The years have not been kind to fans of Warcraft's real-time strategy roots. Before each BlizzCon, a dwindling contingent of hopeful fans prays for Warcraft IV to no avail. But WoW's next expansion Battle for Azeroth might contain the next best thing.
Among a number of other new features, Battle for Azeroth will introduce 20-person cooperative raids called Warfronts. While other WoW raids pit you against processions of baddies and bosses, Warfronts see you face off against entire NPC armies.
Instead of just rolling up your chainmail sleeves and getting to it, though, you start by building and planning. The basis for the new mode's base-building, World of Warcraft game director Ion Hazzikostas told Kotaku during an interview at BlizzCon, is RTSes like Warcraft III.
"In searching for inspiration for how that might unfold, classic RTS roots felt like the perfect place to turn," Hazzikostas said.
He told me that while Blizzard is still ironing out the exact details of Warfronts, they will likely occur in three stages. First, you'll need to get your base up and running. That will involve "getting basic resources like lumber or gold that you'll need to upgrade your town hall" and "going out, vanquishing foes, and clearing supply lines for your peons to do their thing," Hazzikostas said.
So basically, you're a hero character on a Warcraft III map.
You don't just do blood-spattered dirty work, though. Stage two will involve collaborating with other players to make decisions about what gets built. Hazzikostas said that resources can go into buildings like barracks, armories, or stables, which will give you, other players, and NPC allies different bonuses.
"They will also enable you to train more troops and build siege vehicles — things that will let you push forward," he said.
The final stage is the most predictable: you charge into the field, bust down some walls, and lay waste to the enemy keep. First you craft, then you war. So basically, it's a cooperative midpoint between a raid and an RTS. It probably won't satisfy the Warcraft-IV-hungry masses, but it will at least tide(s of darkness) them over.