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World of Warcraft: The War Within Alpha Hands-On Impressions

Robin Baird Posted:
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I had the opportunity to spend a day running around in World of Warcraft's The War Within alpha build and delved into much of what was available. Only the first zone, Isle of Dorn, was available for this testing phase. Blizzard is following the same pattern they used for Dragonflight, where alpha is all about focused testing by limiting what is available, and beta will be when there's more general testing. If you want to avoid story spoilers, skip the first section of this article and go on to the delves section.

The story on the Isle of Dorn

As Hozzikostas mentioned in the Wowcast episode they just released, there’s a whole intro scenario to kick off The War Within, and thankfully, they are holding back the specifics of what happens during it. When I appeared on the Isle of Dorn for the first time, I was under a pile of rubble, which, from the quest text and looking around, seemed to be the remnants of Dalaran. It was implied that the Nerubians had somehow attacked the city, resulting in its total destruction. There was also an indication that Khadgar was either dead or of unknown status. The destruction of Dalaran and potentially killing off Khadgar would raise the stakes of our newest challenge right from the beginning.

There are only cutscene descriptions in this alpha build, and there also seemed to be a fair amount of ambient dialogue, which has also been held back. There were quite a few occurrences of characters standing around together. Then, one of them would disappear as if some dialogue was supposed to happen but was hidden. If I am correct, it is fantastic, and I hope they encrypted the shit out of the dialogue so it is never datamined until we can experience it in-game. Datamined out-of-context dialogue is the worst way to experience essential character moments for the first time.

I was happy to discover that there are two “stay awhile and listen” dialogues between Anduin and Magni, which are very touching, and I am pleased they were available. One thing I noticed right away was Magni is far less shiny than he used to be, and it turns out it isn’t just his appearance that has changed. It seems he is contending with his role as speaker, which closely mirrors Anduin’s current struggles with the Light. 

Although Anduin and Thrall have heard the song that’s been going out, Magni has heard nothing. It’s a very touching moment between them. In the second dialogue, Anduin mentions that some of the Earthen refer to him as Arathi, as if some of them were there recently. This could be teasing some exciting reveals.

World of warcraft The War Within Jaina and Thrall

Additionally, I went into the main questline thinking the fracture between the Oathsworn and Unbound was a recent issue for the earthen. However, it is made clear that this divide has been an issue for them for centuries. Incidentally, that also seems to align with how long it’s been since the last time the Nerubians attacked the earthen, which is fascinating. It may be because there are quite a few cutscenes that aren’t in yet, and as I mentioned before, some dialogue also seems to be missing, but it felt like the main storyline in this zone went by quickly. I enjoyed it; it just felt as if everything was resolved rather quickly.

As much as I enjoyed the main questline on the Isle of Dorn, the side quests stood out as the best. One questline, in particular, revolved around an old earthen who is losing their memories and everything that entails. It was really touching, something that was handled well, and it resonated with me. It reminded me a lot of the Tavian questline in the Ohn’nharan Plains, in how it took on a complex subject and represented it in what felt like an authentic and realistic way.


The first delve I encountered is part of the campaign storyline, and I’d say I reached it within the first hour of play. So, it doesn’t take very long to get to it. I was surprised that I had to set if I wanted Brann to function as a healer or DPS before I could even enter the delve. I never considered him able to heal, but it probably makes sense to have that option, especially on the harder tiers. Before entering, there was a dropdown list to choose between Tier 1-3 for difficulty, though it looked like only Tier 1 & 2 were available in this build.

I did tier 2 on the two delves I did, but I can’t comment on the difficulty. It was evident throughout this alpha build that no balancing has been done, not just in delves but everywhere I went. Even when I played classes and specs, I never played and had no clue what I was doing; I blew through everything. I’m sure they’ll be looking at balancing much more closely when we move to beta testing, but for now, it makes sense not to worry about it too much.

