As expected, Blizzard announced a new World of Warcraft expansion at BlizzCon 2017, Battle for Azeroth, and it's all about the war between Alliance and Horde. A lengthy alpha/beta testing phase is expected to start soon, with release later on in 2018.
For the hints that lead up to here, check our coverage of all the hints on a new WoW expansion.
The expansion will explore the wounds suffered in the long-running feud between the Alliance and Horde. There’s no love lost between them, and their tensions really come to a head in the story. Here's some vital info:
- Two new continents, Kul Tiras and Zandalar, with zones and dungeons
- Allied Races, three for each faction
- Warfronts, an RTS-style game mode
- Island Expeditions, three-player scenarios with a PvP option
- Level cap increase to 120, and all the associated questing
- Classes have been revamped with new and remixed talents.
- A collection of new mounts.
- The Heart of Azeroth, an artifact-style necklace all players will have that upgrades your other gear through new resource Azerite.
World of Warcraft: Battle for Azeroth release date
World of Warcraft: Battle for Azeroth will release on August 14, 2018. The final date was revealed by game director Ion Hazzikostas at a preview event, according to PC Gamer.
Previously the only official release date information had been on the store, which said Battle For Azeroth will be released "on or before September 21, 2018". In a recent interview with PCGamesN, production director John Hight, said the game would “absolutely” be out in 2018, and, “I'll go so far as to say that we're going to give you something interesting to do this summer.”
World of Warcraft: Battle for Azeroth pre-orders
Battle for Azeroth is available for pre-order from the Blizzard store right now, and comes in two forms: standard and deluxe, priced $49.99/£39.99 and $69.99/£52.99 respectfully.
Pre-ordering either version will allow you to boost a character to level 110, ensuring that you will be ready for the new expansion quests. A pre-order will also allow you to begin recruiting Allied Races in-game right now, granting you a head start on Battle for Azeroth’s release.
The deluxe version of the game also includes a few extra goodies for your WoW character: Alliance players get a Seabraid Stallion mount, while Horde members get the Gilded Ravasaur (both are pretty neat, but they're no ridable frog, are they?). All players get a baby Tortollan pet.
Also included in the deluxe edition are a variety of WoW-themed extras for Blizzards other games.
- Overwatch: Torbjorn gets Horde and Alliance voice lines, Tracer will have some new emotes, and everyone will have access to WoW-themed sprays and player icons.
- Hearthstone: You’ll get a dual-toned Azeroth is Burning card back.
- StarCraft II: Horde and Alliance sprays will let you cover the map while declaring your allegiance.
- Heroes of the Storm: You can ride into battle on a Primal Flamesaber mount, available in green, white, and toast colours.
World of Warcraft: Battle for Azeroth beta
Beta testing for Battle for Azeroth has begun, although you cannot jump in quite yet. An alpha test client for patch 8.0, which will eventually include Battle for Azeroth, is now available for download, albeit it is currently unplayable.
Despite being unavailable for players to try out, dataminers have begun to discover a variety of things about the new expansion.
Beta is usually a catchall term that includes the alpha phase as well, and simply means whatever part of testing is available to the public. Alpha testing for Legion started nine months before its release and just three after it was announced, and was longer and more in-depth than most. It appears a similar pattern could be being followed this year, with the first alpha arriving at the end of January.
World of Warcraft: Battle for Azeroth prepatch
As with previous expansions, Battle for Azeroth will receive a prepatch that will bridge the gap between Legion and the new storyline. This prologue patch will launch a few weeks earlier than the expansion’s August release date, and feature the Alliance retaking the Undercity and the Horde burning Teldrassil. These smaller conflicts will eventually erupt into the titular battle between Alliance and Horde players.
World of Warcraft: Battle for Azeroth story
While Blizzard have yet to reveal the story beats for Battle for Azeroth, datamining has revealed some of the events that will occur during the narrative. With that in mind, expect a few spoilers in the remainder of this section.
