We’ve had our hands on World of Warcraft: Battle for Azeroth for a week now – what’s Blizzard’s latest MMORPG expansion like?

Since 2004, World of Warcraft has reigned supreme as one of the best – if not the best – MMORPGs. Players have battled the Lich King Arthas, travelled back in time to Draenor, and faced the might of The Burning Legion. With the recent release of Battle for Azeroth, it’s back to the roots of Horde vs Alliance. With two new areas, a level cap of 120, new raids, expedition mode, and eight new races, now is the best time to start in – or return to – Azeroth.

Battle for Azeroth starts where the previous expansion Legion finished. A titan has plunged a sword into Azeroth (the world) itself, causing a new mineral named Azerite to appear. Azerite amplifies the wielder’s abilities and the mineral itself is indestructible. The Alliance want Azerite to help repair the world, cure diseases, and help people, while the Horde want it to create weapons. With previous expansions causing the Alliance and Horde to come together to save their world, this new material has put them at war again.

The Horde (lead by their new Warchief, Slyvanas Windrunner) have attacked the Night Elf city of Darnassus. The Alliance (united by their new King, Anduin Wrynn) in retaliation laid siege to the Undead city of Lordaeron (The Undercity). With the story returning to Alliance vs Horde, both factions need to expand their forces. As an Alliance player, you are tasked with gaining the support of the Kul Tirans, who are known for having the best naval fleet in Azeroth (think the Greyjoys from Game of Thrones), while Horde players travel to Zandalar to recruit the ancient Zandalari Trolls (Aztec trolls riding dinosaurs).

Battle for Azeroth is a great starting point for new players, and a familiar adventure for returning ones. Upon purchasing the expansion, your account is given a level boost to 110 so you can instantly join the action (most characters start at level 1). Though you can only level boost 1 character to 110, you may trial characters at level 110 for a few hours to test classes and races. The new zones and levelling your character to max has never been this entertaining. When starting in the new zones you’re tasked with going to three separate districts of Kul Tiras/Zandalar, each with their own series of quest lines. In previous expansions certain zones had a suggested level, but with Battle for Azeroth, the game scales to your character’s level, allowing you to do any questline you’d like straight from the start.

For World of Warcraft fans who have been playing for years, Battle for Azeroth improves on the foundations Legion left behind. Your artefact weapon – which was a main component in Legion – unfortunately has been sacrificed to save Azeroth. Although, now we have Azerite armour, which not only can be upgraded like our beloved artefact weapons, but is also equipped over multiple inventory slots (head, shoulders and chest). We also have the return of companion missions, sending your own forces out to complete tasks and bring back resources. Battle for Azeroth also introduces War Mode, which is used to toggle PVP on and off. Having War Mode on not only allows Alliance and Horde players to battle anywhere on either Kul Tiras or Zandalar, it also boosts your character’s experience by 10% to help level from 110 to 120.

Though this expansion eases new (and returning players) into the world of Warcraft, there are some annoyances. There are eight new allied races joining this new expansion, though unlike previous expansions they need to be unlocked. To unlock the Lightforged Draenei, players will need to finish the previous Argus campaign from the Legion expansion (which is now included in the base game with all previous expansions) and have exalted reputation with that faction. Though the Argus campaign isn’t too long, it can take weeks to reach exalted with any faction.

A minor story issue is that the city of Darnassus and The Undercity have both been destroyed, but the starting areas for both the Night Elves and the Undead haven’t changed. Players can still visit these cities who are under level 110, though survivors of Darnassus/The Undercity (non player characters and vendors) can be found seeking refuge in Stormwind (the Human city) and Orgimmar (the Orc city). Where in previous expansions (Cataclysm) when a world changing event has occurred, starting areas and the map has changed permanently.

Since 2004, World of Warcraft has been the benchmark for MMORPGs, and it’s never been a better time start if you haven’t already. Battle for Azeroth’s plot is simple and returns to basics, allowing new players to start their adventure either fighting for the Alliance or for the Horde straight away. The new questing zones of Kul Tiras and Zandalar are visually stunning, and the Allied factions (though involving an unlock requirement) are fresh and welcomed additions. The only question that remains is who you’ll side with… for the Horde or for the Alliance?

World of Warcraft: Battle for Azeroth is available now on PC.star-4

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