A fluffy casual’s starting perspective on World of Warcraft: Battle for Azeroth

    
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Let me tell you a bit about me and how I play MMORPGs. Between two jobs and a family, my gaming time is relegated to the deep evening hours where peace descends upon our household. If it’s a good night, I can get in two full hours of adventuring through virtual worlds before I grow too tired to continue. Some nights it’s less.

It has been a long time since I was able to sprint alongside the pack when a new expansion or game launches, so you have to picture me as the slowpoke waaaay in the back who keeps getting distracted by small details, stops to read the quest text, and takes screenshots like I’m putting together an art book.

That’s me, the fluffy casual, and while plenty of folks have devoured vast swaths of World of Warcraft: Battle for Azeroth this week (including our own excellent Eliot), I’ve been rotating through my roster of characters and experiencing this engaging expansion at my own tempered pace. Does that mean that I lack a perspective or any observational details? Absolutely not! In fact, here are some things that I’ve been thinking about and looking at this week from the position at the far back of the pack.

What kind of expansion is this?

This has been a very strange lead-up to the seventh World of Warcraft expansion. On the plus side, we didn’t experience any massive content droughts along the way, and it is always exciting to get a brand-new content pack to enjoy. But the story shift to factional warfare felt a little forced and the “big” selling features of Battle for Azeroth (warfronts, island expeditions, Heart of Azeroth, allied races) weren’t nearly as exciting as what we’ve gotten over the past two expansions (new classes, order halls, artifact weapons, garrisons).

It is, very much, a “more of the same” expansion. It’s more lands, more story, more dungeons, more mythic-plus keystones, more raids, more mission tables, more of what’s proven to work and be of interest to the community so far. And that’s a good thing, a great thing even. It was high time to move on. But I have the feeling that the increased pace of Blizzard’s patch cycle ended up taking some time away from developing really exciting hooks. Sure, Blizzard wants us to get excited about warfronts, but who is, really?

So I had to temper my expectations from the perspective that I was done with Legion, I wanted to have a sense of progression once more, and I wanted to go through new storylines. From that, Battle for Azeroth is satisfying me.

Story satiation

The story is firing on all cylinders as far as I see. Blizzard’s really refined this questing experience so that it flows organically from one area to the next while sprinkling in revelations, cutscenes, scripting, motivations, and rewards. Honestly, I didn’t care for many of Legion’s zone stories, but from the get-go, BFA has kept me really intrigued about the politics and secrets of these island nations.

Early on in Boralus, I started to investigate a missing fleet by checking out the monastery that provides the tidesages that bless these ships. When I got there, my NPC companion provided color commentary — which made me feel like I was part of a team — and the whole place was weirdly hostile toward me. I found one ally there, but the rest of the place exuded a “wrongness” that intrigued me and set me on a path to figuring out the greater mystery of this particular storyline. That was a short part of my play session, but it made for a great memory that takes the story above and beyond a forgettable text box.

I’m sure that some players will have gorged on all this content and be into the new endgame, but for me, there’s a huge wealth of stories and quests ahead of me. I find that as a casual player, pacing matters. When you don’t look at an expansion as a race but rather as a fine meal that can be devoured and savored in steady bites, then you can make the newness, the discovery of it all last. That means that weeks from now, when some people will be griping about the wait for Patch 8.1, I’ll still be happily making my way through quests that I haven’t seen before.

Going in blind

Another way that players kind of spoil the experience is by gorging on previews, beta testing, and datamining. Honestly, I did so little of that during the lead-up that most all of this expansion is fresh to me. So instead of racing to hit 120 as quickly and efficiently as possible, I was exploring and poking around and being generally inefficient.

And there is so much to see here. The setting of these two mini-continents (each with three zones) is as much a star of this expansion as anything else. We grow so inured to the artistic talent that Blizzard wields that such sights might be ignored. I try not to. I’m a total tourist, gawking at everything, combing through shops, and taking pictures of ships in bottles, vendors selling shrunken heads, and bizarre Goblin slot machines.

The two new capital cities are breathtaking in their scope and decidedly different than anything we’ve experienced in the game before. I’m more partial to the naval-themed Boralus, especially with its ferries that zip you along the waterfront, but the gigantic pyramid that the Horde enjoys is a stunning titanic design. If you like urban exploration, there’s so much to see and do in these places. I thought I’d really miss Dalaran, but I think I’m going to be OK hanging out in these towns as expansion hubs for the next couple of years.

Getting out into the countryside is even better, in my opinion (I enjoy rural rather than urban settings). What strikes me is not that these islands are super-exotic but rather a return to a more traditional fantasy setting that isn’t as alien or demonic or randomly stitched together. Kul Tiras, in particular, feels like a more grounded Azerothan locale than we got in the Broken Isles or Draenor. I don’t think I realized how much I missed that traditional fantasy setting until it was returned to us. Sure, it’s still fantasy and there are still some pretty wondrous sights to encounter, but at least we’re not bumping into fel-blasted or mana-sprouting landscapes all over the place.

Feature creature

The Heart of Azeroth was an early disappointment to me. It’s kind of a “set and forget” feature that’s… fine, but it’s not initially that exciting. There’s not much to do with it, and I only got my second piece of Heart-associated gear after the first long chapter of a particular storyline. Anything where I get to choose is welcome, don’t get me wrong, and I’m sure that I’ll like getting to customize my gear according to my playstyle later on, but I’m not oohing and ahhing over this like I was with my artifact weapon.

At least I didn’t start out feeling underpowered and weak in combat. There’s auto-scaling at play, so at 110, mobs are just as gentle and manageable as they were at the end of Legion. However, some of my level 120 guildies are complaining that the second they hit the level cap, the mobs started to hit like trucks due to the game being balanced around better gear at that point.

