So it’s time, with gameplay conversation out of the way, to talk about the themes coming in Battle for Azeroth.
To say the faction conflict being front and center was a surprise would be an understatement. It’s always been an underpinning of the game, of course, but making it the centerpiece story element for an expansion is a bold move.
Good move? Debatable.
Let’s start with the good – this, as I alluded to earlier in other posts, brings Warcraft back to a more grounded fantasy idea. Rather than cosmic supervillians, infinite swarms of foes, or all-corrupting darkness, we get an expansion themed around the defining conflict, the War in Warcraft. Rather than trying to reconcile how our players stand up against Titans, Demons of immeasurable power, or literal gods, it is us testing our mettle against other champions of Azeroth. I feel like this is overdue, as we’ve spent the last several expansions ultimately fighting against big, world-ending threats.
Further, I like that the theme extends into gameplay for leveling and endgame, and even touches the lore in ways. (we’ll be discussing this one further down!)
The continents both seem to have strong stories to tell, with multiple facets that build off of one another. This is something I missed in Legion, as the zone stories didn’t tie back in to each other at all, short of being tangentially about the Burning Legion.
The division of dungeons along with the theme is great, and I like the idea of having the max-level dungeons be different for each faction with a couple of shared ones.
The emphasis on character stories is great. Seeing just the small storytelling done mostly with non-narrated cues in the cinematic makes me optimistic for what the game could do, especially for Anduin and Sylvanas.
Now, onto the bad – it’s hard to feel like this isn’t a downgrade from the big threats, but the theme having a lot of gameplay mechanics that involve simulation of PvP helps – if I am fighting a similarly strong champion of Legionfall, then at least that feels like it evokes a closer matchup than us vs. random jobber guards.
As primarily a PvE player, I am really curious to see how raiding, future dungeons, and the like are handled. There is the possibility that one faction could be getting better story elements, which might be a problem and will certainly lead to accusations of faction bias on Blizzard’s part. Further, I wonder how the War Campaign stories will tie into raids, especially given that we are both headed to the same raid zones.
And to speak neutrally, as we don’t have all the details, there is not really any indication of this story in Legion currently. Like, at all. Now, we do know there will at least be a 7.3.5 patch which will likely contain a lot of story content to bridge that gap, but until we see that, I can’t say much about the connecting story other than that the 7.3.5 content better put in work.
Lastly, while this is out of left field, I actually, in the end, appreciate that Blizzard is taking this approach. It seems fairly obvious to me that specifically, continually referencing that we are the greatest threat to Azeroth is a very specific story hint, in the same vein as the Jaina talk in the Legion announcement. We are stepping away from Old Gods, Void and Light, and the sort for now. However, we’ll have a new allied race of Lightforged Draenei, Void Elves, and end the expansion fighting Queen Azshara, one of the preeminent Old God servants in all of Azeroth. If I didn’t know any better, I’d say the seeds are very well planted for an Old God/Void 9.0…
But that is all the speculation for today, as we’ll assuredly have plenty more to talk about in the coming weeks!