It was a hot summer evening as I walked across campus, glistening with sweat. As I stopped for a moment’s respite, I sat on a bench at the edge of a lake. Tired, stressed, and yearning for my computer back home, I found myself lost in thought. It was then that I noticed the glint of a bottle, bobbing around the lake. Curious, I fished it out of the water and found the most curious thing inside: a scroll, with writing on it. The contents of the scroll are as follows:
Battle for Azeroth Day 1:
At no one’s behest but my own, I decided to give World of Warcraft one more go. Although I’ve had my issues with the game in the past, namely a severe addiction – what’s that? People are mad you classified gaming addiction as a disorder? That can’t be right! – this time around I am convinced I will just play through the game and level up, mostly to experience the story.
The game started out just fine. A quick scenario introduced me to the story, the new characters, and had me embark on a journey to a strange new land: Zandalar. I must say, the visuals of Zandalar are just about my wet dream. There’s a lot of inspiration taken from Mesoamerican cultures, and I’ve always liked to see Mayan influence in video games. Paired with the jungle setting, the aesthetics of the introduction to Zuldazar are just perfect.
Of course, the continent of Zandalar is not just jungle. To the north lies Nazmir, a gloomy swamp inhabited by Blood Trolls who reek of cannibalism. To the northwest is Vol’dun, a visually unappealing desert where devious Zandalari trolls are exiled. This should be fun.
Battle for Azeroth Day 2:
The leveling experience continues. I battled blood trolls, made my way across sandy dunes, and stopped the world from ending for the hundredth time. No biggie, just another day in Azeroth.
Each quest zone had its own self-contained story, and the storytelling is looking better than it ever has. Some characters are fleshed out, new characters are perfectly introduced and given proper development, and some past characters like Bwonsamdi are given the spotlight. However, Blizzard still suffers from the enviable problem of having far too many characters. It would be impossible to develop all of them within one expansion, yet some characters such as Baine Bloodhoof are noticeably absent or underused.
Once all the quest zones were completed, a final, culminating scenario was made available to me. By the way, if you have not played the previous two expansions, then you might not know of the amazing cut scenes Blizzard has been rewarding players after every main story line is concluded. The cinematics in Battle for Azeroth are poignant, action-filled, and extremely fun. Hats off to the cinematics department.
Battle for Azeroth Day 3:
As a fresh level 120, I was excited to experience the slew of content awaiting me. Instead, I was met with World Quests, the bane of my existence that I first encountered during Legion. World Quests are much like the Daily Quests, with a fresh coat of paint on them.
Despite World Quests dropping the ball in terms of engagement, dungeons absolutely make up for it. Each dungeon in Battle for Azeroth is incredibly engaging, as the boss fights have unique mechanics that keep you on your toes yet feel satisfying to play. Fights such as Knight Captain Valyri prioritize doing mechanics, as you need to stop for a moment and move barrels out of the fire’s way to keep them from exploding. Some dungeons, such as The Motherlode, have obnoxious amounts of small-fry enemies, but that’s a small price to pay for fantastic design. Waycrest Manor is a personal favorite, as every week its structure shifts around, making for an entertaining run of getting lost in a haunted mansion that with variable layouts.
Hitting 120 also opens up your opposite faction’s main questing zone, which in my case is Kul’Tiras. There’s a questline there where the Alliance vs. Horde conflict is explored, but I mostly spend my time there travelling to dungeons or completing World Quests.
Battle for Azeroth Day 5:
The grind continues. When I heard Blizzard was introducing Allied Races, I was enticed. In fact, it was one of the main reasons I got the game. The first four – Highmountain Tauren, Lightforged Draenei, Void Elves, and Nightborne – were released way back while Legion was in its death throes. Since there was not much else to do, I took it upon myself to grind the four reputations that were necessary to unlock them until Exalted. I got three of them before I got bored with the game and played something else.
