WoW Factor: What we still don’t know about World of Warcraft’s Battle for Azeroth

There are lots of things that I’m genuinely excited about when it comes to the next World of Warcraft expansion. Battle for Azeroth has a premise that gives me reasons to be hopeful, systems that seem pretty cool, and at least one thing that I’m pretty sure I want (even if I’m not sure whether or not the final version is exactly how I want it). So we’re starting from a good point here.

We’ve also got some time until the expansion is released, and based on the total lack of any firm information on dates for testing, much less launch, I would be surprised to see this expansion before November 2018. So that leaves us with some pretty big questions to be answered, and the more answers we get sooner, the better. So let’s take a gander at the questions we’ve still got hanging over our head after the expansion reveal.

Would I? Yes. Can I?

What will rewards look like?

We’ve seen some Alliance and Horde-themed armor on display already, and honestly, that stuff looks great. It’s a magnificent fusion of the design aesthetics that have long dominated both factions, bringing in elements of several different racial designs while still feeling distinctly Alliance and/or Horde. I love them and can already think of characters who would wear them.

But will those characters wear them? I don’t know. How do we get them?

This is still kind of an open question; we don’t know what rewards will come from island expeditions or warfronts, both of which seem ill-suited to just dropping gear. For that matter, a 10-20 minute run for one piece of gear is going to feel kind of lopsided anyhow. So what will the reward structure be like?

It’s a known fact that I’m a big proponent of currency systems in cases like this, since that lets you pick a goal and work toward it; it also has an advantage here for this particular content, because you are actually doing things directly for your faction. Justice/Valor/Whatever points or badges never really had a solid grounding in lore, but “good work smashing the Horde, you’ve earned credit toward a new pair of boots” is not exactly an overwhelming logical leap.

Plus, the “no titanforging” caveat on Heart-enhanced slots makes gear drops a bit more… limited than they’ve been in the past. Let’s put that there.

But there are lots of ways to make you feel as if your work in these departments is meaningful and worthwhile. I’m hoping that it’s something more interesting than just Azerite, since these are fun forms of content at a glance that could give players lots of chances for interesting gameplay. Discussing the reward structure sooner rather than later is a good thing.

FORGE ME

What about professions?

Legion did journeyman service to improving how professions work. It still has some pretty notable issues running through it, of course; I don’t agree with the objections some players have about dungeons being involved, but crafting is still messy as heck. Legion made it better, but there’s a world of difference between “better” and “good.”

Much as I would like to hope against it, we’re likely getting another number bump to profession skill. It’s a thing that just happens, like it or not. The question becomes what else we’re getting to make that feel worthwhile. Whatever it is, it’s likely to be simple; can we at least hope it’s going to be less smashingly obnoxious than the rather ill-conceived mess that we got through Legion’s item reforging?

The big sticky problems here, as always, comes with the crossover between professions that create wearable gear and the professions that solely or mostly enhance existing gear. The game has never been entirely sure about how to balance the two and make gems feel useful without being mandatory; we’ll see how things play out once we learn a bit more.

I HAVE THE POWAH

What’s going down with artifacts?

A good chunk of the stuff on every single artifact is, functionally, irrelevant. Leveling up a trait that improves the damage on Stormstrike 10% is not really interesting; similarly, having Stormstrike create a field of lightning once you use it doesn’t change much. These elements can easily be incorporated into the core abilities. But there are traits and abilities unlocked with each artifact that are, in fact, core parts of the current rotations for each class.

So what’s happening with these? It might seem like a somewhat inconsequential thing, but how that shakes out is going to have a huge, lasting impact on the way we play our specs through Battle for Azeroth. All of that escalating power baked into our weapons is going to have to go somewhere.

This is where, honestly, abandoning the system hurts the most. Just making it part of the character’s power makes the whole thing feel like something of a shaggy dog story that may have some unfortunate implications for leveling through Legion content later; outright removing it makes your next weapon feel like a downgrade even if it isn’t. This is something that can be handled well, and it really depends on information we don’t have yet.

As long as the Horde isn't downtown.

How does max-level crossover work?

It’s ironic, on some level, that for an expansion so fixated on the conflict between the factions, we’ll spend most of the expansion separate from the other side. Only at the level cap will we actually be crossing over to the other faction’s zones. And that raises some interesting questions, because while we know world quests and emissaries will be sticking around, the current system relies on rotational traits that… aren’t really present now.