Voice lines suggest that Horde leader Sylvanas orders the capture of Teldrassil, and engages in an attack on the island. Further voice lines suggest that the Alliance suffer a defeat in the battle, with them describing the attack as a “despicably cowardly act of war”. It would seem that the Alliance go on to plan for a counter-offensive. This lines up with what Blizzard have told us to expect in the Battle for Azeroth prepatch.
Further datamining has revealed a conflict of interest between Sylvanas and Saurfang, as well as a mention of an Azerite war machine, and a swarm of void elves which seem to sway the battle in favour of the Alliance.
One of the many things that datamining has discovered is the huge variety of exciting new mounts coming to Battle for Azeroth. Wowhead has providing plenty of the goods, and you can see the best of them by following the links below.
- Brutosaur, hyena, and parrots.
- Crawg, Goblin Hovercraft, Gilded Ravasaur, and Tomb Stalker.
- Hivemind multi-seat mount
All the new BFA features and content are on the two new continents, Kul Tiras and Zandalar, which are explored by the Alliance and Horde respectively. Horde players will need to persuade the trolls of Zandalar to lend their naval might to the war effort, while Alliance players will travel to the home of Jaina Proudmoore and rally its inhabitants to fight for their cause.
In gameplay terms you'll level on your own continent, then both will open up once you hit max to do world quests and continue the storyline. They each contain three zones, broken down like this:
- Kul Tiras
- Stormsong Valley - the place where Kul Tiran ships are blessed by Sea Priests. There are probably Old Gods here.
- Drustvar - playable at BlizzCon, this area concerns a mysterious village and its frozen inhabitants.
- Tiragarde Sound - overrun with pirates, as well as Jaina's mother Katherine Proudmoore. Likely the Alliance capital of the expansion.
- Nazmir - also playable at BlizzCon, this is a Blood Troll focused area where you defeat various spirits. It also has Old Gods in it.
- Zuldazar - capital of Zandalar, and thus the Horde capital for the expansion. An uprising provides the narrative focus.
- Voldun - a desert and prison for the Zandalari, it also has a race of almost certainly adorable fox people. Plus: Old Gods.
During all of this you'll also be progressing through the War storyline that explains what's going on in the wider world - such as the burning of Teldrassil and the invasion of Lordaeron that leaves Eastern Kingdoms and Kalimdor each dominated by one faction. Expect things a bit like this, from Legion's levelling experience:
Only more of it, as there won't be the individual class campaigns to design this time around.
Battle for Azeroth dungeons
New dungeons are also on the way, ten in all. Here's the run-down, which is split by faction while levelling up but all ten are available at max level for both:
- Freehold - A pirate flavoured dungeon in the underworld of Tiragarde Sound. Irontide Raiders have bought the town under their control, and a small team of heroes must infiltrate their leadership and destroy them. Was playable at BlizzCon 2017.
- Waycrest Manor - A stately manor in Drustvar, haunted by a Kul Tiran noble house.
- Tol Dagor - The "prison island" of Kul Tiras.
- Shrine of the Storm - Stormsong Valley's ship-blessing dungeon with Old Gods and sea priests. It was featured in the Boss Design panel at BlizzCon 2017.
- Siege of Boralus - Set in Tiragarde's capital, this is a max-level dungeon akin to Court of Stars from Legion.
- Atal’Dazar - "undead dinosaurs" inhabit this troll-based dungeon in Zandalar. Fun.
- Temple of Sethraliss - Vol'dun's snake-people temple.
- The Underrot - Also at BlizzCon 2017, this dungeon is where Nazmir is being corrupted from.
- King’s Rest - An ancient tomb filled with probably not still dead kings of Atal'Dazar. Dungeon inception.
- Kezan - The Horde max-level dungeon is the Goblin starting zone reconfigured as the little green ones go digging for Azurite.
