World of Warcraft: Dragonflight has been revealed, after many leaks and much speculation. The Dragonflight expansion marks a high-stakes gambit for World of Warcraft, which has seen its player base dwindle in recent years faced with stiff competition from the likes of Final Fantasy XIV and Lost Ark. Blizzard not only needs to rebuild trust with lapsed WoW players who have grown tired with the current systems, but also needs to build a game that might appeal to new players who have yet to step into Azeroth.
As we reported previously, the new expansion takes place on a large new continent dubbed the Dragon Isles. The Isles actually existed in the game's code and lore for almost two decades, as half-finished landmasses without textures. Some players were even able to glitch into the unused areas back in the day, but it now seems as though they'll be fully realized as part of this new expansion.
Beyond the new continent with five new zones, Blizzard is also revamping some core features of the game, while also introducing a new playable race and new playable class. Here's literally everything we've discovered so far about the new expansion.
Dragonflight: TL;DR quick facts
- Dragonflight is the latest expansion for World of Warcraft, taking place in a new "massive" Dragon Isles continent.
- Dragonflight has no official launch date, but rumors point to a Q1 2023 launch window target.
- The Dragon Isles were sealed away magically by the Titans, but a surge of power has reawakened the magic beneath the land.
- The Dragon Aspects (blue, red, black, bronze, and green dragons) return to the isles, to reclaim their place as the guardians of Azeroth.
- The expansion will set a new level cap to 70, and feature several new dungeons and raids, starting with a "Primal Incarnate" raid.
- The story will be more grounded and Azerothian, rather than cosmic, as we've seen in the previous recent expansions.
- The expansion will add a new draconic race called the Dracthyr.
- The Dracthyr will only have access to the new Evoker class, which is a medium-range DPS or healer that uses draconic abilities.
- A new Dragonriding skill will allow players to traverse Dragon Isles' vertical map designs, with a large array of customization with new physics-oriented flying mechanics. Blizzard also plans to add PvP dragon races in the future.
- Blizzard is focusing on core systems for this expansion, fully revamping professions to make them more collaborative and deep. The UI and HUD will also get a revamp.
- Old school talent systems are returning, with players able to allocate points into a tree, rather than select from boring rows of three options every few levels.
- Blizzard will reveal more features in the coming months.
Dragonflight will focus on the franchise's legendary dragon aspects, as they seek to rekindle their lost power and reclaim their place as the stewards and caretakers of Azeroth.
In ages past, the shapers of the universe, the Titans, breathed order into Azeroth by vanquishing its Old Gods deep beneath the earth, and subjugating its proto-dragon beasts. The fearsome draconic Galakrond terrorized the lands, devouring ecosystems of animals and dragon alike, quite literally, with insatiable cannibalistic hunger. The Titan watcher Tyr teamed up with a small group of rebel proto-dragons and ultimately defeated Galakrond, whose skeletal remains are now interred in the Dragonblight.
Impressed with the dragon's tenacity, the Titan watchers empowered and transformed the primordial drakes into fully fledged magical dragons. Their charge: to steward Azeroth and its mortal races, its energies, and serve as the planet's protectors and defenders. The bronze dragonflight was empowered to watch over space and time itself, while the blue were charged to guard the magics and artifacts of the land. The green dragonflight was given dominion over nature, and the black dragonflight were sent to safeguard the deep places of the earth. Finally, the red dragonflight was given responsibility over life itself, led by Queen Alexstrasza.
The dragonflights remained in charge of Azeroth for thousands of years, battling demonic invasions, Old God uprisings, and other threats. During the events of Cataclysm, the traitor black dragon patriarch Deathwing returned from exile, endowed with new-found power. He sundered Azeroth using his powers over the earth, creating vast earthquakes and tsunamis, detonating volcanos, tearing the land apart. The remaining dragonflights channeled their power into an artifact wielded by players to defeat Deathwing once and for all, and put an end to his mad desire to destroy and enslave civilization.
With the dragonflights weakened by their actions, they passed on stewardship of Azeroth to the mortal races, declaring it the "Age of Mortals." But as we can see from the Dragonflight cinematic, times are changing.
