Blizzard Entertainment is set to launch Battle for Azeroth, the latest expansion for its popular MMORPG saga, World of Warcraft, today. Here’s everything you need to know to be prepared.
Global Launch Schedule
For the first time ever, Blizzard is launching one of its World of Warcraft expansions across the globe at the same time – meaning that all regional servers will go live with Battle for Azeroth at the same moment (hopefully), regardless of your location on the planet. The expansion is scheduled to launch at 3PM PT (or 6PM ET) an August 13 for those living in the continental United States. International servers will also go live at the same time, but it will technically be on August 14 for Europe (CEST), Taiwan (CST), Korea (KST) and ANZ (AEST).
This marks a significant change in how Blizzard has rolled out expansion launches in the past, where it would gradually turn on servers across the world in segments, mostly based on local times and schedules. However, this new method could pose a problem for gamers looking to get in on the action the moment the servers go live – World of Warcraft expansion launches have almost always been met with extended maintenance and connection issues from the massive influx of returning players (or fun-ruining DDOS attackers). Unleashing Battle for Azeroth to the entire planet at the same time may make those issues worse if Blizzard isn’t prepared for the rush.
You can purchase and download Blizzard’s newest World of Warcraft expansion, Battle for Azeroth, at the company’s website, with the Standard Edition priced at $50 and the Digital Deluxe version going for $70.
New PVP Systems
Battle for Azeroth is the usual fare for a World of Warcraft expansion with a plethora of new features, but Blizzard put a laser-like focus on player vs. player (PVP) combat for this Red vs. Blue/Horde vs. Alliance-themed expansion. PVP talents have been completely redesigned, so players are able to choose three talents from a large pool instead of choosing a single talent from three choices in a multi-tiered tree, as was the case in Legion. The new talent pool carries over the special crowd-control breaking abilities (variants of the old PVP trinkets) players have been accustomed to when battling against the Horde or Alliance, so the rework hasn’t completely changed the face of PVP talents as we knew it.
However, the new War Mode is one such feature that complete changes the face of PVP combat in World of Warcraft. The new system gives players the ability to choose whether or not they want to engage in PVP combat on a constant basis. Previously, PVP combat control and interactions were largely determined by the type of realm (server) your character was on. Players on a non-PVP (PVE) server were defaulted to see characters of the opposite faction as neutral, unattackable combatants, but they could enable PVP combat by attacking or by traveling to specific zones designed for it. PVP servers were relegated for hardcore players that didn’t mind the constant threat of attack. Now, War Mode lets you decide exactly how you want to play, and after you hit level 20 you can toggle it on or off by visiting Orgrimmar or Stormwind and setting your preference in the talent pane.
With War Mode enabled, you’ll venture out into Azeroth with other war-minded players looking for PVP combat, but you can still group up with players that choose to keep it off for various activites. When grouping for dungeons and raids with War Mode on, you can still be grouped and summoned by players with War Mode turned off. However, for outdoor activities (world bosses, quests), you will only be able to see other players with the same mode of play as you in the Looking For Group tool.
Previously, the PVP talents would only engage in PVP combat, but War Mode gives you these talents at all times to provide a more consistent experience. Players that rack up a certain number of kills against the opposite faction will gain Assassin status and get a 15 percent damage and healing buff, but other players (of the other faction) will be able to see you on their map and kill you for a bounty (Conquest points and other rewards), the size of which is dependent on how many players an Assassin kills before they too meet their end. There can be three or more Assassins in any of the Azeroth zones at one time.
PVP players will also welcome the arrival of air drops and the Dueler’s Guild. Every now and then a flying machine will make its way across the sky and drop a War Supply Crate somewhere in the zone. Similar to the Gurubashi Arena’s famous chest, players can fight to the death for the crate and claim it for their faction. Once a faction claims the War Supply Crate, anyone from that faction that happens to be in the arena can claim a piece of loot for a short time. The Dueler’s Guild takes its cues from the Brawler’s Guild and gives players a chance to partake in one-on-one duels against players in the same faction at two different arenas (located in Boralus or Zuldazar, the two faction cities of the new expansion).
New PVE Experiences
Players looking to avoid PVP combat still have plenty of opportunity for adventure in Battle for Azeroth, with the Alliance setting sail for the land of Kul Tiras and the Horde arriving on the shores of Zandalar. Both factions have their own story progression, and it seems the Alliance and Horde must quell the fires in their own houses before trying to burn down the other side of the fence.
Kul Tiras is the homeland of Warcraft mainstay Jaina Proudmoore, who returned from a heated hiatus taken at the start of Legion to lead the Aliiance to her now-embattled place of birth. Jaina herself must face the shadows of her past (she may have let her father die at the hands of the Horde and might be viewed as a traitor. It’s complicated.), and you’ll be tasked with uniting the scattered maritime houses across the three zones (Drustvar, Stormsong Valley, and Tiragarde Sound) of Kul Tiras if the Alliance has a chance against the Horde.
Zandalar is the fabled home of the Zandalari, the tribe of trolls most associated with the Horde. However, players will have to execute a prison break and set fire to Stormwind before traveling to three zones of Zandalar (Nazmir, Vol’dun, and Zuldazar) on a quest to unite the trolls of the island under the banner of the Horde. If both of the faction’s story arcs seem similar, that’s because they are nearly identical in size, scope and execution.
The Player versus environment action doesn’t stop there – players can partake in new Island Expeditions or Warfronts if they want to get the feel of the battle without taking on an actual player of the opposite faction. Island Expeditions are special 3-player scenarios that places you on a boat with the goal of looting islands and staying alive. The concept sounds like Sea of Thieves for World of Warcraft, but until we see it in action, we can only speculate what this new PVE scenario will look like.
Warfronts are a new 20-man PVE cooperative mode meant to represent the large-scale war waged in Battle for Azeroth. It’s not a PVP scenario, but it emulates it with gameplay inspired by Warcraft’s real-time strategy roots. You and 19 allies (20 total players) are tasked with creating outposts, gathering resources and training troops to take on your enemies, just like you would in the old Warcraft top-down RTS games. However, unlike the original Warcraft games, you’ll be fighting in first person on the front lines.
A New, Powerful Necklace (For Everyone)
Players of both factions will gain a new artifact item called the Heart of Azeroth, a necklace that will improve over time and likely stay with you until the end of the expansion. This new item is similar to the artifact weapons from Legion in that regard, and it will likely be upgradeable with every major content patch.
The necklace lets you absorb the power of Azerite (the leaky glowing substance pouring out of the planet after Sargeras stabbed it with his giant flame sword at the end of Legion) as you progress through Battle for Azeroth, and it lets you empower special armor (helms, shoulder, or chest) the more power it gets. The Azerite-empowered armors have several rings of talents and abilities, and the more you level your Heart of Azeroth, the further you progress along the rings (and the more abilities and talents you unlock).
Waiting For Uldir
Blizzard also laid out its short term raid content plans, with Uldir being the first of many raids to come. The company stated that Normal and Heroic versions of the eight-boss raid instance would become active on Sept. 4, and that Mythic and Raid Finder Wing 1: Halls of Containment would debut on Sept. 11. The second wing for the Raid Finder difficulty will drop shortly after that on the Sept. 25, and the final wing will be available on Oct. 9.