It’s been 2 years since the announcement of World of Warcraft’s 6th expansion Legion, so it is about time they announce the next one. Battle of Azeroth, their 7th expansion, extends the story further, adding new features, a higher level cap of 120, and of course more areas to play in Azeroth.
The staple of every expansion is an increased level cap, new continents to explore and either new races to play or new classes to try out, well, every expansion except Warlords of Draenor that is. But, thankfully, Blizzard is keeping to its tried and tested formula with Battle of Azeroth, with the Horde returning to the forgotten continent of Zandalar, and the Alliance retaking their place on Kul Tiras, two continents which are mere spitting distances away from each other on the Azerothian map. Often as the game moves into new areas, new races are added to the roster, and with the move into the Battle of Azeroth, there will be not just one race addition, but a total of 3 new races will added to each faction. However, unlike previous race additions, which were available to play as soon as you logged in, these races will have to be unlocked, or rather won over, through quest lines, which will unlock them account wide when complete. Once unlocked, you’ll be able to create a new level 20 character in that race. This system seems quite intuitive for the story it’s trying to tell, as it makes sense that you must win over your allies before you can play as one. It also allows Blizzard a new way to easily add new allied races, allowing them to possibly make incremental additions of this nature to the game in the future.
As well as adding the usual features, the new expansion adds new gameplay, such as the new must have collectible currency, Azerite, available from a number of sources. One of these sources is the new Island Expeditions, which are a little similar to dungeons in that they’re PvE zones to port into, but only need 3 players to complete an objective for the Azerite bounty, while competing against well programmed enemy faction AIs. The new Azerite resource is part of the replacement programme for artifact level weapons, where through the Heart of Azeroth neck piece, you will be able to customise the upgrading of your Azerite armour. The idea being, the more Azerite you collect, earn and feed to your necklace, the more specialism choice and power you can imbue your Azerite armour set with. This will effectively replace the current tiered gear system.
Along with usual additions of new dungeons and raids, to progress some of the larger story elements of World of Warcraft, there’s also a new endgame addition from the previous Warcraft trilogy. Warfronts, another PvE feature, will incorporate some of the real time strategy modes of Warcraft, and allow up to 20 players to work together; to build their resources and stage an offensive against an army of enemy NPCs at a warfront location. A location such as Stromgarde, which is the main port of Arathi Highlands, and a hub into the Eastern Kingdom. Supported by one of many commanders, you’ll have to create many different strategies for each of the warfronts, which will feature as part of the actual battle for Azeroth.
Likely to be released in autumn of 2018, the hope is that this latest chapter will help sustain and boost subscriber numbers, which have only recently risen back up to around 10.1 million following the release of Legion, recovering dramatically after their all time low of 5.6 million, which was as a direct result of the underwhelming Warlord of Draenor expansion. A mere 2 million away from their all time high of 12 million during the Cataclysm expansion, World of Warcraft now faces new internal competition with the recent release and success of Overwatch, which now has over 35 million players. As Blizzard continue to innovate and experiment with every patch and expansion released, only time will tell whether their latest round of risks pay off.