The Battle for Azeroth expansion takes World of Warcraft back to the faction war between the Horde and the Alliance that has always been at the heart of Warcraft but on a much larger scale than before.
The Alliance must journey to the continent of Kul Tiras to seek the aid of their old allies in the coming war, while the Horde seeks out the might of the Zandalari empire to aid them against the Alliance.
World of Warcraft: Battle for Azeroth Review
Battle for Azeroth builds on the strong foundation that was laid by its predecessor, Legion and it might not be the most innovative expansion yet but its base content are incredibly strong, and I have had a blast in this new chapter of World of Warcraft so far.
I absolutely loved the zones, the music, as well as the story on both the Alliance and Horde side. Especially the maximum level quest chain to unlock the mythic dungeons were incredible. Honestly some of the best storytelling Blizzard has ever done. The dungeons are also some of, if not the best batch of instances to be released with a World of Warcraft expansion to date. While the new content such as Island expeditions and Warfronts might not be the most entertaining, they both have a lot of potentials, and they are definitely still something to do that vary your experience on Azeroth. Lastly, Warmode happened to be one of the best changes to World of Warcraft in years, and it gives the players something it has craved for years, entirely organic content.
with the story being teased on both Zandalar and Kul Tiras I certainly have high hopes for the future of the story and content patches.
My biggest gripes with the expansion are the lack of new abilities and talents. The feeling of hitting level 120 certainly didn’t feel like hitting the level cap as mostly nothing happened. The Azerite gear does provide some endgame progression and adds a bit of flavor to the class but not as much as Legion Artifacts or straight up new abilities and talents. That said, the Azerite system has plenty of time to be improved upon and could end up being really interesting.
Whether or not Battle for Azeroth goes down as a huge success or a failure will come down to the future content patches, and if they support it as well as they did Legion, I am sure it will stand the test of time. With the story being teased on both Zandalar and Kul Tiras I certainly have high hopes for the future of the story and content patches.
New Zones & Questing Experience
The leveling experience was a mixed bag for me but definitely mostly good. The zones are hands down the best zones they have ever created for any expansion, and especially Drustvar is a standout and might be my favorite World of Warcraft zone of all time.
Generally speaking, the main storyline of each zone was very engaging, and some of them are some of the best we have ever seen. However, some zones suffer from a vast number of boring side quests that put a stain on an otherwise fantastic leveling experience.
Battle for Azeroth puts lore heroes such as Jaina, Sylvanas, Greymane back into the front seat and the storytelling is much better for it.
What I loved most about leveling in Battle for Azeroth was the feel of being an adventurer once again. While Legion was great, it is nice not to have everything be world ending threats and to have a more down to earth storyline. I like not being the world saver and greatest hero for a change and not being treated like a god by the game’s characters, while player characters are still in high regard it feels like its taken down a nudge which I really prefer. Battle for Azeroth puts lore heroes such as Jaina, Sylvanas, Greymane back into the front seat and the storytelling is much better for it.
Kul Tiras – The Alliance Experience
Lifelong fans of the Warcraft franchise has long hoped that we would get to experience this place in-game for ourselves and boy did Blizzard not disappoint. Tiragarde Sound, Drustvar, and Stormsong Valley are top tier, and I’d argue that Drustvar is the best zone that Blizzard has ever created, with both Tiragarde Sound and Stormsong Valley not far behind. On top of that, the layout is also incredibly open and feels natural to navigate through, which was a genuinely welcomed change after the very cramped at times frustrating zones of the Broken Isles. The zones are also quite distinct from one another and each zone also has a lot of variation that makes traveling through them an adventure you’ll never tire of.
Tiragarde Sound, Drustvar, and Stormsong Valley are absolutely top tier and I’d argue that Drustvar is the best zone that Blizzard has ever created, with both Tiragarde Sound and Stormsong Valley not far behind
The main story focuses a lot on a nation in total political disarray and have us visit some of the great houses of Kul Tiras to bring them back in line in support of the Proudmoore family and a united Kul Tiras. Each zone has unique plot lines which are a real treat to uncover and play through with especially both Drustvar and Stormsong having stellar main storylines.
My biggest gripe is with the side quests, in particular with the side quests in Stormsong Valley and Tiragarde Sound. There are way too many, and most of them feel very uninspired and doesn’t live up to the quality we have come to expect from Blizzard in 2018.
That said, the Alliance questing experience is still among the best ones we have ever had, and Drustvar alone will make it well worth playing through, and I don’t see myself ever tire of the Alliance continent. Kul Tiras offer a little of everything, Tiragarde Sound is all about pirates and maritime culture. Drustvar feels more like a traditional role-playing game than any other Warcraft zone and feels very inspired by the Witcher 3 which is definitely not a bad thing. Lastly, Stormsong Valley is one of the most serene looking zones ever but has a much darker story hiding underneath.
