WoW Factor: The World of Warcraft expansion tour – Battle for Azeroth

    
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Nothing else has worked.

Oh no.

I’d ask how this happened, but I know how it happened. It happened because I am a gigantic idiot. This expansion tour seemed like a good idea when it started, but I didn’t think ahead. I didn’t think about the not just inevitable but obvious endpoint of this project. I just kept writing, and no one was willing to be rude enough to point out that I am a colossal idiot who shouldn’t be allowed to pick projects like this, and then all of a sudden here we were. Here we were at this garbage, and I’m not even allowed to say the many curse words that should be used to describe this. And at one point I was even looking on the bright side for this expansion. I am a fool. I shouldn’t be allowed to exist. Nothing I do is ever the right decision. I deserve to be dropped into a muddy ditch and have garbage piled on top of me until I exit the world as I am.

Whatever. World of Warcraft. The latest expansion. Battle for Azeroth. I want to die.

No expression.

Premise & setting

Everyone needed two years of pointless time-wasters before we could get to the next expansion anyone should care about and no one had a good idea.

Oh, you meant that stated premise? Fine. It’s stupid. Basically, Sylvanas commits a war crime for no reason, thereby turning from being a subtle and manipulative evil person into a sledgehammer idiot evil person because a Night Elf made her momentarily angry. Then the Alliance and Horde go to war! Again. Except they spend most of their time faffing about on two separate islands and only occasionally make one another’s life any worse. Also, the planet is bleeding because of the end of Legion.

If that sounds like it’s kind of flipping the A and B plots, that’s because it is, since at least to start with the whole “let’s not let the planet die” plot was really the B plot. Except it should have always been the A plot, and the actual A plot was basically just rehashing the whole Garrosh Hellscream “the Horde has an Evil Person as the Warchief” plot even as the writers claimed that wasn’t it, and… ugh. This is exhausting. This is horrible.

Yeah, we’re going to be doing a lot of video jokes here, people. Just… calibrate yourself for that now.

Anyhow, that whole plot finally resolved and then we switched gears entirely, but it always felt like a couple of people with no real reason to fight one another kicking dirt at one another while a plane was crashing. There was also a whole lot of talk about how things were different now, but spoiler warning, faction changes aren’t coming and it’s all a narrative dead end. Ugh. Blah. Forget it.

Bart, stop creating a diversion!

Major changes

The first and most notable change is technically from this expansion, but it showed up first as a pre-order bonus in Legion with Allied Races. These were races that were more like variants on existing races, adding new options like Lightforged Draenei and Dark Iron Dwarves to the racial roster. The bright side was getting a lot more racial options added in fairly quickly; the down side is that the requirements were carried over directly from Legion to Battle for Azeroth, despite the fact that the requirements made sense in the former but were nonsense grinds in the latter and… eh, I wrote a whole article about that.

Beyond that… well, look, this is going to take about twice as long to write if I explain how all of these changes were done badly, all right? So let’s make a deal. I’m going to just write what the changes were in the most neutral fashion possible, and you can mentally add after every single change that it was done in the dumbest possible way and with associated bad decisions if I don’t specifically note it as such.

Artifacts were removed, with the main command ability of artifacts usually moved to a talent somewhere in the spec’s talent tree. The replacement was the Heart of Azeroth, which could unlock a very small number of entirely passive and usually random powers on three pieces of gear you might have. Later, the Heart of Azeroth also gained one more chosen power that you could unlock via substantial grind.

Basically no one likes the Heart of Azeroth.

Island Expeditions were added as a new form of role-agnostic content, except that they can only be queued from one specific spot on the map instead of queued anywhere, and they also don’t offer much in terms of progression rewards but lots of cosmetics. Also, you have to have a pre-made party for the Heroic version.

Basically no one likes Island Expeditions.

Warfronts were meant to be like playing a ground-level version of the old real-time strategy battles of the previous Warcraft games. They had limited accessibility windows but also didn’t really catch fire. Some people might sort of like them. Most of the world seems to have forgotten they existed, which by default means they were probably the most warmly received feature of this entire expansion.

Also worth noting is that this expansion is where level scaling was everywhere and the first time that literally no one gets any new abilities through leveling whatsoever. Demon Hunters at least had talents to unlock through Legion. This time around, no one gets a single new ability all the way through 120, meaning that ten levels are there that do absolutely nothing. Basically no one is happy with this.

Stoners.

Playerbase consensus

Basically no one likes this expansion.

All of the debate and discussion around Battle for Azeroth has been focused on whether or not this is the absolute worst World of Warcraft expansion in history. My personal feeling is yes, absolutely. It manages to combine the worst of Warlords of Draenor (aiming very low) with the worst of Cataclysm (horribly missing its target and revising things to be worse). It’s the sort of expansion that makes you wonder why you ever liked this game. Every glimmer of stuff you like feels like it managed to sneak in, and then a minute later you’re mad again.

The added features were crippled out of the gate by not understanding why people liked these things in the first place. The developers made promises and plans that no one liked and then just went ahead with them. The story changes nothing; narratively speaking, the only difference between the Horde and the Alliance between the start and the end of the expansion is the names of the faction leaders and the number of genocidal rampages. Even the things that you can praise it for feel thin upon the ground. Sure, the cinematics look better than ever, but they’re at odds with the actual story and the emotions being told.

Why would you have a whole cinematic about changing the difference between the factions if you weren’t going to do that, Blizzard? Why did you do that? What is going on over there?!

It’s frustrating. It’s painful. It’s dumb and not fun and it’s left a whole lot of players and fans – myself included – scratching our heads and wondering why a game that for so long was so good has been churning out progressively worse experiences. But I guess it did give me a chance to make some funny ha-ha jokes along the way, so that’s something.

Going nowhere, going nowhere.

A wanted Classic experience?

Let’s just move on. Specifically, let’s move on to next week, when we’re going to talk about what we’ve learned.

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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