This week’s hype train is largely going to focus on a WoW event. Shocking! – but yet, here we are. Yesterday, Blizzard announced that they would be hosting a livestream on April 11th to discuss the details of patch 8.2, which is generally a new thing they’ve done for major patches this expansion. When 8.1 was about to hit PTR, we had Ion alone in front of the camera running through the patch features in a way reminiscent of Blizzcon, although without a live audience in the room to bounce off of, the pacing was a bit off and the memes of Ion’s lack of eye contact with the camera were born.
Patch 8.2 is expected to be an opportunity to turn it all around for Blizzard, as the systems discussed between What’s Next at Blizzcon 2018 and the subsequent live streamed Q&A sessions offer direct indication that the team is working to address some player feedback. Let’s dive into the potential changes here and discuss what is about to come down the pipe!
Azerite – Maybe, Potentially Not Bad Now?
The biggest thorn in the side of the game right now, I would argue – Azerite armor has been a pain in the ass to players with a unique mix of slowly-paced empowerment events, the loss of traits as you gain in power and forced re-acquisition of powers, and a lack of strong gameplay effects. The biggest thing I personally look forward to in 8.2 is the revamp of Azerite. Gone is earning trait rings on your armor, as all armor will start fully unlocked and ready to use (with a big ol’ question mark on if this applies to everything once the patch drops, armor acquired post-patch, or only Season 3 gear onward.) Instead, the point of gathering Artifact Power for the Heart of Azeroth will be to unlock a new trait tree within the necklace itself, which will offer active use abilities. While the recent press tour from Ion has pointed vaguely in the direction of these abilities, there is a lot of unknown data here – how big is the HoA tree, are all abilities in this tree active, will this affect our leveling rate for the necklace in a meaningful way, etc. It also means that Azerite armor is, for all intents and purposes, dead – the trait rings being almost vestigial in nature at that point.
But don’t let some of the evil pessimism in that paragraph deceive – I am unquestionably excited for the potential this change has to make the core systems of BfA fun, and I think that most paths on the stated journey, even the worst ones, still lead to a better outcome than the one we’re on currently with Azerite.
Nazjatar – A New Zone Awaits
Nazjatar is intended to be the main hub for most of our patch activity, and is expected to host a majority of the new major content. In addition to a raid entrance for Azshara’s Eternal Palace, it will also host Alliance and Horde hubs and will likely host the majority of the next phase of the war campaign. The zone is water-themed, but Blizzcon 2018 leads me to believe that swimming and underwater transit are going to be minimized in order to emphasize more playability, which is great to hear – I actually don’t really mind Vashj’ir that much, but it had to be very stringently designed to just avoid annoyance, so I’d rather a zone in the most contentious expansion to date skip out on that debate and just bring everything to the surface.
What can be expected here? Well, story quests, I’d imagine both War Campaign and hopefully some unlinked from that story, world quests, I would imagine a new faction, new reputation, new rewards, and probably the best zone for War Mode shenanigans to occur in, since it will be the first time all expansion that a majority of the playerbase is funneled into a single outdoor zone for content consumption.
Mechagon – Make That Two New Zones
If anything screamed “this is an Allied Race setup!” – it is this zone. Home to a race of mechagnomes, Mechagon is supposed to be our second world zone of the patch, something of a first for Blizzard. While smaller that Nazjatar, it would appear, Mechagon will have a unique story of its own and will play host to a mega-dungeon similar to Return to Karazhan from Legion. While I expect there will be some story here, I imagine most of it will stand alone – how much depends on what the intention is. If an allied race comes out of the zone, I expect it will eventually skew towards whichever faction makes the pickup. If not, well, I am very curious to see what comes of it. If I was going to make a semi-bold prediction, it would be this – mechagnomes are going to be Alliance-bound and it will likely have something to do with the current status of Mekkatorque after the Battle of Dazar’Alor.
More Heritage Armor
Gnomes and Taurens get their turn at the legacy race heritage armor. Cool!
The introduction of Warfronts has been iffy, as the gameplay itself falls somewhat flat when you realize that a Warfront is largely an approximation of conflict with no real danger of losing (has anyone ever lost a Warfront?). This makes the mode feel pointless after a time, as doing them is largely just a race to complete basic gameplay objectives outside of combat to progress phases of the battle.
Heroic Warfront aim to remedy this by bringing a premade requirement and with it, upping the difficulty of the AI opponents substantially, to the point that it is supposed to be possible to lose, in fact. I think these will be exciting, particularly if you can do them in conjunction with the existing once-per-cycle gear quests. Not much more to say until the announcement here, but mark me down as intrigued!
Transmog Restriction Reduction
You can hide every slot but pants, so dirty moggers rejoice!
A Caverns of Time portal (that was taken away and existed for years before!) is being added back in and now directly to the main chamber of the Caverns!
Also, if a quest requires you to journey to a different continent, the UI will do a better job of guiding you towards how to make that continental shift, which is nice largely for new players, but may also be nice if used in the future for new expansions!
There are two new islands, one based on a Warcraft II map and the other using a Pandaria theme, which is cool!
There are two major plot points I am personally waiting to see more of in 8.2. The first is how Sylvanas comes to wield Xal’Atath, as was shown at Blizzcon and is hinted at in the quests that went live today. The other point is more vague, but in the recent press tour with Ion, it was mentioned that Azshara would not necessarily signal the end of the faction conflict, and that we would be surprised at some of her actions in the upcoming story. There were also hints of Alliance unrest coming, which, if I were to speculate, would originate with Tyrande in the aftermath of the Darkshore warfront and the tepid Alliance response to the threat in the zone from Anduin.
That about summarizes what I have for now, but I’m sure we’ll have more to discuss in two days!