For the seventh time, the Californian game developer Blizzard Entertainment has expanded the MMORPG World of Warcraft. The return to the tried and tested battle between the Horde and the armed forces of the Alliance attracts many players in front of the screens who have already turned their backs on the MMO. Much has changed in the world of warfare: new zones, a higher maximum level, the focus on PvP content, resource battles and of course new dungeons and raids invite fans to reactivate their accounts - or to extend an existing subscription.
In the past few days, many different questions have arisen, but one of them is asked again and again: Is the Battle for Azeroth worth it?

Battle for Azeroth: an ode to leisurelyness

Every expansion to World of Warcraft is a bit of a bittersweet deja vue. Players often have high expectations of an add-on, especially when Blizzard makes full-bodied promises about the playful qualities in advance. After almost never-ending battles against the forces of the Legion, Blizzard returns with Battle of Azeroth to what fans have been enthusiastic about since the release of the basic version in 2004: exciting battles between the Alliance and the Horde.
The days of fraternization seem over. Shortly after the victory for the Legion, a new conflict breaks out between the two factions, which in the end almost gave the impression of becoming tired of war. At the center of the dispute: King Anduin and Sylvanas Windrunner. The latter was raised to a real hatred figure by parts of the community, because their actions could hardly have been morally flawed. What Blizzard has already achieved with the release of the preparatory patch is seldom seen even in the long history of World of Warcraft: fans screamed, protested in a creative way against the previously known background story and its character development and were so emotionally involved in the expansion like seldom before. Expectations of exciting story turns will be the focus of interest for many players who remain loyal to World of Warcraft. Of course, if the Battle for Azeroth is worth it.

As so often in the past 14 years, Blizzard has raised the maximum level to 120. To reach the level cap, players quest their way through two new areas: Kul Tiras and Zandalar. While Kuzl Tiras feels like a visit to the Hamburg fish market, thanks to the dialects set to music, the trolls in Zandalar invite players to hike through visually impressive jungle and swamp landscapes. Both faction areas have their ups and downs, but overall the quality of the quest areas is well above that of World of Warcraft: Legion. Of course, that's our subjective impression of the content available so far, but the seventh expansion motivates you to continue playing with each new quest hub, also because large parts of the background story are still unknown. The story offered so far seems to want to create good conditions for future surprises. The content is rather shallow, players seem to want to gently introduce them to the new worlds. Without spoiling the storylines, you can attest to emotional moments. The narrative seems to have matured, just as a game has to mature in order to be played even after 14 years.

The technical framework of World of Warcraft is visibly showing its age. Nevertheless, improvements in details ensure that Battle for Azeroth can produce atmospheric quest areas. In the background: Dazar'Alor, the base of the Horde in Zuldazar.
The technical framework of World of Warcraft is visibly showing its age. Nevertheless, improvements in details ensure that Battle for Azeroth can produce atmospheric quest areas. In the background: Dazar'Alor, the base of the Horde in Zuldazar.

One of the obvious changes in Battle for Azeroth is the so-called "Stat-Squish", ie the adjustment of the character and damage values. Long overdue was the abolition of the gigantic numerical values ​​that WoW: Legion last produced. Seven-digit damage figures were anything but clear in the end. Although the laboriously well-bred characters felt almost overpowering, such rampant combat statistics no longer seemed to fit a game in which fate was often hanging by a thread. In Battle for Azeroth, fighting now feels completely different, especially on the way to the new maximum level. The low damage figures almost make the players humble. Some classes, such as the priest's shadow specialization, play slowly, comparatively out of round. This is not surprising, because important character values ​​only improve over time and the way you play will change as a result. This requires perseverance, patience and the hope that Blizzard will make possible character adjustments in a timely manner from the fans.

It's worth exploring the game world. Searching for treasures and rare creatures, reading quest texts carefully, smiling at Easter Eggs: Blizzard has packed Battle for Azeroth full of exciting details that are just waiting to be discovered by the players. In order to experience the newly ignited war between the Horde and the Alliance to the fullest, players should return to what WoW Vanilla was all about at the time: enjoyment of the game.
Anyone who dares to turn away from a level race will be rewarded with Battle for Azeroth: traveling through the atmospheric quest areas is not only fun, but also makes up a large part of the appeal of every expansion. It took the fastest player around four and a half hours to reach the maximum level. This is a playful achievement, but in our opinion not necessarily recommendable. What is lost in such a rush is the unique feeling of exploring a new game world in peace. The feeling of letting every new detail sink in should be captured, held on, and made unforgettable.

What is particularly interesting for players in the virtual world of warfare is a matter of taste. Even great developers and storytellers like those at Blizzard Entertainment reach their limits where the subjective feelings of the players come to the fore. Not only the story arc about warlord Sylvanas Windlern is controversially discussed, but also the game world itself. While some players have absolutely nothing to do with trolls, others are enthusiastic about the lush green world of the Zandalari. North German spirits immediately feel at home with the humorous setting of the inhabitants of Kul Tiras, other players switch to the original English setting for this reason alone. The quality of World of Warcraft, as with any game, depends on the personal tastes of the players.

The next grind is sure to come

World of Warcraft: Legion was undisputedly an excellent expansion that was able to captivate fans to the keyboards for a long time. Countless individual short stories (artefact weapons) and exciting raids ensured a high level of motivation to continue playing. Only the grind of artifact power causes a rather gloomy mood - and at the beginning made twinking a torture. The artifact weapons are finally history since the release of Battle of Azeroth. Not the grind, though. As a consequence of the events from the Legion, the "world soul" is dying. From the core of the planet emerges azerite, a mystical substance that could prove crucial in battles.

