Playing the Previous Expansion

While everyone's talking about Shadowlands, I've slowly been making my way through Battle for Azeroth for the last couple of months. As I expected, the endgame didn't really hold my interest on a personal level after hitting 50, but the husband got really into playing retail again so I've been putting some time aside every week to play with him and we've been making our way through the old BfA content together. We're not fully "done" yet, but let me give you a brief overview of my thoughts so far:


The BfA zones are all pretty enough, but I feel like I've rarely had time to look at anything properly as the intended content pacing is quite quick and the husband is always rushing me from one place to the next. I also have mixed feelings about Boralus as the main hub for the Alliance. It's a lovely, sprawling city, and the music there is very catchy, but trying to navigate it on foot does my head in, what with all the weird walls and stairs. I'm not good with three-dimensional cities. (Though I heard the Horde capital is even worse.)

Base Quests

I liked the three Alliance zones well enough. The side quests were mostly easily digestible fast food that entertained in the moment but was quickly forgotten afterwards, but the overarching storylines were more engaging. I really loved the story of poor Lucille Waycrest: There's a young woman who's had absolutely everything go wrong in her life and yet is still going strong. The story arc focused on Jaina and her family was also very touching. Blizzard's writing (rightly) gets accused of often feeling like characters only take certain actions because the plot demands it, not because it really makes sense for them to do so, but this was a good example that shows that their writers are capable of character-driven storytelling if they really put their minds to it.

War Campaign / Ongoing Story

The ongoing story after that has felt a bit... scattered. Coming to the party late, it can be hard to tell in what order certain quests are supposed to be done in, though this isn't a problem unique to WoW. At least they are finally adding indicators for easy identification of the main story quests in Shadowlands from what I've read. It's also my understanding that there are parts of the story that kind of rely on you having played the content for both factions for it to really make sense. I can only guess that's the reason why some plot points seemingly appeared out of nowhere at times.

Nazjatar & Mechagon

These new zones added in the mid-expansion patch were a big deal at the time, but honestly, based on everything I'd heard about them I kind of expected... more. Neither map is particularly exciting, but I like the tone and more open-ended structure of Mechagon much more than the dreary underwater dailies of Nazjatar. When I was dragging my feet particularly badly at one point, the husband decided to acquire the Sandstone Drake mount, which allows him to turn into a dragon and carry me around on his back. This has been very handy as he's already unlocked flying in BfA while I haven't. As he whisks me away over various obstacles in Nazjatar in particular, I can only imagine how unbearably annoying that zone must have been to deal with on foot. 

There's also this mechanic in Nazjatar where you level up some bodyguard companions that accompany you during your questing, but this seemed like a terribly wasted opportunity to me. While you get some different dailies based on your companion choice, the quests don't really have any logical connection to that companion so it feels like just another layer of randomisation.

World Quests

I had no first-hand experience with world quests before BfA, since they were introduced in Legion and I hadn't played retail since MoP. From hearing other people talk about them though, I'd kind of assumed that they were similar to dynamic events in other MMOs. Very wrong! As it turns out, world quests are just like regular daily/repeatable quests, only you don't have to remember where to go since they are shown on the map, and you don't have to find and talk to any quest givers as they'll basically yell at you as soon as you're in the vicinity and the objectives appear on your tracker automatically. You never have to worry about doing hand-ins either as everything just auto-completes. In a nutshell, they are like regular quests but for people with short attention spans and bad planning skills. I kind of fail to see what was considered so revolutionary about this.

Borrowed Power Systems

Unlike when Legion turned into BfA, Blizzard didn't actually get rid of the expansion's big power systems this time around, so the Heart of Azeroth and Azerite continue to be a thing. Once we started on Nazjatar we also unlocked essences, and I'm guessing corruptions won't be far behind (unless those were removed). On a casual level, none of these actually feel too bad, and the Azerite rewards from questing have been sufficiently generous that my Heart is already past the effective max-level of 80. It does however all feel incredibly unnatural and bolted-on. I joked about the whiplash I got from being summoned by Magni the moment I hit level 50, but this only continues as you progress through the story as you keep getting sent back to the Chamber of the Heart for NPC exposition about why you should care about this or that new upgrade. So my totally-not-expert opinion is that maybe people would have hated all this stuff less if it had made more sense in terms of the game world instead of feeling like you're being pulled out of the overarching storyline in order to do homework, but what do I know.