Tyr's last watcher is seen activating a huge structure, we now know as Tyrhold. The release of energy revealed the Dragon Isles to Azeroth once again, which had been shrouded behind a magical veil. The dragons left their ancestral homeland after the Sundering, which saw Azeroth split into several smaller continents and flooded. The Dragon Isles were cut off from magical energies as a result, but recent unknown events have seen power return to the area. The dragons reconvene on the isles, declare their desire to reclaim their former glory, and take up their ancestral right to steward Azeroth and its mortal races. The Horde and the Alliance seem to have entered into another uneasy truce, working together as part of a coalition dubbed the Dragonscale Expedition.
Rumors are swirling about the main enemies of this expansion. We know that the first raid takes place in a black dragonflight sanctum, as the remaining members Wrathion and Ebonhorn come to terms with the decimation Deathwing wrought over their species. Many of the threats revealed so far pertain to smaller, local conflicts, but in typical WoW fashion, there will be a looming "big bad" that culminates in the expansion's final raid content. Rumors point to the central antagonist being Murozond, the corrupted incarnation of bronze dragon patriarch Nozdormu.
Murozond leads the so-called infinite dragonflight, who have appeared in various expansions here and there. Murozond himself was a boss in Cataclysm, with Nozdormu himself joining players in a battle across space and time. During that battle, Nozdormu laments that his corruption, at some point, seems to be inevitable, and that players will eventually have to deal with him in the main timeline. It seems highly likely that now is that time.
Other potential appearances this expansion include Chromatus, who is a five-headed chromatic monstrosity that appeared in one of the WoW novels. Chromatus is the result of experiments by Deathwing's son, Nefarian, who sought to create dragons that incorporated the Titanic powers of each dragonflight. The allied dragonflights very barely managed to subjugate Chromatus, who seems to be practically invincible. All they could do was seal him in an arcane prison. It stands to reason that Murazond may seek to release Chromatus, and use him for nefarious goals.
Another potential plot strand points to Galakrond. The undead scourge once attempted to raise the bones of the dread proto-dragon to become a fearsome frostwyrm, but players ultimately foiled their plans. Given Murazond's command of time, there's every reason to believe he may simply try to bring Galakrond into present-day Azeroth via time travel. There's no reason to count out necromancy either, given the fact this has been attempted previously.
It sounds as though Dragon Isles will tell a more "grounded" terrestrial story, dealing with local threats and smaller-stakes enemies, given the repeated apocalyptic plot points we've been dealing with over the past decade. Given relations between the Horde and the Alliance, hard-liner Turaylon taking a central leadership role as Regent of Stormwind, and the Horde in turmoil following the civil war instigated by Sylvanas, there are many unresolved plot threads that could see treatment in Dragonflight.
New zones: The Dragon Isles
The expansion will take place in a new landmass called The Dragon Isles, which will be comprised of four new zones for players, and an additional new zone for players starting out as a Dracthyr Evoker.
- The Waking Shores: The Waking Shores is the first zone players will enter upon starting off the expansion. This untamed badland is the primordial home of the black dragonflight, which clings on the brink of extinction following the actions of Deathwing and his progeny. Players join the archaeological factions of The Explorer's League and The Reliquary to examine the Shores' lost history, alongside Queen Alexstrasza of the red flight, and Wrathion of the black. It's here that players also encounter the hostile half-giant Djaradin for the first time, who are using their unnatural command of volcanic processes to destroy the local ecosystems. This zone will also importantly feature ducks.
- Ohn'ahran Plains: The second zone players will encounter is the Ohn'ahran Plains, named so for the wild god Ohn'ahra of the wind. Ohn'ahra led ancient centaur tribes to these lands thousands of years ago. These centaur seem less primitive than the ones we encountered in Kalimdor, having made peace with the green dragonflight eons ago, advancing their civilization alongside the magical drakes. Players will be able to learn the traditions and culture of the local tribes, while aiding them against demented proto-dragons that only seek to devour and destroy their settlements. Ohn'ahran is described as a huge zone that required Blizzard to make improvements to the draw distance of the game's engine.