In Legion, the trick (so to speak) was that each zone had its own faction, and that worked out fairly well. You had five reputations to raise, along with one “hidden” reputation (no, it wasn’t really hidden, I know) and a catch-all option right at launch. There was immediate and obvious space for all seven days of emissaries.

Things are a little different for this expansion. You could argue, based on what we’ve seen, that there will be a faction for each of your three factional zones, maybe a couple on the other side… but you’re still coming up a bit shy. Not to mention that the story seems to imply that at least one zone (hosting the opposite faction’s capital) is going to be pretty darn hostile to you; I can’t see anyone in Tiragarde Sound being all right with a faction helping the Horde, no matter how insistent they are on neutrality.

For that matter, I can’t see the Alliance being on board with Blood Trolls, either. (“All right, so you guys want to destroy all life on the planet… but you’re going to kill the Horde first, right? We can work with this.”)

There are ways that this can work, of course, especially when you consider that there are seven sub-factions within each overarching faction. We’ll just need to know more about how emissaries are going to work this time around.

Do we just cut you a check, or what?

What will unlocks look like for allied races?

What we know so far is that unlocking allied races will be account-wide and require quests. The problem is that “collect five bear heads” and “kill Gul’dan five times on Mythic difficulty” are both quest objectives. For that matter, “collect five bear heads” and “collect five hundred bear heads” are both quest objectives. “Get revered with Timbermaw Hold” is also a quest objective.

You get my meaning. Just saying that something requires a quest does not, in and of itself, say a whole heck of a lot. There are quests that can be completed quickly, some that take all night, and some that are month-long projects. Just knowing that there’s a quest doesn’t actually say a whole lot.

As people have pointed out, we know about class matrices and such for four of the six allied races, and all four allied races in question tie into currently relevant content. This ties in to the next question a bit, but the point is that it’s wholly plausible to have this as the “unlock demon hunters early” content for expansion pre-orders. However, we still don’t know what it’s actually going to take to get these guys into our camps, and that will have significant impact.

On the one hand, the bright side is that we will only have to do this stuff once. On the other hand… well, “once” could be pretty obnoxious just because of that. Or it could be a somewhat perfunctory effort. The more we know about this, the better; it’d be nice to know whether unlocking our allied options is a challenge on par with unlocking flight in Draenor or it’s more of a gateway to make sure you can’t roll one if you aren’t up-to-cap in your faction.

All right, boring is technically an answer.

What’s the next year going to look like?

Here’s the big question, and the one that is kind of made louder by the lack of beta dates. Historically, it’s about a year between expansion announcement and expansion release. That’s been nudged in various directions over time, but WoW has consistently wound up at around the one-year mark. So if we’re wrapping up the expansion storyline now (and we are), what will we be doing over the next year?

Obviously, there are things to be done along that path. In fact, I think I’ve outlined several possibilities right in this very article – unlocking the allies currently available, absorbing artifacts, seeing the faction split come down, and so forth. But we do not actually know for sure about any of this just yet. All we know is that we’ve probably got a year before release, the expansion isn’t available for order just yet, and we’re going to need something for the next year.

This obviously ties the most into the answers to other questions, but conversely, it’s the question that needs answering soonest. The patch deployment through Legion has been pretty agile, so let’s see if we can stick the landing during a year of quiet before the expansion actually hits.

War never changes, but World of Warcraft does, with a decade of history and a huge footprint in the MMORPG industry. Join Eliot Lefebvre each week for a new installment of WoW Factor as he examines the enormous MMO, how it interacts with the larger world of online gaming, and what’s new in the worlds of Azeroth and Draenor.
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33 Comments on "WoW Factor: What we still don’t know about World of Warcraft’s Battle for Azeroth"

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Oleg Chebeneev

We dont know how battlefrounds will turn out. WoW never had anything like that before (except maybe Alterac Valley in simplier form)

rondstat
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rondstat

So, I know they said they had something suitably ‘epic’ planned as an artifact send-off. But I can’t imagine a one-size-fits-all event could ever feel fully satisfying after doing so much to explore the individual origins and legacies of our weapons.

