior to Patch 8.0, World of Warcraft‘s servers were split into PvE and PvP. Those who wanted to attack other players in the open world played on PvP servers while those who preferred to focus on the story chose PvE. Now, every player on every server can toggle PvP on or off anytime they are in Stormwind or Orgrimmar. Toggling War Mode on comes with some pretty nice incentives, including extra abilities that can help your damage output or survivability, and players also receive an extra 10 percent in experience points or max level resources.
Just about everyone I know leveled to 120 with War Mode turned on so that they could hit the new level cap 10 percent faster. It’s funny though, I’ve run past several Horde players with my Alliance paladin who clearly had no interest in a fight. There seems to be a significant portion of the player base who play with War Mode turned on for the extra rewards while hoping they don’t actually get interrupted from their daily open world tasks. I’ve also noticed more and more players turning War Mode off in the last few days so they can tackle their World Quests in peace. If you enjoy PvP, War Mode has a lot to love, but it will be interesting to see how active the mode is a few months from now.
Dungeons and Island Expeditions
Blizzard has always been the best in the business at creating PvE group content and Battle for Azeroth is no exception so far, at least when considering the traditional 5-man dungeons. The expansion offers 10 dungeons on three different difficulty levels to this point and I’ve really enjoyed almost all of them. The locales are diverse, with players battling through a pirate city, a goblin town, and an ancient temple among others. The boss fights are another high point, with many interesting mechanics that frequently require more than just “tank and spank.”
Some dungeons also feature interesting areas in between the boss fights, most notably the Temple of Sethraliss. There, players must walk through a maze of glowing orbs and then survive a gauntlet with constantly respawning mobs in order to make it to the last boss. It’s clear that Blizzard had its time-based Mythic+ mode in mind when it designed certain parts of these dungeons. Mythic+ doesn’t release until Sept. 4 but it’s already easy to imagine the frustrated screams of players who fail at some of these more elaborate segments, causing precious seconds to tick off the clock. I’d like to see Blizzard maybe reduce the number of trash mobs in a couple of dungeons (Freehold and The Motherlode), but all in all, if you enjoy dungeon-crawling in World of Warcraft, you’ll find a lot to like in this latest batch.
Aside from the dungeons, the expansion also features a new form of group content called Island Expeditions that will feel somewhat familiar to anyone who played through Scenarios in Mists of Pandaria. Island Expeditions task three-man groups with collecting Azerite, a precious end-game resource while also battling a variety of PvE mobs, including computer-controlled members of the opposing faction. Each week will offer three different islands for players to explore, switching up the types of mobs players will have to kill and loot. Like dungeons, Expeditions offer three different difficulty levels, as well as a PvP mode where the opposing faction will be actual players instead of NPCs.
My impression of Island Expeditions is that it’s… generally just fine. The novelty of it kind of wore off pretty quickly for me and others in my guild. Players have a weekly incentive to complete a certain number of Expeditions in order to get a big boost of Azerite, and I’ve already seen people complain that the only reason they are queuing for Expeditions is just for that weekly reward. It’s early, but there’s already a sense that as time goes on, Expeditions could end up feeling like a chore you have to complete instead of something fun you actually enjoy doing. Those who enjoy PvP might get a little more joy out of the experience as PvP Expeditions offer Conquest Points that are normally only rewarded in high-end Arena or Rated Battlegrounds.
With the release of additional content on September 4, the true endgame for Battle for Azeroth is now well underway. The expansion’s first raid, Uldir, has seen release on multiple difficulties, dungeon dwellers are now plotting their speed runs through the game’s Mythic Plus mode, and the Horde and Alliance have begun battling on Battle for Azeroth‘s first Warfront in Arathi Highlands.
Let’s start with the Warfront, as it’s been one of this expansion’s most highly touted new features. The mode gives players a taste of Warcraft 3, with both sides training troops and building bases as they attempt to gain control of the enemy fortress. The difference here is that players actually get to play alongside their troops as they charge across the battlefield in a PvE scenario.
Warfronts are heavily time-gated. The feature started last week with the Alliance already controlling the Highlands while the Horde was gathering resources to launch an attack and take over the zone. The faction that controls the Highlands has access to an extra world boss and can complete a variety of world quests while also farming a large number of rare mobs that drop a mix of pets, mounts, and gear. Meanwhile, the opposing faction must turn in a number of trade goods, collecting a huge amount of resources before they are allowed to queue for the Warfront scenario. If you played WoW in vanilla, when players had to turn in runecloth and other trade goods in order to unlock the Ahn’Qiraj raid, you’ll have a good idea of what this entails.
In short, I found the World Quests, rare mob farming, and the actual Warfront scenario to all be fun diversions from WoW‘s bread and butter of dungeon runs and battlegrounds. I could do without the resource collecting, but at least it gives the other faction something to do while one half of the player base is out in Arathi on a rare mob farming spree.
The Warfront experience is definitely different than anything else in the game, and I have to give Blizzard a tip of the hat for taking a risk, even if the end result didn’t blow us away. The gameplay is especially interesting on at least the first run through. For example, enemies first attack your NPC troops before they turn their sights on you, the champion. Yes, that’s right, Blizzard found a way to put a little MOBA into your MMO.
Our more long-term concern here is that Warfronts are going to have the same problem as Island Expeditions. It’s a fun romp the first time through but becomes less and less interesting with each passing week. Mount and pet collectors will want to hit Arathi on every new lockout to take down those rare mobs, but I could see the rest of the player base getting a bit tired of the experience over time. Blizzard badly needs to implement Warfronts in other old world zones because Arathi just isn’t going to be as exciting the third, fifth, or 10th time through.
As for the raid and Mythic Plus dungeons, there’s really not much to say other than if you liked raiding and dungeon runs in Legion, you’ll like them in Battle for Azeroth. The Mythic Plus system has seen a few tweaks with different affixes available on your Keystone and a chance for extra loot from your weekly chest reward. Uldir also seems a bit easy even on Heroic mode if you’re a seasoned raider, but that is to be expected from the first raid tier.
Looking at the big picture of the endgame, it’s clear that the World Quests and Mythic Plus dungeons first introduced in Legion will be a staple of the WoW endgame for a long time to come. I’m a little disappointed though that Battle for Azeroth leans so hard on these already successful features instead of doing more to innovate. Two of the expansion’s new additions, Island Expeditions and Warfronts, feel a little half-baked, and I can see players growing tired of both features fairly quickly if Blizzard doesn’t do more to shake things up. At least I’ll have the PvP War Mode to keep me busy. All in all, I’ve greatly enjoyed my time with Battle for Azeroth, even if many of the expansion’s best features were originally introduced in Legion.
Jason M. Gallagher is a freelance contributor. Read more of his work here.