- The Azure Span: Blizzard has described the Azure Span as one of the "biggest zones" ever created for the game, and is the ancestral home of the blue flight. The Azure Span cites Grizzly Hills from Wrath of the Lich King as its central inspiration, with coastal fogs and gigantic redwood trees across dense forests. The Azure Span is also described as being very vertical with several layers of elevation. At the base elevation is the forests, as you ascend higher, you'll uncover tundra and frozen rivers, with gigantic waterfalls and mountain ranges. Here, players will meet up with a revamped Tuskarr race, featuring female Tuskarr alongside child Tuskarr for the first time, complete with otter mounts. With the Tuskarr, you'll aid the blue dragonflight with Kalecgos, exploring Sindragosa's magical archives and libraries.
- Thaldraszus: While the previous zones are relatively wild and untamed, Thaldraszus represents some more advanced architecture left behind by the Titans. Thaldraszus is the seat of power for all five dragonflights, who convene there after Tyrhold re-awakens the Dragon Isles. Thaldraszus is described as a very mountainous zone, which has labyrinthine cave systems. Thaldraszus is home to the bronze flight, and as a result, the land is tinged with chronomancy magic, which weaves into the gameplay experience of the zone.
- Main city: Valdrakken: In Thaldraszus is Valdrakken, the new expansion's city hub. For the first time, the expansion's central city will feature a public auction house, leaving players with little reason to travel back to the older continents. Valdrakken has enclaves for each dragonflight, with the blue presiding over a grand library, with red and green flights having separate garden areas.
- The Forbidden Reach: This is a new starting zone for level 58 dracthyr players. Formerly the home of Neltharion (who later became Deathwing), it was here that the Dracthyr were created and trained. The land has remained locked away and off-limits, until now.
In interviews, Blizzard has described the Dragon Isles as "massive," while also being very vertical. Parts of each zone will only become accessible after properly training your special Dragonriding drake, allowing you to fly to higher climbs. Players will get flying early on as a result of this new system, but it will take a while before your drake is powerful enough to reach certain areas.
Blizzard has promised that the new Dragon Isles open world will feature "more depth" than Shadowlands, with more places to explore off the beaten path, with many secrets. The Isles haven't been accessible for thousands of years, so it will contain a lot of ancient history from Azeroth's primordial days, featuring some ancient Azerothian races such as centaur, trolls, tuskarr, gnolls, and more. Blizzard has also unveiled a race of half-giants called the Djaradin, who despise dragonkind and have their own agenda.
The story flow of the zones takes inspiration from the campaign systems seen in Shadowlands, where reputation levels and other progression mechanics unlock new stories and quest chains. Blizzard wants to encourage exploration as much as possible in this expansion, although progression through each zone will be linear from a story perspective, in similar fashion to Shadowlands. This method was chosen for story flow.
Endgame, dungeons, and raids
Blizzard has revealed some of its plans for Dragonflight, which will introduce "improvements" to the weekly Great Vault from PvE content, as the team also explores ways to improve personal loot rules. Blizzard is going to continue with class-focused tier sets, ditching the raid-themed tier sets that have become notoriously unpopular for their lack of luster and prestige.
We know a little about the new raids and dungeons planned for Dragonflight, but suspect this will expand considerably in the coming months. Blizzard is planning to add four new dungeons and four classic dungeons to PvE Mythic+ seasons moving forward, starting with Shadowlands Season 4 likely to start in the summer.
- Uldaman: Classic titan dungeon Uldaman is making a return in Dragonflight, with a big ol' revamp. Players will explore as-of-yet undiscovered tombs within the ancient structure. Blizzard also plans to ship this dungeon early as part of the Dragonflight pre-patch event, which introduces players to the new systems and features before the expansion launches proper.
- Neltharus: Known as the ancestral stronghold of the black dragonflight, players will battle the Djaradin for control of the ancient bastion.
- Life Pools: The Life Pools are a red dragonflight-themed dungeon, of which little is known.
- Primal Incarnates raid: The first raid is described as a prison of the Primal Incarnates. Little is known about the Primal Incarnates, but they seem to be elementals of sorts, similar to the likes of Ragnaros. It's entirely possible that this prison also houses Chromatus, interred in his arcane prison.
