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World of Warcraft: Dragonflight Review

Robin Baird Posted:
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It’s been three weeks since Dragonflight, the newest expansion for World of Warcraft launched; with the first Season of content and raiding well underway, it is time to finally put a number to this expansion. Of course, all of this is just how things have gone so far, and a lot remains to be seen with where the story will go from here and, most importantly, the pacing of new content moving forward. So, without further ado, let’s jump right in.

Leveling Experience

As I touched on in my Review in Progress, leveling this time around was a real joy. Even though the general storyline of each zone was at its base the same, needing to empower the oathstones, the specific storylines were all quite enjoyable and multifaceted. There was also a nice symmetry in the storyline in that the first zone, Waking Shores, was very focused on the dragons themselves and learning more about them; then in Thaldraszus we return to a very dragon-focused storyline. Additionally, both focus on the future of dragons, but in very different ways. Meanwhile, the Azure Span and Ohn’ahran Plains have a heavy focus outside of the dragons specifically. In Ohn’ahran Plains nearly all of the storyline takes place with the centaurs and the green Dragonflight is only active in the last bit. While in Azure Span Kalecgos features throughout, a lot more time was spent learning about the Tuskarr than I expected.

Mixed in with the incredible storylines was an absolute glut of some of the best cinematics we’ve seen in game. From playing during the alpha and early beta, I thought I knew what to expect from these, but wow, was I wrong. First of all, there were far more cutscenes than I expected, and secondly, there were many more than just the ones for the big climatic moments and hit all the notes they were meant to. However, I am still a bit miffed at Wrathion for dropping me to my death just because Sabellian threw him off his game a bit. That said the best cutscene has to be the epic fight between Alexstraza and Raszageth. That one is absolutely captivating and completely stopped me in my tracks, even after it was over.

In addition to the strong main storyline, each zone is filled with side quests, and all of them are so much more than filler. They all add to the overall experience of everything going on in the Dragon Isles, and with the various inhabitants of the lands. Some are fun and goofy, while others hit in a way that WoW quests normally don’t. For example, there’s a whole quest line where I had to help a Bakar named Taivan figure out what he was good at. The entire questline was fun, but the ending went in a direction I wasn’t at all expecting and it got me right in the feels. Stories like that are a very welcome surprise. Also, I would caution you to not assume you’ve done all side quests in a zone just because you received the sojourner achievements. There is more to find than just those, but sometimes it takes running around to find them.

When Blizzard announced that the first season of Dragonflight would have four new dungeons and four old ones, some people were upset as they interpreted that to mean we’d only be getting four new dungeons at launch. Thankfully we have seven new dungeons and one revamped Uldaman, and honestly, I really enjoy all of them. That said, I am happy that neither Brakenhide Hollow nor Halls of Infusion is in the first season. Those two will probably be fine next season, but the slate we have this season is fun and varied. I have to imagine we’ve got a lot of tuning passes for these dungeons on the way, but overall, this first week of keys has been great. I kind of wish Azure Vault wasn’t in the rotation though, but that’s just on account of it making me sad.

Another strong feather in Dragonflight’s cap is how alt friendly it is. After I leveled my main, I switched over to my evoker, and once I arrived at the Waking Shore I was able to choose any zone to level in. So, naturally, I chose the Azure Span. In addition to working on the main storyline, I could take part in World Quests right from the jump and do side quests instead of the main storyline. I also really appreciate the small tweaks they did to the main storyline to reflect the different circumstances of the Evokers. It’s a very flexible system which should make leveling much more enjoyable.

Unfortunately, two aspects of alt leveling didn’t work exactly as I had expected. The first is the Dragonriding tree. My alts have all of the points from the glyphs I’ve gotten available. However, I thought they would be put in the tree automatically, but they are not. This makes very little sense to me because there are really only two spots where you have to make any real choice, and once you’ve unlocked the node, you can freely swap between the two options. So, it’s odd to me I have to spend the points manually again. I wish they were just copied over from one character to another.

The second area which didn’t work as I had expected is renown. My, admittedly optimistic expectation when I heard renown unlocks would be shared, was that renown level would be shared across the board. Essentially, I thought after leveling my centaur renown to 10 when I logged on to my alts they would each start the same renown level, and I could keep working on it while leveling them. However, that is not the case. Although certain renown unlocks are shared across the account all my alts started the beginning with each faction. This has two major drawbacks for me. The first is when I reach renown levels that have an account-wide unlock on an alt, it feels really pointless. Secondly, when I’m playing my alts, I can’t help but feel like I am wasting my time a bit because I should be working on increasing my renown on my main. This last part was huge for me, and as a result, I haven’t spent nearly as much time on my alts as I would have liked to.

Dragonriding

I’ve been raving about dragonriding since the first moment I got to try it out, and that hasn’t really changed. This is the single most impactful change Blizzard has made to WoW, I’m tempted to say, ever. I can’t think of any single change which has impacted how players play so deeply. Additionally, choosing not to timegate glyph acquisition or make use have to gather them on every alt was also a really smart choice. One of the highlights of leveling was hearing my dragon roar and then looking around to find the glyph. It took me to so many sections of the map I wouldn’t have otherwise, and vertical map design is so much fun when you can fly around like this.