Battle for Azeroth raids
Two raids have been announced so far:
Uldir, Halls of Control
A Titan facility where they experimented on Old Gods. "It didn't go so well." Details are massively unknown so far, but it will have eight bosses: Harlan Sweete, Gluttony, Witch, T'zane, Taloc the Corrupted, Priestess Alun'za, Council o' Captains, and the Blood God, the grisly beast you can see in the artwork above. Don't expect too much of a challenge as it is very much an initial raid. You'll also be defeating the heart of corruption in Zandalar.
Even less is known about this, as it will be the second - possibly third, if there's a surprise extra - raid of Battle for Azeroth. Even the name is TBD, but will involve eventually fighting Queen Azshara and her Naga.
World of Warcraft: Battle for Azeroth legacy loot
Battle for Azeroth is changing the way loot rewards work. Patch 7.3.5 essentially ruined things for transmog loot hunters by introducing the personal loot system, but the expansion’s re-think will help people more easily track down older gear for use in transmog.
A new legacy loot mode will be activated when entering a dungeon or raid that is ten or more levels lower than your character’s level. This mode will ensure all items on the loot table have a chance to drop, not just items relevant to your character. The amount of loot dropped will also be equal to a full party’s worth, so if you are doing a five-player dungeon solo you will pick up five players’ worth of loot.
This system should hopefully make farming for older gear much easier, allowing people to complete armour sets without too much hassle.
A key part of your character’s progression will be based around the Heart of Azeroth, an artifact-grade neck piece entrusted to each hero by Magni Bronzebeard. The pendant absorbs Azerite, a rock-like mineral that crystallizes around fissures in the ground; it’s the very lifeblood of Azeroth made stone. Goodness knows how that started bubbling to the surface.
Here's how the process actually works from a gameplay point of view:
- Any Azerite picked up is automatically absorbed into your Heart of Azeroth, levelling it up.
- At certain level thresholds, your Heart of Azeroth empowers your helm, shoulders and boots with new powers.
- These powers are selected from tiers of a wheel, as seen above. All the choices on the same tier should be for similar situations, meaning you're never choosing between utility and damage, for example.
- Each item that can be empowered has specially selected powers, rather than anything being dependent on RNG, and the higher the ilevel, the stronger those powers.
- These items cannot Titanforge, to avoid things getting too complex and aid with balancing. Ilevel differences will purely come down to which difficulty of a dungeon or raid the item was acquired on.
- Respeccing these is a consideration, but not yet decided.
The important distinction here is at no point are you set back by your choice of where to invest. Your Heart of Azeroth is always the same level no matter which gear you have equipped or which spec you're in.
New races will be joining each faction, with six confirmed so far. They are:
- Lightforged Draenei
- Void Elves
- Dark Iron Dwarves
- Kul'Tiran Humans
- Highmountain Tauren
- Zandalari Trolls
- Mag'Har Orcs
In addition, datamining also suggests that the new Vulpera race could be playable, too.
Allied Races start at level 20 with their own questlines, then transition into the normal levelling experience - supplemented from patch 7.3.5 onwards with scaling. Getting an Allied Race character to max level will unlock a 'heritage' armour set unique to that race.
The first two on each list there are factions we initially encountered in Legion, and the you can unlock them will happen during the end of Legion, rather than waiting for Battle for Azeroth, provided you pre-order. If you've been playing Legion regularly then chances are you already have all the prerequisites unlocked for the Allied Races, which involve having Exalted reputations with factions from Legion’s storyline and finishing most of the expansion's major quests. As for the others, Dark Iron Dwarves and Mag'Har Orcs will be unlocked at launch, while the others will be unlocked during the Battle for Azeroth storyline.
If you don't want to level a new Allied Race character they will be available through the race change service. It is also fully intended that this system will be expanded to include more Allied Races - there have been plenty over the course of WoW's existence - and likely soon. We'd expect at least a couple added in patches for Battle for Azeroth, and if the system proves successful and repeatable, more in expansions going forward.