Zandalar – The Horde Experience
While I personally prefer the Alliance zones, it is not hard to appreciate that Blizzard nailed what they were going for with the Aztecian empire of Zandalar. So if you prefer troll culture, jungles and dinosaurs over pirates and naval culture then the Horde experience will not disappoint.
Just like the Kul Tiran zones, the 3 Zandalar zones are absolutely stunning, and each zone is the best of its type in all of Warcraft. Zuldazar is an immersive jungle filled with Dinosaurs and temples, Nazmir is the best and most scary looking swamp zone on Azeroth, and Voldun is by far the most impressive desert zone, we have ever had.
While the story is still on a smaller scale than the previous expansion, it is not entirely as down to earth as the Kul Tiras story and feels a lot grander than what the Alliance gets. Which you prefer is up to you but the quality of the main storylines for the Horde is impossible to argue against, and while I much prefer the Kul Tiras continent I must admit that the Horde storylines are hard to beat, especially in Zuldazar and Nazmir.
The Horde storyline is a wonderful mixture of troll gods known as ”Loa”, blood trolls, old gods and political corruption and it introduces us to some of the best original characters in years.
Leveling in Battle for Azeroth – Final Thoughts
All and all I’d say that the Alliance wins when it comes to the zone aesthetics and layout but regarding questing, I would say that the Horde is better off. However, one thing is certain, no matter which side you choose you are in for a great overall experience.
My biggest gripe with the Battle for Azeroth leveling was the number of uninspired side quests and frankly the lack of variation in even the main story quests. While the story is great, it does feel like there are less fun and unique quests compared to Legion and Warlord of Draenor.
120, now what? – Dungeons, Warfronts, Islands, and More
Time to look at what there is to do at max level and what we will be spending our time with for the next foreseeable future.
Dungeons – Better than ever
Battle for Azeroth does not only bring the best continents we have ever seen before but also 10 brand new dungeons with almost all of them being phenomenal. Every single one is very distinct and unique, and most of them offer some very memorable boss fights and environments. Especially Waycrest Manor, Shrine of Storms, and King’s Rest come to mind here.
Waycrest Manor is an actual proper haunted house with exceptional environmental details and a layout that changes each time you go there. Shrine of Storms have an epic feel to it, and some of the bosses feel like miniature raid bosses. King’s Rest is one of the best overall designed dungeons we have seen in years with fun and challenging trash and boss fights.
I am confident that these dungeons will age even better than what we had in Legion and it is clear that the developers had the Mythic Plus feature in mind from the beginning and I cannot wait for Mythic Plus to go live and try these at a higher difficulty.
New Features – War Fronts & Island Expeditions
Two of the flagship features of Battle for Azeroth is the brand new Warfronts and the procedurally generated Island Expeditions. So, are they fun?
Island expeditions have you going to a procedurally generated island with 2 other players and race against either players or the brand new ”Super A.I”, a new type of A.I that is a lot more intelligent and mimics player behavior quite well.
The Objective is to reach a certain Azerite threshold before your opponents. You gain Azerite by killing monsters, completing objectives, and killing the enemy players or A.I’s.
Everything from the layout to the monsters on the Island is random which is done to give the content much more replayability, and it somewhat succeeds at that but not nearly as well as Blizzard would probably like.
The difference between fighting Crabs or Murlocs is not that large so even though the monsters are randomly generated and different every time it doesn’t feel that varied. That said, the most significant issue lies in the rewards, as they feel a lot like dungeons but with intelligent A.I opponents instead of bosses but it doesn’t reward anything nearly as exciting as dungeons. In other words, it doesn’t provide you with useful items. This can make them feel a lot more like a grind than they needed to be and a simple change to the loot table in there would make them a lot more interesting. However, I will mention that the Player-versus-player version of this content is a lot of fun and takes it from being mediocre to entertaining content.
So, Island Expeditions I’d say are neither terrible or great, they are quite average and for what they are, which is a weekly thing to do, they are fine. What I am interested in is what they have planned for the new A.I as they surely didn’t spend this much of development to have it in this one piece of content and I think some sort of dungeons or such with these A.I’s would be incredibly exciting to see.
War Fronts – A missed opportunity
The second major feature for Battle for Azeroth is not out on the live servers yet, but we did test it extensively on the Beta, so keep in mind that some things might have changed, but these are my initial thoughts on the feature.
Warfronts is a Player Versus Environment event that sees the Horde and the Alliance battle it out in Arathi Highlands on a large scale, and your faction will either be attacking or be defending and what you can do there depends on what your faction is doing at that time.
