WoW Factor: Potential destinations for the next World of Warcraft expansion

Through the fire and the flames

We have a BlizzCon coming up in November. This strikes me as a phenomenally bad idea, like someone proposed it in a meeting to win back the crowd and no one mentioned that it sounded like “hand me a match, I need to see if this gas tank is full” or “I know there’s a credible rumor, Mary, but I simply must see this production of Our American Cousin.” But that’s what we’re doing for some reason, and that means that I guess at least we can look forward to another World of Warcraft expansion announcement?

Now, I have a few thoughts on the announcements that might pique player interest, but I think the first thing to consider is simply where the heck the game is going to go next. The Dragon Isles were the last sort-of-mentioned part of the world map that hadn’t already been explored, and so now the options for a new destination are a bit thinner. So let’s talk about the big options as I see them right now.


The Emerald Dream

People have been asking for this for years, but I’m going to be honest, it’s never sounded like a good idea to me as a place to carry an entire expansion for two main reasons. The first is that there’s just not that much to do there, and the second is that it’s yesterday’s news.

We’ve had an entire raid based around freeing the Dream from the Nightmare that had been kicking around for ages, when Legion was working hard to wrap up every extant threat as quickly as possible as if there would never be another expansion. That’s… kind of how things end off. It’d be like making an entire expansion on the Night Elf Forest aesthetic, only greener and more so, and while I don’t think the whole thing would literally have the identical greenery all over the place, it’s hard to see how that would in any way feel novel when we get one of those zones per expansion.

The bright side to the Emerald Dream is that it does, at least, theoretically cover a whole lot of ground. There’s a whole chunk of space to be filled with monsters and quests, but it feels like an entire expansion in which we can all get very tired of Druids. However, considering that it has been a fan request for years, I think it’d be wrong to rule it out as a possibility.

We have a spaceship.

The Void and far-reaching worlds

So the Alliance has at least one spaceship. The Illidari have one, too. Heck, there are probably some spaceships accessible on Argus. There are the means to go traipsing across the universe and take the fight to the Void Lords or whatever, and considering how much of Dragonflight involves people saying “oh, the Titans are Bad, Actually” or reminding us about the Old Gods, I admit it wouldn’t exactly come out of left field.

The big problem here is that the more cosmic the storytelling get, the more WoW starts just getting weird. After Shadowlands I don’t think anyone is eager to jump back into the more cosmic side of the lore, for one thing, and the fact of the matter is that it rarely comes off well and more often just comes off as confusing. However, it has also been getting pretty relentlessly teased over the past couple of expansions, with nary a moment since Legion failing to remind us that hey, eventually there’s some Titan and Void Lord stuff to go deal with.

It’s entirely plausible that the developers might think, “Well, we tried things with the more grounded setting of the Dragon Isles, so let’s just go cosmic again.” That isn’t really getting it, but again, we have to at least consider this possible.

I can stop any time I want.

An unexplored part of Azeroth

I’m not going to pretend that this isn’t the option I personally find most interesting, but I’m also not going to pretend it’s particularly likely. But it would definitely be a neat way of branching out and trying something different by, well… sending us out into unfamiliar territory in a way that we’ve never done before.

There has never been a WoW expansion that has featured an area on Azeroth that’s unfamiliar to long-time series fans. Oh, sure, it was a long while before Pandaria was explored, or the Broken Isles, or Kul Tiras, but if you’ve been a fan, you knew they were there. They were easy to line up as “at some point an expansion will send us here.” But as I’ve noted elsewhere, it seems as if the world map is laid out kind of weirdly with just the continents it currently has, and it wouldn’t feel all that odd if we suddenly found out there was another major landmass to the south or east or west or whatever. (Probably not to the north.)

Of course, I’ve also criticized the fact that various places like Mechagon were apparently Just Over There despite no one ever mentioning them prior, so it’d be tricky to explain why there were places on Azeroth that literally no one had talked about. And I know that basically no one is excited for the current writing time to try to justify… more or less anything. But I think “there’s a landmass we just never explored” is a gentler lift than trying to make Sylvanas make sense, so that’s… something?

Yes, it's really weird to talk about Warlords in the context of a success, for me as much as you.

Something wildly out of left field

No one asked for alt-Draenor. The expansion was terrible. But it did establish a precedent that even if you can come up with logical plans or a broad idea of what a new expansion’s territory should look like, it is entirely possible for the developers to throw a wild curveball into the mix. And it is entirely possible for another expansion sending us to an alternate universe again or something into the past or into the future or whatever.

This would be a very weird idea, and probably not a good one, but it is not something that would be out of the question. And if we can all forget how Warlords of Draenor turned out for a minute (difficult, I know), can we agree that there might be some merit to, say, exploring an alternate Azeroth where the Sundering never happened and Azshara rules the land with demons or something? It’s not the worst idea I’ve heard today.

It’s close, but it’s not there.

The next expansion has to take place somewhere. And the reality is that none of the options I’ve listed above is necessarily a good idea, so I can believe someone thinking that doing something really weird and unexpected without being cosmic might sound like a good idea at some point during the planning phase. It would certainly be an exciting announcement about the franchise, but then, the idea of new lands to explore would also be exciting.

But all of this is just locational. While location matters, it’s not the part of the game that’s going to matter the most. No, that’s going to come down to gameplay, and as I have no doubt people behind the scenes are hoping to win back the crowd, I have some ideas about the means they might use to do that. Next week.

War never changes, but World of Warcraft does, with almost two decades 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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