That said, I had a lot of fun in both delves. The first one involved saving Earthen and escorting them through the delve to safety. That’s the one that is part of the storyline, and you can’t skip it. I was taking my time going through it, and it only took me eight minutes; of course, it could take a bit longer once everything is balanced. However, I think for a delve that is required and not everyone will necessarily enjoy, targeting less than or right at 10 minutes is a good idea.

One thing I loved about the second delve, Kriegval’s Rest, is that I found it just by running around the island and noticing a weird cave icon on the map. It was completely organic. In this second one, I had to deal with a bunch of kobolds, and also, there was some kind of magical darkness that was bad to get caught in. You must pick up candles throughout the delve to combat this darkness. The tricky part is that the candle lost a bit of strength every time I moved. This might sound like a pain, but I like that it forced me to be a bit more strategic in what I was doing, and when I made mistakes, there was some kind of consequence to it. I look forward to seeing what this is like once everything is balanced.

Brann is also great to have in the delves, though I hope they add more commentary from him while clearing these. I was also highly amused that if I took too long in an area, he would fall asleep until I started moving again. Additionally, Brann would mine anything in the delve and give me what he got, which was an unexpected perk. Lastly, Brann gained levels throughout the delves, and these levels are across your account. That was a wonderful surprise.

Dynamic/Static Flying

One of the things I have been most nervous about regarding The War Within is how they will handle fully converting dragonriding to dynamic flight. In this alpha build, the toggle between static and dynamic flight is located on the mount collection tab. The big downside here is that dynamic was the default, and when I tried to switch to static flight, I got a message saying I needed The War Within Pathfinder achievement to be able to enable this option. I hope this gets changed. It is nice to be able to fly right from the beginning, but having to unlock the ability to choose your flight mode does not feel good. The ability to engage in something that comes down to a preference should not be locked behind an achievement.

The other issue was I only had three vigor, surge forward, upward draft, halt, and the bronze time ability. Going from six to three vigor felt rough, and I missed the ability to generate vigor on demand. I also noticed that my speed was restricted to 85% of the normal speed in the new zones, but that part wasn’t very perceptible, so it bothered me less. At first, I thought I needed to spend dragonriding points, but then I realized I couldn’t find the dragonriding tree. I even went back to DF zones to see if that would pop it up, but no dice. I couldn’t even find the dragonriding points to collect either.

Sky Riding Dragonflight The War Within World of Warcraft UI

After more investigating, I noticed “skyriding” abilities listed in the spellbook, which had a limited set of the old dragonriding talents. I hope that once we do the Pathfinder achievement in a given area, we’ll regain those missing abilities. I could live with that, and having an improved version of dynamic flight in an area locked behind a Pathfinder achievement makes a bit of sense to me. The worst thing would be removing all of the improved talents that made dragonriding so much fun. It also bears mentioning that this wasn’t done on my account, so there’s no way to know how it’ll work on a character that has done all of the DF things.

Another thing I noticed while on a druid was that there didn’t seem to be a way to toggle between dynamic/static for just our flight form. That’s something I really would like. One thing I am currently enjoying is that if I want to dragonride, I just get on a mount, and if I wish to to static fly for whatever reason, I go to flight form. I know some people would probably prefer it to be different than how I like it, but having a way to toggle for our flight forms independently of what we have set for mounts would be a great QoL change.

I had an absolute blast on the alpha, but of course, there’s so much more I’d like to see and poke at. The public alpha should be starting up very soon, and then, hopefully, I’ll be able to get a much deeper look at everything. I can’t wait to see how everything develops and shifts throughout both alpha and beta.


Robin Baird

Robin loves RPGs, MMOs, JRPGs, Action, and Adventure games... also puzzle games... and platformers... and exploration games... there are very few games she isn't interested in. When it comes to MMOs she focuses on WoW and GW2 but will pick-up other games as they catch her fancy. She's a habitual returner to FFXIV because that game is an all-around great MMO.