All the new features in World of Warcraft: Battle for Azeroth
With Battle for Azeroth around the corner, many are asking whether now is a good time to jump back into World of Warcraft. Here are our thoughts.
Previously, we covered World of Warcraft's Legion expansion and some of the last updates from the past few months. We found that World of Warcraft's Legion expansion was among the best in recent years, if not of all time, adding an absolutely insane amount of content for players of all types to enjoy. With Battle for Azeroth launching on August 13, 2018, we thought we'd give you an update on what to expect from the next expansion as a returning player or a total newbie.
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Battle for Azeroth: Story Summary
If you're a new or returning player, now is undoubtedly the best time to get back into World of Warcraft, since a large expansion is about to come and completely level the playing field for the MMO's millions of players. With Battle for Azeroth, the level cap will increase to 120, granting two large new continents to explore and digest.
In the previous expansion, the demonic forces of The Burning Legion invaded Azeroth once again, and players across both playable factions, the Horde and the Alliance, united in a fragile pact to vanquish the franchise's most iconic foes. By the end of the Legion expansion, the demons were once again defeated, but Azeroth itself was deeply wounded.
The gargantuan dark titan known as Sargeras plunged his gigantic sword deep into the heart of Azeroth itself, creating a huge fissure deep in the deserts of Silithus. The wound was ultimately stabilized, using the power from your artifact weapon obtained during the expansion, but Azeroth still bleeds, literally.
The crystallized essence of the planet, now known as Azerite, is bubbling up all over the land. Early on, Horde players discovered the power and potency of this strange new mineral and sought to extract it before the Alliance could gain knowledge of it. Naturally, it didn't go to plan.
The Alliance began harvesting Azerite for itself, having killed the Horde goblin miners in the desert sands. Alarmed, the Horde leader Warchief Sylvanas, resolved to capture the Night Elf city of Darnassus, to the north of the main Horde city, Orgrimmar. Again, things didn't exactly go to plan.
Sylvanas initially planned to simply capture the city, holding its inhabitants hostage. But after the Night Elf leaders were able to escape, rather than cut her losses, Sylvanas ordered the Horde to burn down the entire city, slaughtering hundreds, maybe thousands of innocent civilians. As a noble, honorable faction, many Horde leaders (and indeed, players), were alarmed by Sylvanas' actions, forming the basis of the Horde story arc moving into Battle for Azeroth.
The Horde and Alliance are back at war, despite working together during Legion. The Alliance are gearing up in an attempt to take Sylvanas' home kingdom, Lordaeron, as players will seek new lands and new allies, unravelling the mysteries of Azerite, and all-new threats lurking in the shadows.
Battle for Azeroth: Features
Battle for Azeroth is a new $49.99 expansion for the near-15-year-old game, adding a new level cap, tons of new dungeons and raids, and other new features.
New artifact abilities
Blizzard has struggled to contain the rapidly expanding amount of abilities players have gained access to over the years. So, one solution they're using now is to add abilities that exist for an expansion. In Legion, you leveled up and curated an artifact weapon based on your class lore, granting yourself new abilities as you completed quests and dungeons throughout the game. In Battle for Azeroth, you are granted a magical pendant known as the Heart of Azeroth, and throughout your leveling experience and beyond, you will also level up this necklace, unlocking new traits for your class spells and abilities.
The traits are unlocked on special pieces of Azerite-infused armor, which can be found in quests, dungeons, raids, and player vs. player (PvP) content. The harder the content, the more potent the armor, as usual. This is in addition to extra trait slots.
Some traits are item specific, others are class specific, and some are even location specific. Wowhead has a great guide to these traits, and how they will enhance your character in Battle for Azeroth.
Warfronts is new player vs. environment (PvE) content that depicts the conflict between the Alliance and the Horde. New Warfronts will open up as the expansion receives free content patches over time, depicting some of the biggest wars in the game's story.
Warfronts are inspired by World of Warcraft's real-time strategy game (RTS) roots, and even feature armor rewards modeled after some classic Warcraft designs of yesteryear. As players in a region contribute resources to the war effort, eventually, the battle will unlock, allowing players to queue up for a 20-player war scenario.
Players will be able to construct buildings, RTS-style, that contribute troops and other abilities to the war effort. When the battle is won, players will gain access to new quests and rewards, while the losing faction will begin the resource gathering cycle again.
