During the World of Warcraft – What’s Next panel at BlizzCon, Creative Director Alex Afrasiabi and Game Director Ion Hazzikostas dove into the world, story, and features coming in the next chapter in the World of Warcraft saga: Battle for Azeroth.
Discover what lies in wait on the shores of Kul Tiras and Zandalar, prepare for battle in Island Expeditions and on large-scale PvE Warfronts, and find out what’s in store for the champions of the Horde and the Alliance in the war to come.
Drawing the Lines of Battle
Azeroth paid a terrible price to end the apocalyptic march of the Legion’s crusade—but even as the world’s wounds are tended, the age-old enmity between the Alliance and the Horde returns to the fore.
As mounting tensions erupt into full-blown war, the Horde fights a desperate battle to keep control of Lordaeron and maintain their foothold in the Eastern Kingdoms—an epic confrontation that will serve as players’ introduction to the expansion. Across the vast Great Sea, the night elven home of Teldrassil lies reduced to smoldering ashes, leaving the Horde to dominate Kalimdor. These events set the stage for a war that will engulf all of Azeroth.
In order to break this stalemate and secure ultimate victory, both the Horde and the Alliance will seek out new allies to defend faction, family, and home. In addition, each will need to fight for land and resources to secure their faction’s survival.
Explore Two New Continents
To bolster their ranks, heroes of the Horde will venture into Zandalar to seek out the Zandalari trolls and persuade them to add their naval might to their war efforts. Meanwhile, the Alliance will turn to the seafaring kingdom of Kul Tiras—home of Jaina Proudmoore—to convince them to fight by their side.
But these lands are not without troubles of their own. Dark forces move against the people of Kul Tiras, while the Zandalari trolls try to quell an uprising brewing from within and repel invaders encroaching from the swamps. If we have any hope of enlisting the aid of either the Kul Tirans or the Zandalari, we will first have to root out and vanquish those threats.
Heroes of each faction will level to the new maximum level of 120 on their own continent, each comprised of three distinct and varied zones.
If you’re on the Alliance, you’ll venture through the seafaring kingdom of Kul Tiras and untangle a web of betrayal and dark magic. Kul Tiras is dominated by four major houses, including House Proudmoore in Tiragarde Sound, House Waycrest in Drustvar, and House Stormsong in Stormsong Valley.
Zandalar is the heart of the troll empire and is known as Azeroth’s cradle of life. Trolls are among the most ancient of beings known to exist on Azeroth—their presence precedes the arrival of the titans. There are three main territories in Zandalar: the lush jungle of Zuldazar, the dank marshland of Nazmir, and the storm-scorched desert of Vol’dun.
As you progress through the story for your faction, your ultimate goal will be to convince these potential allies to join your cause—but that doesn’t mean your effects will only be focused on your own continent. There is a bigger picture to be taken in: that of a world at war.
Much like the Class Order Campaign in Legion, there will a sweeping War Campaign story arc that anchors players in the battle between the Horde and the Alliance. Every couple of levels you gain, you’ll also advance the War Campaign, which will begin taking you to the opposite faction’s lands to start laying the groundwork for
advancement into enemy territory. These footholds will provide the foundation for your end-game experience when the opposite faction’s areas open up to you at max level. At level 120, you’ll also be able to unlock new World Quests and Emissaries across both new continents.
The Heroes of Azeroth
As you explore these new lands, you’ll also participate in the stories of some of Azeroth’s most iconic heroes and leaders of the Horde and the Alliance, including Jaina Proudmoore, Thrall, King Anduin Wrynn, and Warchief Sylvanas Windrunner.
There’s also one more tale we’re not quite done telling: As Horde players journey through Zandalar and commune with ancient troll Loa spirits, they may gain new insight into the fate of Vol’jin, fallen warchief of the Horde.
With the lines starkly drawn between the Horde in the west and Alliance in the east, both factions will seek out new allies to aid them—including some friends they’ve encountered before.
