World of Warcraft: Battle for Azeroth Review
Since Activision and Blizzard began working together, I’ve felt a slow decline of excitement in World of Warcraft. That changed with Battle for Azeroth. The last expansion I truly enjoyed was Wrath of the Lich King. I enjoyed Legion more than I did Mists and Warlords, but the insane grind for Artifact Power was, well, insane. They fixed it eventually, but it was certainly a “far too late” situation for me. I’m probably in the minority, but I wasn’t really enthralled by the Legion story of “Hey guys, remember all that stuff in BC? We’re gonna expand on it about a decade later! And right when we finally win the day and work together, the big bad’s gonna stab the planet!” So all of that goodwill and teamwork is just as quickly thrown away: It’s the Battle for Azeroth now! World of Warcraft is “the more things change, the more they stay the same”. The economy is still pretty terrible, and crafting, while it has updated some with ranks in some places for lower materials, is still almost useless. I replaced my ilevel rings, crafted for me by my friend Biral in my “very first dungeon” I ran with him. That was less than twenty minutes later. Why would I bother with leveling/lowering my material requirements?
I will say that the pre-BFA event was pretty damn exciting. The burning of Teldrassil and the siege of Lordaeron Ruins? Sylvanas sacrificing the Horde and resurrecting them as mindless undead? There’s a lot of speculation on what this all means, but I’m going to put my chips in the “Old Gods Warring” pile. It’s my opinion that the Old Ones have taken sides and are causing the destruction of Azeroth as we know it. So now we have moved to Kul’Tiras (Alliance) and Zandalar (Horde). Each faction having their own island is interesting, and they are absolutely gorgeous. Though I did focus on the Horde side of events, I do have a 110 on the Alliance side I’m going to take through to see the other side of the story. I have taken a tour of both islands and all six of the leveling zones (three per island) are scenic and breathtaking. If there’s one thing Blizzard can do, it’s set the stage for a story. “Battle for Azeroth” feels very much inspired by “Marvel’s The Black Panther”, which is certainly not a bad thing. It’s a mix of African and South American cultures and architecture, and I dig it. What I think is fascinating is that the world is wounded and slowly dying around the citizens of Azeroth, but instead of working together like they were supposed to, now they are fighting each other and eagerly, greedily seeking out as much Azerite as possible. That definitely has the stink of Old Gods to it.
I’m primarily going to focus on the single-player/group experience as I’ve seen it, having leveled a character to 120 (Orc DK, Bloodscalp). I’ll have to return to raiding and raiding content once the LFR for the first raid content is live in the game. This is the most peaceful experience I’ve had leveling, and I’ve been on PVP servers since “Burning Crusade”. A very important change was made for Battle for Azeroth: War Mode. It’s something I honestly think could have happened years before this; I simply grew tired of dying thirty+ times simply to complete a quest or having to wait until 3 or 4 am to progress on a character. It was maddening, but it’s where many of my friends were. War Mode is toggled on and off in your capital city (Orgrimmar/Stormwind) and you can select a few PVP talents to go along with it. You also receive +10% bonus exp, so it’s really nice when leveling. The downside is if you’re not big on PVPing, it still will happen. I started off with War Mode on, because my friends insisted I wouldn’t start seeing PVP until at least level 115. Around 113/114, Alliance raiding parties starting hitting our capital on Zandalar, and I spent close to an hour trying to get back to my body before I simply logged off, waited, and came back later to turn off War Mode back in Orgrimmar.
If that’s your cup of tea, it’s great, but I was just leveling and not spoiling for a fight. That said, it was still the most relaxing time leveling I have had in World of Warcraft since being on a PVE server. If you want some pseudo-PVP, there’s always the War Story, where you’ll journey to various areas and kill NPCs of the other faction and look for Azerite and a foothold onto the enemy island. That’s the big McGuffin in this expansion: Azerite. It didn’t start appearing until Silithus had a sword put through it. I love that the areas level with you, so you can travel wherever you want on the island and take on whatever quests you want. That’s important because I could not swing a dead Pterodax without hitting about six more quests. It became a point of contention with me, because I was trying to finish a part of a zone, only to get half a dozen more side quests to complete. I was quickly losing track of what the main story was, and what the side missions were. They were all entertaining, but it was a trifle overwhelming. On the positive side, we’re no longer spending hours grinding out Artifact Power to increase our weapons, that need millions and billions of points just to hit the next level. Gone are the awesome weapons we had for Legion (but the transmogs are still there, thankfully. I “earned” that hidden skin, thank you). But Artifact Power isn’t gone!
Azerite Gear gets better the higher the ilevel, but the Artifact Level requirement for these powers grows.
