World of Warcraft’s Battle for Azeroth expansion arrives next week, and with it comes a host of new additions to the fantasy MMO. From new PVP and PVE modes to giant frog mounts, we break down the eight most exciting changes coming to World of Warcraft in Battle for Azeroth.
[SPOILERS for WoW: Legion and Battle for Azeroth follow.]
Battle for Azeroth picks up after World of Warcraft’s previous expansion, Legion, which concluded with the titan-turned-demon Sargeras stabbing a giant sword into the planet Azeroth. The wound caused a powerful material called Azerite to pop up all over the planet. The Horde rushed to obtain it, and the Alliance soon did the same.
As revealed in the recent “Warbringers: Sylvanas” animated teaser, Horde Warchief Sylvanas Windrunner burns Teldrassil, the world-tree home of the Night elves, kicking off the Alliance-Horde conflict in Battle for Azeroth. This particular event has caused some upheaval among Warcraft fans.
The Azerite System
The powerful substance that’s causing Battle for Azeroth’s conflict, Azerite, has important gameplay implications, too. After completing an introductory quest chain, players will obtain the Heart of Azeroth artifact, which they’ll use throughout the expansion to empower certain helms, chest pieces, and shoulder pieces with unique traits. For more info on the Heart of Azeroth, you can read Blizzard’s preview of the artifact.
The Island Expeditions
Island expeditions take players to the unexplored islands of Azeroth, where a team of three players face off against an opposing team of either other players or “advanced NPC” opponents that take varied approaches to fighting and have more abilities than normal NPCs. The teams race to collect 6,000 Azerite by defeating creatures, mining nodes, and looting chests, all the while fighting with one another.
Each island aspect is randomly generated, meaning players will encounter different events, obstacles, and enemies in each expedition. To read more about island expeditions and about World of Warcraft’s new PVP system introduced in Battle for Azeroth, check out Dan Tack’s hands-on preview of the mode.
The New Zones
Battle for Azeroth introduces six new zones to World of Warcraft – three for the Horde and three for the Alliance. Alliance players journey to the seafaring continent of Kul Tiras, home to the Tiragarde Sound, Drustvar, Stormsong Valley zones. Horde players travel to the troll-dominated Zandalar, where they explore the Zuldazar, Nazmir, and Vol’dun zones. Each of these zones brings plenty of new environments for players to explore and enemies to defeat.
The Unique Themes
Hand-in-hand with these new zones comes Battle for Azeroth’s distinct area, gear, and enemy themes. The Alliance’s zones are heavily nautical-themed. Players will encounter lush greenery in Stormsong Valley and sailors and pirates in Tiragarde Sound. The perpetually autumnal Drustvar shakes things up as players face off against witches and treant-like creatures in the zone’s spooky forests. If you’ve ever wished World of Warcraft was more like Pirates of the Caribbean or an American folktale, you might want to consider rolling an Alliance character in Battle for Azeroth.
The Horde zones have major prehistoric vibes, with ancient forests and dinosaurs to boot. The Zuldazar zone is the oldest city in Azeroth, and it’s caked in gilded trollish architecture. Nazmir is home to your quintessential prehistoric landscape, full of swamps and towering trees. Vol’dun provides players with an expansive desert full of dino bones and vicious snake people. Troll themed areas are nothing new in World of Warcraft, but this may be the most extensive and fleshed out troll area to date. If you liked the League of Explorers Hearthstone adventure and its Indiana Jones themes, you’ll probably like Zandalar.
Of course, Zandalar’s tone appears significantly darker than League of Explorers – in fact, the expansion as a whole seems to be taking that path. Warcraft’s memey humor will no doubt be present, but the savage blood trolls of Nazmir, the creepy witches of Drustvar, and the expansion’s Warbringers trailers set a pretty serious tone. The expansion’s return to classic Horde versus Alliance conflict has a fairly epic and climactic feeling to it, so it’s no surprise Blizzard is keeping things dark.
The Updated Visuals
Part of the reason all this new content is so exciting is because it continues to use the cartoony, higher-polygon art style Blizzard has been implementing since Mists of Pandaria (and, to a larger extent, since Warlords of Draenor’s character model updates). A large number of old models are finally getting upgraded to this visual style, and several NPCs are getting updated appearances to reflect Battle for Azeroth’s story events.
The Allied Races
Players who pre-purchased Battle for Azeroth had the opportunity to unlock four new “allied races” – Void elves, Lightforged dranei, Nightborne, and Highmountain tauren. Battle for Azeroth will add four more races to the game: the Dark Iron dwarves, the Mag’har orcs, the Zandalari trolls, and the Kul Tiran humans. The Zandalari and Kul Tirans won’t be added until sometime after Battle for Azeroth’s launch, but they’ll be worth the wait for their awesome-looking dinosaur and tree-creature druid forms.
Each of the allied races come with their own starting quests, as well as the opportunity to unlock unique “heritage armor” sets.
The Warfront Mode
Warfront is a new PvE mode inspired by Blizzard’s Warcraft 3 RTS. Warfronts pit 20 players against A.I. opponents in large-scale battles for territory, and will allow the Alliance and Horde to alternate control of those territories. According to Polygon, “each player-controlled character acts as a hero would, leading the charge and swinging the battle in your faction’s favor.”
Blizzard community manager Randy “Kaivax” Jordan explains how a Warfront is initiated and completed in this post:
World of Warcraft: Battle for Azeroth launches August 13 for players in North America. For more on the new expansion, check out the “Warbringers: Jaina,” “Warbringers: Sylvanas,” and “Old Soldier” character trailers, or read Dan Tack’s hands-on preview.