Is it possible they could have multiple artifact scenarios? Not one for every weapon. But thematically appropriate scenarios, say, demons are attempting to resurrect the Legion after their master’s fall, and we have to take all of our Legion-derived weapons to Argus and divest them of their unique powers to imprison the upstarts. Stuff like that. And, maybe a few of the more iconic weapons (knaifu) could have individual scenarios, or else be handed off to their original owners (Thas’dorah).

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Hravik

My biggest gripe with getting rid of the artifact weapons is that for a couple of them, it just takes me out of the lore. At least from a Paladin and DK perspective.

Oh man, its the Highlord! Is that the Ashbringer? The most powerful Paladin weapon ever known to exist? Nah man, I got this rusty broke sword someone was hammering nails with as soon as I hit level 111, its like, 2x as powerful. Lulz.

Same for the DK weapons that are made from shards of Frostmourne itself. Just a shame that such lore icons like those will go into the dustbin.

Richard de Leon III
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Richard de Leon III

Off-topic: I wish i could earn and wear that lion themed armor on my horde toons. I know i could play alliance but my remaining friends are horde loyalists and paying to transfer toons is just not possible (but im still trying to get the powerball :P).

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Skai R

Antours will release the 28th of November. But they have not said it’s patch 7.3.5. So who knows what comes with that.

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Steve Fury

November 2018…? So an entire year without content? Didn’t they promise like 5 times now that this wouldn’t happen? lol

Richard de Leon III
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Richard de Leon III

Considering we have had 1 year droughts before, 6-8 months isnt bad at all (considering we still got one more raid patch). And thatll allow us altaholics to catch up on all our toons (especially for class hall mounts).

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Sorenthaz

Pretty sure 7.3.5 hasn’t been released, right? That’s the final raid encounter coming soonish. It’s possible they’ll dole out smaller patches that add new story content as well to really rile tensions up as well, since they claimed they’ll be doing more story-centric smaller patches after the last major content patch.

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Loyal Patron
Armsbend

Eliot has no idea when it’s coming out.

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Rick Mills

Thanks for keeping the discussion going -some great points!

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Loyal Patron
Armsbend

Can anyone easily explain Blizzard’s reasoning behind getting rid of artifact weapons? The only thing I can think of is not having new players feel they need to grind it out before they play the new expac. I don’t get it otherwise.

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Jeffrey Meade

I would take this even farther to say that Blizzard in the more recent past, especially since Garrisons, enjoys putting systems in the game that do not continue past the current expansion. Having one or two things that didn’t work out well not continue to the new content is understandable. The only system in Legion that they really commented on keeping during Blizzcon is world quests. I understand wanting to keep things fresh and interesting, but now I feel like too much gets dropped at the end of a current expansion in favor of new stuff in the next that will then get dropped or ignored for the next expansion after that.

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Emiliano Lozada

Mythic+, Emissaries, WQ, Mission Tables, Class Fantasy [No Legion Style Overhaul], Warforging+Titanforging. The only thing I can think of off the top of my head that’s being removed is well Random Leggo Drops. I see the artifact system evolving into something greater with the Heart of Azeroth just like how Garrison Mission Table evolved into the Class Order Halls. They specifically stated that they wanted to build on top of systems now instead of tossing it all out hence why the feature list seems lackluster at first.

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Dug From The Earth

The concept of never needing to replace your weapon isnt the reason for them removing them.

There are 2 main reasons

1. Blizzard has always had a “this mechanic was specific to this expansion only” mentality. Its why our garrisons were abandoned after WoD, for example. They said from the very start of legion, that Artifact weapons would be a Legion only mechanic.

2. There were just too many bad design elements with the whole artifact trait and power system for them to keep it. Things that made the game less fun. For example(s)

– Artifacts were top heavy (or is it bottom heavy?): They started out with a lot of growth and selections, but quickly ended up being stale later in the game. Lots of grind to increase the same thing over and over.
– Increasing artifact power caused global power creep.
– Trying to manage artifacts for more than 1 spec, was awful because the game was balanced around how much AP you could reasonably farm each day to keep just ONE artifact up to par with the level it needed to be (this really shows with the new relic trait tree that came with argus. If you split your AP between multiple weapons, you would never see the 3rd tier of talents on any weapon)

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Armsbend

Thanks for the explanation! And the two below this post as well :)

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Tom R

It’s less fun than getting a new shiny thing.