As a champion of the Horde or the Alliance, you’ll be able to play through a series of quests to bring new Allied Races into your faction. Once you have secured a given race’s allegiance to your faction, you’ll unlock the ability to create new characters of that race, complete with new racial abilities and a variety of customization options.
Dark Iron dwarves
Once unlocked, players can begin playing their new Allied Race starting at level 20. As with other races, once you unlock an Allied Race you’ll be able to use a Race Change or Character Boost on your new character—but those who engage in the complete leveling experience (from level 20) will earn a distinctive cosmetic Heritage Armor set for their new race.
These six new Allied Races are just the beginning, and this is a system that lays the foundation for new additions in the future.
If you choose to level up a new Allied Race—or if you ever just want to play something new—we’re making some improvements to the leveling experience that will allow you to more fully explore the conflicts and stories in the game’s leveling zones. Building on Legion’s level-scaling, we’re expanding the level ranges that each zone in classic Azeroth (and beyond) supports. This means you’ll be able to group with a wider range of friends and allies, while also being able to enjoy your favorite zones longer. Each of these scaling zones will have a wide range of levels it can support.
On an even larger scale, we also want players to have the freedom to choose between different expansions’ content as they level up. So, for example, both Outland and Northrend might scale from levels 60–80, allowing a player to level exclusively in one expansion’s content, or to bounce back and forth between the two as they prefer.
We’ll also be adjusting the rewards that can be earned from quests and dungeons, so that they scale in the same manner as the zones themselves. Our goal is to create a truly flexible experience throughout the world of Azeroth so that the choice of how you experience it is yours.
We want to get these improvements into your hands as soon as possible, so you’ll start to see the initial stages of these changes in just a few weeks as Patch 7.3.5 rolls out to the Public Test Realm.
The Heart of Azeroth
In the aftermath of the Legion’s assault on Azeroth, the world is teetering on the brink. As the Horde and the Alliance battle, the very essence of Azeroth is seeping out. It’s up to you to not only defend your faction, but to also defend Azeroth herself.
Early on in Battle for Azeroth, Magni Bronzebeard will entrust you with a powerful artifact to wear around your neck throughout your journey: the Heart of Azeroth, which represents the hopes and dreams of the world.
Over the course of the expansion, you’ll encounter Azerite, an incredible new resource that’s appeared in the wake of the Legion’s demise. As you gather this substance, you’ll use it to empower the Heart of Azeroth. Unlike the artifact weapons that heroes wielded in Legion, the Heart of Azeroth is not itself an item that you will customize; instead, it will serve as a source of power that awakens latent properties of some other pieces of armor that you’ll wear throughout your adventures.
Speaking of gear, we’ll also be performing another stat “squish,” like we did in Warlords of Draenor, to bring player health and damage numbers down to more comprehensible numbers without affecting players’ actual effectiveness against the foes around them.
The Great Sea is filled with uncharted islands, and Battle for Azeroth will send you to wide array of these in an effort to locate resources to fuel the war between the Horde and the Alliance. The new Island Expeditions feature is a three-player cooperative experience grounded in exploration and small-scale conflict, set in a diverse range of environments. Each time you set out on an Island Expedition, you’ll engage in a variety of objectives and race against “Advanced NPC” opponents for these resources. If you’re looking to engage in PvP, there will be an opportunity for it here as well.
While Island Expeditions offer small-scale conflict, cooperative (PvE) Warfronts represent large-scale war on the homefront as members of each faction fight for control of a location critical to the war effort.
Anchored in the real-time strategy (RTS) origins of Warcraft, you play the role of a lieutenant leading the charge on the ground of a massive battle. Together with 19 fellow allied players, you will create an outpost, secure resources, set up supply lines, and train troops to push forward to assault and overcome an enemy stronghold. Unlike Warcraft III, you’ll be fighting in this conflict firsthand rather than commanding from a top-down perspective—putting you on the front lines of a large-scale, 20-player PvE experience.
While there are many new PvE experiences waiting in Battle for Azeroth, there are also some new PvP updates for players to look forward to.
