Blizzard's Stepping Up Their Game in World of Warcraft 8.1
World of Warcraft: Battle for Azeroth has been plagued with bugs and issues since launching in mid-August. With the first raid open and groups working their way through mythic, Blizzard has unveiled what is coming in the first significant update since BfA launched. The patch is bringing the faction war back into focus and some big improvements to core systems are coming along too. Is it enough to bring back players who came back for BfA, spent their obligatory month and moved on to the next game? Let's find out.
Tides of Vengeance
When 8.1 launches, it's going to come along with its own chapter name, this time Tides of Vengeance. As the name implies, the faction war between Horde and Alliance that has largely been on hold since August, is coming back into play in a big way. According to last weeks brief stream event with Game Director Ion Hazzikostas, the Alliance is going to go on the offensive and take the war to the Horde in repayment for the loss of ancient Night Elf lands including the World Tree, Teldrassil.
The war will be front and center in several ways, not the least of which is the raid on Zuldazar, the most ancient city on Azeroth and home to the Zandalari trolls that are being courted by the Horde to join the fight. Led by Jaina Proudmoore, the Alliance military and the Kul Tiran naval forces will invade the city.
The Siege of Zuldazar (or Burning of Zuldazar that has been datamined on PTR) is a 9-boss raid that will feature completely different experiences for Horde and Alliance. The Alliance will begin in the harbor where they will strike a preemptive attack on the Zandalari fleet. Once on shore, they will fight up the pyramid, ultimately to King Rastakhan himself. Horde players will start on the other side of the city after learning of the attack. They will fight to Rastakhan before heading down to the docks taking on Alliance bosses on the way to a confrontation with Jaina herself.
Once a player has completed the raid for one faction, they'll be able to speak with scouts to get information about the opposing faction's activities and can then fight the three unique faction bosses on the other side, presumably in some kind of sequence. How exactly this will work remains unknown.
A second 2-boss raid, Crucible of Storms, is also part of 8.1, though it will come later in the patch cycle to give progression groups enough time to work through Zuldazar. This raid will take place on Kul Tiras where players are working to determine what's going on under Stormsong. This builds on the Alliance side of the story but will also feature "supporting content" to provide context on what is happening and why something needs to be done. This mini-raid will bring the Naga, Queen Azshara and N'Zoth into play, though what roles they will take and how it leads into the future of BfA is unclear.
The War Rages On: New Warfront, Incursions
The ongoing conflict between Horde and Alliance won't just be focused on the two island nations. The Battle for Darkshore is a new warfront that will be added in 8.1 and one that sees the Night Elves pushing back against the Forsaken as they try to recapture their ancient lands. Ion made it very clear that the Alliance will be the aggressors in this campaign.
Of course, like the Arathi Highlands warfront currently in game, there will be unique bosses to take on and new armor sets to collect. This time, each is themed around the main participants. Alliance players will find Night Elf themed armors to collect, while Horde will have a Forsaken aesthetic to the available armor.
Players will also find the "new" Incursion system, which is essentially the invasion system that everyone came to know and love in Legion. Players will head to various locations to "take on new experiences". This is the best way to level and gear up alts.
New World Quests are being added as well that will bring the war more front and center. It remains unknown if these will be worldwide or will remain centered on Kul Tiras and Zandalar, though it's likely the latter.
Hazzikostas also promised that we'll get some updates on Tyrande, Vol'Jin and Saurfang during the events of Tides of Vengeance. Some of what we'll learn about them has already been datamined, but we won't spoil that here. The information is freely available on both WoWhead and MMO-Champion.
Other Notable Pieces: Reputations, Heritage Armor for Classic Races & More
Speaking of armor, Ion brought the community some pretty awesome news: Heritage Armors for all races will eventually be coming. These will be themed around each race's capital city and aesthetic similar to the Heritage Armors that Allied Races have received. The first two to be added will be cosmetic armor sets for Blood Elves and Dwarves. The best part? Players with a max-level toon that is exalted with that race's capital city will automatically get the gear through a special quest line.
On the topic of reputations, there are a number of achievements for becoming exalted with the races and groups throughout Azeroth. Previous to 8.1, those achievements were unlocked via a single character, a daunting task to say the least. With Tides of Vengeance, "Earn XXX Exalted Reputations" achievements will be account wide.
Other systems and features seeing updates, additions or tweaks:
- class updates, Azerite traits, new profession recipes, Gnomeregan Pet Battle Dungeon and reputations (Champions of Azeroth!).
- Faction-based transmog items will be unlocked account-wide on hitting exalted
- All reputations will be added together across account
- Kul Tiran and Zandalari are almost ready to be unlocked - probably after the raids where the bonding becomes complete with each faction. No new reputation to be gained either.
- Two new islands - Jorundall (Vrykul themed) and Havenwood (an abandoned Gilnean city) - these will come with new mechanics (control points, hold-out, etc.) to make the island more dynamic.
- Systems updates - island spawning improvements incoming.
On "paper", even the virtual kind, there are a ton of new and exciting things coming to Battle for Azeroth. How long it will keep the content locusts at bay is an unknown! What are you most looking forward to?
Images courtesy of WoWhead. Be sure to check out all of their extensive 8.1 coverage!