Blizzard has said that the Battle Pass-like "Renown" feature will return in Dragonflight, although it will simply represent your activity across all factions, and won't necessarily be tied to player power, as we saw with Covenants and soulbinds in Shadowlands. Blizzard also noted (via Hazelnuttygames) that Shadowlands' and Legion's Legendary item systems will not be present in Dragonflight. Instead, the focus on customization will be more old school, focused on tier sets and the new talents system, although they note that special "one-off" legendaries aren't off the table, if they fit the tier thematically.
Game director Ion Hazzikostas said that Season 1 of Dragonflight will feature four dungeons from Dragonflight, and four classic dungeons from previous expansions. Each season's itemization will feature re-balanced items from previous dungeons too, including trinkets. Hazzikostas said he realizes the potential balance issues that may arise, alongside the disappointment of not having access to the full slate of new dungeons in season 1, but the goal is to create variety season to season.
New and revamped talent trees
The World of Warcraft talent specs are undergoing another major revamp, taking them back to the tree-style progression system pioneered by WoW's classic gameplay. The new system will allow players to allocate points within their general class for utility, while also spending points on their specialized roles. Blizzard plans to start showcasing the new trees before the Alpha begins, which is supposedly "soon." Blizzard doesn't plan to include flavor abilities like Pickpocket and Eyes of the Beast into the trees. Every point spent should result in something interesting for your class.
Blizzard noted that they saw how popular the trees have been in WoW Classic, and how their general gameplay still holds up in 2022. Blizzard wants the new system to afford new opportunities and combinations that up until now have been unavailable to players. Players will be able to shift talents and specs around "at the same kind of frequency" they do now, supposedly in rested areas and preparatory situations. Players will be able to save and name builds, and switch between them easily on the fly. Blizzard says it will also be easy to change talent builds based on combat encounters, most likely using tomes as is the case today. As you can see from the UI, players will still be able to select three PvP talents alongside their general spec sheet, which become active in PvP situations like battlegrounds, arena, and warmode.
The talent trees look as though they'll afford players greater gameplay customization possibilities than the current trees, but they'll need to be tested thoroughly to avoid balance issues. Notoriously, players offered Blizzard feedback for Shadowlands' Covenant systems during the expansion's alpha and beta, that ultimately went ignored until the wider playerbase went hands-on, and discovered how underpowered some Covenant / spec combos ended up being. Blizz cited an end to "borrowed power" mechanics as part of the motivation to bring back the classic talent trees, expressing a desire to iterate and focus on building them up instead, rather than layering on systems that go away after each expansion.
New race and class: Dracthyr Evoker
As we reported a while ago, World of Warcraft will grab a new race with a dragon theme. The Dracthyr are humanoid drakes native to the Dragon Isles. Like Pandaren, they are a neutral race that can opt to support either the Horde or the Alliance, while also sporting Worgen-like transformative abilities, switching between a more elven human form and a draconic, scaled form. The Evoker will utilize a new dark green class color, darker than both the hunter and monk greens. Dracthyr will also be exclusive to those who purchase Dragonflight.
The Dracthyr were artificially created by Deathwing, and subsequently lost to time as the result of some unnamed battle. The Dracthyr were hidden away in an area known as the Forbidden Reach, but are now becoming unleashed, as part of the story.
Dracthyr, at least as of writing, can only specialize as the new Evoker class. The Evoker leverages the power of the dragonflights of Azeroth, with a medium-ranged damage dealing spec, alongside a healing spec, complete with mail armor. Devastation utilizes the magical energies of the blue flight and fiery rage of the red flight, while Preservation draws upon the green and bronze dragonflights to support and heal allies. Like worgen and other dragons, Dracthyr have the ability to shift between animalistic dragon forms and scaled human forms.
Dracthyr abilities also have a unique empowerment mechanic. Similar to Elden Ring, players can channel spells for longer by holding down the corresponding casting keys. Some spells have up to three levels of empowerment, which produces more powerful, more spectacular effects.
Dracthyr Evokers start at level 58, in traditional "hero class" fashion, complete with their own starting zone and storyline. Dracthyr will be able to use the Dragonriding system, but they are also able to use their own wings to traverse the landscape. Game director Ion Hazzicostas has described it as being "Demonhunter gliding++," meaning that dracthyr will be able to glide and use the Dragonriding momentum physics to sustain flight.
