World Of Warcraft Battle For Azeroth: The Kotaku Review

“Well, it’s more of the same” is generally my answer when people ask me how I’m enjoying World of Warcraft’s seventh paid expansion, Battle for Azeroth. Then I spend several minutes explaining why that isn’t a bad thing.

Blizzard has spent the past six years transforming World of Warcraft from a tired massively multiplayer online role-playing game that was seriously showing its age (circa 2012's Mists of Pandaria) into something fresh and new.

The developer has amped up the writing, implemented exciting new ways to tell stories, and filled the world of Azeroth with secrets and treasures. Between 2014's Warlords of Draenor and 2016's Legion, World of Warcraft today feels like a completely different game.

Battle for Azeroth doesn’t change the game very much. Aside from a revamp of how player-versus-player combat works and a couple of new multiplayer mini-games (Island Expeditions and Warfronts), the latest expansion follows exactly the same formula as Legion before it.

Pick a questline, any questline.

Players travel to a new land, Zandalar for the Horde and Kul Tiras for the Alliance, where they are given their choice of adventuring zones to quest through. Thanks to the level scaling introduced in Legion, these zones can be tackled in any order. Players ride from location to location, picking up and completing quests. Each zone’s main storyline generally leads to a dungeon.

What about the titular battle? Along with the dramatic pre-launch events that led to the destruction of both the undead and night elf capital cities, players eventually open up War Story quests. These questlines take players into enemy territory, where they will be instrumental in collecting gizzards and killing a certain number of things for experience points and loot.

It’s like a lighter version of the regular storyline, only without extensive voice acting and with more opportunities for PVP combat.

Seriously, Blizzard. Stop it. Stoooooop.

If that isn’t enough wartime activity, players can also send non-player-characters on timed missions to harvest resources, because someone keeps telling Blizzard we enjoy this social game bullshit in our MMO.

It’s one of the main ways to gather the faction reputation to unlock the expansion’s allied races, variations on existing player races meant to bolster the ranks of the Alliance and Horde. I’ve yet to meet a player who enjoys this aspect of the game.

As much as I complain about being flooded with quests, it’s really one of my favourite things about modern day World of Warcraft. Each new group of exclamation point-sporting non-player characters I encounter has a story to tell.

A blood cult is using its evil power to supplant the local spirits, and players must recruit the aid of massive mystical beasts to stop them. One of the most powerful fleets in the world has gone missing, and only the player has the skill and smarts to unravel the mystery.

They aren’t not always epic — sometimes a farmer just needs a little weeding done — but they’re almost always entertaining.

World of Warcraft: Battle for Azeroth

BACK OF THE BOX QUOTE

More World of Warcraft than ever before!

TYPE OF GAME

Muhmorepaguh

LIKED

Wonderful storytelling, lush visuals, excellent music. More of what I play World of Warcraft for.

DISLIKED

Artifact armour system is nowhere near as exciting as Legion's artifact weapons. Still doing the timed NPC mission thing.

DEVELOPER

Blizzard Entertainment

PLATFORM

PC

RELEASE DATE

August 14

PLAYED

Took Alliance Warlock from level 110 to 120, completing hundreds of quests and poking at dungeons. Switched to Horde and had a much better time. Several dozen hours invested so far, and still playing.

Compelling storylines make questing in World of Warcraft a compelling activity, but it isn’t just the writing that draws the player in.

Blizzard’s storytelling technique has been evolving for years, slowly replacing pre-rendered cinematics with fancy in-game camerawork and art to provide a sense of drama and scale. As players approach new areas, the landscape seems to unfold like a pop-up storybook, revealing fantastic landscapes.

My favourite example of this is the Necropolis, temple of the death Loa (spirit) Bwonsamdi in the troll island nation of Zandalar. One moment the player is trompsing through a lush swamp, and the next they are in another world.

It’s astounding that a 14-year-old video game can still take my breath away. Every time I begin to get a little bit bored with whatever forest or desert I’m wandering through, Battle for Azeroth tosses me a vast temple, a rocky fjord, a hidden grotto or a couple of alpaca.

Dolly and Dot are my best friends. They pull this wagon through dunes of sand.

What Battle for Azeroth lacks in new stuff, it makes up for in character. By sticking to the formula established in Warlords of Draenor and Legion and not going overboard with complicated new game mechanics, the World of Warcraft team has been able to focus more on the personality of the characters, landscapes and encounters. The World feels more like a living and breathing thing.

Perhaps that’s why Battle for Azeroth, in its current form, doesn’t have nearly as much to do with actual battle between the Alliance and Horde as the electrifying events leading up to the expansion’s launch. Players are spending levels 110 through 120 falling in love with Azeroth all over again, making the upcoming battles mean something more than PVP combat.

