It’s no secret that the pressure is on for the next World of Warcraft expansion, WoW Dragonflight, to deliver. With the Shadowlands saga finally at an end and the curtain falling on Sylvanas Windrunner’s infamous reign of terror, the MMORPG is very much in need of some new life – Alexstrasza style. As we draw closer to launch, I asked Blizzard’s Pat Dawson and Eric Holmberg-Weidler why players who have left to play the likes of Final Fantasy XIV should return to Azeroth’s shores.
“Feedback has been overwhelmingly positive” production director Pat Dawson states. “We’ve been really happy to see how engaged the community has been not just with the excitement around this expansion, but about the feedback too.”
“We’ve taken some steps to make sure we’re in much closer communication with the community around this, and I think the talent revamp is a really good example of that. We had a lot of really good dialogue to make sure we were getting that right during the alpha and beta process.”
For those unaware, the World of Warcraft talents system harkens back to the early days of WoW, much more akin to the likes of Wrath of the Lich King than the system we’ve seen in recent retail WoW expansions. It has gone through several different iterations, each a response to player commentary.
Aside from the talents, Dawson notes “we did some bigger things too this time; Dragonriding was a big risk. We’ve never done anything like that before, but it was something that was important for us to get right. We were all biting our nails nervously to see what people would think when they got into the alpha, and the reception was so positive, with people saying this is one of the coolest things to happen to World of Warcraft. That just made us all so happy because that’s what we live to do as developers. We want to warm the hearts of our players – it makes coming to work a lot easier!”
As a result of widely positive feedback Dawson confirms that the final edition of Dragonflight is “pretty close” to the alpha and beta versions, confirming there’s no “major overhauls” coming in upon release and highlighting that when issues do arise Blizzard will “make adjustments.”
All of this is why Dawson urges players to dive back into WoW if they’ve taken a break from their Azeroth adventure. “This expansion is a lot of what the core of World of Warcraft is,” he says. “It’s that dragon fantasy, that exploration, that wonder. This is authentic World of Warcraft.
“Another big thing, and this has been really important for us as a team, is the way that we’ve been interacting and engaging with the community over the past year or so. Starting with patch 9.1.5 – we really wanted to make that a community-focused patch – we’ve leaned very heavily into community requests and looked at how people are playing the game and how they want to play the game to make sure we’re serving them well.”
Dawson concludes “we’ve really done a lot to implement some of the fan-favourite stuff in this expansion,” describing Dragonflight as “a great opportunity to come in and really experience what World of Warcraft is at its core.”
As someone who has spent far too much time exploring the vast, snowy expanses of Northrend, Dragonflight certainly feels more akin to its early predecessors than the likes of Shadowlands or Battle for Azeroth. There’s a certain magic in the air, a rainbow of colour that makes everything sparkle a little, and, of course, there’s my beloved Alexstrasza.
If you fancy reading more about my first impressions of the Dragon Isles, be sure you check out my WoW Dragonflight alpha preview. If that inspires you to strap on your gear and venture into the unknown, be sure to install the best WoW addons to help you on your Dragonflight journey.