WoW Dragonflight alpha preview – The new life World of Warcraft needs

The next WoW expansion, World of Warcraft Dragonflight, releases in alpha on July 14, and we were able to preview the next chapter of Blizzard's MMO in advance

world of warcraft wow ragonflight alpha preview dracthyr flying on blue dragon in azure span

As the curtains fall on the highly divisive World of Warcraft Shadowlands expansion, WoW Dragonflight looks to be the saving grace the franchise sorely needs. Here are our thoughts from our alpha preview of the game.

I haven’t exactly been given many reasons to dive into World of Warcraft of late. Burned by the chaos of Shadowlands and still reeling over the fact my all-time favorite antagonist, Sylvanas Windrunner, has been sent packing to The Maw for narrative decisions she had no control over, diving back into Azeroth hasn’t been too high on my to-do list.

WoW Dragonflight, though, certainly piqued my interest. With another longtime favorite of mine, Alexstrasza, making a dramatic return and the all-new Dracthyr class letting me live out my dragon fantasy, there’s a lot to be excited about.

While many have treated the Dragonflight announcement with some scepticism (after all, WoW has a longstanding history of gameplay that doesn’t quite match the grandeur of their cinematic trailers) our adventures in the alpha (our build is slightly different from the one that is now live) have left me with a renewed sense of vigour; contrasting entirely with the hangover of hopelessness that ensued in the wake of Shadowlands.

world of warcraft wow dragonflight alexstrasza indragon form in waking shores

Wait, you can play as a dragon?

Once upon a time when I was young, I wanted to be a dragon. Dentistry? Nah. Law? Boring. A dragon was what I was going to be when I grew up.

While, unfortunately, that’s not exactly possible in real life, in WoW Dragonflight it is. The all-new Dracthyr are a gorgeous-looking race, with a whole slew of customisation options to truly let you show off your personality.

You have free rein over both your dragon form and human form’s appearances, and can tailor every little detail to suit you. From the tips of your horns to the claws on your feet; there’s so much to discover.

After you’ve spent an hour or so in the character creator you’re thrust into the spectacular world of the Azure Span with all of your Evoker abilities to hand. Given that the Evoker is WoW’s first attempt at a mid-range class, it takes a bit of getting used to. Your range isn’t as far as a mage, but melee combat isn’t quite what you’re gunning for either – not that your enemies care.

The new ‘charged’ abilities also take practice, as we’ve never seen anything like them in WoW. I’ll admit I kept cancelling them or holding them in for too long, but once you get to grips with them they add a new element to fighting, making the Dracthyr one of the game’s most dynamic races to date.

Young Lauren’s dreams have finally come true; I get to be a dragon, and boy does it feel amazing.

world of warcraft wow dragonflight female dracthyr customization screen character select

Dragonriding is the best pastime

The Azure Span is a beautiful, crystalline paradise, but there’s no better way to see it in all its glory than by Dragonriding. A new feature unique to Dragonflight and its respective zones, you’ll be able to customise your own scaly companion and soar through the skies of the Dragon Isles.

Not only that, you can pull off some pretty impressive tricks. Barrel roll through the air, plummet down to earth and pull back at the last minute – it vaguely reminds me of that level in Spyro: Year of the Dragon where you went skateboarding. Difference is, you’re Spyro and the skateboard is a very large dragon.

I can’t explain how much fun the system is, and advocate that you test it out from the get go. It’s new, innovative, and just plain enjoyable – something we haven’t seen in WoW for far too long.

world of warcraft wow dragonflight kalecgos in azure span

A snow-capped surprise

Something we also haven’t seen for a while are fantasy-style zones bursting with wonder, magic, and mystery. While the alpha only includes the Azure Span (the game’s third major zone), it’s enough to get you hooked.

Channelling the majesty of Zandalar and the fresh feel of Pandaria, the Dragon Isles are absolutely gorgeous. Bursting with flora and fauna, this place feels otherworldly yet inviting, unlike the desolate plains of The Maw.

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Spending hours exploring its secrets doesn’t feel like a chore, in fact, it’s the opposite. You want to traverse these gorgeous landscapes. You want to meet the inhabitants.

And this is only one of the zones. There are four more (and a possible fifth by the looks of it), and if they’re anything like this one, they’ll be equally as spectacular.

world of warcraft wow dragonflight female dracthyr looks up at tower and kalecgos flying overhead

Is he okay?

During my travels I haven’t noticed too many bugs or glitches. Spells cast well, I haven’t gotten stuck on anything, and everything feels very refined.

Quests begin and end as they should, NPCs behave well enough; there’s a sense of polish with Dragonflight that I think has been missing not just from previous expansion tests, but from WoW as a whole.

I only encountered one bug of a random, shirtless NPC just chilling in mid air at the heart of the Azure Span’s rather impressive tower. While I hope he doesn’t take a step in the wrong direction (or any direction, really), it’s a minor inconvenience (as well as a good giggle) in a wonderfully crafted world.

world of warcraft dragonflight bug in azure span alpha preview

Everything about Dragonflight feels unique. A lot of love and care has gone into creating a world that resonates with the Azeroth of old – the Azeroth we’ve been yearning to revisit.

Gone are the cobwebs and the creepy, replaced by luscious foliage and a truly gorgeous world. As we draw ever closer to release, I can’t wait to explore all the the Dragon Isles has to offer.