Word of Warcraft: Battle for Azeroth Alpha Impressions

If you are reading this, I imagine that you are at least somewhat interested in World of Warcraft (WoW), and are familiar with the game. If you are like me, you are probably really really ready for the next expansion. Let’s face it; there are only so many times one can do World Quests, dungeons, raids, and battlegrounds before it gets old. So let’s take a look at what Blizzard might be planning for the next expansion.

I was lucky enough to get invited to participate in Alpha testing of this expansion. While testing is ongoing, I will try to amend this article. There is a lot of new content, and I am doing my best to sample as much as I can. And, of course, it is often changing. Some or all of both the good and bad aspects of the Alpha could easily disappear in the final build. But I believe the general feel and environments will stay pretty much the same.

In the Battle for Azeroth, As you have heard, there are two new areas, one for the Horde and one for the Alliance. On the Alliance side, this new area is called Kul Tiras and is broken into three major zones: Drustvar, Tiragarge Sound, and Stormsong Valley. On the Horde side, the area is Zandalar which also has three areas: Vol’dun,  Nazmir, and Zulduzar. Since there are campaigns for each faction in both areas, this gives six new areas to explore.

The Alliance zones are, for the most part, dark and dreary. One tester I overheard said it was like Duskwood on steroids. I think that does a great job of describing the zones. The areas cover everything from overcast and misty dark harbor areas. (Think old London, on a bad rainy and foggy day), to heavily wooded and dark forests filled with all types of horrors. Although the trees do have some color, the effects are mitigated by the overcast skies. Much of the region is hilly with a background of snow peaked mountains. There are cold snowy or ice covered zones much like that of the mountains Dwarves in the old country. The dark feeling is so powerful that when a blue sky peeks out, and a butterfly passes, one almost gasps in amazement.

To add to the dark feeling of this zone, the areas have been invaded by an evil cult that has managed to do terrible things to the local citizens. (Much of which, you the player, will need to undo.) They have taken over towns and villages, bringing with them nasty creatures to challenge players.

In the forests, the MOBs consist of the typical wolves, lizards, pygmy-like bone-gnashers, various elementals, and hunch backed cackling witches. Yes, I have to admit a few testers complained that the witches were all female. But then there are the many evil cult priests taking up the other sex side. I guess it does keep up a preconceived notion that witches are evil and female. But this is a game, and I felt the MOBs compliment the general feeling of darkness associated with this area.

In the harbor areas, you get your typical fish and aquatic MOBs, a variety of sea monsters, and again the evil cultists and their flunkies. You will also see those nasty squid mind sucking creatures that sit on the heads of innocent NPCs, making them do the most horrible of things. Thus, the job of the Alliance player is to defeat the evil cult and their many leaders.

The Horde side is bright and quite beautiful. It is pretty much a sparse jungle filled with brightly colored lizards, dinosaurs, birds, butterflies, and other creatures. Giant trees spread a canopy of green over the lands, many trees with the multi-rooted structures akin to mangrove trees. Brightly colored flowers decorate the wet lands (Calling it a swamp would be way too harsh). Even the grasses and other plants tend to have bright colors mixed red, oranges and greens. Which is not to say everything is happy there.

While the environment is stunning, there is much evil around. The locals are being harassed by blood trolls bent on taking over the area. The Horde trolls and their allies are working to awaken the local Demi-gods (LOA) and bring them to the side of the Horde. Your job as a player is to assist in this task. 

Both zones have a goodly compliment of rare MOBs and many treasures. Nearby treasures are shown on the minimap, without needing to gain Rep to purchase a treasure map as in the current expansion. So far the junk in the treasure chests is just junk of some value. I do expect to see other more valuable items showing up in them when the final expansion gets released.

Item levels and equipment stats were apparently getting too large. So the numbers have been reduced. In the current expansion, if you work at it, getting i-levels into the mid to upper 900’s isn’t hard. So I was a bit surprised when the gear on my new level 110 paladin started off around 149. However, this shift in numbers was expected. I have no idea what my Paladin’s 980s i-level will change to in the next expansion, but I expect a lower number and a big loss of power relative to the local environment. As always, with a new expansion, your once powerful main is again toned down compared to the new locals. So the task of gathering new and more powerful gear begins again.

Artifact weapons. Based on what I see in the Alpha, it appears that all that work one did to build up the avatar’s artifact weapon might be for naught in this expansion. The paladin I created had a plain old weapon, powerful enough, but not legendary. What I did find is that one gets an artifact necklace, which grows in power as one progresses through the game and gains power-ups for it. Power is added by finding pieces of Azerite. As the necklace levels, a progress bar shows how far until the next artifact level.

Speaking of Azerite, collecting this material is one of one of the main side aspects of the new expansion. I am not sure how this will ultimately play out, but it appears to be another cause for conflict between the Horde and the Alliance. A new type of scenario is being tested where three Horde and three Alliance are sent to an “uncharted” island to collect the Azerite that fell there. 

Players who managed to complete the final raid of the current expansion were given a short set of quests in an alternate Silithus. As you may recall, after Sargaras is defeated, he drops his sword onto Azeroth, and it falls onto Silithus, sending a debris field all over Azeroth. Azerite is a piece of this debris. Collecting pieces of Azerite is the way to power up your new artifact item.

As would be expected, most of the fallen pieces have already been collected by major named NPCs and rare MOBs. Leveling your artifact necklace is then accomplished by completing quest strings (as a larger piece is often a reward of the final quest in the string) and locating and killing rares. I would expect that random treasures might also have some, but in the Alpha so far, I have not seen this. Recently I have also seen another piece of artifact gear that levels up like a skill tree, where you need to choose of a set of possible abilities, much like that from the Netherlight Crucible in the Vindicaar.

As I am writing this, I haven’t been able to enter any of the new instances or raids. Hopefully, soon, I can and will try to add some information here.

In addition to the new playable races that have been promoted by Blizzard, there is also a benign race of humanoid turtle-like people. I have interacted with them in both the Alliance and Horde sides. They offer quests and are somewhat unusual. I expect we will see more of them in the future of this game. 

This is where I will end my early impressions of the new World of Warcraft expansion. I am sure there is a lot more that will be released for testers to try out as time goes on. As I was finishing this article, I found that they had finally released aspects of the Battle for Azeroth, where Alliance members quest in the Horde Zones, and vice versa. Also, there was mention of Azerite armor, which appears to be this expansion’s high-end gear. I will try to write some more information as time allows. Until then, keep on questing!

Battle For Azeroth will release on August 14th, 2018.

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