World of Warcraft: What’s New in 8.1 and the Rise of Azshara

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“What’s next?” is the biggest question players have been asking about World of Wacraft. With a tumultuous end-game found in Battle for Azeroth, players are not necessarily in a good position to enjoy their time (apart from the 68 Million turtles players have helped make it to the water). The controversial Azerite system, as well as random Mythic Dungeon rewards, have made players feel as if player agency has been utterly stripped from the progression path. Senior Game Designer Ian Hazzikostas’ panel at Blizzcon 2018 worked to build up the world around these systems and promises to corrections.

Starting off the panel, Patch 8.1 Tides of Vengeance was recapped for players unfamiliar with the public test updates. While they focused on the major content updates, including the raid-tier for the Battle of Dazar’alor, Ian also revealed datamined and upcoming adjustments to Azerite traits, armor acquisition and improved quality of life changes for the player progression experience. Warfront adjustment is also occurring, introducing regional world-quests throughout controlled regions and improving resource acquisition to increase faction preparation to wage war on the Warfront. Tides will also feature Legion-Invasion styled events called assaults, where the opposing faction will land on your ally’s shores to wage war directly.

Tides of Vengeance has been confirmed for a December 11th release in the US Regions, releasing on the 12th and 13th for the EU and Asia respectively. Battle of Dazar’alor will release early next year after the holiday season.

Hazzikostas’ then turned the panel over to Senior Game Designer Ryan Shwayder who went into detail about 8.1.5, one of the interim mini-patches. In 8.1.5 both the Zanadalari and Kul Tiran Humans will be released for the Horde and Alliance respectively.

With the Zandalari nation’s rapid destabilization in leadership, the Horde has won their trust and adopted them into the fold as a powerful nation in their own right. Incredibly versatile in their vocations, Zandalari can fulfill the role of every original race in Warcraft including Monks and yes, Paladins. Their racials are incredibly diverse, containing both a short-term heal over time ability and a glide-on-demand button. Their racial mount will be the Zandalari Triceratops seen throughout their conception in the Warcraft universe.

Won over by the Daughter of the Sea, the Kul Tirans join the Alliance as a powerful naval nation that can singlehandedly reconstitute the Alliance fleet. While diverse as Humans are, the Kul Tirans are far more limited than their northern landlocked cousins; adventuring Kul Tirans can be Hunters, Warriors, Priests, Rogues, Monks, Shamans and most notably, Druids. Their racial abilities are more combat based than the Zandalari, featuring increased versatility and resistances along with a stunning knock-back that will undoubtedly see nerfs in the PvE scene. The Kul Tiran racial mount will of course be another horse, but far more armored and heavily enraptured in Kul Tiran culture.

8.1.5 will also contain updates to several major holidays including the Darkmoon Faire, particularly featuring the Gryvern rollercoaster. Children’s Week will also feature updates to its systems, including quests for the newest allied races, with promises of forthcoming updates to other holiday events. New micro-holidays are also planned to be introduced, including the Pandaren Wanderer’s Festival, Vash’jir Reef Diving, and more. Timewalking will also introduce the greater dungeons of Warlords of Draenor, and the Everbloom, introducing two new faction-based Timewalking mounts.

Professions are also receiving new questlines for their epic Tools of the Trade, epic items that can impart unique effects onto your playstyle, equipment and rewards. The Brawler’s Guild is also receiving a similar questline to explore the seedier aspects of the Brawler’s Guild, investigating the murder of members of the guild for unique transmogs and mounts.

Battlegrounds have also been promised to be remastered for 8.1.5, with the first two being Warsong Gulch and Arathi Basin. Two of the original instanced battlegrounds introduced in 1.2, these are some of the oldest mainstays of content that players still enjoy, especially in the Rated Battleground seasons. Looking at the potential improvements, Shwayder discussed the difficulty in both updating the visuals while keeping the battlegrounds balanced as they were before. I personally hope that this remaster comes forward to Alterac Valley, one of Azeroth’s more unsymmetrical battlegrounds where factions can often consistently manipulate terrain to farm players for excessive periods of time.

Building upon the AI developed for Island Expeditions, Arathi Comp Stomp is a new Brawl coming in 8.2.5 where teams can face off against an entirely computer team in Arathi Basin.

Jeremy Feasel, Senior Game Designer, took the stage shortly after this announcement to discuss Patch 8.2, where the Naga begin their own war upon the Horde and the Alliance. Knocked on their heels from the Battle of Dazar’alor, the factions can only send skeleton crews of heroes to the Great Blue Beyond, where a crack lays in the heart of the sea. There is Nazjatar, the home of the Naga Empire and the seat of Azshara’s power. The Rise Of Azshara will see a brand new continent arise in Battle for Azeroth, one that threatens the tenuous power structures of the Horde and Alliance. There heroes must lay siege to Azshara’s seat of power lest her forces dare to swallow the world. Heroes of the Horde and the Alliance will unite with beleaguered survivors of her reign to upset the balance of power and unseat the Naga Queen.

Rise of Azshara

Azshara’s Eternal Palace will be the main-line raid for The Rise of Azshara, featuring 8 bosses (with a threatened underwater boss) culminating in a fight with the Queen of the Naga herself. The focus of the patch aside from its raid will be repeatable world-content, in the same vein of Suramar and Argus. However, the Naga are not the only focus of Rise, instead revealing an adventure of minimally maximum proportions.

Rediscovered by the Gnomes and Goblins, Mechagon is an ancient heritage land of the Gnomish people. King Mechagon, the ruler of the land, has built an aristocracy based on how machine you truly are while slaying the other, less mechanical gnomes of the land., and will feature heroes helping the lowliest members of the society upset the balance and restore a utopian paradise to this dystopian wasteland. Mechagon will also feature an 8 boss, mythic only dungeon for players to delve into and claim elite rewards from.

New heritage armor was revealed for the Tauren and Gnomes, both of which are just absolutely lovely to wonder at, as well as additional Island Expeditions. Crestfall returns from its Warcraft 2 routes for the Expedition sequences, where players can explore the fallout of the ancient war. Additionally, Snowblossom is a small Pandaren village beset on all sides from the vicious Vermin. These will join additional rewards at the promised Seafarer Doubloons vendor, who will make his appearance in Tides of Vengeance.

Warfronts will also develop a new Heroic level of difficulty, featuring new siege mechanics and new commanders with the threat of losing. These will be for premade 10+ player groups and will require rewards. A new arena will appear in Mechagon, as well as the start of Battle for Azeroth Season 3 and the introduction of flying with the promise of bumblebee mounts.

And of course, finally, we have the promised updates to the Worgen and Goblin models.

It’s 2018 people. We’ve updated the models, and crab mounts walk sideways. This, in my opinion, may be the strongest World of Wacraft panel to date. I cannot wait for Tides of Vengeance, let alone The Rise of Azshara.

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