This past weekend played host to one of the most notable and talked about gaming conventions aside from the annual Electronic Entertainment Expo (E3). With it, we’ve learned of a new expansion to one of the most successful MMORPGs to ever be launched, new Heroes to storm the battlegrounds of the ever-daunted Nexus, and a new hero entering the battlefields of one of the hottest team shooters out there. Of course, I’m speaking of BlizzCon. Blizzard’s annual spectacular has grown over the years to become noted as the stage for Blizzard Entertainment to reveal their biggest projects. Not only that, it’s drawn significantly more fans to it every year. The very first BlizzCon in 2005 drew a crowd of 8,000, and this years attendance figures are estimated to be in the surplus of 35,000. Every year, anticipation always buzzes surrounding the big announcements that could be dropped at BlizzCon. While there are many things to discuss regarding all of the announcements, I want to focus on one in particular, one that strikes the most interest with me: World of Warcraft’s newest expansion.
As mentioned, Blizzard Entertainment announced via this incredible cinematic trailer that World of Warcraft would have yet another chapter added to it’s story with the expansion Battle for Azeroth. As someone who’s played World of Warcraft for a long, long time and has had a love-hate relationship with it, I find myself unsure of how to meet the news that World of Warcraft has another expansion. Legion did well, but as is usually the case with a World of Warcraft expansion there’s just too much to do that if you happen to slip off, you’ll have an incredibly hard time catching up. Classes often end up misbalanced, leading your favorite choice to suddenly be the least viable for any sort of end game content. Not only that, the artifact weapon system was severely unbalanced as well. Some classes and specializations ended up blowing their counterparts out of the water simply because of the way their artifact weapon was designed. At it’s core level, World of Warcraft failed to refresh a lot of the core game play issues that it should have addressed with the release of Legion. As has been the case for the past expansion or two, it’s applying a fresh paint job to an old, structurally unsound building and labeling it as brand new. As much as I wanted to greet Battle for Azeroth with open arms, I find myself giving it a resounding “So what? How will this be different from any other expansion?”
On it’s surface, Battle for Azeroth appears to have a few goals in mind based on how it was presented to us on the developer Q&A panel. One of the biggest focuses is that it will bring the attention back to the main storyline of the Warcraft universe. That, of course, would be the ongoing conflict between the forces of the Orcish Horde and the Human led Alliance. After uniting the Horde and Alliance multiple times to vanquish the biggest threats known to Azeroth’s citizens, there is no longer a time for peace and trust. As part of this, Blizzard has gone on record to state that PvP is finally getting a big overhaul. One of the biggest additions is a new battleground that will end up playing out like the traditional Warcraft RTS games in which you and your team will build up a base and do battle with either the Alliance or Horde. While there aren’t many details about this mode yet, the concept of it is certainly appealing to those like myself who want the feel of nostalgia that Warcraft can provide.
On the flip side of things, Blizzard is touting brand new isles to explore for both the Alliance and the Horde, each with their own storyline and each with Allied Races that you can recruit to champion your cause. For the Alliance, they’ll set sail for the homeland of Jaina Proudmoore, one of the most prominent figures of the Alliance. Once on land in Kul Tiras, they’ll look to help the island nation from it’s perils in hopes that they will aid the Alliance in battle with the Horde. Along the way, they’ll meet with the Lightforged Draenei, the Void Elves, and the Dark Iron Dwarves. Likewise, the Horde can travel to the ruined troll kingdom of Zandalar in order to help them face down an ancient evil and recruit the aid of the Highmountain Tauren, the Nightborne, or the Zalandari Trolls. Blizzard has been very hushed on details, but these are all unlocked through questing and once unlocked can be used to make new characters that start at level 20. If you choose to level them normally versus a level boost, you’ll gain a special set of Heritage Armor for that race.
Battle for Azeroth boasts a hosts of new features, but until I’m personally able to see them in action and see what exactly this expansion has in store, it’s hard to commit to it on an emotional or financial standpoint. As someone who was driven away by broken combat, imbalanced classes, a toxic community and a toxic end-game system, it would be hard to win back any affection or love. A rework to PvP is promising, but that alone isn’t enough to warrant me spending $40 plus the monthly subscription on a brand new expansion. I’d like to hope that I’m wrong and that Blizzard will strike while the iron is hot and give us an experience worth revisiting with Battle for Azeroth, but if their track record recently is any indication, that’s an empty hope.