I was all in from the moment I saw the cinematic trailer for World of Warcraft: Battle for Azeroth (BfA). I doubt I am alone in saying that I got chills when Sylvanas went banshee mode and screamed “FOR THE HORDE!” My guild and I waited patiently for the new content, still killing Argus every week, chilling in our Legion class halls, and hammering out Mythic+ dungeons. We were so excited to be done with The Burning Legion threat!
The pre-patch events in the War of the Thorns and Battle for Lordaeron scenarios were literally jaw dropping; it was like nothing I had ever seen in the game, and they left me with SO many questions. If you have not seen the cinematics, do yourself a favor and watch them before continuing! With that said, I was ready to dive in to find out what happens next.
BfA introduced a lot of new content, and a few of the things we are used to stuck around too. Some of the key highlights include breathtaking new zones for both Horde and Alliance, level cap increased to 120, Warfronts, Island Expeditions, new Allied races, and new factions. New race models can be unlocked via huge reputation grinds, including Zandalari Trolls, Mag’Har Orcs, and Kul Tiran Humans. Along with all that, there are new mounts to collect, new battle pets to tame and unlock, achievements, new Hunter pet models to tame, and much more!
My little Blood Elf Monk logged in on launch day, anxiously awaiting the new content. I wondered how we were going to heal our dying planet Azeroth from the huge wound Sargeras inflicted when he plunged his sword into her at the end of Legion. After being forced to sacrifice our Artifact Weapons at the end of Legion to try to help slow the catastrophic effects, we get The Heart of Azeroth as the consolation prize.
Magni hands the Heart over to you right at the very start of the expansion, and this will be your new legendary piece that will level up with you throughout the expansion. You unlock levels through mindlessly farming azerite, which is the blood of Azeroth in a crystallized form. Azerite can be found all over the place via World Quests (yes, they are here to stay), dungeons, raids, Island Expeditions, and other sources. Basically, everything you do drops azerite.
That little necklace is the biggest mistake made by Blizzard in this expansion. By far this is the number one complaint I hear from guild mates and friends. We all miss our Legion Artifact Weapons. They were not only cool as hell, they were steeped in lore, and customizable.
Unlocking the traits, though just as tedious as gathering the azerite for The Heart of Azeroth, felt worthwhile and fun. We looked forward to getting powerful new abilities. Then Blizzard added in must-have skins to change the appearance of our weapons, and in my opinion, one of the best things ever put in World of Warcraft was the Mage Tower Challenge, where you had to beat a very hard solo challenge to unlock class specialization-specific skins. You knew if you saw someone with a Mage Tower skin on their weapon they worked their butt off for it.
The Heart of Azeroth works in tandem with another new addition to WoW: Azerite Armor. They removed tier pieces from the game which, while it had its own set of problems, was leaps and bounds better than Azerite Armor.
You can wear Azerite Armor in your shoulder, helm, and chest slots. Each piece has different traits that are unlocked depending on the level of your Heart of Azeroth necklace. Traits are random on the piece you obtain, and of course some of them are more desirable than others. All of this means endless amounts of mind-numbing azerite farming. Unfortunately, the new traits come nowhere close to the traits our Legion Artifact Weapons had, and feel lackluster in comparison. Everyone I’ve talked to agrees; there isn’t anything fun or exciting about Azerite Armor or the Heart.
Anyway, back to the adventure! After receiving my Heart of Azeroth, I proceed to the Stormwind Extraction scenario to free Saurfang with my fellow Horde companions, Thalyssra and Rokhan. Although Saurfang predictably wusses out and would rather sit in the Stockades wallowing in self-pity, we do leave the dungeon with two key NPCs: Princess Talanji, who is daughter to the Zandalari King, and Zul the Prophet who as we already know is a shady guy. After a fun stealth session through Stormwind, and a brief encounter with Jaina (minus her undead pirate ship), we are forced to take a ride with Talanji back to her kingdom of Zandalar. A neat cutscene shows us that she is a potential powerful ally for the Horde.
Of course, her kingdom is ripe with conflict and betrayals. Although I was eager to find out why Sylvanas burned down Teldrassil, we have to spend time with the locals helping them with their problems first. The three new zones for The Horde are Zuldazar, Nazmir, and Vol’Dun, and they are broken down into their own individual quest-lines that eventually mesh together to tell a bigger story.
