So let’s be honest with you, folks: We are writing this before we actually know what happened in the BlizzCon 2017 opening ceremony. We know that in all likelihood, this panel is going to be all about World of Warcraft: Expansion Titles Go After The Colon, but we don’t actually know what title goes after that colon. All we know is that it’s probably not National Lampoon’s Vacation.
But as you read this, you probably know. And we’re all going to know more! So why not jump down into the comments and start enjoying our liveblog of the whole event? It’s a tradition now. (If you’re coming into this a bit later, you can catch up just past the break.)
Do note that this particular stream isn’t public, so if you want to watch it, you’ll need the BlizzCon Virtual Ticket.
To recap, the next expansion is Battle for Azeroth. We know we’re getting new allied races, a level cap bump to 120, new warfronts, Kul Tiras, and Zandalar. Oh yeah, and classic servers of some form. Based on the previews, we think can see that allied races include Void Elves, Dark Iron Dwarves, Lightforged Draenei, Zandalari Trolls, Nightborne, and Highmountain Tauren.
So we’re going on a whirlwind tour of the expansion features, starting with creative director Afrasiabi. The Battle for Lordaeron is the opening skirmish (like the Broken Shore for Legion). The Horde is definitely burning Teldrassil; whether Undercity was attacked first or in response remains to be seen. This is setting up a divided world – Horde and Alliance will largely control one continent each. Alliance and Horde are at all-out war, seeking allies with powerful navies. This is a fight for the faction’s survival.
Kul Tiras for the Alliance, which is tied to Gilneas (which I think is new; we’ve never heard about that connection). Kul Tiras is ruled by four houses in trouble (Fortemps, Haillenarte – wait, wrong one.) There are three main zones – Tiragarde Sound is first. Tiragarde holds the capital of Kul Tiras, led by Katherine Proudmoore. (She is 100% Not A Dreadlord.) Monster hunters are a big thing in Kul Tiras, and Tiragarde has some pirate problems.
Moving on to Drustvar, which is covered in forests and mountains; ruled by House Waycrest, whose rulers have been weirdly absent. Drustvar supplies weapons and sausages, but those supplies have become stopped up. Also, the land is cursed, because of course it is. (You can play the demo of the region on the show floor.)
Stormsong Valley is lush, green, beautful, and ruled by House Stormsong. (The song is “RAIN RAIN RAIN.”) The Sea Priests provide the ships from the regions, blessing and revering the ocean. Dark forces are attacking, as are quillboars.
Zandalari trolls have a powerful navy; they used to be the heart of the Trolls, and the continent is in turmoil. (As, uh, we sort of saw last time we interacted with the Zandalar in Mists.) In the Zuldazar zone, the capital of the Zandalari, we’ll investigate an uprising there, stop blood troll invaders, and set up the Horde capital with King Rastakhan’s support.
Nazmir was a lush forest, but it’s sinking into the sea and now it’s a festering swampland. Which is perfect for blood trolls, so we need to enlist the aid of the loa, including a big old frog. (Frog mount!) Uncover ancient titan secrets and facilities… and there might be a key to destroying all life on Azeroth. It’s also playable on the floor.
The Desert of Vol’dun used to be a jungle, but it got pretty screwed up when the Old God’s minions attacked. It’s basically the Zandalari dumping ground for criminals a la Siberia. Now BEFRIEND FOX PEOPLE. (They’re called the vulpera and they’re my new favorites.) You also have snake people, the Sethrak. Following more stories of characters – Thrall, Sylvanas, Anduin, and Jaina. (And Vol’jin?)
We’ve heard about the world, let’s look at how we’re exploring it. Six zones, two continents – level up in your faction’s zones. Scaling zone tech will still exist, so it’ll be akin to Legion in that regard. At level cap, all of the zones open up. The War Campaign arc is woven throughout the leveling and endgame experience, like the class hall/garrison campaigns. World quests and emissaries will still be around.