If I gotta run through another expansion with the same weapon I’ve already maxed out that’s an entire equipment slot made pointless.

I’d prefer to find new weapons again personally.

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Schmidt.Capela

I, on the other hand, prefer to be able to improve things I already have. I would rather have a weapon I can tinker with and improve than a new weapon that completely replaces my old one.

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Nathan Aldana

also they can be lazy and not bother with a class story that theyre going to throw out next expansion by pitting us against our former class hall teammates.

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Tom R

I mean…how far did you expect them to take the class thing? Every expansion from here on out?

It’s the same as garrisons, it’s getting replaced by a new meta game thing which this xpac appears to be basically WCIII.

Blinkenn
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Blinkenn

10-20 minutes to get a piece of gear is not at all unlike currently running to a world quest that drops a titan-forged piece of armor.
And I’ll be sad if our artifacts are replaced pretty early on, but that’s probably what’s going to happen if past is any indication of the future.

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Jeffrey Meade

I keep seeing comments about the expansion being a year down the road and I don’t really agree with that. Old Blizzard prior to Legion would have put the expansion out a year from now. Blizzard since Legion put out patches and content faster which means it would be stupid beyond explanation after regaining some good will with the players post WoD to go back to a big content drought. I only see three real possibilities.

1. The expansion really does come out a year from now and we don’t get much in the way of new content after 7.3.5 leading up to the expansions pre-patch. Nothing would surprise me from Blizzard so I cant rule this one out even though I don’t see it happening.

2. The expansion does come out a year from now, but we see more content patches after 7.3.5. Maybe a 7.4 and 7.4.5? Its not a giant content black hole like when we waited around for previous expansions.

3. The current Blizzard continues the pace of content addition and the expansion comes out sooner than most people think. This would follow Blizzards current pattern which makes it possible, and it seemed like they were farther along with the new expansion than what we have usually seen in the past based on what was shown as Blizzcon. I see the expansion coming six to eight months from now.

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Dug From The Earth

im fully expecting beta to start Jan/Feb… No later. And then the game to release June/July.

Give or take a month. Blizzard has always seemingly followed the same roadmap. Thats not to say it cant change, but my bets are on what im guessing above.

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Dug From The Earth

The biggest question I have is this:

What is going to happen to all the artifact weapon trait nodes?

The things that enhanced your characters abilities, and even drastically changed how they worked. Are they just going to vanish? Are they going to become a built in part of the ability when you hit 110?

For example, my bear druid gets a pretty nice bonus to Iron Furs armor increase from his artifact traits. Removing those traits means Im suddenly less tanky. My hunter gets a nifty trait that makes his turtle shell shield actually heal him when he activates it. Its a great survivability thing, that also helps healers hate me less during raids, when I can not only avoid damage, but heal any that has been done.

My other questions that I hope get answered soon:

1. Release dates for ALL of the 6 new races
2. Can you race change to a new race from a similar one (ie: dwarf to iron dwarf) without paying real money?
3. Will the 3 other faction zones that unlock to your faction at 120 contain actual story quest content, or will they just have end game world quest type content?
4. How is the new pvp server/world pvp system any different than simple a PvE server with people choosing to flag themselves for PvP?

One thing id like to see as well, based on the push towards more dynamic, short duration, repeatable content, is to have a LOT More transmog oriented rewards.

Eventually, Ill get the best gear I can get from these island skirmishes or whatever. Despite the encounter being dynamic and different, the reward at that point, will be pointless. It would be nice to have other things to strive for that arent just about gear progression.

And for the love of Azeroth.. NO MORE CRAFTING QUESTS REQUIRING GROUPS. This means no crafting quests in dungeons.

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Skai R

They’ve stated that they’re going to bake in only SOME of the traits for specific specs. Not every spec will get their artifact traits.

I’m sure will see some tuning and class balance like usual, but nothing like Legion redesign.

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TheDonDude

“Legion’s item reforging”?

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Jeffrey Meade

We don’t know why out of all of the rumors and speculation that were out there concerning the next expansion, Blizzard managed to choose the most uninspiring options possible.

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Nathan Aldana

for the same reason broken shore and argus were largely uninspiring grind-fests.

a lot of blizz’s current design is “how can we keep people logged into wow and nothing but wow all day, i know, insipid high volume grinding!”

wpDiscuz