This might actually be one of the most exciting patch writeups I’ve done for WoW ever.
Not because the expectations are necessarily high for the content – because I think the remaining players of Battle for Azeroth are largely complacent and just content to keep going through the content they enjoy while ignoring everything else.
No, what is exciting about it (in a way) is how little we know about the core content.
Blizzard has, for years now, spoiled most of their major lore hooks in patches by testing the content publicly. Sure, some token attempt at hiding things is made – dialogue might not be voiced, certain elements might be left out, cinematics might be encrypted or simply not yet implemented – but inevitably, Blizzard puts enough in there that Wowhead and MMO-Champion post full scripts with all the juicy bits of dialogue and the story is spoiled.
This…has not happened for 8.2.5. Not fully, at least – Wrathion’s presence in the patch is known, but maybe not the full extent. We see new models, one of which is still encrypted! We know there are two cinematics of a longer length than we’re used to, but other than runtimes of these cinematics, nothing has leaked.
It is actually what I want from Blizzard – an interesting patch! When I talked about how Final Fantasy XIV manages their patches, the key element I enjoy is how surprising the story hooks manage to be – nothing is revealed early through any official process and leaks are incredibly rare. Here’s the thing with 8.2.5 – I wasn’t particularly hyped for it when it was announced, and even now, I wouldn’t say I’m uncontrollably excited for it or anything. Yet, it is worth saying that I am wanting to play straight away tomorrow – to get home from work, log in, and jump head-first into the new war campaign quests. I haven’t felt that since 8.0, but even that was different – I knew the story hooks from alpha/beta and I just wanted to see the finished versions. 8.2.5 is a total mystery – we know (or think we know) bits and pieces of what is to come, but it could be a complete curveball.
To be honest, I’m prepared for disappointment – at least when the other patches of BfA failed to really reel me fully back in, at least I knew they weren’t going to in advance. I’m somewhat braced for the possibility that the content being surprising isn’t going to make it better – instead just delaying my disappointment. But I also have a bit of optimism, because for me, WoW is at its most exciting when there is a mystery around it.
8.2.5 carries a lot of weight for what Blizzard used to call a minor patch. The conclusion of the war campaign is bound to be somewhat controversial – depending largely on the handling of Sylvanas. Gameplay wise, we know the changes, and they are largely small and inconsequential for normal level 120 gameplay, and larger for bringing in new friends. The new Recruit a Friend features are interesting, but if they hook new players is up in the air. There is an annoying change with Mechagon tinkering Spare Part demands, but largely, the game is going to be chugging along as it has since July and 8.2.
However, the patch will tell us a lot about where we go from here. There’s growing speculation that an expansion is going to come sooner rather than later – and 8.2.5 might reveal some elements of that. If we proceed as originally expected to a patch 8.3, the shape and scope of that should be clear by tomorrow. There are a ton of new or newer actors taking the stage in the game’s lore, with Sylvanas returning after a quiet 8.2, Saurfang teasing a new model (the encrypted one perhaps?), Zekhan getting a custom model at last, Wrathion returning after a prolonged absence from the game since the tail end of Mists of Pandaria (unless you count Legion beta or his whelp appearance in Warlords of Draenor’s legendary ring quest), Thrall still around and likely to be a part of the Horde’s rebellion, Calia Menethil returning to the game after being killed and returned as a light-bound undead in the Before the Storm novel, and yet more still to come. N’Zoth is free, Azshara is alive still, there was a datamined Warfront for Durotar that then disappeared and might very well end up being our next bit of content (and the second time we’ve stormed Orgrimmar in PvE content), and there are still a lot of unanswered faction conflict questions. Before the Storm showed Sylvanas leading an attack on Stormwind – are we going to see that?
The thing I really like is that a lot of these elements and questions are unanswered on patch eve. Even if they end up being bad gameplay or traditional Blizzard ham-fisted storytelling, at least the patch cycle this time has done something the others haven’t really in BfA so far – made me want to play. My plan for a Tuesday night lately would be roulette cycling in FFXIV, leveling new jobs, maybe doing some crafting and gathering, but tomorrow? I’m probably going straight to WoW, and for that, job well done Blizzard.
There are a lot of directions the game can go from here, and my speculation is this – we won’t see anything about another update until Blizzcon, at which point I expect we’ll hear about 8.3 and an expansion, or perhaps just an expansion…
I’m not willing to dedicate myself to a bet that 8.3 won’t happen, but well, let’s see what tomorrow brings!