BOSTON — World of Warcraft may no longer dominate the MMO scene, but it still boasts millions of dedicated players, eager for the next cooperative high-fantasy adventure. Battle for Azeroth is the latest expansion (the seventh, if you're keeping count) for World of Warcraft, and the game looks like it'll draw on the franchise's rich RTS legacy: large groups of warriors competing for resources on huge battlefields.
I went hands-on with Battle for Azeroth at PAX East 2018, and while I got to experience only one aspect of the gameplay, it reminded me a lot of playing some of the Warcraft RTS titles back before the series went MMO-only. The mode pitted two teams of three players — one Horde group and one Alliance group — against each other in a race to collect resources.
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As soon as our level-110 characters stepped off of our pirate ship and onto a sandy beach, our mission was clear: Do battle with the local fauna and collect the precious azurite mineral that they guarded. The Alliance and Horde teams were not trying to kill each other directly; we were attempting to collect 6,000 pieces of azurite before the other group could.
The first thing that struck me was just how necessary it is to stay together. My team consisted of a Tauren shaman, a Goblin warrior and a Blood Elf rogue (myself), and the three of us immediately set off on our own, to maximize our azurite gains.
This turned out to be a phenomenally bad idea, as even our high-level characters were not much of a match for the groups of equally powerful enemies, who often attacked in groups of three or four. (Having a healer also would have helped, admittedly.) World of Warcraft may be relatively friendly to solo players, but those who want to excel in Battle for Azeroth will have to (re)learn the fine art of teamwork.
For players who prefer cooperative grouping, Battle for Azeroth will also feature the Warfront mode, which channels RTS elements even more strongly. Up to 20 players will band together to establish a base, lead troops and even siege enemy locations. These events will all take place against computer opponents rather than real-life defenders, however — good news for shy players, and bad news for hardcore PvP enthusiasts.
Players who choose to create new characters for Battle for Azeroth will have six new races to choose from: Highmountain Tauren, Nighborne and Zandalari Trolls for the Horde, and Lightforged Draenei, Void Elves and Dark Iron Dwarves for the Alliance. The game will also let players advance up to Level 120, and include plenty of new quests to help them do so.
Battle for Azeroth will launch on August 14 for $50 on PC. If you'd like to take your existing character with you, you can always make sure they've hit the existing level cap (110) in the most recent Legion expansion.