I’m personally glad that some of my favorite little activities, like treasure chest hunting and mission tables, are back. There are tons of fun rewards — or so I’ve heard — that I’ll look forward to acquiring sometime down the road. Around 120 pets? My son is pestering me to catch them all, Pikachu. And sometimes I allow herbalism nodes to lead me of the beaten path and encourage me to explore the countryside without strictly sticking to the quest directions.

All in all, it’s a good, strong start to the expansion. It may not be rocking my world with innovative design, but the solid, proven, and comfortable design means that I am in for a great ride over the next several months of combing through both Horde and Alliance storylines.

And just remember, if you feel “left behind” by the pack, know that you’ll be right there alongside me and many others who are taking our time, smelling the roses, and having a blast in our own fashion.

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Alex Willis

poking around and being generally inefficient

it me

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IronSalamander8 .

Great article. I’m kind of in between casual and the other end of the spectrum. I did hit 120 on Pixxni Sunday night but then almost immediately logged off to play some Minecraft as a bit of a break. I had a Protospiel meetup Saturday which was a big chunk of time as well. I’m debating on playing alts as I tend to feel dragged down doing the same quests one after another.

I too love finding all the chests and I did finish them in Nazmir and Zuldazar, I’ve barely started Vol’dun. I also hunted the rare mobs for those zones too. I find most of them just by exploring, I had to look a couple up but those are in the minority luckily.

I have almost the exact opinion on the Heart of Azerite and its effect on linked gear. It’s just kind of dull and when I get a new piece I’m just indifferent to it. And honestly it feels worse than the artifact as if you want to play more than 1 spec you need to have 1 piece of gear for each for each slot as many of the Azerite abilities are spec linked. It’s not bad, but it’s not particularly inspiring either.

The zones are gorgeous and well done and again, I too love that they aren’t all fel-blasted or what have you. I love the Zandalari capital city, it’s so impressive, especially from the air riding back in to the upper flight point. Nazmir felt like a jungle/swampy area even more than Zangamarsh in BC did.

I hope the mission table gets more interesting though. So far it feels like it’s just not that important and the app is worse than it was during Legion. The random troops don’t help much with that perception either.

At higher levels, about 117 or so, I started having to heal my pet a lot more, just as your guildies say. It makes the combat a bit boring but hopefully better gear will help with that. It’s not been horrible but there does feel like a sudden spike in in how badly my tank pet has been getting hit.

I thing that at times taking your time makes the game more worthwhile. I was one of the last in my guild to get 120 on my main and I still have almost an entire zone to finish, much less the Kul Tiras stuff Horde side I’ve been doing and will do. Getting 120 already is hardly a slow progression but I never felt rushed and played other games over the weekend so it worked out well.

smuggler-in-a-yt
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smuggler-in-a-yt

You guys need a “heart” icon for these types of articles. Way too few articles written for old farts like me who just don’t have much time to play. Good to know I’m not the only one, and love to see when the site takes the time to address the casuals. :)

rondstat
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rondstat

Excellent article. Candid, unaffected, and well-written, and gives us an honest ground-level view of a player’s experience of BfA, uncoloured by all the misplaced reddit dramatics and myopic verdicts.

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Rick Mills

Ahh, a fellow after mine own heart. While I’m glad for the rants (I really am), I am truly grateful for the praise of what echoes in my own play experience.
Thanks for conforming my casual play and exploring nature – great article!

digitalheadbutt
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digitalheadbutt

I too am taking the slow road through BFA and it has been amazing so far. I have only just cleared the desert area but holy crap I think they really nailed the design. It has been very rewarding as a player who tends to explore and play in a more non-linear fashion. Lots of nooks and crannies, little side quests, some that only reward you with a bit of story. I am stoked that I can have a Nightfallen elf but man, I wish I could be any of the 3 new races shown just in VolDun, Snakes, foxes, or tortoises. Fox on an Alpaca would make me unreasonably happy.

((Edited by mod. Please review the commenting code.))

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Oleg Chebeneev

This is exactly type of articles I want to read about WoW. Positive, informative, well written and not too long.

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Utakata

As I mentioned in this weekend’s WRUP, in leveling this feel like the most Bartle’ist expansion of WoW to date! Great for those of us who have ADHD pigtails too! <3

digitalheadbutt
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digitalheadbutt

It’s true! They Bartled the hell out of it :D

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Oleg Chebeneev

what is bartle’ist?

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Utakata

It’s where the game is more or less based on this idea:

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bartle_taxonomy_of_player_types

…but the tl,dr of it, the MMO here allows multiple play styles that caters to individual players. In this case, I want to take forever leveling exploring the game. Or in your case, do an ironman challenge from 1 to 120 entirely in your character’s skivies. Or as in one player from Method did, hit max level in 4 hours of BfA’s release. Each way is legitimate as long as you enjoying what you are doing. :)

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snacky

This was a very enjoyable article. Thanks.

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Tandor

How does this expansion fit in level-wise, do you have to be at level cap to (a) access it and (b) cope with it? I’ve taken WoW so casually over the years that between dipping in and out of it from time to time and restarting a while back on a different server, I’m still leveling up in the late 70s.

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Sorenthaz

You’ll have to be level 110 and do the Battle for Lordaeron scenario to get into the expansion content.

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Tandor

Thanks.

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Julian Page

It’s probably worth noting that you get a level 110 boost when you purchase the expansion so you can access it straight away. You also have the option of trialing classes to decide how to go but this is a fairly generic option

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Tandor

Thanks. I never have any interest in level boosts, I prefer to play a game through the levels.

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Matt & Krissy

Blizzard give you a level 110 token so you can jump right in – if that was what your question was.