The downside though is they will have a huge issue on their hands at the end of Dragonflight. One of the biggest problems for WoW over the last decade was the churn and burning of systems. A lot of that did revolve around borrowed power, but it also extended to things like the class halls, which players loved, but as soon as their expansion was over, they were abandoned. Now that I’ve had dragonriding for a bit, using old mounts or flight form feels terrible. Every visit to old cities or zones feels cumbersome, but they also weren’t designed with dragonriding in mind. Regardless, if we lose dragonriding at the beginning of the next expansion that will be a huge issue.

Professions/Work Orders

The professions overhaul has been another welcome change, more iteration is needed, but it’s a really strong first step. I’ve been enjoying leveling up leatherworking, although it has been slower than it normally is. I wish there was a steadier way to get knowledge points, but it is also something I am content to do over time. I know players who put a premium on getting their profession maxed asap have had some less-than-great experiences, but since my focus isn’t making gold with my profession, it has been mostly fine. I do wish there was better messaging surrounding the fact specialization points are permanent once spent in game. I got lucky and didn’t waste any points, but I didn’t know it was permanent until I read something outside of WoW. For a core part of a major system, that should never be the case.

When it comes to filling work orders, the UI needs some work. Originally, I thought there wasn’t a way to filter placed work orders to only show things which I could make. However, one of our readers pointed out to me that was what one of the options of the “filter” button was for. However, because of the placement, I had thought it filtered the list of patterns on the left of the screen rather than the placed work orders themselves. One of the main ways to level a profession is by filling work orders, however, people only ever want the best version of everything, so finding a work order I can actually fill has been a pain. Once I get an order I can fill, the process is really unintuitive. First, I have to start the order, which starts a timer by which I need to be finished before it runs out. That button is over on the left side of the interface. After starting the order, then I have to go all the way to the right side and click craft, followed by one last trip to the left side to finish the order. It isn’t difficult, it is just convoluted and there doesn’t seem to be a good reason for it.

Things aren’t any less clear on the order placing side. The way the interface presents it, I have to first find the item I want to be crafted, which can be more difficult than one would think. For example, if you wanted a reinforced armor kit for your legs, it would be logical to look under Item Enhancements > Legs. However, doing that would only show you spellthread options. Instead, if you want to order an armor kit for your legs, you have to go to Item Enhancement > Misc. For reasons. There are a number of things like this that just seem to not make sense. Additionally, the way the system is set up it’s completely possible to put in a personal work order to someone that can’t fill it, and there is no warning or indication of this whatsoever. Additionally, some indication when placing public work orders regarding how rare the thing you want is, would be hugely helpful as well.

Max Level Loop

I’ve had a couple of weeks bebopping around at max level, and I’ve been enjoying it the heck out of it. I don’t feel compelled to do everything every day, which is a trap I often fall into. Instead, I’m still logging in and asking what I want to do. This is keeping in mind that although I am not a hardcore raider, I am a main tank in my guild, and I did need to make sure I was raid ready this week. However, that was incredibly quick and easy to accomplish. Leaving me with plenty of time to catch up on side quests, world quests, and what have you. I’m sure if I could play more than four or five hours a day, I’d quickly run out of things to do, but for my playtime it’s been great.

The weekly activities list is a bit long this time around, but for the most part, finding these has been easy enough as they are clearly marked on the map or there are timers I can check on them. The two exceptions to this, are the Trial of the Flood and the Trial of the Elements. They seem to happen roughly every two hours, but with no trackers, it is hard to say for certain. This past week I only caught them because I could camp the locations while doing something else, so I wasn’t actively playing. I know that even if you arrive right at the end of the event, you are still supposed to be able to loot the chest; however, I have arrived right as the last mob was killed and haven’t been able to loot the chest. So, it’s a risk to be nearby but not at the spot where the events happen. 

Personally, I abhor sitting around and waiting in any game. If I am playing, I want to be doing something. This is especially true for Dragonflight, where I constantly feel like there are more things I want to do than I can possibly do, which is a good problem to have. I just wish the two Trials had some sort of an announcement and countdown to give players more chances to get over there before the event ends. Especially the Trial of Elements, since that takes place in a different version of the map, and it can feel even more pointless to hang out there waiting.

The first week of raiding is under our belts, and so far, it feels good, although it’s fair to say we haven’t gotten to the hard part yet. It’ll be interesting to see how everything unfolds over the next few weeks. However, the timing of the raid opening is really kind of shitty for a lot of us. As I mentioned, my guild isn’t hardcore, so we got a solid week in, and this coming week is a bit iffy because of various holiday-related activities. The week following will also be in a similar boat. I know many people didn’t want them to wait longer to open the raid, but I wish they had. Nonetheless, the raid is fun with quite a few interesting bosses, so I’m happy.

Conclusion

Dragonflight has been the revitalization that World of Warcraft sorely needed after Shadowlands. Yes, there are some issues that still could use some work, but that’s the nature of MMO development, especially when you change things up to such a degree as this expansion did. I’m also heartened to see them willing to make big adjustments like they have planned in 10.0.5. I honestly thought Guardians were going to have to suck it up until 10.1, at the least for a talent tree rework. If they can keep this up and regularly deliver content and adjustments, Dragonflight could be the best expansion World of Warcraft has ever done.

9.0Amazing
Pros
  • Dragonriding
  • New zone and quest designs which helps make everything feel more alive than they have in years
  • Completely overhauled professions system
Cons
  • Interfaces for professions/work orders needs some work
  • Better in game messaging for important max level events


Arlee

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.