As a champion of the Alliance or Horde, you will bring new races into the fold, with quest content about how Void Elves come to the Horde, Nightborne come to Alliance… and then you unlock the ability to make these races. New racial abilities and customization, obviously. Allied races begin at level 20, too, not starting at level one. You can race change and/or boost an allied race; leveling to 110 unlocks heritage armor for that race, which is only from that. Six are coming at launch, but more are planned.
Horde get Nightborne, Highmountain Tauren, and Zandalari Trolls. The Alliance get Void Elves, the Lightforged Draenei, and the Dark Iron Dwarves. (So, yes, what was rumored/shown.) And these are cosmetic and transmog-enable.
Now it’s time to get into leveling improvements, talking about the mess of pacing the way you outlevel zones and such.
The new level scaling stuff is epic. Legion had scaling zones, obviously; that fixed that flow problem. They’re looking to expand zone scaling to the entirety of WoW. There will be differences, though; Westfall shouldn’t scale to 110, so there will still be level ranges with caps. You won’t outlevel the zone while you’re in it. There’s also a flexible expansion order coming to fix that issue. Outland is 60-80, Northrend is 60-80. They want to get this in our hands “soon” – All of this applies to dungeons and rewards along the way. And this isn’t an expansion feature; this is starting in 7.3.5, which is coming soon to PTR.
Heart of Azeroth
And now a new feature, the Heart of Azeroth. The world is wounded, and Azeroth herself grants a new medallion, the Heart of Azeroth. Using the medallion upon azerite (the blood of Azeroth), this is empowered. It doesn’t have a trait tree, but it does empower your armor. (This will be covered in more depth later today.) It’s meant to take in the best parts of artifact weapons with hand-crafted armor pieces, to make constant ongoing choices.
Island Expeditions and PvP
On to Island Expeditions. Explore uncharted isles across the Great Sea, covered in resources. Both sides want to take the resources. They’re three-player role-agnostic gameplay that serve as culmination to the stuff from scenarios, mythic scaling, etc. Varied, dynamic objectives each time. This sounds similar to Diablo’s rifts or Star Trek Online’s old exploration missions. Race against AI opponents as you explore the region.
You can also face off against actual other players; it’s PvPvE-style content. Warfronts, meanwhile, are the big large-scale battles against the other side, going back to the earlier Warcraft games. Warfronts are 20-player cooperative raids against NPC armies – build structures, grab resources, upgrade troops, lead everyone into battle.
PvP is (of course) important. New arenas in Tiragarde and Zuldazar, obviously; there’s also a new battleground coming along just by Silithus called the Seething Shore. (There’s a lot of Azerite there, so it’s dynamic control point gameplay.) It’s also coming in preview form to 7.3.5, so that’s cool. Also more brawls… but that’s all instanced PvP. What about world PvP? The ruleset hasn’t changed much since 2005.
The world and the game has actually changed, though, and that’s different. The ruleset doesn’t make sense for how the game is now, so it needs to be updated for the actual game in 2018. To start: remove PvE/PvP server division. Make it an individual choice to opt into world PvP. (An expansion of cross-realm zoning/phasing.) This means that players can choose to access open PvP as they want. So why would you turn it on? Offer bonuses to offset the added danger. Experience bonuses, for example; the aim of these changes is to make world PvP great and viable again.
Dungeons and raids
Dungeons! 10 dungeons, separate level-up dungeons for each faction, mythic keystones aren’t going anywhere (unsurprising), more stuff using the interface to support it. Freehold is located in Tiragarde Sound, it’s a cliffside outlaw hideaway. Atal’Dazar, a tomb of ancient Zandalari kings nestled in the mountains full of undead dinosaurs. (Also alive dinosaurs and normal undead.) Tol Dagor, Waycrest Manor, Shrine of the Storm, Siege of Boralus, Temple of Sethraliss, The Underrot, Kings’ Rest, and Kezan are all listed as dungeons. Raids, naturally. We start with Uldir, which is a Titan quarantine facility, and it’s the source of Zandalar’s corruption. We’re not being told much to avoid spoilers. There’s also one other raid being discussed – and yes, we’re facing off against Queen Azshara. (Awesome concept art there; tentacle elf vampire squid.) “Does it matter who wins the Battle for Azeroth… if there’s nothing left to claim?”