Hands-on with World of Warcraft: Battle for Azeroth

Closing the exciting outlet of announcements provided at Blizzcon, Blizzard finally answered where the fellow heroes of Azeroth will be heading. Tensions rise from both sides of Horde and Alliance, and with the end of the Legion, both cast their gaze toward territorial expansion. A struggle ensues between the main rivals of the franchise in World of Warcraft: Battle for Azeroth.

Interesting locale are selected for the adventurer mindsets of the faction leaders. Upon these new explorable locations are that of the previous residents known as the Allied Races. Introducing a new format for selecting race during character creation, these 6 new races are alternate versions of existing races and highlight a change of culture between similar races, offering a fresh take on the well-known and beloved cultures of the game’s progenitor.

The Blizzcon Experience

Walking the crowded halls of the showfloor, I had the opportunity to experience the demos that Blizzard had presented to the attendees. There were two specific areas for fans to play through that followed the standard WoW questing experience. Each faction had the option as a race to choose the newly-revealed faction races: the Lightforged (Draenei that illuminate light upon their foreheads) for the Alliance and the Highmountain (Tauren that spur antlers instead of the typical horns) for the Horde. Any class could be selected with the natural restrictions from race and the allied races.

Alliance

World of Warcraft: Battle for Azeroth image of Anduin Wrynn

The Alliance heroes open up in the gloomy, fog-ridden lands of Dustvar. Calling on the aesthetics of the historical setting of Salem, Dustvar is a primarily human setting where the townsfolk are suffering a curse. The tone suggests a familiarity with the thought of witch hunts and a darker atmosphere. Not much is expanded upon in regards to this concept, however. Spawning in the village of Fallhaven, a quaint and typical human settlement, not much within the surrounding area offers a wow factor.

Questing is pretty standard compared to those of World of Warcraft: Legion. Basic kill, interact, or fetch quests with scattered bonus objectives can be found and completed for bonus experience in certain areas. The main storyline of the area involves being tricked by a hag to invoke a witch hunt and cure the townsmen of their plague and to help nearby settlements. Saving those who have been falsely accused of being a witch to aid in this inevitable adventure and becoming the savior of the dark woods surrounding these murky towns and waters is paramount.

As far as exploratory items and people are concerned, not much within the presented world offered a nice surprise or good laugh. Scattered chests loom over the mini-maps, satiating the hunger of loot-hunters, though this doesn’t compare to the ecstasy of finding a hidden side-quest. The world seems to be a backwards society that burns those who posses a dark and magical essence, clearly not realizing the greater world around them.

Horde

The Horde appear before a ritual circle surrounded by nearby ancient Troll ruins, carpeted by a jungle terrain. In the sky is a dark red energy ball, swirling above a giant necropolis with an immanence of great evil. Fog not only coats, but enhances the area and aesthetics as a whole. The Troll Ruins also draw inspiration from a historical setting, though this time from Ancient Mayan cities. However, it is infused with the cultural voodoo magic of the Trolls. The questing zone, Nazmir, is overwhelming with its epic and thematic atmosphere.

Questing begins with ancient rituals infusing the hero with the essence of a Blood Troll, so that one may pursue the proceeding areas. A dark evil is beckoning to rise, and upon exploring the area one finds it is that of a Troll Lich that tempts the hero with power. A nice duality is expressed with this evil entity that creates an impactful story. Many quests involve stopping this great evil in his ritualistic summoning of dark entities, or simply helping those in need.

Exploration was a lot more colorful, as many times I came across quirky non-player characters (NPCs) that offered quests and enjoyable dialogue. For instance, a Forsaken soldier was sliced by a blade impaled within the center of his body. Being the hero that I am, I helped this scout to his feet, literally. This then presented a revenge quest and insight on the character’s emotion.

Reflection

After experiencing both sides of the presented questing content, both did not exceed expectations or hopes. The Horde had a stronger experience from the environment, atmosphere and NPCs presented. Though the tensions felt a little more light than that of the zones in World of Warcraft: Legion, it was a welcomed change. The Alliance area, while having similar aesthetic choices to that of Nazmir, implements the fog poorly as more of a backdrop and does not have natural wonders to engulf the eyes. The constant grey meshes of Dustvar made it feel like the 20 minute demo tread on too long, while Nazmir enchanted me with its unique design. The demo was not that of the final release version, and from what was presented, it seems to be more of the same questing. A good system and safe, though not the wow factor that Blizzard presented in its Battle for Azeroth reveal trailer.