Looking Back on Battle for Azeroth

As we prepare for the new World of Warcraft expansion, Shadowlands, we’re thinking back on the last one, Battle for Azeroth. Here’s our conversation on our feelings about BfA.

Erik: So, my overall impression of Battle for Azeroth is that there was a lot of stuff in in it I didn’t like–faction conflict, islands and warfronts, increasingly complex gear systems–but the things I did like were good enough that I could just enjoy them and mostly ignore the rest, and still feel like I was getting my money’s worth out of the expansion. How about you?

Eppu: I’m most impressed by how big a leap storytelling took between Legion and BfA. [Note that I’ll be mostly talking about the Ally side because I love playing female Dwarves.] I’ve never been terribly interested in the story in WoW, because I just can’t care about who’s gonna backstab who this time around. In BfA, however, I was more motivated to follow the story. Both the big picture and the little details were given their moments. (How creepy is it to have a little girl set up a tea party that turns out to be rather gory!)

I liked that Taelia first introduces our toons to the islands, and that she keeps popping up as we enter each new zone. Granted, we’ve encountered focus characters before (a stand-out in my mind is Yrel from Draenor), but this time it felt more all-encompassing. And the main storylines in each zone threaded together more tightly. I can’t tell what actually has taken place at the writer’s room(s?) at Blizzard, but it felt like the team(s?) talked to each other more, and perhaps even the quality of individual writers might have been higher. For example, I don’t like playing in Drustvar that much (ugh, the gloom) but I really admire the coordinated storytelling there.

Erik: Agreed, I’m not into the Gothic horror aesthetic of Drustvar, but I’m impressed by how well it tells the story of the zone. Even if you don’t pay a lot of attention to the quest text, you start on one side of the island with the definite impression that something is wrong, then you cross over the mountains and everything gradually becomes clear. The Horde side (which I’ve played more than you have) has something similar in Nazmir, where you slowly uncover the horrors of the Blood Trolls. Not every zone was as well designed (Stormsong Valley is a bit all over the place, for one), but I think this expansion represented a real step up in conveying story through the environment and your interactions with it, rather than relying on players reading quest text to know what’s going on.

I was less interested in the expansion’s story as it went on, though. Sylvanas’s machinations utterly bore me, neither Nazjatar nor Mechagon made me want to stay once we had done enough to unlock flight, and I didn’t even bother playing any of the 8.3 content because it sounded completely unappealing. The game systems similarly turned me off as the expansion progressed. At the beginning, the Azerite necklace and the gear pieces that go with it felt like a good iteration on the Artifact weapon design from Legion, but the Essences added in 8.2 didn’t feel worth the effort, and Corrupted gear made me actively angry. Did you find your feelings changed about anything as the expansion went on?

Eppu: A little. Ditto about the necklace, gear pieces, and essences. And yes, Corruption sucked like there’s no tomorrow. As to the rest, as soon as I found out that the island expeditions had a PvP aspect, it turned me off right away. Since then I’ve become slightly more curious, except I still don’t want to do even PvP-light PvE gameplay, not to mention that adding yet another layer of weekly objectives and maps and strategies doesn’t add anything to my enjoyment.

There is one thing that annoys me so fracking much, in fact, much, much more than any other single detail about the expansion: the difficulty of getting to your mission table in Dazar’alor vs. Boralus. It’s right there, a short hop away in Boralus, and in Dazar’alor you have to flyyyy allll the wayyyy to the harbor. Do you have a favorite thing to hate about BfA?

Erik: I think my biggest pet peeve in BfA, and I admit it’s a picky one, are the quests where you have to hit an extra button that’s easy to forget, whether it’s absorbing Azerite or ringing the bell for souls in Stormsong. It took such a long time from the start of the expansion for me to remember to do that extra button press consistently. It’s especially annoying since the game has mostly moved away from making you do extra clicks; there were a lot of such quests in Vanilla, but the past few expansions have streamlined play in ways I appreciate, and this felt like backsliding.

What about on the other side, any minor things in the expansion that you loved? I loved how much great new transmog gear we got. After many expansions of having leveling gear that was mostly simple designs in muddy colors, this expansion went wild with distinctive nautical-themed gear on the Alliance side and Mesoamerican fantasy gear for the Horde.

Eppu: I see your point about the extra button quests. (Forgetting the damn bell in Stormsong Valley… “Ding ding ding ding!”) Also ditto on leveling gear; it’s lovely to see distinctive, themed designs. But how can you forget penguin sledding? (For posterity, they’re the Frozen Freestyle, Sliding with Style, and Slipery Slopes worldquests.) A bit finicky at times, but so much fun to me! And I still love the fuzzy bee butts and Flight Master’s Whistle.

Image: World of Warcraft screencap

Creative Differences is an occasional feature in which we discuss a topic or question that we both find interesting. Hear from both of us about whatever’s on our minds.