The 8.0 pre-patch for World of Warcraft‘s new expansion, Battle for Azeroth, is now live, rekindling the classic hatred between the game’s two factions, the Alliance and the Horde. The expansion also introduced a set of new raids and dungeons as to be expected with any new WoW expansion, as well as a variety of new features.
Here are the 10 new World of Warcraft features that change the game:
The Stat Squish
A central problem of long-running MMOs like WoW is that the player’s numbers have to continuously get bigger and bigger in order for the player to feel more powerful. When the original game released back in 2004, player health pools topped out in the thousands of hit points. Today, everyone is running around with absolutely massive numbers on their stat sheets, many of which have climbed into the millions. Players can deal out an equally massive amount of damage and it’s gotten to the point where there are so many large numbers flashing across the screen during combat that it can be hard to keep track of exactly how well you are performing.
Blizzard first fixed this problem back with the Warlords of Draenor expansion when the first “stat squish” reduced item levels throughout the game. But that old problem of players accumulating ever-higher numbers over time never really went away and players are once again putting up some over-the-top numbers in the twilight of Legion.
With the 8.0 patch, the game’s second “stat squish” is now live, once again restoring player power to a reasonable level. We can report that combat just feels better and it’s much easier to track how much damage you’re pumping out, thanks to the stat squish.
Simultaneous Worldwide Launch
Blizzard tried something new with Battle for Azeroth, releasing the expansion worldwide at the same exact time around the world. That means that while the street date was technically Aug. 14, the game went live at 3 pm PT on Aug. 13 if you lived on the west coast. This is the first time The Americas have launched an expansion at the same time as the European servers. Players didn’t have to watch Twitch streams of people who are in time zones ahead of them while waiting for their own launch times. Everyone could log in and start playing together simultaneously.
Blizzard developers said repeatedly that the game’s phasing technology that they’ve been working on over the last several years would allow the expansion to launch worldwide without a hiccup. Things went mostly as planned.
Blizzard has tried multiple times to bring back classic-era world PvP and nothing has really stuck in a way that fans of the old Southshore vs. Tarren Mill battles would like. Battle for Azeroth introduced the developer’s latest attempt, and we’re pretty optimistic about this one.
War mode is essentially a toggle that allows players to switch PvP mode on or off at will, regardless of what kind of server they are located on. Players who complete quests with War Mode turned on will reap additional rewards. Players will also have additional PvP talents that are only active during War Mode. With no flying in Battle for Azeroth until next year most likely, this could make running into a player of the opposite faction exciting and nerve-wracking again.
Warfronts are 20-player cooperative battles inspired by Warcraft 3. Players work together to build a base, research upgrades, and attack the opposing side, controlled by an AI. It’s like Blizzard sat down and figured out a way to bring a RTS mode to World of Warcraft.
One of the first Warfronts will be fought in Arathi Highlands, a classic zone that’s gotten some nice visual upgrades for the expansion. Anyone who loved queuing up for Arathi Basin back in the day will probably appreciate the feel Blizzard is going for throughout the zone.
Players who were around during Mists of Pandaria might recall a dungeon mode called Scenarios, which involved teams of three players instead of the traditional five. Island Expeditions bring a similar feel, with groups being tasked with plundering treasure off various islands. Your team faces off against other players or AI-controlled characters from the opposing faction and whoever can collect the most treasure, or “Azerite,” wins.
Blizzard has promised a wide variety of different islands to explore and it’s nice to see the return of another kind of group content to complement traditional dungeons. The idea seems to be that the islands are randomly generated to a certain degree just like Rifts are in Diablo III, so there should be no shortage of content to play through.
But our absolute favorite part? The AI Blizzard designed for the opposing faction is pretty good at mimicking real players. They even jump in the air repeatedly as they move forward, just like players who repeatedly spam their space bar while moving in dungeons or raids.
More Allied Races
The tail end of Legion saw the introduction of Allied Races, which introduced two new races for each side to play as. Battle for Azeroth introduces more, with Dark Iron Dwarves and brown-skinned Orcs included in the upcoming choices. Blizzard hasn’t confirmed much about what other kinds of races might show up, but there’s plenty of datamined info out there for those who want to take a look. Allied Races start at level 20 after a short scenario and players can earn a special set of cosmetic armor if they level the character all the way to 1110 without buying a level boost.
If you’ve been away from WoW for some time, you may not know that the game’s Legion expansion focused on powering up an impressive “Artifact Weapon” throughout the duration of the expansion. In short, players have been using the same weapon for about two years now. Artifact weapons were pretty cool and bosses did drop Relics which were used to upgrade them. But after two years of using the same weapon, many players are looking forward to the thrill of having an actual weapon drop off of a raid boss again.
The weapon slot is arguably the most powerful character slot in the game and we’ve missed the excitement that comes from finally getting that massive two-hander to drop after farming a boss for six weeks. That feeling will be restored by the end of the summer.
Just like player item levels, the game’s professions have become pretty bloated over time. Blizzard has made some updates to the leveling process before but Battle for Azeroth features a skill squish that should smooth things out considerably. Instead of having to level hundreds of points before you can start crafting Battle for Azeroth items, each expansion will have its own separate skill tier. In other words, you can start crafting Battle for Azeroth content right away, while the gear and items from other expansions will each feature their own separate counters. Your first Battle for Azeroth item will put you at 1/150 on the counter for the new expansion, no more grinding needed.
If you love running old content for transmog items, you’ll love the new legacy loot system. Whenever a player enters a dungeon or raid where they are 10 or more levels above the content, the dungeon or raid bosses drop an amount of loot equivalent to what would have dropped for a full group when the content was current. That means players could earn loot for five people in dungeons and loot for 20 people after soloing a raid. The legacy loot system also drops other gear types, like cloth dropping for a plate wearer. It’s now much easier to get the transmog gear you want, and you can also collect gear for your alts on the same run.
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