Many famous battles from Warcraft history are likely to appear as new Warfronts throughout the expansion, with hints that iconic fights between Tarren Mill and Southshore could also play a part. Warfronts will be a way to gain powerful and cosmetic rewards collaboratively.
As part of Battle for Azeroth, players will be able to unlock new "Allied Races" to join the Horde and the Alliance, becoming playable after meeting certain conditions. Some of the new races are already available in the game for pre-purchases, while others will become unlocked while playing through the new content. Blizzard has also confirmed that beyond the ones we know so far, further races are planned to join the Horde and Alliance in future patches for free. The new races we know about so far are as follows.
Each of the new races has access to special racial abilities that set them apart from others and can gain access to unique cosmetic armor sets if leveled from 1 to 120 the old fashioned way, instead of using one of the boost tokens that come with an expansion purchase.
New Horde races
Highmountain Tauren: Highmountain Tauren are hulking bovine-like cousins of the Horde's iconic Tauren race. Highmountain Tauren share many similarities to regular Tauren, sharing a reverence of nature and shamanism. These Tauren come with extra customization options, most notably with larger moose-like horns.
Nightborne Elves: Nightborne Elves are highly magical creatures you meet initially in the Legion expansion. The Nightborne were enslaved by The Burning Legion, but players band together to free them. The Nightborne ultimately decide to join the Horde, feeling closer alignment with the Horde's magical Blood Elves, rather than the Alliance's nature-loving Night Elves.
Zandalari Trolls: The Zandalari are an ancient Troll civilization endowed with advanced magic and barbarous savagery. Boasting the largest Troll empire in history, Horde players align themselves with the powerful Trolls to bolster ranks against the Alliance.
Mag'har Orcs: Available sometime in the future, the Mag'har Orcs are tribes remaining after the events of the Warlords of Draenor expansion. It is not known fully how they join the Horde (without data mining the beta), but they have far more customization options than current trolls, since they belong to various clans and creeds.
New Alliance races
Void Elves: Void Elves are a faction of High Elves and Blood Elves who were shunned out of the Horde for experimenting with Void shadow magic. Led by Alleria Windrunner, these Elves are infused with shadow magic, and enjoy shelter in the Alliance.
Lightforged Draenei: Lightforged Draenei are an offshoot of the Draenei race, having thrown their lot in with an intergalactic army dedicated to ending the Legion. Now that the Burning Legion is (or well, seems) defeated, the remainders have joined the rest of their race to find a home on Azeroth.
Dark Iron Dwarves: The Dark Iron Dwarfs of Blackrock Mountain were once the evil (although, enslaved) minions of the iconic elemental Ragnaros. Having freed themselves, the Alliance has finally accepted them back into the fold, albeit with suspicion.
Kul Tiras Humans: Hardened generations of sea-faring humans grew separately from those on the Eastern Kingdoms. These naval humans are bulkier and less pious than those on the mainland, and it's on Alliance players to win them to their cause.
Much of the new expansion revolves around traveling at sea, specifically to unique uncharted islands not yet found on the game's world map. These procedurally-generated islands are ripe with loot to plunder, should you meet their unique challenges. Blizzard has developed advanced A.I. that more closely resembles unpredictable player behavior, so you'd better bring your A-game if you want to defeat those who are also seeking the island's treasures.
There are a set amount of landscapes, but each island has hundreds of unique challenges, elite bosses, and other events that might appear as part of your expedition. The main aim of these scenarios is to gain Azerite to empower your equipment, but the events also spawn quests that can reward special mounts, cosmetic gear skins, and unique companion pets.
There are three difficulty tiers, each offering greater rewards in exchange for greater difficulty, in addition to a PvP tier, where the advanced A.I. enemies are placed with a team of players.
There are no quest objective markers on an Island Expedition, instead you must explore, follow clues, and chart the island map shrouded in an RTS-like Fog of War, as you attempt to gather Azerite faster than your enemies.
Battle for Azeroth: New Areas
Battle for Azeroth adds two continental landmasses each comprised of three large areas. For the first time in WoW history, Alliance and Horde players will level to cap separately, with Horde players starting on Zandalar, and Alliance players starting on Kul Tiras. At max level, Horde and Alliance players will invade each opposing isle to continue the story.
Kul Tiras is an ancient island nation belonging to a group of humans who isolated themselves from the Alliance after it felt they had been abandoned by it. A veteran of the early wars with the orcs, the leader of Kul Tiras, Daelin Proudmoore, had led his dominating navy against the new Horde. His own daughter, Jaina, stepped aside and allowed the Horde to kill Daelin. She had wanted to prevent a genocide of the new Horde, after their help had secured victory against the Legion in Warcraft 3.