Now, with Battle for Azeroth out, I figured I would unlock the remaining Allied Races by playing through the expansion. Boy was I wrong. The two available races, Dark Iron Dwarves and Mag’har Orcs, are both locked behind exalted reputations. Bummer. At this rate, I’ll have to grind for hours until they are available to me. To make matters worse, if I ever want to play a Dark Iron Dwarf, as a Horde player, I would first have to level an Alliance character to 120 (no small task, this can take upwards of 40 hours), and then get the respective reputation to Exalted. For those who don’t know, to acquire Exalted reputation you need to acquire a total of 42,000 reputation points, and completing a quest usually gives around 75 points. Completing an Emissary Quest (four quests in a given day) grants 1,500 reputation points. Finally, I have the option of leveling another character (of my new race) to 120, pay to get a fresh 110 character ($60) or race change an existing character ($25). Yikes, Blizzard.
I get that World of Warcraft is an MMO, and those usually go hand-in-hand with grinding. But, in the past, Blizzard has facilitated alt-usage and I think they should have done that here. Acquiring the reputation for the Mag’har Orcs should unlock their Alliance counterpart.
Battle for Azeroth Day 10:
It is over. I am finished. I can feel it now, seeping inside of me. The urge to acquire gear with the perfect stats. The min/maxing of talents. I am even looking up guides to what’s the best Azerite Gear for my damage.
Speaking of Azerite Gear, it has to be one of the worst changes Blizzard has implemented. Legion gave us Artifact Weapons and its included traits, but the traits that Azerite Gear have are… underwhelming. Rarely do traits change your spell rotation, which was the fun part of traits and Legion legendaries. Instead, Azerite traits are so boring that you barely see them have any impact in your gameplay, as they are mostly passive. It’s a shame Blizzard sacrificed one of the best parts of Legion.
Battle for Azeroth Day 11:
There are many things wrong with this expansion that I am not entirely happy about. But, for some reason, it’s still as addicting as it once was. Now, if you’ll excuse me, I have some more reputation to grind. Gotta unlock those Allied Races.
Battle for Azeroth Day 20:
The gates of Uldir stand before me. Gear ready, and crappy blue weapon at my side (since dungeons barely drop weapons, much to everyone’s chagrin), I now lie in preparation to face the horrors of G’huun. I am ready to wipe multiple times, to die frustratingly to mechanics I barely understand. I do this not for love of the game. I do this for loot.
I guess, in the end, though I have changed and the game is somewhat similar, it still has that same old charm that drew me to it in the first place. You know what they say. If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.
So ends the scroll detailing the adventure of this poor, lost soul. Perhaps there will be more news once Battle for Azeroth’s first raid, Uldir, releases. Stay tuned for more.
Overall, Battle for Azeroth is a decent expansion. Is it the best? Probably not. There are a lot of questionable decisions that seem to have cheapened the game. A lot of things that Legion did right were somehow removed. Azerite traits are definitely a step backward, as they do not feel nearly as rewarding as Artifact Weapon traits did.
The questing experience in World of Warcraft is fantastic, and the storytelling has improved so much from the days of Vanilla. Every zone has its engaging narrative, plus a handful of side quests with captivating story lines. As a plus, Kul’Tiras and Zandalar being faction-specific means that there is generally more story content for all players. Fans of the lore will not be disappointed.
I have to say, the grinds are a little ridiculous. Although I would not want Blizzard to simply hand me certain things such as the Allied Races, the amount of time players are expected to put into the game is a bit unrealistic. This also makes it so that the game is unfriendly towards alternate characters. Switching your class midway through the expansion, for example, will cost you many hours of your time. Yes, World of Warcraft is an MMO, but steps could be taken to make the experience a bit more friendlier towards players.
Dungeon and raid design has been good since Mists of Pandaria, and Battle for Azeroth is no different. This is by far the best aspect of the game. It is unfortunate that the rest of the content isn’t as polished, though.