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WoWNov 26, 2019 10:00 am CT

When will we be able to fly in Shadowlands? Let’s take a look back at WoW’s history of unlocking flight

Having played for a long time, I remember the excitement when The Burning Crusade was announced and, “OMG, FLYING!” rang out from fans across the globe. Is “When will we get flying?” possibly the most asked question whenever an expansion is announced? Maybe. At least we know that we are for sure getting it in Shadowlands.

So let’s speculate on when we could get flying in Shadowlands by looking back at flying in previous expansions.

The Burning Crusade and Wrath models of flying

As people who play Classic know, flying in the old world does not exist. It was asked for but not provided during the time vanilla was active.

The Burning Crusade brought the concept of flying into the game. You had to be max level — which at the time was 70 — and you could only fly in Outland. With flying came the places where you could only go if you could fly, such as the Netherwing island and the Throne of Kil’jaeden. Yes, once a Warlock and a few of their friends you knew could fly to these places, you could be summoned — but there was no way you could get there by riding.

This same principle was in force when Wrath of the Lich King arrived. You could get flying at level 78 via Cold Weather Flying, and it was required to reach certain areas of The Storm Peaks and Icecrown. Wrath also introduced the concept of a Bind-on-Account item to provide alts with flying at an earlier level than was needed your first time through.

Cataclysm and Mists of Pandaria iterated the flight-unlock system only slightly

With the retooling of vanilla zones at the release of Cataclysm, came flying all over the world. This was a huge undertaking because mountain ranges and tall buildings in Eastern Kingdoms and Kalimdor didn’t have tops or backs most of the time. Cataclysm’s leveling zones were built with flight in mind, and as such, you purchased it before leveling through the content via a blanket “Old Weather Flying” (A.K.A., the Flight Master’s License).

When we went to Pandaria, flight was once again a max-level purchase. The new islands — added as standalone patches — did not (and still do not) allow flying. This slowed the pace of people blasting through content and then leaving because there was nothing to do. There are places — such as the Hozen area above Halfhill — which require flying to access.

Warlords of Draenor drastically changed the way we obtain flying

Flying was redone when Warlords arrived. Blizzard saw the advantages of slowing down the pace of leveling — forcing players to complete multiple steps to unlock the ability to fly. In Draenor we had to:

  • Explore all the zones.
  • Collect 100 treasures.
  • Complete all the major storylines.
  • Complete 12 specific Apexis Dailies.
  • Hit revered with your faction’s Tanaan jungle reputation.

To say it was — and still is, for those who never got it — a grind would be something of an understatement. But it made you learn the land and where everything was, and it was an accomplishment when you unlocked flying.

It’s this model we’ve grown accustomed to having as it’s been carried forward through Legion and into Battle for Azeroth. The one thing good about doing all this work for flying is that it’s across ALL your characters. Once you learn it, everyone knows it — whether they are Alliance or Horde. This makes leveling alts a wee bit easier because they can fly.

How will flying work in Shadowlands?

We don’t know exactly how flying will look in Shadowlands, although Blizzard stated they’re happy with the current system and will likely continue using it. Therefore, we can expect probably a Phase 1 and Phase 2 before total flying is allowed. Based on what we’ve seen, you’ll need to have completed some parts of the Shadowlands story as well as have explored a great deal of the zones.

Pathfinder arrived in patches 7.2 and 8.2, for Legion and Battle for Azeroth (respectively). The community has asked that it arrive sooner than 9.2 because a lot of people finished the Phase 1 of Battle for Azeroth flying early in patch 8.1 and it was a long time — relatively speaking — before 8.2 arrived and they could fly.

Thoughts and speculation

I don’t mind being tethered for a time. I feel it adds to the immersion of the game. Poking into all sorts of places is more enticing when you’re on the ground. I’m more inclined to wonder what’s in this cave or building when I have to ride by it.

But I’m not happy with all the steps being layered onto flying. I’ll grind rep with the best of them. I point — with pride — to having obtained my Wintersaber mount when it was current content, not the abbreviated version it is now. Yet, it feels very much like the things required to obtain flying are added just to stretch out the time it takes to get into the sky.

I don’t know precisely what I’d do to make it less onerous. I remember the 5,000 gold it took for BC flying. What would that amount of gold translate to in today’s economy? I’m not sure putting a price on it is the way to go. I think a quest chain is in order, but does it have to be as long and arduous as it has been?

I think we’ll see Pathfinder available at the same time we’ve seen with Legion and Battle for Azeroth. That means flying will (in all likelihood) arrive in patch 9.2. Blizzard wants us to explore and experience what they’ve created, and we should. But the wait is still going to be painful for most players.

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