I chose to start in Zuldazar, which includes the massive, sprawling city of Dazar’Alor and the gorgeous jungles surrounding it. The city is a pain in the butt to navigate, but visually stunning. Blizzard outdid themselves with our new home capital. It borrows the look of Mayan architecture with a huge stepped pyramid at the center where King Rastakhan resides. New creature models, breathtaking waterfalls, a beach side area, and small villages make up what feels like a living, breathing zone. While there are plenty of basic side quests, the main story here is to uncover a coup against the King, led by (shocker!) none other than Zul the Prophet.
After clearing that zone, I was on to Vol’Dun. This zone introduces you to an adorable new race called the Vulpera. You can gain faction with them and purchase items from their quartermaster. Our goal here is to track down General Jakra’zet which is one of the dirty councilmembers who has gone over to Zul’s side. Sadly, the Vulpera are being enslaved by the new snake race introduced in BfA, the Sethrak. The zone is, for the most part, a huge desert which reminds me of Tanaris in some ways. I very much enjoyed the quest-line, though parts of it felt like it didn’t flow very well in terms of going back and forth between quest givers. The story was fun and the Vulpera are just too cute to not enjoy your time spent there. Blizzard, if you ever read this PLEASE add in a baby Vulpera that we can obtain for Children’s Week…I seriously want nothing more from this game!
Nazmir was last on the list of zones to clear. Here we are after the Blood Trolls, a group of trolls that worship the Blood-God G’Huun (also a boss in the first raid, Uldir). They want to take over Zandalar and are close to unleashing G’Huun upon it. We are tasked with finding powerful Loa who can help us stop them. The zone, now a dark and corrupted swamp, doesn’t have the best scenery around, but I also enjoyed the questing and story-lines here, with the highlight being the hilarious Loa of the Dead, Bwonsamdi.
Leveling up was nothing new or exciting in terms of the quests themselves. The quests are very straightforward and in typical Blizzard fashion, but the story itself was brilliant. While I am not a huge World of Warcraft lore buff, I know enough to feel like I was informed and immersed.
But I was in a rush to get to level 120 to see the dungeon content, which tends to be one of my favorite activities outside of raiding in WoW. Without disappointing, this is where the expansion began to shine for me. The new dungeons (and raids, which I will get to soon) are spectacular. New boss mechanics, great scenery, and continuing story-lines make them enjoyable.
This was semi-overshadowed by the fact that weapons are ridiculously hard to obtain. My guild ran the same dungeons over and over, and sometimes we would even switch our loot specialization to try to get a guild mate their desired weapon, and they still wouldn’t drop. This made it even more painfully obvious how much we miss our Legion Artifact Weapons! We are a few weeks into the release of the Uldir raid zone, and some guild mates are just now getting weapons. If you’re in the same spot we were, keep your eyes peeled for weapon World Quests!
Below, you can see my guild mates and I doing some of the heroic dungeons early on in the expansion. As you can see, the zones have a lot of personality! We start with Waycrest Manor, one of my personal favorites, and then move on to Tol Dagar.
Mythic+ dungeons are another thing I enjoy in WoW. Introduced in Legion, these are dungeon challenges that level up and raise in difficulty the higher you go. Each week, there are rotating affixes such as Quaking, which adds in an ability that does area of effect damage if you’re not spread out, and interrupts you if you are casting when it goes off. The higher the keystone, the more affixes are added. You get loot based on the difficulty, and they are timed events. If you complete a keystone on time, the keystone levels up, and you can move on to a more challenging dungeon. We’ve had some hard challenges so far, and I feel like this is an excellent way for raiders to learn how to react to certain situations and improve. In my opinion, healing Mythic+ dungeons are generally harder than actual raids on high keystones.
This is also where some of the class changes become more obvious. Mana consumption from a healing perspective is terrible compared to the last few expansions. As a Mistweaver Monk, I have never felt challenged for mana until now. I must quickly sit and drink between trash pulls, and am out of mana completely on long boss fights in Uldir. I also feel like bringing back the addition of class buffs was unnecessary, and a step back in the wrong direction.
