In the wake of Blizzard Entertainment’s launch of its newest World of Warcraft expansion, I spent some time playing Battle for Azeroth over the weekend.
My 10-Year Addiction
I’ve been a World of Warcraft player since the debut of its first expansion, The Burning Crusade. I started on a player-versus-player (PVP) server, but quickly grew a distaste for the disproportionate population advantage of the opposite faction on my server and purchased a transfer to a new one where several real-life friends played. After an excruciating leveling grind to max level (70 at the time), I honed my PVP combat skills and became quite a formidable arms warrior.
Then Wrath of the Lich King debuted and changed the majority of my main character’s talents while disrupting the game’s class balances. Similar leveling complications (many unsolicited deaths from the opposing faction) brought on by the constant threat of player aggression made me switch over to a person-versus-environment (PVE, non-PVP) server early into the expansion.
On the new PVE realm, I played extensively and formed my own raiding guild (the Guild of Calamitous Intent) in May 2009 and achieved glory for the alliance until about the middle of Cataclysm (the third expansion), at which point I became more career-oriented and became what you could consider a casual-yet-effective player. I continued to pay for my subscription, and new features, such as Raid Finder and an improved Looking for Group system, made it easy to casually check in on the game and complete content I wanted to experience.
Although by this point some World of Warcraft players were critical of Blizzard’s seemingly increasing trend of catering to casual players, I found that these changes were integral to my continued patronage to the game. I simply didn’t have the time to spend weeks grinding up to max level, upgrading gear, running about the world and to dungeons, forming groups for raids and trying to figure out (for hours, at times) who was receiving a piece of coveted loot from a downed raid boss (the current loot system is a godsend for anyone who’s sat through the pain of a loot council).
I continued this casual approach for the next few years, playing Mists of Pandaria, Warlords of Draenor and Legion in uninterrupted succession. I even started paying for my account with WoW Tokens, which could be purchased using in-game currency (gold) and exchanged for 30 days of game time. I bought about a year-and-a-half worth of tokens when they first became available, so my playtime technically didn’t cost me anything after a certain point, and I could enjoy seeing the story-driven content that I enjoy in the World of Warcraft saga without admonishing myself for spending so much money on a game I no longer play daily.
Through all of the expansion launches, I'd see random members of my long-defunct guild log on for a few weeks at a time, grinding out their new levels and checking out the content. However, this was a scattered occurrence with groups of two or three banding together and playing just some content and at their own speed. Some wouldn’t dive into an expansion until several months after its debut, and most don’t stay playing for long, but they all seem to come back at some point for every new edition to the World of Warcraft saga. Some never really leave (myself included).
Returning To My PVP Roots
The Battle for Azeroth expansion sports a whole plethora of new features and two new zones, but I found myself growing weary of the long quest chains and mundane similarity of them all (collect stuff, kill stuff, use an item on stuff) after just a few levels. The new ship that sails to footholds in the enemy islands is neat, but the best of this type of adventure doesn’t happen until you hit max level. The quests themselves were not particularly difficult, and leveling up felt like more of a boorish grind than ever. Then, I decided to give War Mode, one of the expansion’s newest features, a try.
War Mode is like instantly transferring your character to a well-populated PVP server. You can turn it on from Stormwind or Orgrimmar, and once you do you will enter a realm rich with world PVP. Monotonous questing once again became exciting and challenging with the threat of constant ambush from the opposing side. There were more players around me compared to when I was hitting the zones on my home server (not in War Mode). That excitement was the same that I felt when I first started playing World of Warcraft, and I was pleasantly surprised that I found the new game mode to be as fun as it was (especially when an enemy Assassin was lurking nearby).
Groups of Alliance and Horde would clash at quest hubs that I’d normally be able to pass through within minutes, and gameplay quickly became less about completing quests and more about the camaraderie of your fellow faction members and the bitter lengths you’ll go to protect each other. After some time and a number of frustrating deaths, I discovered the best part of the new War Mode; I returned to my faction city and turned it off to resume a much less stressful play style.
Despite the short stint, I did enjoy the throwback to my earlier World of Warcraft days, and that’s what Battle for Azeroth is all about. The bitter war between Blue and Red (not Intel and AMD) wages on. There are new lands, enemies and dungeons to conquer, and the forces of the Alliance and Horde are converging into what could be this biggest war in World of Warcraft history.
Blizzard’s launch of Battle for Azeroth was smooth, with little (if any) server downtime and maintenances. Nothing was overtly broken (which has occasionally been the case after a major content update), there were no massive DDoS attacks crippling the login servers and the expansion kicked off with amazing cinematic battles in the capital cities of the Alliance and Horde. Whole cities were laid to ruin, legendary heroes (from both sides) returned from a prolonged hiatus and the stage was set for an epic showdown for the future of Azeroth.
If you’re a former World of Warcraft player, it’s never been harder to resist renewing the old account and taking to the shores of Kul Tiras and Zandalar. If you’re a regular player, Battle for Azeroth will likely keep you glued to your desk until all hours of the night if you’re a fan of compelling storylines and the occasional world PVP skirmish.
You can purchase World of Warcraft: Battle for Azeroth and pay for subscription time from Blizzard’s online store, with the Standard Edition priced at $50 and the Digital Deluxe Edition going for $70.