Instead, we have a new necklace, the “Heart of Azeroth”, which takes in the Artifact Power. We now have Azerite Armor in the Head, Shoulders and Chest slots. These are Rare (Blue) at a minimum, and have what is called “Active Azerite Powers” that you unlock as you gain levels with your Necklace (on the equipment tab). So far I’ve seen up to three traits on these: two abilities and a passive that increases your item level with that gear slot. I’m also told that increasing your reputation with the Champions of Azeroth will also increase the item level of the Heart of Azeroth. There is definitely a grind that will develop here. At level 120, I have a level 12 Necklace. In order to use the powers on the Heroic dungeon drops, I need at least Artifact Level 14, so the trial has begun anew. However, Artifact Knowledge is back and will be used as a catch-up mechanic, for people that aren’t out consistently gaining Artifact Levels. As weeks progress, the Artifact Knowledge will increase, to make the task of leveling up the Heart of Azeroth easier (and each level of it does give it two more item levels). The full details and charts can be found at this link. I like the idea of being able to pick my perks (within neutral choices/perks for my spec) on gear, but what about people that often respec for dungeons/raids/etc?
In the Grand Bazaar, there’s a reforger where you can reset the traits on your Azerite armor. It begins at 5g but doubles each time afterward. I appreciate that you can actually change them for other specs/ et cetera, but you should be able to pick once per spec and have it swap over. I am fairly certain the tech is there. That’s the big thing to be aware of while exploring. You will pick up more Azerite armor through exploration/questing, but will definitely need to grind in order to wear the Heroic armor. There is gear from reputation and world quests to get you to that point, but you have to farm that Azerite if you want to get anywhere. That means missions, world quests, daily quests, anything you can possibly find. The grind really hasn’t gone anywhere, it’s just shifted position. Beyond that, the actual leveling experience was pleasant. It was not tedious to complete quests, but completing this story more than once or twice will surely feel like a chore. You gain more from doing quests: Reputation, more reliable/frequent gear, money, Azerite. It’s an absolute blast to do once, maybe twice for the other side’s perspective. But more than that?
Right now it’s absolutely not worth it to me. I have several 110s, and I wanted to make sure the first one counted because there is no telling when I’ll be doing it again. Speaking of dungeons, I adore the aesthetic and story for each of them. But the normal ones are incredibly easy. The Heroic dungeons are just as easy, but with a few more mechanics here and there. There are also lots of ways to earn that Azerite, like the above methods and the new Island Expeditions. Island Expeditions are tackled from your BFA Capital City and are special three-person scenarios where you head to an Island in search of Azerite. There is a weekly quest where the reward is 2500 Artifact Power, and winning the match itself gives Azerite also. Then there are the Rare quest items obtained from the wins, which also give 75 Azerite per item. If that’s not challenging enough, you can turn on PVP for these and be matched against another 3-person team to race/PVP against. Island Expeditions are said to be the best way to grind out Azerite for your Heart of Azeroth, even if the bulk of that Azerite goes to your faction and not to you. It’s definitely a fun little mode with several maps to challenge. I did not explore the professions as much as I wanted to, primarily gathering professions. Professions never seem to get better though. The time invested in making the gear is seldom worth it.
The Story So Far: 4/5
So far, I’ve sincerely enjoyed playing World of Warcraft again. The story is gripping, the new areas are gorgeous both visually and from a soundtrack perspective. While I have enjoyed the twists and turns the story has taken me on so far, there is simply so much going on at once. With the absolutely overwhelming amount of side quests, missions, and storylines going on, it’s a lot to take in. There are absolutely tons of rare monsters to find and fight, treasures to collect, and quests/achievements/mounts to seek out. There is a glut of content to do, that even after a few days when you hit 120, you still have plenty to do. I hit level 120 with a whole zone unfinished, and tons of War Story stuff yet to do. Then there’s the hunt for gear so you can do dungeons, which unlock better dungeons, which unlocks better gear. The World of Warcraft formula has not changed appreciably over the years, but it’s still a very enjoyable experience, and one I haven’t truthfully enjoyed in several years. This is also probably the smoothest expansion launch I’ve ever been a part of. A few servers had issues, but everything, on the whole, went well.
One of the problems a co-worker has had was the lack of players in his zones. It’s worth mentioning, for sure. World of Warcraft: Battle for Azeroth feels more cordoned off than ever before. There are thousands, millions of people playing, but even on a server like Bloodscalp, I rarely see more than ten to fifteen players on a map (unless I’m in earlier content like Legion or in Orgrimmar). It feels far more phased than ever, and while it doesn’t particularly bother me, I can see it frustrating people not to see all the other people in a zone.
This is one of the better single-player experiences I’ve had in World of Warcraft; when I needed to group I could easily, but for the most part, everything was done alone and without stress and frustration. War Mode is a great addition, and I am, for the first time since Wrath, curious to see where we go from here. I’ve enjoyed greatly the story of the Zandalari and their Loa, and Jaina’s road back to Kul Tiras. But where can we go from here? After the Old Gods, after the Horde and the Alliance again, where can we possibly go? We’ve been to the stars to fight gods, fought the Lich King, the Burning Legion, a giant Dragon, and ourselves (again, if you’re Horde). This story has been memorable certainly, but what is the next threat? Does the new Lich King start to pose a threat? I’m very curious.
Watch me play some of the expansion here!
Battle for Azeroth Screenshots
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