World of Warcraft: Battle for Azeroth
Blizzard's upcoming expansion for World of Warcraft hits on August 14, and I had a chance to dive in and play some of the coolest new PVE and PVP content coming to this expansion - things that make it fresh, alongside all the favorite activities players have come to know and love over the years like dungeons, raids, quests, and more.
First, one of the major shifts is the removal of PVP servers. There are going to be only two different server types - standard and RP (role-playing). But world PVP is far from dead, in fact Battle for Azeroth incentivizes and refines the classic world PVP experience. Players can opt in to being flagged for war in any capital city, and when they go out into the world after that, they'll be on a shard with players who have also opted in for world PVP.
There are obviously additional risks while flagged for battle. But there are also additional rewards. Players earn more experience and additional rewards while doing the same activities they would normally do while flagged, and they can also participate in cool zone activities like "supply drops" that will fall into zones from above. These stashes of loot and other goodies capture the attention of a wide area, but provide something cool and rewarding to fight over.
One of the major new components of the expansion are island expeditions. These are class-agnostic, essentially mini-dungeon experiences for three-person teams. You don't need to wait around for a tank and a healer, any class/race can dive in and explore. The instanced islands are a competitive team experience that tasks each side, Alliance or Horde, to be the first to hit 6,000 azerite. You can experience the islands in several ways. If you queue up for a dungeon-style PVE experience, you can select your difficulty mode and face off against what Blizzard is calling "advanced A.I." teams. These teams are cool archetypal groups that behave much differently than simply attacking the player, depending on the situation.
They play to win, just as players do, and have interesting and varied units that fall outside the traditional classes that players can pick from. For example, the stealthy Sneaky Pete on a pirate team composition is a brash rogue that will wait for your team to get an enemy down to low health - then pop out to steal the kill (and the azerite!) before vanishing back into the shadows. Or perhaps you face down a team of goblin engineers, led by a massive mechanized shredder and laser beams. Whatever you are up against, they have way more abilities and skills than traditional opponents, and are designed to use them in competitive ways that go behind simply smashing into players with standard attacks.
Alternatively, you can also queue up for the island expedition experience against other players for a truly competitive PVE/PVP experience.
I was initially fairly skeptical of the idea that I'd find island content all that entertaining, but after running several of them I'm hooked and can't wait to go back over and over. Every island is different.The randomized elements on each run make the experience far more engaging than running the same dungeon over and over. You never really know what to expect when you land on the shores of the islands, from the weird little items you can find dotting the landscape like shells, pumpkins, or other single-use consumables to weird rare monsters and elites, to quests like saving trapped folks in cages or plants. The added danger of the opposing team's presence - who is also trying to win - makes the entire experience quite a bit more engaging than a by-the-book dungeon.
Not only are the creatures, items, and encounters different every time, but random events also create fun situations during the middle of a run. Maybe you wake up a horrible worm that was hiding under the ground while trying to take out a crazy kobold. Perhaps a snowstorm starts out of nowhere, bringing treasure caches and ice elementals all over the island. Or maybe you just end up locked in combat with the opposing team in the middle of the island for a good old-fashioned brawl. The 20-30 minute experience of island adventure gives those that love doing fun group stuff an option that's easy to get into and always different, so you won't have to keep running the same dungeon over and over to get your fix, and I can't wait to see all the different situations that can come up on a run.