Warcraft: Battle for Azeroth launches on August 14th, raising the level cap to 120 and launching the Horde and Alliance into a new conflict that will change the world as we know it. Introducing two new areas: Kul Tiras and Zandalar, as well as eight new allied races, Battle for Azeroth is set to shake up old allegiances and plunge Azeroth into a new arms race to decide who will shape its future.
With new armor systems, and gameplay in the form of Warfronts and Island Expeditions, as well as a reshaping of Warcraft’s PvP and leveling systems, we recap everything you need to know about the new content and changes coming to World of Warcraft.
Spoiler warning: This article contains spoilers for Warcraft: Battle for Azeroth content.
Kul Tiras: Tiragarde Sound, Drustvar, Stormsong Valley
One of Battle for Azeroth‘s two new areas, Kul Tiras is an old human nation with a strong naval tradition. Home of Jaina Proudmoore, the island withdrew from worldly politics after the Third War and the death of Jaina’s father, Daelin, at Theramore. Today it is led by Jaina’s mother, Grand Admiral Katherine Proudmoore, but its people have not forgiven Jaina’s betrayal.
The island is ruled by four noble houses: Waycrest, Stormsong, Ashvane, and Proudmoore, who are seen in Blizzard’s latest comic: Reunion, focusing on Jaina’s journey home. In game, Kul Tiras will be made up of three zones: Tiragarde Sound, Drustvar, and Stormsong Valley.
Stormsong Valley is home to one of Kul Tiras’ greatest naval ports, where ships are blessed by the priests of the sea. The land is dark, filled with misty forests, silent lakes, green fields and distant mountains. Like the haunted shores, Kul Tirans have their own style of strange magic, from Sea Priests and Tidesages to the darker druidic and witchy magics of the Drust: the old inhabitants of Drustvar.
In Drustvar today, the old race of the Drust wander the earth as spirits, but their magic has shaped the land and its people, and power lies hidden in ancient barrows and hallowed clearings. Wicker beasts stalk the woods, and the creatures of the forest are bewitched as though a curse lies over the land itself.
Elsewhere, in Tiragarde Sound, Kul Tiras lies besieged by pirates, including the capital city of Boralus. Strange beasts from the sea lurk in the waters of the merchant’s coves, and the pirates fill their hulls with gold and treasure. Much of Kul Tiras’ former glory has been lost to the beasts that prey on the land, but much stands to be regained with the aid of the Alliance.
Zandalar: Zuldazar, Nazmir, Vol’dun
The second new area is Zandalar, an island in the South Seas, and home to the Zandalari trolls. It is the cradle of troll civilization and the seat of the Zandalari Empire, but after being thrown into chaos by the effects of the Cataclysm the trolls now seek new alliances. The island is in a state of civil war between King Rastakhan and the Prophet Zul, and is under constant threat from the blood trolls who also call the island their home. Zandalar is divided into Zuldazar, Nasmir, and Vol’dun.
Zuldazar is the capital, ruled over by King Rastakhan and Princess Talanji, it is an ancient temple nestled in the heart of a great jungle, yet old magics stir within its walls and the dead have grown restless in their tombs.
Beyond, in the land of Nazmir, the jungle gives way to salt marshes. Dinosaurs walk the earth and soar beneath a blood moon, for Nazmir is also the home of the blood trolls who have their own plans set in motion. Alongside the old gods, there are also the Loa, the living gods of the Zandalari who manifest themselves and hold sway over the land.
Last, Voldun is a land turned to dust long ago by the battles of the Old Gods. Today it is a desert, filled with criminals banished from Zandalar, and the strange creatures that live amongst the sand dunes. It is also home to two new races, the Vulpera, fox-like humanoids, and the Sethrak, snake-humanoids, both a people lost beyond the sands of time, and possible allies to the growing Horde.
Alongside the two new areas, Battle for Azeroth is also taking inspiration from Black Flag by letting players set sail for distant islands to hunt down azerite: a new resource vital to the Horde/Alliance arms race. These replayable expeditions involve sailing for new lands, searching for treasure, and battling rare monsters. Island systems are designed not to stay static, meaning the islands change with every visit, from different creatures spawning, to items, to new quest givers, as well as randomly occurring events.
To make it even more of a challenge, these islands are also introducing Horde and Alliance ‘Advanced NPCs’ with buffed abilities and smarter AIs than your average trash mob, who should prove more formidable opponents in your quest for azerite.
The islands range from frozen wastes off the coast of Northrend, to shrouded forests hiding Gilnean castles, or even tropical archipelagos home to naga, elementals, and all manner of new monsters. Island expeditions will have four difficulty options: Normal, Heroic, Mythic, and a PvP mode where you race against three other players to get the azerite first.
Azerite and Armor Upgrades
Replacing the Artifact Weapon system, players will now be upgrading their armor using the Heart of Azeroth: a legendary necklace bestowed upon us by Magni Bronzebeard. The necklace feeds off of azerite, and the more of it you gather the more powerful your armor can become.
Different armor has different latent properties, and as you unlock each ring, or level, of upgrades you can customize your armor to your own playstyle with various improvements, buffs, and traits.
New PvE Mode ‘Warfronts’
Inspired by Warcraft’s Real-Time Strategy roots, Warfronts will send players to the frontlines of a 20-man co-op battle against enemy NPCs. Players lay claim to strategic outposts, collect resources, build up armies, and siege the enemy strongholds – like the olden days of Alterac Valley combined with the Garrison system into a cooperative PvE.
