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 beta phase is expected to start early next year, 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.
World of Warcraft: Battle for Azeroth release date
So far, Blizzard have not provided a release date for Battle of Azeroth. Best guess would put it late on in 2018, either shortly before or shortly after BlizzCon that year - this would be consistent with previous expansions. Blizzard also normally give a release date estimate at some stage, usually around pre-orders opening or large press events.
Some elements of the expansion, such as a preview battleground and level scaling, will begin in the next WoW patch, 7.3.5.
World of Warcraft: Battle for Azeroth beta
This is also thus-far unannounced, though easy to assume from past events. Throughout Legion, Blizzard have always made sure there is a new thing on the test server almost immediately after a patch goes live. The current gap between 7.3.2 and 7.3.5 is one of the largest, but we expect it won't be long after 7.3.5 comes out - which also doesn't have a release date, but will likely be early next year - that the Battle for Azeroth beta begins.
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. If the same pattern was followed, we'd expect to see it in late February.
World of Warcraft: Battle for Azeroth continents
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.
World of Warcraft: Battle for Azeroth allied races
New races join WoW’s roster, including Lightforged draenei, Highmountain tauren, Nightborne, Void elves, Dark Iron dwarves, and Zandalari trolls. After unlocking each race by completing questlines, you’ll be able to play as them by creating a new character. Levelling up a new character will unlock a new Heritage Armor set.
World of Warcraft: Battle for Azeroth Island Expeditions
Island Expeditions are 3-player scenarios that are designed for any type of team composition (feel free to head in as a trio of tanks or healers). 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; your 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.
World of Warcraft: Battle for Azeroth Warfronts
Warfronts is a 20vs20 activity that looks back to Warcraft’s RTS days for inspiration. The mode sees each faction build a base, develop and 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 you enemy’s base
The mode shows the overall progression of the Battle for Azeroth, charting the Horde’s attempts to defend against the Alliance’s advances after destroying the Undercity. The first Warfront that will be available is Stormgarde, with a re-designed zone bespoke for Warfronts.
World of Warcraft: Battle for Azeroth Heart of Azeroth
A key part of your character’s progression will be based around the Heart of Azeroth, a legendary 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. As you can imagine, it can make people very powerful, hence why both factions are desperate to gather it.
Your personal Azerite can be absorbed by your Heart of Azeroth necklace, which has three ‘rings’ that unlock at certain power levels. These rings have buffs that apply to your armour. For example, the first ring will have a small collection of buffs that could apply to your helmet, chest-plate, or boots. Unlock the second ring, and you can apply a more powerful buff to your armour. The trick is deciding which ones to unlock, as different combinations will make sense depending on what your plan for your gear is.
Importantly, there’s no setback if you change your armour. You’ll always progress forward because your necklace will always be upgraded.
World of Warcraft: Battle for Azeroth level cap
The new level cap is 120, and new players can instantly boost to 110.