Shadowlands created a lull, so fans are expecting a lot
Blizzard has announced the World of Warcraft Dragonflight expansion today during their “expansion reveal” stream: two months after their canceled BlizzCon 2022 event would have taken place (the opening for today even had BlizzCon nostalgia shots in it). This is the ninth expansion for World of Warcraft, a feat in and of itself.
Presented by Holly Longdale (lead producer WoW Classic), John Hight (franchise general manager), and Ion Hazzikostas (game director and VP), the roundtable of devs noted that they “needed to do better,” and incorporated feedback into the future of the game. They reiterated cross-faction play is part of update 9.2.5, as a way to give people more chances to play with one another, as a “closing chapter for Shadowlands.”
Dragonflight, however, is the near future. It’ll be “going back to Azeroth,” and plays off of events from thousands of years ago. “The awakening of the Dragon Isles” will be the key component, which has “removed the [convenient] concealment” of the region that cordoned it off from the rest of Azeroth.
World of Warcraft Dragonflight features:
- An all-new playable mail-wearing race — Dracthyr (with skin/hair/jewelry customization), which has a secondary human form that can also be customized.
- The Dracthyr will also use the Evoker [hero] class (which has a healer spec and a new “hold buttons to charge a spell” mechanic) exclusively — which will start at level 58 with a new starter zone.
- The expansion will consist of five zones: four standard leveling zones (the roiling Waking Shores; the vast Ohn’ahran Plains; the stark Azure Span; and ancient, majestic Thaldraszus), and the new starter zone — you will progress to the new cap of level 70 here.
- The WoW core system will be “overhauled,” including the talent system (with bigger talent trees focused on “granularity” of old expansions pre-Pandaria), the UI (with more customization without needing to rely on add-ons), and professions (which will deliver on fantasy as a crafter; I see big influences from FFXIV here).
- Dragon riding will feature “momentum, and dive bombs” to allow for a more dynamic version of flight, with a “customizable dragon mount at the start.”
- Duck critters will be in the new expansion areas.
While the initial reception to the current expansion (Shadowlands) was fairly positive, fans have turned on it over time. Not only did the game itself fail to compel people to log in on a constant basis, fail to deliver interesting updates, and fumble storylines for long term classic Warcraft characters; but the series of Activision Blizzard scandals have soured the perception of the company as a whole, leading fans to leave in droves for Final Fantasy XIV.
A lot of pressure is on Dragonflight to deliver the goods and actually shake up WoW in a meaningful way that also goes over well with long-term fans; many of which are the lifeblood of the game. It’s an unenviable position from a developmental standpoint, but there are many inspirations to draw from as well, including the game’s own history.
As a reminder, the Microsoft and Blizzard deal will apparently close, according to the former, in the “fiscal year of 2023,” which begins in July of 2022 and ends at the end of June 2023. So by the time World of Warcraft Dragonflight arrives, it could be the first WoW expansion under Microsoft’s umbrella.