I was quite excited already when so many details about the new expansion were leaked about a week ago, but I didn't really want to blog about it then and there because if it had all turned out to be a load of hogwash I would have felt quite silly for making a big deal out of it. And I did have my doubts, not so much because the leaked information sounded unbelievable, but because I didn't really want a lot of it to be true. I mean, Thrall abandoning the Horde? I'm glad that this one hasn't been confirmed as of yet as far as I'm aware. But also the destruction and revamping of so many low-level zones: I know they really show their age by now, but at the end of the day it's those very same zones that drew me into the World of Warcraft to begin with, you know? I don't want them to go away.
However, very much to Blizzard's credit, I have to say that the newly released trailer completely sold me on the concept. Seeing someone soar over the Barrens on a drake? Oooh. The bleak plains of Desolace turned into lush grassland? Beautiful. And the bits about the land being torn asunder actually look more like the creation of new mountains and canyons than turning every other zone into fire and brimstone as I had feared. Anyway, before I continue to ramble on too incoherently about random things that I liked about the trailer and the official website, let's break it down point by point as listed on Blizzard's site:
Two New Playable Races
The new races are the feature that has been semi-official for longer than any of the others and I loved it from moment I heard about it, even more so now that I found out that it was a conscious decision to include new races instead of another hero class. As I wrote only a few days ago, I never got into death knights and consider their high starting level a huge turn-off. Compare that to Burning Crusade, where the addition of draenei and blood elves made me level at least five (might have been more) characters of those races through the new starting zones. I like alts, I like diversity and I like the levelling experience. Thus: new races = win, at least for me.
As far as the races themselves go, I was actually pretty neutral towards both of them at first. Worgen sounded slightly cooler maybe, but I have a bit of a soft spot for goblins as well. After seeing the trailer however, I want to roll a goblin girl right now, they just look so cute! Worgen in dresses on the other hand look quite silly, no comparison to their feral NPC counterparts. Not that this will prevent me from making one just to check out their starting zone...
Level Cap Increased to 85
This one still has me a bit confused to be honest. Why only five new levels this time instead of ten? I think MMO-champion posted something about how Blizzard wants to make these five levels last longer to make each one feel more meaningful. Which, you know, would be a 180° turnaround from everything they've been doing in the past two years, where they've been striving to make levelling as quick as possible - because only the level cap matters. I wonder if that means that they'll also slow down the lower levels again? Personally I'd quite like that, especially if they are working on making all the levelling content more fun with the revamp anyway. Though the likely backlash from the player base for being "forced" to stay in low-level zones longer again makes this something that's unlikely to happen for real.
I'm also a bit confused about the implications for gear when there'll only be five new levels. As it was, ten levels seemed like a sensible time span to replace a full set of gear, even if it had been really good in the previous endgame. However, the thought of already ditching all my Icecrown epics after only five levels doesn't sit quite right with me. We'll see how that one works out.
I'm also intrigued by the new "path system" for character progression. We already have levels, we have talents, we have achievements... what could this be about? How else can you progress your character?
Classic Zones Remade
This is the big one for me. As I said above, initially I really didn't like the idea of losing some of my old favourite levelling zones. It's still a scary thought to be honest, though what was shown in the trailer has given me hope. The question remains just how much each zone will be changed in terms of quests and the like. Auberdine getting destroyed for example definitely opens up a lot of new quest options, but does it automatically make all the old ones irrelevant? Surely the night elves would still be concerned with corrupted wildlife and furbolgs, maybe even more so - are they affected by the same ancient evil that caused the cataclysm? I guess in my ideal world they'd add new quests while also incorporating some of the old ones in the new setting, maybe streamlining them somewhat in the process. The question would be how viable that would be, especially if we assume that the base levelling speed won't be changed - do people really need more quests that they'll just outlevel way too quickly anyway?
Another thing to consider is that it's unlikely that all zones will be affected by the destructive forces. Will Blizzard cop out and just leave them as they are, with NPCs appearing to be completely oblivious to what's going on around them? I hope not.
New High-Level Zones & More Raid Content than Ever Before
I feel a bit spoiled saying this, but this is a bit of a "duh", isn't it? That's kind of what you expect from an expansion! The confirmation that more difficult versions of raid encounters will be optional again doesn't have me particularly excited as I'm not a fan of achievement raiding at all, but it's clearly something that works so I didn't really expect it to go away.
New Race and Class Combinations
I actually don't have huge issues with any of them. Things like tauren paladins will certainly take some getting used to, but I think it makes perfect sense for the people of Azeroth to evolve some and learn new things over the course of several years. And none of the new combinations are completely "out there" as far as I'm concerned.
I'm definitely looking forward to trying out many of these new options, though the limited amount of character slots per realm will definitely end up being an issue for me. I can only hope that Blizzard will also add an option to get more than ten of those, even if it's a paid feature. I hate deleting alts that I invested time in.
Making guilds more meaningful is one of those things that I've seen people suggest quite often, but it never seemed to be a priority for Blizzard, plus there are a load of potential issues to consider: For example if someone joins a new guild, do they immediately benefit from guild "levels" (whatever they turn out to be exactly) or not? If guild-changing suddenly has more meaningful effects than losing a chat channel and the tag over your name that could be the source of a lot of new drama... but I'm confident in Blizzard's ability to avoid the worst pitfalls that are bound to crop up with such a new system.
New PvP Zone & Rated Battlegrounds
I don't PvP much these days so I can't claim to care much about these features, however the mention of "new battlegrounds with rated team play" in the trailer has me intrigued. Could they actually be doing something to encourage team play in battlegrounds instead of mindless HK farming? A revolutionary idea!
Nobody really seems to know yet what exactly this will be about, but I have to say I really like the idea of a new secondary profession, simply because that means everyone will be able to get it - and, like the other secondary professions, it would most likely be somewhat optional. So nobody will have to worry about dropping any of their current professions just to pick up a new and insanely powerful primary profession like it happened with jewelcrafting and inscription.
Flying Mounts in Azeroth
Awesome. Not much more to say about that. Though, to quote the official FAQ: "We’re still determining whether there will be any restrictions on where you will be able to fly, at what level flying will become available, or whether you’ll need to do anything to unlock it." I do hope they come up with sensible restrictions for this, I don't think anyone would be impressed if we saw level ten characters soaring all over Kalimdor on their epic flyers.