For more information, take a look at our WoW Allied Races guide.
Island Expeditions are three-player scenarios that are designed for any type of team composition - feel free to head in as a trio of tanks or healers, though it may not be as efficient. The goal is to obtain some Azerite for both you and your faction, and the whole thing should take under 20 minutes.
Essentially they’re mini plundering missions, but with a key difference to typical WoW activities: it’s all created on the fly. It’s not quite random or procedural generation - there are rules to ensure the island you land on tells a ‘story’ with the right combinations of enemies and loot - but it means there’s a vast enough variety to keep things replayable.
They’re also time pressured; the enemy faction has dispatched a team of champions who are also hunting that precious Azerite. Those champions can be AI controlled in normal, heroic, or mythic difficulties, or real players in the PvP version. The NPC versions also have a significant AI boost, with actual intelligence rather than rote patterns and simple aggro.
Battle for Azeroth AI
Highlighted at BlizzCon but not in much detail, BFA brings with it a new AI system, specifically for use in Island Expeditions. The plan is for the enemy team to play much more intelligently than your average mob. Traditionally in WoW an enemy will use its abilities on cooldown, in a set priority, on the target with the highest aggro unless otherwise specifically stated.
These enemies will consider far more options. For example they might crowd control a healer and then attempt to deal massive burst damage to DPS or Tank players. Equally, they may avoid combat altogether, rather than mindlessly railing on you until death, if they determine the fight isn't in their favour or there are better ways to spend their time completing objectives in the scenario.
Warfronts is a 20 person activity that looks back to Warcraft’s RTS days for inspiration. The mode sees each faction build a base, develop an army, and attempt to defeat the enemy in battle. Those core RTS loops will be present and correct here; you’ll head into the world to find resources and claim territory. Lumber and iron will allow you to build new buildings and train units, while claimed territory will increase your tech tree. Said tech tree is modelled closely on the one used in Warcraft 3. Your buildings, such as a barracks, will create AI troops who will march, MOBA creep-like, on the enemy’s base.
A Warfront battle is triggered when a region has stockpiled enough crafting materials. So, for example, if the North American Alliance players have collectively gathered enough resources to launch an attack, they can do so on any Horde Warfront zone. Should the Alliance succeed in attacking the Warfront fortress, special activities and world bosses will be made available. The Horde can reclaim their lost zone, but only once they have stockpiled enough resources.
The first Warfront will be in Arathi Highlands, with further zones being made available as Battle for Azeroth is updated.
Warfronts are PvE only, and are part of the ongoing battles between the Alliance and Horde. They're longer than Island expeditions, expected to take 40+ minutes more akin to a full dungeon. Difficulty, and rewards, are still in development.
Tradition dictates that a new World of Warcraft expansion makes every class in the game feel at least refreshed and rejuvenated, if not shiny and new. Battle for Azeroth has a huge list of changes, the full set of which you can find over in Wowhead’s extensive data mining excavations. The biggest changes to each class can be found below.
- Death Knights have two new abilities: Thoughtsieze and Death’s Advance. The former steals a beneficial magic effect from a target, which can be applied to yourself or a friendly target. The latter makes you immune to slow and resists movement effects.
- Demon Hunters have had many of their talents revamped, while some have been removed and replaced with new ones. Among new talents are Cycle of Hatred, which refunds Fury when using Chaos Strike, and Immolation Aura that causes fire damage to enemies within eight yards. Blade Turning, Prepared, and Fel Barrage have all been removed, along with others.
- Druids have access to Hibernate and Sooth once more, while Frenzied Regeneration has an increased recharge time and Tiger Dash now requires level 30 and has a reduced cooldown.
- Hunters can use Tranquilizing Shot again. All three specializations have been dramatically revamped, with many new talents, changes, or removals.
- Mages’ Arcane Intellect has returned, a talent that increases an ally’s intelect by 5% for one hour.
- Monk specialization Windwalker has several new talents, while the Brewmaster’s Stagger talent has had its effectiveness reduced by half.