Dracthyr spells and racials are largely unknown, besides their ability to perform as their own personal mount. They will be able to switch between human/elf form and dragon form out of combat, but Blizzard is exploring letting them remain in "visage" form even during combat too. Their racial abilities include a wing buffet conal knock back, alongside a conal tail swipe knock-up. Dracthyr use a new resource called essence, which is essentially similar to energy, regenerating automatically.
It's a little disappointing that Dracthyr can only be evokers, at least as of writing. Blizzard claims this is because existing classes in the game don't fit the race's lore, but I suspect the true reason is the amount of work that would be involved to get them functional with existing weapons and armors in the game.
Dracthyr use the human female and blood elf male skeletons for their humanoid forms, and appear to use the dreadlord and stoneborne skeletal rig for their dragon form. As a result, I suspect Blizzard doesn't want to put the work in to make them compatible with existing class animations, which is a shame. There's no real reason why Dracthyr couldn't have hunters, warriors, mages, or even druids among their ranks, given that they are a new race with new lore, Blizzard can write them into the game any way they want to.
Blizzard has also said in a recent interview that they haven't yet revealed all of the customization options for dracthyr. They'll have access to unique armor, and there are plans to let them display shoulder armor and belts, even if some other items like boots and chest pieces from non-dracthyr armor sets. They will also have options to be "slightly" bulkier, in response to waves of criticism that they look a tad scrawny and lizard-like, rather than dragon-like.
One major revamp heading into Dragonflight is that of flying, which has remained unchanged since it was introduced the best part of near two decades ago. Flying mechanics were simply an extension of swimming (in the air), but with Dragonflight, Blizzard is aiming to make it feel more physics-oriented, while also tying it to a progression system perhaps inspired by the movie How to Train Your Dragon.
Your Dragonflight drakes will level up over time and throughout the expansion, and have unique flight controls that govern momentum, speed, alongside their top elevation. Indeed, some higher reaches of the game will be inaccessible until your drake is strong enough to fly higher up into the clouds. Blizzard has shown how gravity can help you build up momentum and speed, complete with flourishes like barrel rolls. A writer on Twitter claims that Blizzard also seeks to add racing, and eventually PvP racing for Dragonriding as well.
Drakes will be customizable with a range of cosmetics, including their snout, horns, tails, armor, color, and more. Blizzard has noted that some customization items will be exclusive to secrets, achievements, and potentially even high-end PvE content. Blizzard wants to add these mechanics to previous WoW areas as well, although their focus for Dragonriding right now is specifically on Dragonflight and the Dragon Isles.
Blizzard is also revamping professions to be more in-depth, most likely taking inspiration from FFXIV and other similar MMOs. Professions have been in World of Warcraft since day zero, but have barely been touched over the years, falling by the wayside as a compelling game mechanic. Dragonflight aims to change that, along its general theme of leveling up and modernizing the game's core systems over the transitory systems that appear, then disappear from expansion to expansion. Sadly, though, archaeology is still dead, and won't return in Dragonflight.
- Crafting Orders: Crafting Orders is a new system that allows players to post requests for crafted items and materials that they aren't able to make themselves. Players can put requests into an auction house-like system, including the materials required, or make requests of players in-person. You'll also be able to send requests to your guild, or specific players too. For the first time, you can also make requests for players to craft Soulbound items, giving you access to profession-specific rewards.
- Quality ratings: Similar to Final Fantasy XIV, crafted items now have a "Quality" rating. The higher the quality, the better the stats and effects.
- Crafting specializations: This is a returning expanded feature in a sense, given that some specs have had specializations in the past. Players will be able to focus on things like flasks or potions for alchemy, or armor and weapons for blacksmithing, for example, and focus stats and quests into those specific spec roles. Blizzard said that they will add more quests and exploration associated with crafting progression. Additionally, progression here will also be granular. You'll be able to invest points specifically in being proficient at crafting armor, for example, and then further invest points in being great at crafting specific item slots, such as chestpieces. This will give players a unique place in their server communities potentially, as players vie to be the "best helmet crafter," and so on.
