Battle for Azeroth: More of the Same, But in a Good Way?
Fourteen years young and WoW is back with another expansion. Can Battle for Azeroth repeat the overall success of Legion? By all accounts so far, there’s a lot of what made Legion work present in Blizzard’s latest, and if the early hours of play are any indication, more of the same might not be so bad.
Since Warlords of Draenor, it seems WoW’s dev team is homing in on polishing and refining the “follower+home base+freedom to choose” style of expansion. Where Draenor had its Garrisons, and Legion had its Class Halls, Battle for Azeroth has its… military ships? This isn’t about your personal space, or each class’ legendary weapons – this is about the Alliance versus the Horde.
The War campaign unfolds slowly so far, with you having to not only acquire the aid of the Kul Tirans (on the Alliance side), but also work with the 7th Legion to scout out what the Horde is up to and take the fight to them where necessary as you make footholds in the Zandalar territory. I can only assume that at the same time, the horde players are making footholds in the Kul Tiran lands. It works exceptionally well to give you an overarching feel of both tension within the Alliance, and a foreboding sense of “the poop is going to hit the fan”.
As a longtime Alliance player, it’s fun to see Corporal Keeshan again, Brann Bronzebeard, and tons of characters I’ve played alongside for over a decade. But what’s probably most impressive so far in BfA is just how well done the cinematics are via Terran Gregory and his team at Blizzard. The story of Jaina going home to Kul Tiras is one that’s rife with emotion and drama. It helps that Ms. Proudmoore looks like a proper badass this time around too.
But the story’s only part of it all – Battle for Azeroth has its fair share of new systems too. After about 6 hours playing, I’ve barely scratched the surface – the Island Expeditions aren’t available to me yet, and the Warfronts don’t start until a few weeks from now – but I have gotten my fair share of Azurite Armor. Using the new artifact that all players get, the Heart of Azeroth, you’ll power up armor with special abilities and procs, based on your own choices. So, as you level up the artifact power of the Heart, your equipped Azurite Armor will unlock different skills to use.
It’s similar to the customization offered by the Artifact Weapons, but now for many pieces of armor you’ll gather and equip throughout the expansion. The Heart of Azeroth itself levels up with artifact power, but the armor doesn’t.
There are also still followers and missions, and recruits to send out on war-themed encounters, and as such the WoW companion app has changed from a Legion theme to an overall Battle for Azeroth theme. It’s a lot of the same functionality that you saw in the Legion one, with some added bells and whistles. Either way, it’s nice to still be able to manage your missions and followers out of the game.
If you’re thinking: “Gee, Bill, this sounds a lot like Legion’s mechanics” you’d be right. Blizzard clearly saw how well the systems of Legion worked to keep players entertained, and they adapted them for the story and themes present in BfA. If you liked Legion, you’re going to like BfA. There’s a whole lot of new content to chew on, and I’ve barely scratched the surface of it all. If, however, you’re not a WoW fan or you’re tired of it in general, it’s doubtful that Battle for Azeroth is going to change your mind.
What the next few weeks will tell us is if the dungeons, raids, warfronts, island expeditions, and more are enough to keep people going for the rest of 2018 and into the next year. Legion did so quite well, so unless Blizzard somehow drops the ball, I’d expect this expansion cycle to have a similar long tail.