BlizzCon

BlizzCon 2017: Hands-on with WoW’s Battle for Azeroth expansion

Mitch and I had the good luck of being among the first people at BlizzCon to get into the WoW demo area after the Opening Ceremonies when Battle for Azeroth was announced. Though we were excited to get our hands on the new content early, what we actually played was fairly limited. That isn’t entirely surprising for a BlizzCon demo, but does make it harder to get an idea of what to expect from Battle for Azeroth.

We didn’t get to see many of the new features like the Nightborne and Void Elves or gear like the Azerite Armor, and we didn’t get a peek at any new talents or abilities that will be coming with the increased level cap. But we did get to see a bit of the new zones, however. Mitch played a Horde character in Zandalar, and I played an Alliance one in Kul Tiras. Below are our impressions based on what we had time to play.

Dan’s Alliance adventures

Alliance members begin their Kul Tiras campaign in the southwest region called Drustvar. A local village has been cursed and you must get to the bottom of the mystery. It’s your basic leveling area with many quest hubs sprinkled about to lead through the zone. I didn’t see anything particularly exciting or notable about it. There were Bonus Objectives and treasure caches sprinkled about, so be prepared for more of those in the next expansion.

There was also a 5-man, pirate-themed dungeon with four bosses. I wasn’t able to run it, as the others I was playing with at the demo station weren’t into grouping up. But I could see from the adventure guide that one of the bosses was a cat with a pirate hat so I predict I will enjoy it immensely.

Unfortunately, that was all I got to experience at the demo station. I wish Blizzard had shown off new features, abilities, or battle mechanics, but instead we just got generic starting zones. We’ll just have to wait until the expansion is further into development for more details about what makes this expansion stand out.

Mitch’s Horde shenanigans

When I fired up the demo, I didn’t actually immediately jump into the leveling content — instead, I took a moment to examine  why exactly my gear was suddenly almost 800 item levels lower. Thankfully, the change in item level didn’t actually make killing enemies feel any different — I felt like I was casting a bit slower, but that’s more to do with a raised level cap than anything else.

As for the content itself, I left feeling more or less the same as Dan. I want to reiterate that I didn’t finish every quest the zone had to offer and I only saw a small portion of it, but it did feel a bit like a generic starting zone to me. Which, again, isn’t entirely unexpected, nor is it a bad thing in and of itself. But it does make it difficult to see whatever bigger picture Blizzard has in store.

The quests I had a chance to play dealt exclusively with two new Troll factions — though not factions in the “reputation bar” sense — who had it out for each other. The quests didn’t deal with the Horde/Alliance conflict, though, and what I saw also didn’t tie into existing lore. Which means, on the one hand, new lore! On the other, however, it means feeling like I was dropped into the middle of a zone without much information to relate to.

The zone itself felt like a solid mix of the Isle of Thunder and Zul’Drak, and it was filled with upright Trolls — which got me excited to play as one when they are available. The familiar-ish design will be great for anyone who likes the style of the two zones I mentioned, but even if you don’t, the outskirts of the playable area looked promising — frankly, more promising than what was available.

In the distance, a group of bad-guy Trolls was performing what looked like a resurrection ritual on a decaying T-Rex — which, yes, means we might be fighting a zombie T-Rex. Nearby were tar pits with the bones of some pretty giant looking dinos. Unfortunately, both of these were beyond the bounds of where I was supposed to be playing, so the game promptly removed me from them before I could fully explore.

I know some of this may have sounded less enthusiastic than you expected, but that’s honestly what happens when you play the earliest available public demo for an expansion. There’s definitely promise here — I’m never going to complain about new lore or the game adding more dinosaurs — but for the time being, the bigger picture is still obfuscated. Still, given the expansion seems to bringing back a lot of Mists of Pandaria-era enemies, I’m still very excited to see what the final version has to offer.

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