In a new Battleground, Seething Shore, players of the Horde and Alliance will descend upon Silithus to battle over the Azerite bubbling to the surface. This Battleground will offer dynamic control point gameplay similar to Arathi Basin, but with new control points appearing periodically as resources are depleted. This new Battleground will require coordination as you and your team work to overcome the opposing faction. Since this Battleground actually serves to tell part of the story that leads to the events of Battle for Azeroth, we also plan to offer a preview of the Seething Shore during patch 7.3.5 as we continue to build upon the conflict between the Horde and the Alliance for the coming expansion.
Beyond instanced PvP, we’re also reexamining how PvP plays out in the outdoor world. The PvP system hasn’t fundamentally changed since the launch of World of Warcraft; however, so many other systems that shape the world, ranging from flying mounts to cross-realm zones, have changed the way players interact. We’ve heard feedback lamenting the decline of world PvP over the years. Meanwhile, there are players on PvP servers who don’t necessarily enjoy that gameplay, but also don’t want to switch servers and leave their friends behind. Looking ahead to Battle for Azeroth, this feels like a great opportunity to update the PvP system to better reflect the state of the game world today.
The core of our plan lies in bringing all servers together under a single PvP ruleset. Players will ultimately be able to choose on an individual basis whether they want to opt in to PvP gameplay or not. While in a capital city, you’ll be able to opt into world PvP, and you will venture out into a PvP-enabled version of the world, populated by other players who have also opted in to PvP gameplay. This also provides a universal foundation upon which we can build new world PvP systems that previously would have inherently excluded everyone playing on a PvE realm.
For those who do opt in to the PvP experience, there will be some slight bonuses such as extra experience gain or reputation gain to offset the additional risk. The nature and magnitude of these bonuses will undergo extensive tuning, with the goal of not making anyone feel obligated to participate in PvP if they dislike that gameplay, while counterbalancing the loss in efficiency for those who do.
There are 10 new dungeons coming in Battle for Azeroth. As with zones, each faction will level up through their own set of four dungeons, with the remainder unlocking for all players at level 120.
Here are the dungeons that await:
- Freehold – Located in Tiragarde Sound, Freehold is full of bandits, thieves, and other denizens of the underworld.
- Waycrest Manor – Located in Drustvar, Waycrest Manor was the ancestral home of one of the most powerful families in Kul Tiras.
- Tol Dagor – This prison island is located off the coast of Kul Tiras.
- Shrine of the Storm – Located in Stormsong Valley, priests of the sea bless newly constructed ships before they set out on their journeys across the ocean.
- Siege of Boralus – Like the Court of Stars dungeon, this will be a maximum level dungeon set in the cityscape of the Tiragarde’s capital, Boralus.
- Atal’Dazar – Located in Zandalar and nestled in the mountains of Zuldazar, Atal’Dazar is the ancient resting place of the Zandalari kings and home to a sect of trolls engaged in dark rituals—along with dinosaurs, undead, and undead dinosaurs.
- Temple of Sethraliss – Located in Vol’dun, this temple is a sacred place to the snake-like Sethrak people.
- The Underrot – Located in Nazmir, this subterranean dungeon is a primary source of corruption in Zandalar.
- King’s Rest – Located within Atal’Dazar, this is the interior tomb of ancient kings who have been put to rest.
- Kezan – This maximum-level dungeon is a bit further afield from Kul Tiras and Zandalar. The goblins have heard word of Azerite and its value and have started digging deep into Azeroth to gain more of it. Players will return to Kezan after years away to discover how it’s changed.
With the ongoing success of Mythic Dungeon Keystones, we will continue to support and make improvements to this system as well.
Originally designed by the titans as a quarantine facility used to analyze and dissect their ancient enemy, the Old Gods, this large pyramid looms menacingly over Zandalar. But as with most things involving the Old Gods, something has gone horribly, horribly wrong.
We’ll have more details about this first 8-boss raid dungeon at a later date.
And before we leave, you might want to keep your eyes out for Queen Azshara, too. The sea, after all, is her playground.
The stage is set for a climactic war that will determine the fate of the world—prepare for Battle for Azeroth!