It should come as no surprise that both the Alliance and the Horde are trying to get hold of Azerite deposits. At the same time, it is a fortunate coincidence, because it heats up the conflict between the warring factions. For gamers, the thought of the Azerit leaves a bland aftertaste. The Azerit supplies the heart of Azeroth, a legendary necklace, with energy - and in this way unlocks bonuses on chest, head and shoulder equipment. And so players are diligently collecting Azerite power to do their part to save the world. That sounds suspiciously like grind. And it feels that way too. Still, finding the Azerite equipment is a playful trick that creates tension. Each piece of equipment found has its own set of selectable bonuses. So it is definitely worth upgrading additional Azerite items in order to compare them directly with one another. That at least makes up for the fact that no new talents become available on the way from level 110 to 120.

Welcome to Jurassic Park: The island of Zandalar impresses with its varied play areas. Of course, dinosaurs cannot be missing in the land of trolls.
Welcome to Jurassic Park: The island of Zandalar impresses with its varied play areas. Of course, dinosaurs cannot be missing in the land of trolls.

At the beginning, Battle for Azeroth places a strong focus on the background story. The gameplay follows the tried and tested. Anyone who has played the Legion expansion will not face any problems with Battle for Azeroth. Completing quests not only feels like Legion, the level phases are based on the same mechanics as in the previous expansion. The opponents scale with the player level, the areas are clearly divided from one another and the mission table in the class hall can also be used with slight adjustments. This is by no means bad in terms of play, because Legion's gameplay was more than convincing, but many players wanted more innovations.

And so you play your way from Questhub to Questhub in order to complete well-known basic tasks that increase the character level in a short time. However, the routine is interrupted by many humorous tasks that put a smile on the player's face. Allusions to films, series and modern pop culture can often be found in Battle for Azeroth: this constantly provides smaller motivational boosts. Each gaming region employs leisurely players for eight to ten hours. Twinks have it much more difficult in Battle for Azeroth, because the replay value suffers due to the lack of story variety.

Is Battle for Azeroth worth it now?

In the end, the question is not that easy to answer. Only the overall picture will determine the quality of the extension. It would hardly be appropriate to rate Battle for Azeroth now. Because you can only know a fraction of the content so far, you have to be patient as a player. The activation of further features such as raids or the island expeditions follows a set schedule that will extend over the next few weeks. One will have to wait and see 9 whether all the details come together to form an atmospheric - and entertaining - overall picture. Whether the war theme can ultimately keep what the controversial start promised remains open for the time being. Blizzard is known for storytelling well, but has shed some good ideas in the past. 

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Whether everything will lead to a grand finale that will shake the two warring factions to the foundations or whether in the end everything will only serve the purpose of reuniting the Horde and the Alliance in order to face a superior evil remains questionable. It is also uncertain how entertaining the additional gameplay features actually are - and whether they will be accepted by the community.

A good example is the warmode. If you activate open PvP, you get ten percent bonus experience as well as some powerful skills, but you can be attacked by the warring faction in the game world. In theory, this sounds like the perfect motivation for open-world PvP, but in practice it comes down to hardcore ganking that frustrates players. Sure, you can switch off the war mode at any time in the capital, but this will make the feature superfluous in the long term. It is also possible that many players will have to get used to this new way of doing PvP: until then, instanced battlefields and arenas will continue to be the first choice for fans of player-versus-player battles.

Images of World of Warcraft: Battle for Azeroth

First impression

Right now, Blizzard is doing a lot right, but far from everything. The Californians will not be able to meet the taste of each individual player anyway. As in the past, Battle for Azeroth is an attempt to find a compromise between beginner-friendliness and challenge. This works for the most part, especially in terms of presentation and story. The game world is colorful, lively and varied. This is especially good for those types of players who care about completing quests. The presentation is supported by well-sounded dialogues that perfectly capture the idiosyncratic humor of the developers. The orchestral background music contributes significantly to the atmosphere in the play areas. Even if the graphic quality is no longer completely convincing in 2018, World of Warcraft is a great work of art.

The gameplay has many familiar elements. Instead of big surprises, players can expect a proven basic concept that Blizzard has adapted in detail. Due to the level scaling, the order in which the quest areas are selected is up to the player. The focus is currently on conveying the background story. The fights are as easy as usual, with the exception of some crisp duels against rare elite opponents, who, however, rarely discard really useful equipment. Most of the time the reward consists of fragments of Azerite and war resources: both are required, but in the long run they appear monotonous and do not serve the addictive spiral of items. Even if the heart of Azeroth (the legendary necklace) offers players motivating incentives, it is currently not foreseeable how much the element will influence the course of the expansion: especially the Azerite power grind, like a sword of Damocles hanging over the heads of the characters, in particular the twinks.

The endgame is sure to be good for surprises. It has always been so far. It remains to be seen whether there will be enough challenges for experienced players. This applies equally to PvE and PvP, because with war fronts, island expeditions, open-world PvP, mythics and raids, Battle for Azeroth offers a solid foundation to keep players busy for months. 

At the moment, Battle for Azeroth is a lot of fun, because story fans in particular get their money's worth. Anyone who wished that Blizzard would return to the roots of Vanilla with the expansion will likely be disappointed: Blizzard has playfully dressed everything in the modern guise of the previous expansion. The longing for the feeling of bygone days remains for all those who have been playing World of Warcraft since its release in 2004.

One thing is certain, however: we can look forward to all the content, story turns and adjustments that fans will experience in the coming weeks and months.