Kul Tirans didn't take this news lightly. The nation attributed Jaina's betrayal to the Alliance itself, and vilified Jaina as a traitor. It won't be easy for Alliance players to win over Kul Tiras to their cause. Filled with regret over how the Horde evolved, Jaina looks set to be a major character in this expansion, possibly taking up her father's old goals of eradicating the Horde.
The island of Zandalar suffered immensely after the Cataclysm, where natural disasters warped the island and awoke new threats from beneath its dense swamps and barbarous deserts. The Zandalari Trolls are among Azeroth's oldest civilizations, with Aztec-inspired architecture and access to powerful primal magic.
Horde players will attempt to aid the Zandalari against a vicious sect of corrupt Blood Trolls, who have taken to worshipping a gargantuan horror lurking in the depths of Battle for Azeroth's first raid, the Titan containment facilities of Uldir.
Battle for Azeroth: New Dungeons and Raids
Battle for Azeroth will feature ten new 5-man dungeons at launch, epic world bosses, and a new raid "Uldir" for groups of up to 25 players.
Atal'Dazar: Atal'Dazar is an ancient Zandalari tomb housing the remains of the empire's kings of old. Dark forces have entered the tomb, resurrecting the dead for their evil agenda.
Freehold: Freehold traditionally served as a safe haven for all of the ocean's scum and villainy. A port steeped in piracy, Freehold has come under the brutal rule of the Irontide Raiders.
King's Rest: King's Rest is another Zandalari tomb, the final resting place of some of the empire's greatest champions, rulers, and conquerors. Dark magic has taken hold there, and players must dive into the depths to eradicate it.
Shrine of the Storm: The Kul Tiran fleet might be the most powerful naval force Azeroth has ever known. Before sailing into battle, the fleet docks at the Shrine of the Storm to receive powerful blessings. Ancient forces are attempting to wrest power from this sacred place, and perhaps gain control of the Kul Tiran fleet itself.
Siege of Boralus: Lady Ashvane's Azerite weapons and summoned horrors threaten the ancient Kul Tiran city, and it's up to players to step in and help liberate the populace.
Temple of Sethraliss: An ancient god-like Snake Loa known as Sethraliss is buried deep in the temple's tombs. Evil forces have infiltrated the temple to attempt to steal the Loa's powers for themselves, and it's up to you to stop them.
The MOTHERLODE!!: The Isle of Kezan, a goblin player's starting zone, got utterly destroyed during the Cataclysm by a gigantic volcanic eruption. The catastrophe, however, has produced tonnes of pure Azerite to bubble up on the lava-blasted island. Players must head there to stop their enemies from getting the Azerite first.
The Underrot: Deep in the swamps of Zandalar, a supernatural blight is spreading outwards across the island. If players don't uncover the source fast, it could leave the island in ruin.
Tol Dagor: Once a Kul Tiran prison, Lady Ashvane has taken it over, using it as a dungeon for her enemies.
Waycrest Manor: Waycrest was once the seat of power for one of Kul Tiras' most powerful ruling families. Now, dark rumors hang over the manor, with tales of undeath, vile rituals, and kidnapped travelers running amok.
Uldir: The first of Battle for Azeroth's raids is an abandoned Titan laboratory, where the cosmos' most powerful beings experimented on ways to eliminate Azeroth's corruptive Old Gods. After the Titans were defeated by Sargeras, the facility remained abandoned, but the festering horrors within endured, growing ever stronger. It is deep within Uldir that players will encounter G'huun, a manufactured abomination the Titans had inadvertently created during their experiments on the Old God's endless corruption.
Will you join the Battle for Azeroth?
Battle for Azeroth launches on August 13, 2018 for U.S. customers, and August 14, 2018 for the rest of the world. Priced at $49.99 (opens in new tab), Battle for Azeroth is adding a vast amount of fresh content for players to digest and enjoy, with one of the biggest focuses on end-game activities seen in the MMO's aging history.
Will you be joining the Battle for Azeroth? Let us know in the comments!
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Jez Corden a Managing Editor at Windows Central, focusing primarily on all things Xbox and gaming. Jez is known for breaking exclusive news and analysis as relates to the Microsoft ecosystem while being powered by caffeine. Follow on Twitter @JezCorden and listen to his Xbox Two podcast, all about, you guessed it, Xbox!