This was the World of Warcraft news that we expected. World of Warcraft executive producer J. Allen Brack announced that the 2018 expansion would refocus the game around the original Alliance vs. Horde conflict. The next expansion for WoW will be World of Warcraft: Battle for Azeroth.
As the rumors and speculation suggested, Jaina Proudmoore takes the center stage, pushing the Horde and Alliance back into conflict. As things escalate, the Alliance has retaken the Undercity and the Horde has burned the great tree of Teldrassil to the ground. As such, the Alliance control most of Eastern Kingdoms, while the Horde takes Kalimdor on the opposite side of the Eye. With this being a war, each side will also see their own new continent. The Alliance will call Kul'Tiras home, while the Horde will land at the Troll island of Zandalar.
"As a hero of the mighty Alliance, journey to the seafaring kingdom of Kul Tiras, home of Jaina Proudmoore. Untangle a web of betrayal and dark magic as you encounter power-hungry pirates, witches wielding death magic, mystical sea priests, and more," says the game's official site for Alliance players.
"Prepare the Horde for war by recruiting the ancient empire of Zandalar. In this troll-dominated territory, ancient evil waits to be unleashed on the world as you battle crazed blood-troll worshippers, gargantuan dinosaurs, and titan constructs. Discover Zuldazar, the oldest city in Azeroth," adds the adjoining Horde section.
Each side will level up seperately, with three zones being available on each island.
There's a new level cap of course, kicking players up to level 120. There are new dungeons and raids, new World Quests, and new World Bosses to kill. Blizzard is adding Communities, letting players find like-minded compatriots and join cross-realm social groups.
Warfronts are a new PVE cooperative mode, bringing 20-players together in a large-scale battle to capture a strategic location. Siege objectives, build outposts, and take down enemy commanders to prevail. It's WoW's attempt to recapture the feeling of the original Warcraft and the first one will be in the Arathi Highlands. Warfronts also show WoW's new focus on PVE first.
"PvE is such a tremendous aspect to World of Warcraft that we want to make sure that we’re servicing PvE first and foremost," World of Warcraft creative director Alex Afrasiabi told Polygon. "We want to give you that kind of overhead, real-time strategy feel, but from an individual perspective. It’s still early for us in developing warfronts, but as we go through and iterate on the feature, it’s starting to feel really fun."
As the leaks suggested, players will also call upon the aid of new Allied Races. The Alliance sees the help of Void Elves and Lightborne Draenei, while the Horde finds itself joined by the Nightborne Elves and Highmountain Tauren. There will be a total of six Allied Races, with the Zandalari Trolls and Dark Iron Dwarves rounding out the list. Each will have their own unique racial abilities, according to World of Warcraft game director Ion Hazzikostas.
"We want allied race abilities to be cool and flavorful," said Hazzikostas. "The point isn’t who’s the best or who’s the most powerful. I’m sure we will hear a wide range of feedback from our players when the racial abilities for allied races are unveiled. Maybe we’ll tone down the power levels of a few of them or make tweaks to make sure no one feels like they have to change their character to whatever, because that’s not what this is supposed to be about. It’s more about the ultimate cosmetic expression."
Allied Races will join your faction after you help them with their problems. Once you've gotten them to join your faction, then you can create a new character of that allied race. These new characters will begin at level 20. Leveling these characters to level 110 naturally (not boosting) will earn you Hertiage armor that really reflects the race.
Given the island-based nature of Battle for Azeroth, it's no surprise that there are uncharted islands that players and sail to and plunder. These are tackled in groups of three, taking you to places around the globe. You also occasionally race AI-controlled members of the opposite faction to objectives. These are shifting, changing encounters.
"The island might be currently overcome and occupied by a bunch of hostile trolls," Hazzikostas told Polygon. "Or there could be an ancient curse on the island and undead are rising from the ground. Or maybe a band of Mogu have arrived from Pandaria recently, killed the inhabitants and set up shop themselves. All of these will pose different challenges to you and provide different events that you might interact with as you explore the island."
"It’s a number of handcrafted spaces ranging from tropical islands to frozen tundra to an abandoned Gilnean manor," he added. "It’s whatever our level designers can think of, and then very heavily varied spawning patterns and events. It’s inspired by some of the lessons we learned from world quests and mythic keystone dungeons – ways of taking a piece of content and turning it into a new adventure for players to explore on multiple visits."
Don't worry, PVP folks. Island expeditions will also have a PVP mode if you want to face off against other players and not the AI.
Sadly, Artifact Weapons will be going away in this expansion, though Blizzard is cagey about how. The new similar system is the new Heart of Azeroth, a neck piece that gets stronger as you infuse it with Azerite.
The beta for World of Warcraft: Battle for Azeroth is coming soon, but the expansion itself does not have a release date.