I’ve played World of Warcraft since the Wrath of the Lich King expansion and I’ve loved the series from before the MMO even existed. I quested and raided my way through all expansions up until Legion, though in both that expansion and its predecessor, Warlords of Draenor, my life took a few turns that meant I couldn’t play nearly as often as I wanted to nor do so with my American friends.
I missed out on some content, getting raid clears only on one-off appearances. But with Battle for Azeroth, World of Warcraft’s latest expansion, I’ve made it my goal to return to the old days, when I logged into Azeroth at least once a day and completed every task set before me. Yes, it’s a grind, but it’s a fun one, especially during the initial stages of the expansion.
So far, I’ve levelled my character, the Druid Kadrell, to level 120, completing the questlines of Kul Tiras, and loving every single moment of it. I’ve often claimed to be a quest whore (or as WoW puts it, a Loremaster), you put a quest in front of me and I’ll do it. So in Battle for Azeroth I’ve been in quest haven. Between storyline quests, one-off missions and world quests, I’ve had so much to do, so much to enjoy. And best of all, I’m not even close to done! As of reaching level 120, I’ve discovered brand new quests that I’m certain weren’t there as I levelled, unlocked perhaps as I reached this expansion’s level cap.
I play an Alliance character and though that often means I miss out on some Horde stories, this is the first time I’ve been tempted to create a character on the other side—I really don’t because I’m not one for alts and all my friends are on the Alliance side—because there’s so much there to explore, particularly with the Zandalari Trolls, whom we’ve just seen in the past as enemies. I’ve seen some of the cutscenes on their side, and the stories are great.
But on the blue and gold emblem side, the Kul Tiran stories are phenomenal:
- Tiragarde Sound, home of the Proudmoore Admiralty—yes, Jayna’s family—has a political intrigue plot, pirates, azerite weapons, and even a couple of Lovecraftian and haunting stories that serve as morsels for the stories you’ll experience on the rest of the journey.
- Drustvard, to the southwest, has something of a witch problem. Its towns are haunted and cursed by witches, their familiars and minions running rampant. It’s up to you and the last heir of Waycrest to reform an ancient order and take the battle to these supernatural foes. It has more of a horror vibe and they pull it off spectacularly. Best of all, there’s this one creepy child that makes it all worthwhile.
- Stormsong Valley is simply the best. It’s all about an ancient order of sea mystics turned evil, corrupted by the whispers from the dark depths. If you’ve played WoW or know your Warcraft lore, you know what that means! It’s visually stunning, mechanically diverse, highly challenging and the new characters and storylines introduced will continue to impact the expansion perhaps much more than the other two.
Prevalent throughout the experience wasn’t just the clever writing and quest design, mixing it up every so often to break the monotony or give you something truly silly, such as riding ornery boars through enemy lines, scattering them like bowling pins, but these three important things:
- Zone visual designs married with quest design and progress, with Stormsong being the very best example. You reach Stormsong through a pass that leads to the valley but as you get there the army blocks the way. You convince them to move on and as you follow suit, the pass begins at the bottom of a hill and ends at its crest, from where you can see the valley stretch below you. It’s a wonderful introduction as from the starting point you can only see the sky and distant mountains, but as you reach the top, you witness the majestic splendour of Stormsong. The quest locks you into this beautiful introduction.
- Challenge Up, for the most part I found enemies beating the ever-loving crap out of me in every zone. For a long while now, new content zones scale with you, so that you can take in the new content in whichever order you like and enemies will always be at your level. For me, it meant that quest mobs, simple random enemies, put up one hell of a fight. It led to some frustration of course, but also to some very clever playing, where I had to combine some of my skills, even those I rarely use, to split monster groups to better deal with them. And as an alchemist, I had a big reason to raise my level in the skills and get better potions for fewer materials.
- Related to Alchemy, Herbalism is outstanding in Battle for Azeroth because it does something that hasn’t been seen in World of Warcraft for a few expansions, where the herbs you find aren’t locked to specific regions—save for one plant and only because it’s a desert herb and there’s only one desert—but soil and conditions. You will always find Riverbuds near small streams and Sea Stalks in beaches, Siren’s Pollen grows on the trunk of trees and Winter’s Kiss on patches of snow. But best of all is Star Moss, which grows on stone and in the shade, so it’s often found under bridges, in alleys or on the side of buildings. If you’re near the water the moss will be vibrant green, with purple flowers growing from it and if you’re in a dry environment, it’ll come in shades of red and orange. It means you can find most herbs in all maps.
I’m enjoying the new Azerite mechanic. It was a bit unusual to see chest, shoulder and helm gear pieces without any secondary stats but instead these highly customisable ones that can give you greater survivability or trigger massive damage bursts. I would have loved this system to be more prevalent, say have all armour bits and even weapons get azurite traits, but I don’t mind the way it’s done and the grind for Azerite feels much less punishing than the ar3tifact weapon grind was in the previous expansion, especially since the “Artefact Knowledge” trait—a multiplier on the amount received—will scale automatically week to week.
Dungeons are super fun and visually unique, with interested mechanics throughout. This is the first time I’ve geared up so fast, going through a few normal dungeons, skipping over to heroic and even Mythic dungeons within days of the expansion’s launch and it’s great to see the increase in complexity from one difficulty to the next. There are so many left to do, and there is no single tank & spank boss. They all have at least one mechanic to keep you on your toes, even the gigantic T-Rex with the enormous hit box. Can’t wait to see what the first raid, Uldir aka Titan Umbrella Corp. has in store for us.
I’ve even had a bit of PVP, though completely by accident. I tried to do a World Quest but went through the main horde city in stealth to do it. A few guards discovered me a flagged me for PVP, meaning that players in War Mode, where you’re constantly flagged for PVP (there no longer are PVP only servers) could target me. Had a nice fight against a Shadow Priest and would have won if he hadn’t waited to attack me after quest mobs left me at a quarter of my maximum health. He didn’t kill me though. After a bit of self-healing stalemate, when things turned in his favour, I used my many movement skills to put some distance between us and go into stealth mode again, finding a dark alcove to hide in and teleport back to the safety of an alliance base.
Last week I didn’t publish a single thing or even upload any video on this site or my YouTube channel, and didn’t even think of doing something with my Twitch channel, because I spent every moment I could in Azeroth fending off against horde forces, searching for Azerite and getting my ass whooped.
It’s been a hell of a ride so far…and it’s only just beginning. There are dungeons to run and they’re a lot of fun, there is gear to unlock and professions to max out. I have to practice my rotation and get my DPS to a nice place so I can do well once raids unlock. Just a couple more weeks for that to happen and I’m eagerly awaiting it!