Each week one faction will claim victory in the warfront, and unlock special world bosses, quests, and gear. The first warfront will take place at Stromgarde Keep in the Arathi Highlands, and should prove to be an interesting new game mode outside of the usual raids and battlegrounds.
A Scaling Leveling System
As of patch 7.3.5. released in January in preparation for the new expansion, mobs, quests, and dungeons across Azeroth now scale with your level, allowing you to travel and train in (almost) any zone right from the start. Most vanilla areas can scale from level 10-60, with end-game zones such as the Burning Steppes scaling from 40-60, so you have the freedom to train throughout the world, but without losing the world’s narrative logic (you can’t just show up and take on Molten Core from the get go), or the sense of challenge from fighting bigger, badder enemies.
The zones of each expansion generally scale to their original difficulties, with Outland and Northrend running from 60-80, Pandaria and Cataclysm zones building to 90, and Warlords of Draenor and Legion content from 100-110.
It’s a system designed to make the world feel less rigid in its progression, and give players leave to adventure in a way that lets them follow their curiosity, exploring and uncovering the world in a way that still makes sense to their own story. Of course, from the start of Battle for Azeroth you’ll be able to boost a character up to level 110 and play up to the new level cap of 120.
A New Approach to PvP
PvP servers are no more. With Battle for Azeroth’s focus on Horde vs Alliance, Blizzard have updated Warcraft’s long-standing PvP system for a new, revamped model. Rules for PvP are now the same across all of Warcraft’s servers, acting as an opt-in system where you can flag yourself for PvP combat – but not quite like before.
Players can now only flag themselves for PvP when they are within a capital city, meaning before you venture out to quest you will have to decide how you want to play. Opting in means you will be instanced in with other players across Warcraft’s servers who have also flagged for PvP, and experience all the usual joys of ganking and corpse camping.
Battle for Azeroth will also see a new battleground: The Seething Shore off the coast of Silithus, where players will fight over sources of azerite, in addition to the Island Expedition PvP opportunities, and new Brawl PvP modes coming to the game.
New Allied Races
Finally, Battle for Azeroth introduces eight new allied races, but to start playing you must first unlock them by doing quests and grinding reputation with the relevant sub-faction, and follow the story of how the new race fits into the Battle for Azeroth.
Each race has their own unique mounts, heirloom armor, and will from level 20. Four new allied races are already unlockable for players who own Battle for Azeroth, whilst the Dark Iron Dwarves and Mag’har Orcs require you to complete the 8.0 war campaign, and Kul Tiran Humans and Zandalari Trolls are planned for the future.
Highmountain Tauren: An ancient tribe of Tauren descended from Huln are departing from their sacred mountain home to rejoin their Tauren brothers. The Highmountain Tauren honor the spirits of earth, river, and sky, and have unique druid forms and shaman totems.
Lightforged Draenei: With the return of the Army of Light from Argus, the Lightforged Draenei are joining the battle to defend Azeroth and relieve it from corruption. Imbued with the very essence of Holy Light, these Draenei are natural healers and slayers of demons.
Nightborne: Locked away since The War of the Ancients in Suramar: a city of unending night, these elves have been transformed into dark beings through the power of the Nightwell. Released after the events of Argus, the Nightborne now seek a place in the world alongside their Blood Elf sisters and the Horde.
Void Elves: Discovered by Alleria Windrunner, this sect of elves seek to use the dark powers of the Void to aid the Alliance and bring peace to Azeroth. Much is yet unknown about the Void, whispering in the elves’ minds and turning them to shadow, but under the guidance of Alleria the Void Elves may come to control their power.
Dark Iron Dwarves: Once servants to Ragnaros, the Dark Iron Dwarves found a foothold in Ironforge after Moira’s return and the forging of the Council of Three Hammers. However, many Dark Irons still exist beyond the reaches of the Dwarven city, and seeing their clan united on behalf of the Alliance could prove vital in the race for azerite.
Mag’har Orcs: The Mag’har, or ‘uncorrupted’, Orcs were those who rejected Gul’dan’s gift of power. Now returning from Draenor after the fall of Hellfire Citadel, these Orcs have pledged themselves to aid the Horde as Hunters, and stand ready to reclaim the glory of their shared ancestors.
The final two allied races are not currently available to unlock, but as the story of Battle for Azeroth progresses we’re sure to learn more about the Humans of Kul Tiras, and the Trolls of Zandalar.
What we know so far is that the Kul Tirans are a hardy people with an affinity and religious wonder for the sea, but who also have a history with the people of the Drust: now spirits, druids, and witches wielding eldritch power, we’re sure to see a mix of warriors, cult-like priests, and ancient magics going into the creation of Kul Tirans as a playable race.
Meanwhile, the Zandalari Trolls are perhaps the oldest race of trolls on Azeroth, standing upright, they worship ancient gods known as the Loa and have an affinity for shamanistic and druidic magics.
While we don’t know much, both the Kul Tirans and Zandalari have some unique druid forms confirmed, with Kul Tiras druids transforming into fearsome wicker beasts, and Zandalari Trolls turning into dinosaurs.
A War with Everything at Stake
Beyond the tides of Kul Tiras and the jungles of Zandalar, forces are moving across Azeroth like never before. It’s clear that Battle for Azeroth will be tracing a war between the Horde and Alliance that will wreak destruction throughout the land.
With the Battle for Lordaeron and the Burning of Teldrassil, Warcraft’s main players are set to take the spotlight in this expansion, with consequences that will shape the world of every player. We’ll be recapping the lore behind Warcraft: Battle for Azeroth in a coming article, but until then you can enjoy the comics, books, and cinematics Blizzard have been releasing in anticipation of the coming war.