RE­VIEW |

mailife - - Contents - By AL­BERT ROLLS

World of War­craft: Bat­tle for Aze­roth

A new World of War­craft ex­pan­sion is a won­der­ful thing. In a game as large as WoW, with its myr­iad ac­tiv­i­ties, dun­geons, raids and quests to com­plete at endgame, hav­ing a clear goal like lev­el­ling to the new max­i­mum level cap is one of my favourite things to do. The lat­est ex­pan­sion, Bat­tle for Aze­roth, is no less am­bi­tious than the pre­vi­ous ex­pan­sions, and aims to bring the War back into War­craft, fo­cussing not on ex­ter­nal threats to the world and our he­roes, but in­stead to the con­flict be­tween the two playable fac­tions them­selves, the Horde and the Al­liance. Now, for the long­est time I have been a proud Horde player. My first “main” was a Blood Elf Mage, and when it comes down to the old who’s cooler ar­gu­ment, I’ll proudly ex­claim “For the Horde!” ev­ery time. But, since this new ex­pan­sion splits the lev­el­ling con­tent into both Horde and Al­liance sto­ries, with two sep­a­rate con­ti­nents and dif­fer­ent zones for both fac­tions, I de­cided to see how the other half lived. My goal was to level both sides equally, when­ever I lev­elled up on the Al­liance side, I would swap over to the Horde side and play through the story un­til I lev­elled up there. So it took me a lit­tle longer than most to hit the new max­i­mum level cap of 120, but when I did I had two char­ac­ters ready to see both sides of the story. (I lev­elled a Hu­man Pal­adin on the Al­liance side and an Un­dead War­rior on the Horde side) The lev­el­ling ex­pe­ri­ence was a lot of fun, the new zones on both sides of the fac­tion di­vide are ex­tremely well de­signed and a tes­ta­ment to Bl­iz­zards abil­ity to make great, large ar­eas with lit­tle se­crets, hid­den quest­lines and some re­ally stun­ning lo­cales to look at while do­ing the now fa­mil­iar “col­lect 10 bear butts for this quest­giver” that any­one who has played WoW is fa­mil­iar with. In that re­gard, it could be said that it’s more of the same in terms of what you’re ac­tu­ally do­ing minute in minute in WoW, but the em­pha­sis on the lore and sto­ries and char­ac­ters in this ex­pan­sion is some of the best work yet. Stand out ar­eas while lev­el­ling for me per­son­ally were Drust­var on the Al­liance side, with it’s spooky forests and wick­er­men, and Vol’dun on the Horde side, which proved that Bl­iz­zard can take a desert en­vi­ron­ment and make it look good. How­ever, I do have to note that while we were promised a grand Horde ver­sus Al­liance slugfest, so far the sto­ries and con­tent seem to be fo­cussed on the build up to this con­flict. The Horde head to the home of the Zan­dalari trolls to make friends with our new di­nosaur rid­ing friends, while the Al­liance try and un­ravel the pol­i­tics of Kul Ti­ras in or­der to get them to join their, well, Al­liance. With more of the story set to be re­leased in the com­ing months, reach­ing max­i­mum level did feel like I’d only seen a third of the story that Bl­iz­zard has planned, and I guess with a game that re­quires a sub­scrip­tion to play, they don’t want to re­lease ev­ery­thing all at once, in or­der to keep you com­ing back. I also haven’t touched on any of the new fea­tures or game de­sign el­e­ments for the new ex­pan­sion at all, so I’ll sum­ma­rize them quickly here. On the box for BFA the fea­tures spec­i­fied as it’s sell­ing points are:

NEW ALLIED RACES – While there are no new classes to try out in the new ex­pan­sion, Bl­iz­zard has added six new races that can be re­cruited and played as. Not all of them (read: the most in­ter­est­ing) are in the game yet, but if you’ve ever wanted to play as a Dwarf with a flam­ing beard or an Orc that isn’t green, lev­el­ling them up from scratch will add a tonne of play time. IS­LAND EXPEDITIONS – touted as ran­domly gen­er­ated ad­ven­tures for 3 play­ers, I per­son­ally found Is­land Expeditions a lit­tle lack­lus­tre. Ba­si­cally a race be­tween play­ers and com­puter con­trolled en­e­mies, you run around col­lect­ing Azerite and fill­ing up a bar. In some very pretty lo­ca­tions, mind you, but it does get a lit­tle samey af­ter a while. WARFRONTS – A fea­ture that was re­leased in the first few weeks of BFA, and led to some dis­cus­sion (peo­ple got mad on in­ter­net fo­rums) about Horde and Al­liance bias on Bl­iz­zards part. Warfronts are ba­si­cally large out­door bat­tle with 20 play­ers that harken back to War­craft 3 and the Real Time Strat­egy roots of War­craft. I per­son­ally found them pretty fun, if a lit­tle easy. AZERITE ARMOR – While the pre­vi­ous ex­pan­sion, Le­gion, gave play­ers pow­er­ful leg­endary ar­ti­facts as part of their class, BFA does away with that and gives you Azerite gear items, which can be in­fused with the very lifeblood of the planet. Game­play wise, in­stead of lev­el­ling your arte­fact weapon, you in­stead level up a neck­lace that lets you un­lock bonuses on dif­fer­ent pieces of armor. It’s a sys­tem that at­tempted to sim­plify and stream­line the arte­fact sys­tem, but in­stead comes across a lit­tle empty. Some of the bonuses are neb­u­lous in their de­scrip­tion, and be­cause un­lock­ing new traits on new pieces of armor is linked to the level of your neck­lace, some­times you’ll get a new piece of armor that is statis­cally bet­ter, but you’re un­able to un­lock its traits. In the end though, I’ve no doubt that Bl­iz­zard will pol­ish up the sys­tems that need to be tweaked and there are some promis­ing tidbits of where the story will go over the next few months. Is it worth jump­ing back in with friends or by your­self? I reckon so, es­pe­cially with friends. Theres so much to do, with new dun­geons, raids and player ver­sus player con­tent. Just don’t rush through and take your time. While hang­ing out in the new Horde city of Zul­dazar with a friend, I found a lit­tle bar hid­den un­der­wa­ter called the “dive bar”. We were wait­ing for a cou­ple of oth­ers to fin­ish up an is­land ex­pe­di­tion so that we could head off into a dun­geon. Over voice chat my friends and I looked around this bar, which was lit­er­ally a “dive” since it was un­der­wa­ter and pop­u­lated by var­i­ous tur­tle peo­ple and un­der­wa­ter crea­tures. That’s some of the best parts that WoW can de­liver, a fun place to hang out with your friends, be­fore you go off to bash some un­dead di­nosaurs into sub­mis­sion for shiny loot.

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