Warfronts & Island Expeditions

Two of BfA's major features, yet nobody seemed to care about them much from what I could gather. They weren't exactly hated, people just found them boring and couldn't really be bothered. I did each one twice and can only concur after that experience. Island expeditions are just a random rounding up of mobs and clicking on stuff on the ground in an instance, exactly the same way you would do in the open world. Warfronts felt like they had some depth that could potentially be intriguing if you actually took the time to learn how everything works, similar to the side quests in old Alterac Valley, but with no real threat or fear of losing there isn't much incentive to perform and I basically just ran around exploring most of the time until the match was over and I got kicked out.


WoW being WoW, there have been quests sending us to dungeons. The first of these was for Freehold, which we did with three pugs through the dungeon finder. We promptly got grouped with some guy who kept yelling at the husband and called him an idiot for pulling an extra trash group or something (it wasn't even clear what was getting him so worked up as we weren't having any issues). After that I refused to pug more. The husband was actually less offended by the whole experience than I was and kept saying that it didn't matter, but I say there are so many more fun things to do both in this and other MMOs than put up with that kind of crap. The husband ended up coaxing two of our SWTOR guildies into trying the game, and with how quick and easy it is to level nowadays they were soon drafted into helping us out with our dungeons quests. (I filled the fifth spot with various people from my existing friends list.)

Most of these runs were fine, if easy. Then we had to do Siege of Boralus, which is only available on heroic difficulty. Now, my understanding was that heroic is still supposed to be relatively easy as there are still several steps above it in the form of mythic and M+ but we found it quite a struggle and wiped a lot. The last boss fight in particular, where you have to run around and nuke down different types of tentacles while also staying out of bad stuff, took us quite a few tries. We got there in the end and felt quite accomplished to be honest, but at the same time we were also exhausted from what was supposed to have been a fairly easygoing and casual dungeon run. I don't know if it's just that we didn't have enough of a clue, were undergeared, or maybe we're just all bad players based on modern WoW's standards. (Edit: Just today we four-manned Operation Mechagon and didn't have nearly as many issues there, so maybe it was just that dungeon.)


Despite of having been given some quests telling us to do the BfA raids, we haven't done any of the them so far, as LFR is locked to the new max-level. I don't know if there's even a way to see the BfA raid content now if you aren't able to outlevel it to the point of being able to solo it. But eh.


  1. Blizzard's writing (rightly) gets accused of often feeling like characters only take certain actions because the plot demands it, not because it really makes sense for them to do so, but this was a good example that shows that their writers are capable of character-driven storytelling if they really put their minds to it.

    I've chatted with at least one Blizz writer online on FB --she likely doesn't remember it as a) it was about something other than her Blizz job and b) I didn't want to bring her Blizz job up-- but judging from other authors' commentary on "property" authorship I don't think the writers have much choice in how the plot develops. That's chosen by the lead dev team, not them. It wouldn't surprise me if they're given more leeway on the side quests, which also tend to shine much more than the main questline, and this theory tends to reinforce that belief.

    1. That may well be, but at least in this particular case it doesn't match my experience. As I said in the post, the side quests have been fairly forgettable, while the arc with Jaina was one of the major ones, with big cut scenes and everything.

  2. Corruptions are gone since the pre-patch. That was definitely a power drop as some corruptions were quite overpowered. That said, I think it was better to have that drop before leveling instead of having the Legion -> BfA one where you had a sudden drop in the middle of leveling (when your Legion legendaries stopped working at then level 116).

    Siege of Boralus's end boss is notorious for being a pug destroyer. An interesting idea that just felt badly tuned / scripted. (Ironically if you were Horde you got an easier run of it in the beginning if you were doing the Mythic+ keys.)

    Warfronts just died after the second one. People just didn't care about them so Blizzard basically gave up on them. Island Expeditions were boring until Blizzard made it easier to get the cosmetics / pets / mounts from them. Then more folks got interested in doing them.

    The war campaigns are quest chains that really want you to do both sides to really understand what is going on. Add to that Magni's stuff and you get chains with lots of per-patch filler that becomes a slog with you do it in a single go.

    I'd ignore any pug comments when it comes to older dungeons. Most likely these folks have a set route in their minds and think everyone knows what they are thinking. They forget no one is trying to (or even can) time these things, so who cares if you pull more? If you're leveling the extra xp is all good.

    1. That's comforting about Siege of Boralus - means we weren't just being bad for struggling the first time.

      The pug thing is... eh. I know on an intellectual level that there are rude people in every MMO, but I already remembered finding retail WoW pugs particularly tiresome last time I gave them a try, so I was apprehensive from the start and of course things went south again immediately. At this point I just figure it's not meant to be. As I said in the post, there are a thousand other things I could be doing instead of trying to make pugs in retail WoW work for me.