Battle for Azeroth has been out for about a week now and I feel like I’ve played enough to give a basic, preliminary overview of my feelings on the expansion thus far. In years past, I often rushed to cap in order to get a jump start on the never-ending gear grind that awaited within. This time, however, I took my sweet time and enjoyed the sights and sounds. And boy, am I glad that I did.
Look and Feel
By far, I think that BfA’s greatest strength is its aesthetic. The art department did not disappoint and, of course, the departure from that nauseating fel green that we’ve been exposed to for several years now helps a lot in itself. The Kul’Tiras zones in particular are nothing short of stunning, with beautiful, snow-capped mountains down to rolling hills and into dreary thickets, and everything in between. While I have not explored the Zandalar counterparts as much as I’d like to, they are equally pleasing in their own ways (especially Vol’dun, which gives off Tanaris and Uldum vibes that I really dig). The soundtrack is also superb, with the Stormsong Valley pieces being amongst my favorites in any World of Warcraft expansion to date. One thing I’ve always loved about the music and combat in World of Warcraft is the fact that it continuously plays out in the open world as you fight, whereas games like Final Fantasy XIV often break to a dedicated song upon encountering a foe. While a dedicated battle theme is not a bad thing in theory, I prefer a seamless experience when it comes to MMOs. Something about transitioning to and from two different themes has always dampened the immersion factor for me.
World of Warcraft has always been the king of generic quests, and Battle for Azeroth is no different. Although the overarching stories of each zone are well done and quite enjoyable, everything in between and leading up to these pivotal moments more or less function how you’d expect quests to in World of Warcraft. Take that for what you will, as the standard World of Warcraft quest mechanics will bother some more than others. But I think it is safe to say that your first character or two should be relatively painless to raise to cap, moreso if you actually pay attention to the story. I easily leveled my main by keeping up with my war campaign, running two dungeons, and finishing roughly 50% of the quest offerings in Kul’Tiras. While this might seem like I could take my potential second character through a totally different path, you’re going to want to eventually do all of the quests for their reputation bonuses and to unlock World Quests anyways. Yes, World Quests are back and essentially function the same as they did in Legion. You can see Emissary Cache rewards before you complete them, however, which is a nice quality of life change for those that may only want to complete certain ones based on the end result alone.
I can’t speak a whole lot on the dungeons at the moment, as I’ve only done a few that were encouraged through the end of certain quest chains (and I’ve literally been level 120 for less than a day). I’ll consider reporting back on those after I dive into some mythic(+) as well as raiding content in the future.
I’ve left combat for the very last as its probably the most contentious point in Battle for Azeroth. Going from a fully decked out Artifact weapon from Legion to fairly streamlined design in the current expansion does feel odd, but is it as bad as everyone is making it out to be? I think the answer will vary widely depending on your chosen main. For me, the Arms Warrior feels great for the most part but is arguably one of the finer tuned specs going into Battle for Azeroth. Even so, something did feel a bit off in the leveling process and upon reaching 120. While leveling is never a difficult process in World of Warcraft, the first half was very easy in comparison to the latter portion. Around 106, there is a definite difference in how powerful your character feels that continues to diminish until reaching an all-time bottom as a fresh 120.
And for the record, my character had sub-par gear and no legendaries going into the new expansion. That said, I still felt a fairly significant decline in power in the second half of leveling. This obviously will be remedied by the acquisition of end game gear, but as they say in Suramar, “something’s not quite right” with the scaling during the leveling process. Again, the whole leveling journey is more than feasible, though not necessarily in an optimal way. As for the active/passive ability pruning thanks to the removal of legendaries, only time will tell if that is really detrimental to the overall experience. The Azerite system scratches that itch, if only slightly, and it does feel nice to get usable weapons again. But I wouldn’t say that I don’t miss the artifact weapons and what they brought to the table.
Of course, we’re talking the first week into an expansion, folks, so who knows what the actual longevity of the expansion will be at this point. I’d like to think that everything will be fine, but who knows. I tend to taper off of WoW after a few months of any new expansion, so I may not be the best judge in that respect. All I know is that I’m really enjoying Battle for Azeroth thus far, and looking forward to getting into some of the end game stuff now that I am at level cap. For the Alliance!