The first raid in BfA is Uldir. As quoted from Wowpedia:
“Uldir was a titan research and quarantine facility where the titans conducted experiments on the Old Gods and dissected them to try to understand them. The titans’ plan was to kill the Old Gods without ending their host: Azeroth. They ended up accidentally creating something that could potentially wipe out all life on the planet, a fifth Old God named G’huun. It was locked away within Uldir via three seals, each located within the pyramids of Atul’Aman, Nazwatha, and Dazar’alor. With the fall of the last seal, nothing now prevents G’huun from spreading his rot and decay across the world.”
I feel like each of the bosses in Uldir brings a new type of fight and challenge that has never been seen before. Some of the bosses I enjoyed most are MOTHER, a fight where your raid team is sectioned off from one another taking heavy area of effect damage, as small groups of players are called out to move through walls to join up. Wind pushes you along at certain points in the fight making it a challenge to cast spells, and on Heroic difficulty, beams from the sides and top of the room can devastate anyone who doesn’t get to safety.
Then there is Mythrax the Unraveler, which our guild stumbled on the first week of release. We run a large raid group, and this is a fight where you need to stay spread out. He has a frontal attack that is hard to see because he is so big, and the room is tiny which can result in people take unnecessary damage that then leaves a debuff on them. Then there is an add phase which can be quite chaotic. Random people will get a debuff on them which requires them to run out to drop on the side. You also must be strategic on collecting the orbs which clear your debuff stacks off, making sure there is enough to go around.
The last boss, G’Huun was a tremendous amount of fun. I’ve never seen anything like it in WoW, and it was refreshing. The first phase has several adds you juggle, while groups of designated people run an orb to a specific place. If this is messed up even once, the whole raid wipes. Once you dunk three of the orbs, you get to meet G’Huun himself. There are also area of effect debuffs random people will get, which when dropped leave a puddle that will slow you. The fight progresses and becomes a race against time. It truly is a fight where every person matters, and if they don’t do the mechanics right, you’ll be struggling.
Uldir is a very fun, well-designed raid with interesting boss fights, as well as challenging trash pulls. I cannot wait to see what is in store for the rest of the expansion in terms of raid bosses. Below you can watch my guild do a full clear of Normal Uldir, followed by some of the first bosses in Heroic Uldir. Warning: there is some R rated language.
Another new thing Blizzard introduced in BfA is Warmode, and the removal of PvE and PvP servers. There is only one type of server now, and you can choose to either go into Warmode, or have it off. Warmode is the new “PvP toggle” system, except you must go all the way to your vanilla home city to turn it on and off (Orgrimmar for Horde, Stormwind for Alliance) which is a HUGE pain. While leveling, Warmode gives you 10% increased experience, so you pretty much want to have it on. You also gain a whole set of unique talents only usable while in Warmode, which usually enhance existing talents, and at max level you get 10% World Quest reward bonuses.
I am not a big PvP fan, and I chose to be on a PvE server from day one of the game being released because I like to keep my PvE and PvP totally separate. I liked being able to sign up for that on my own, and not be forced into it. While I didn’t really get into too much grief while leveling my Monk, I did run into some PvP on my Hunter that frustrated me. The moment I turned 120 I turned Warmode off. Now, where this gets super frustrating is that people who are in Warmode cannot interact with non-Warmode people in the outside world. You cannot see one another, and you cannot help one another. This also means that you cannot help summon people at a summoning store outside of a raid or dungeon. This is beyond stupid, and I really feel Blizzard should rethink that part of it at the very least.
Throughout your leveling process, Nathanos Blightcaller sends you to Alliance zones to set up base camps, though this usually doesn’t involve actual PvP, which was good news for me. I can tell you that the Alliance have far more impressive zones in the visual department. While I have not played through their quest-lines yet, I plan to do so in the future. Once you’ve unlocked at least two new outposts, you can start the quest-line to get into Island Expeditions.