- Crafting tables and gear: In Dragonflight, all professions will get new crafting table requirements, similar to Dalaran's trading quarter. Blizzard wants to encourage interaction between players using this system, allowing crafters and traders to meet in-person in a hub designed specifically for that end. There will also be new gear specifically designed for professions, complete with stats that improve your skills at mining, gathering herbs, and so on. These items will utilize a separate inventory system, and won't take up space in your bags.
Blizzard will also revamp the user interface, making it more modernized, while taking inspiration from some of the most popular UI mods out there in the process.
Blizzard is looking to accommodate larger monitors and build a UI that frees players from feeling like they need to use UI mods to play, although they are committed to supporting UI mods into the future as well. Blizzard is focusing on usability, accessibility, and aesthetics as part of this revamp, aiming to preserve the "charm" of the classic interface while modernizing it in the process.
The UI is far more minimal, taking cues from the popular ElvUI system, with larger health bars with fewer elements dominating the screen. Blizzard will allow players to move UI elements around the screen wherever they fancy, while also allowing you to save HUD designs to specific characters and specs.
Blizzard is making a range of additional improvements to the World of Warcraft experience, some small, and some fairly big. Here's a list of additional improvements and updates coming to Dragonflight.
- Blizzard is lifting restrictions on rogues, mages, and priests, meaning every race can now perform these roles. That means for the first time, tauren and draenei will be able to be and rogues, with tauren also grabbing the capability to become mages. Blizzard has said in an interview that they wish to move away from race/class restrictions, while noting some class/race combos may need additional lore and quest information to make them fit into the Azerothian universe. It may be a while before we see an undead druid, I reckon.
- Blizzard noted that their PvP team has grown lately, and they want to iterate and improve the experience in general. There are no new battlegrounds planned for launch, but long term, they want to create more compelling PvP seasonal content, and examine the system as a whole.
- Blizzard will continue adding "Brawls" to experiment with different modes. The success of Solo Shuffle arena queue will become a permanent mode in Dragonflight, for example. Blizzard also wants to add world PvP areas like Highmaul Coliseum as new brawl events.
- PvP gear will function similarly to the way it does now. Initial PvP gear will come from the revamped profession system, functioning well in PvP but not PvE. Cosmetic rewards for high-level play will give players unique items for their personal dragonriding mount.
- Blizzard plans to make most features account-wide in Dragonflight, including reputation and dragonriding progression, for example. Levels and gear will remain character-bound, but they want to make it easier to make and play alt characters.
- The Mission Table mechanic that lets you send NPCs on small quests has been removed.
- Blizzard is dropping the "borrowed power" system (artifact weapons, covenants) that gives players new spells and abilities over the course of an expansion, only to remove them at the end. Instead, Blizzard will focus on iterating on the permanent core WoW experience instead.
When (and where) will Dragonflight launch?
Blizzard revealed that the game will launch before the end of 2022 on Windows PC, with preorders now live on Battle.net.
Blizzard has noted that Dragonflight will have similar minimum PC specs as Shadowlands, meaning that even budget gaming PCs will be able to run the game to a relatively acceptable level. There's also still no word of the long-awaited console port.
Will Dragonflight actually be good?
It could be anywhere up to a year before Dragonflight launches proper, as Blizzard tends to err on the side of caution when it comes to setting specific target launch dates for its games before they are well and truly "ready," although the trend towards shipping faster, rather than polished, has dogged WoW for a few years at this point. Will World of Warcraft finally be worth recommending again? Right now, it's hard to say.
World of Warcraft's previous two expansions, Battle for Azeroth and Shadowlands, both stood in the shadow of Legion, which had far more features, more dungeons, bigger landmasses, alongside a better story than anything offered in the previous two expansions. For whatever reason, it feels like WoW has been cutting corners and operating on a decreased budget in recent years, as Blizzard's parent company Activision seeks bigger superyachts for its major shareholders and execs. With Microsoft looking to acquire Activision Blizzard in the near future, one would hope that the focus will shift towards quality over corner-cutting, but it may be too early to tell whether it'll have any impact on Dragonflight. As a huge Warcraft fan, I can only hope it's the former.
Jez Corden is a Senior Editor for 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!
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