When Warfronts was initially teased at Blizzcon, I got so excited and was instantly expecting a new type of Player Versus Player mode. My hype was turned somewhat down when I learned that this was a PVE mode with a set outcome, but I remained hopeful.
Our first Warfront takes place in a beautifully overhauled Arathi Highlands and what you can do there depends on whether your faction is defending or attacking. There will be plenty of reasons to go there, and it is something to do, which is important in an MMO. However, I do not think the content itself is particularly exciting, and after a few cycles, I would much rather do most other high-level content in the game.
So while the Warfronts is an excellent depiction of the war going on in Battle for Azeroth and the final battle so to speak is quite epic in terms of scale I still feel like Warfronts is a missed opportunity. The guaranteed result removes the feel of urgency that war should have and the tasks are not exciting enough to make Warfronts great. It strikes me as content that could be fantastic in a player-versus-player environment, and I hope they add some version of this later in the expansion. Furthermore, I would love Blizzard to use the new Warfront areas as brand new Battlegrounds as the first one look absolutely astonishing, and World of Warcraft is in dire need of new PvP content.
Warmode – Secretly the best Feature of the expansion?
One of the lesser advertised features of Battle for Azeroth is the Warmode, which is just a new way the servers operate. It allows you to opt in or out of Player versus player combat and essentially means that there is a PvP and PvE version of each server. Enabling warmode will give you a 10% boost to rewards from world quests to make up for the inconvenience of fighting other players on the road and let you reap the benefits of PvP talents when out in the world.
Warmode has not only revitalized world PvP but has actually made it more alive than it has ever been since the implementation of Battlegrounds.
However, what makes Warmode excellent is not the incentives to turn in on but the incentives to keep it on and to engage in player versus player combat when out in the world.
Blizzard has added many reasons for Horde and Alliance players to not just ignore each other in the form of bounties, buffs, loot, and achievements. Warmode has not only revitalized world PvP but has made it more alive than it has been since the implementation of Battlegrounds.
If you slay enough players from the opposing faction without dying, you will become an assassin of your faction, and you will receive a buff to your health and damage. However, you will also appear on the map of the opposing faction, and reward increased reward to enemy players when slain. Being marked as assassins and trying to stay alive with a group of friends is close to the most fun I’ve had in World of Warcraft to date.
Warmode makes the world feel more alive and it creates organic content wherever you go. World quests are no longer just a stale monotone experience anymore when you know at any point in time an epic battle can erupt. Suddenly you are being jumped by a so-called ”War party” while doing world quests and are absolutely crushed, which you can then respond to by forming a resistance party and take revenge on the Horde scum that killed you. This, or something of the sort has happened to me several times throughout the first two weeks and I have never enjoyed going out into the world more than I do in Battle for Azeroth with Warmode on.
The Dinosaur in the room – No New Talents & Lack of Progression
The zones, questing, and content are great, but there is one huge gripe I have with Battle for Azeroth that I have to mention here. It is now the second expansion in a row without a new row of talents at max level; this was easy to look past in Legion as every class received significant overhauls and had new abilities added in spades but with classes actually losing abilities since the last patch of Legion and I feel like we have a problem. There is a lack of progression, and this is apparent once you hit the max level cap of 120 and nothing happens.
The progression path we had in Legion with the Artifact weapons is replaced by the new Heart of Azeroth necklace which is in a lot of ways more functional, albeit less exciting.
It is class-wide instead of unique to each specialization which is a significant improvement from the Legion system, but its functionality is just less exciting overall. It levels up as you gather Azerite power and the more powerful it becomes, the more powerful are the alterations it can make to your Azerite gear.
The Azerite gear is not as exciting as we had hoped and could grow stale unless Blizzard adds some more new traits to the gear in the future patches.
New Main Hubs – Boralus & Dazar’Alor
Battle for Azeroth sees the neutral capital of Dalaran traded for the new Horde and Alliance exclusive city hubs of Dazar’Alor and Boralus. These new cities are incredibly detailed and look absolutely stunning in unique ways, and I’d argue this is the best city hubs we have ever had in a World of Warcraft expansion.
Boralus is the capital city of the Kul Tiran people and is probably my favorite World of Warcraft city to date, with only Suramar coming close. It just feels much more like a living breathing city than any other place in Warcraft and whether its the bandits playing craps in the side alleys or the civilians having everyday conversations it just adds a whole new layer of immersion and as an Alliance main I could not be happier.
Dazar’Alor is the heart and pride of the Zandalari empire located in the midst of the Zuldazar jungle. It takes a lot of inspiration from Aztec and Mayan culture but with a good pinch of Warcraft troll culture and dinosaurs thrown in there for good measure. Dazar’Alor is a fantastically well-crafted city that shows the power of the Zandalari people but can be a pain to navigate at times.