- Paladins now have increased cooldowns for both Divine Steed and Blessing of Freedom.
- Priests have regained the Power Word: Fortitude spell. Several talents have swapped tiers. Most importantly, though, Surrender to Madness is no longer fatal. Instead you take damage equal to 90% of your max health, and can no longer generate Insanity for 30 seconds.
- Rogues have suffered nerds to Cloak of Shadows and Feint. Poison Bomb makes a return, and there are many new talents.
- Shamans can use Tremor Totem once more.
- Warlocks have many new talents, and Life Tap has been changed to grant a Soul Shard and be subject to a cooldown.
- Warriors have a general scattering of talent changes, including new skills such as Deep Wounds, which causes Mortal Strike and Execute to inflict Deep Wounds that cause bleed damage over three seconds.
World of Warcraft: Battle for Azeroth pet changes
If you are a hunter, be prepared for some big changes to your pets: the idea of tank or DPS creatures is being scrapped completely. Instead pets will be specced into both Ferocity and Tenacity, allowing them to fulfil all forms of pet duties, no matter their family. By default, every pet will have all offensive and defensive passive abilities, such as Blood of the Rhino and Combat Training.
The broad categories of Ferocity, Tenacity, and Cunning will be maintained, and each has a new passive and active ability designed to be useful in any situation. Pet families without unique special abilities will finally receive one, and exotics will gain new abilities too.
Battle Res for pets is being completely removed, eliminating pet resurrection from a Hunter’s tool kit, while Bloodlust will be available to a third of pet families rather than just two.
World of Warcraft: Battle for Azeroth profession skill changes
The new expansion is squishing profession skills. Difficulty levels for each profession are being reduced right down to 100, with everything relating to these skills scaling with it. This means that the maximum potential skill level will now be 100.
Professions are receiving numerous tweaks and new items, all of which can be seen in Wowhead’s extensive datamine. The highlights of the new additions can be see below.
- Alchemists are able to brew new potions and elixirs, including the Elixir of Replenishment, which grants the user’s helpful spells the potential to cast a short heal-over-time buff in addition to the main effect.
- Blacksmiths can forge the Khaz'gorian Hammer, which allows the user to repair all equipment instantaneously, as well as potentially imbue a smithed armour piece or weapon with the “indestructible” property.
- Enchanters have a long list of new weapon enchants with a wide variety of buffs, but most interesting is a new glove enchantment that increases the speed of your Hearthstone cast, crafting of expansion items, and gathering.
- Engineers can produce some really fun stuff, largely comprised of utility bombs and other items that do special damage. More curious is the Interdemensional Companion Repository, which is great for hunters as it summons a temporary Stable Master for two minutes.
- Scribes can create Contracts which allows you to gain reputation with a faction every time you complete a relevant world quest. Some contracts summon followers to aid you.
- Leatherworkers can craft a new scuba suit that allows you to breathe underwater and increases your swim sweet by 100% for 15 minutes.
- Tailors are able to craft new Battle Flags that can reduce damage and CC and increase mount speed. There are also new 30 and 32 slot bags, and a hot air balloon.
World of Warcraft: Battle for Azeroth system requirements
Battle for Azeroth's system requirements are a touch higher than previous WoW expansions due to an introduction of more intensive tech.
CPU: Intel Core i5-760 or AMD FX-8100 or later
RAM: 4 GB
OS: Windows 7 / Windows 8 / Windows 10 64 bit
GPU: Nvidia GeForce GT 560 2GB or AMD Radeon HD 7850 2GB or Intel HD Graphics 530 (45W)
HDD: 70 GB
CPU: Intel Core i7-4770 or AMD FX-8310 or later
RAM: 8 GB
OS: Windows 7 / Windows 8 / Windows 10 64 bit
GPU: Nvidia GeForce GTX 960 or AMD Radeon R9 280 or later
HDD: 70 GB