I am interested to see how the Battle for Azeroth unfolds over the coming months, once the excitement over the initial launch dies down. The addition of Warfronts, team-based scenarios based on the original Warcraft real-time strategy game, should be quite entertaining.

I’m looking forward to seeing how this war escalates. Will the Alliance and Horde lose more cities? Will our senseless conflict lay waste to these new lands? Will the expansion’s main gimmick, using the Heart of Azeroth artifact to power up special Azerite armour pieces, get more interesting?

No, it will not.

Or will Blizzard just give us more of the same, because I am completely fine with that at this point. Stories so interesting I’ve defected to the Horde to make sure I get to enjoy them all? I guess I can live with that.


Comments

    BFA is pretty much just ok so far IMO.

    Have to wait and see how it pans out but my main issue with it is that it's just continued some bits from Legion largely unchanged and then watered down or screwed up other things (fishing, alchy, enchanting, artifact/tier) and the new stuff it has introduced is down right crap.

    Island expeditions are what I'm getting at there, they're nothing but a boring grind that players are forced to do if they want a decent amount of AP gain per week. We're only 3 weeks in and I already dread the time I have to spend on expeditions.

    I also hate that they delayed most of the game by 3 weeks. Raids/M+/PvP/Warfronts etc all inaccessible until now. All the gearing I've done over the last few weeks is completely irrelevant overnight. "Rare" mobs in arathi drop ilvl 340 loot - same as the highest we were able to get until now. Such a slap in the face to everyone who has worked hard to gear ready for raids. People can spend a couple hours and get the ilvl it took me 2 weeks to achieve with only 10 mythic dungeons available per week.

    BFA is middling so far...has potential if Blizz improve it and turn it around...could also crash and burn like WoD. I'm hoping it ends up better than what we have now.

      I'm feeling much the same. Especially the Island Expeditions, they're an interesting idea but made boring because of the lack of gain. No loot, no gold, no XP. Just some Azerite power and rep. Oh and if you happen to get crazy lucky a mount. Although I don't know anyone who's actually got one.

      I prefer the profession approach moving back close to the original idea. ie; you go to a trainer to get recipes. I thought the way it was done in Legion was a pain in the arse.

      "Hi I'm a profession trainer"
      "Oh can you train me in some recipes?"
      "Nope. You have to go out and find them in the world. Or make stuff and you'll randomly learn a recipe"

      Terrible, just terrible.

        Well most of the recipes are rep based now....except a few that are WQs which can be a pain.

        What they've screwed up the most though is the design team seem to not understand why the feasts/cauldrons were made more accessible. It's not a luxury, they're necessary. The rarity of midnight salmon and anchorweed is absolutely absurd. Having anchorweed as a low % chance rare spawn herb to begin with is going backwards on design choices they've made on ore nodes. If they don't do it on ore why do it on herbs??

        So frustrating seeing them double down on bad design.

          Most *base* recipes are trainer based. And a lot of the 2nd and even some 3rd rank ones are too. That's a huge difference to Legion where even the base recipe had to be quested for, or discovered (cooking/herbing/mining/skinning). Sure some of the higher rank upgrades to the recipes are rep based, but I'm not too upset about that. At least you can actually make the item because you have the base recipe. All you're missing out on is fractionally cheaper mats or the chance for procs. I can live with that.

          I'm not too upset about the rarity of a few crafting mats. Possibly because I still remember farming for Black Lotus way back in vanilla. Realistically the drop rate on Midnight Salmon is probably fine. Bearing in mind the cauldron/feast is meant for 20(ish) people to use you should be viewing it as 20(ish) people gather the mats not just 1 or 2. Anchorweed might be a little low at the moment. But I'm not entirely sure since I haven't been herbing for it yet.

          But bear in mind too, that there is a huge demand at the moment since people aren't really farming efficiently yet. Gear is still bad and there's no flight and a lot of people are leveling or grinding rep rather than farming herbs/ore/fish. Give it a month or two and farming will increase, availability will be better and prices will drop.

    Every now and then I think of returning. But reading this sours that thought.

    Of the major things they changed, were the things I actually would go back for. When I recall my days of playing avidly, it is the love of being a Disco Priest healer. I liked being in demand, a specialist. Then I read they opened up the classes for "flexibility".

    And I used to like the buzz from levelling and being able to head on out to explore a new area with harder enemies. It rewarded progression. Now with scaling, you can go where you want when you want. Just like other MMOs.

    If they ever do bring in that "classic" WOW though and wind these back, I may one day be tempted.

      They are working on Vanilla wow as you read this. I would be interested to see how much is actual fond memories of the time or rose coloured glasses.

        I agree there is a little of that going on. But I think that the "vanilla" version they are doing is not completely going back to the start. It would be horrendous.

        Will be interesting to see what they keep and what they roll back.

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