Island Expeditions are another thing that missed the mark. These were touted as new, fun, and exciting adventures when in reality it is anything but. My guild hates doing them, I hate doing them, and my friends hate doing them. You can go in on multiple difficulties, with the azerite reward scaling based on that. On the island you fight off a predetermined set of creatures, and race the opposing faction to gain a set amount of azerite. There are Normal, Heroic, and Mythic difficulties where you only face NPCs, and a PvP option if you want to go against real players, which isn’t worth the effort. Since the grind for azerite is so huge, you should do these, but getting the ambition to do them is hard for me. Nothing about it is exciting, except the fact it can drop non-combat pets.
Below you can view my Mistweaver Monk doing a basic Heroic Island Expedition.
Warfront was patched in a few weeks ago, and while I don’t know all the exact details on everything about it, I can share my experience. Alliance had control of it the first week, and we could go into Arathi Highlands to fight named bosses that drop some decent entry level gear, mounts, pets, toys, and other fun things. The first week, about ten of us went in and had a blast clearing out these named mobs. Since I collect mounts and pets, this is something I enjoy, as it is reminiscent of Timeless Isle.
Once Horde gained control over it, we were able to do a little 20 man scenario which ended with us being rewarded a random piece of 370 item level gear. The scenario, while fun, is an AFK-fest waiting to happen. We don’t fight real Alliance players, they are NPCs. It is time consuming, and let’s be honest…after you’ve seen it once, you probably don’t care about it. Blizzard has said they will release a new Warfront in 8.1 and I hope they keep adding in fresh content so people stay interested.
Below you can see my Beast Mastery Hunter doing the Horde 20 man Warfront in Arathi Highlands.
Something I have always felt was lacking in WoW was an in-game community. Sure, we can make in-game calendar events, and there is the LFG/Custom tool, which has improved over the years, but it still felt like a struggle to keep your group and guild afloat at times.
I was very excited to see the Communities feature coming in BfA. Previously, I had used the external website Open Raid to host my events until the owner decided to let the site go (which I am STILL raging about!), and it had kept my raid group and guild not only alive, but thriving. What I loved so much about the Open Raid user interface is you could post your events before they happened, and you set your roster up exactly to your liking. Feedback made people accountable for their actions, so jerks usually got blacklisted pretty fast.
Unfortunately, Communities don’t serve as a good substitute for Open Raid, as it only allows you to invite 200 people per community, including alts. Most of the time people forget they are even in a community, and I have seen very little chat in any of the ten communities I am a part of. Calendar events have to be separate from your guild events, which requires me to list the event multiple times in each community, just to make sure everyone who raids with us sees it.
When people get burnt out on the game and numbers start dropping, I knew we’d always be okay because of Open Raid. I don’t want to guess if we will have enough people to fill in the slots on raid night. I don’t want to take chances with random people from the LFG tool, or be forced to wait to get a certain class which wastes our time. I want to be able to re-invite good players back every week and let them be a part of our awesome raid group. The vast majority of my guild came from Open Raid, and we would not be around if not for this website. There has to be a better way to develop a thriving community WITHIN the actual game without having to rely on external websites. Communities could be that tool if Blizzard continues to work on improving this feature.
The last thing I really want to touch on is how gorgeous and magical the soundtrack is for BfA. I am a huge fan of game and movie scores, I frequently listen to them while I write, and BfA doesn’t disappoint. The ambiance is also top notch, the organs that play while you’re in Waycrest Manor are a great example, and the creepy, disturbing noises while inside Uldir are another.
While I have never been a huge fan of the Troll lore or zones, I did thoroughly enjoy leveling up as Horde in BfA. I am excited to check out the Alliance story-line, as I was Alliance for the first eight years WoW was released. I went Horde in Mists of Pandaria, but still love to see the Alliance side of things in each expansion.
This expansion brought with it a whole lot of content, but we still have not learned why Sylvanas burnt down Teldrassil, and we are still waiting to see her and Jaina really go at each other’s throats. That is the content I am waiting for. If they kill Sylvanas, I may just cry.
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World of Warcraft: Battle for Azeroth
While World of Warcraft: Battle for Azeroth hasn't been my favorite expansion in the franchise, it brought with it some great new dungeons, fantastic new raid encounters, an excellent new story, and gorgeous scenery. I have hope that what is lacking, or "not working as intended" will be adjusted over time. My love for the game, and the thriving community I have built within it are what keep me logging in week after week. BfA is currently retailing for $49.99.