World of Warcraft: Battle for Azeroth artwork showing off Talanji and Jaina facing off

Throughout my first review for World of Warcraft's Battle for Azeroth expansion I have detailed my thoughts on the leveling experience, story, Azerite Armor, World Quests and Island Expeditions. This time around, however, I will be focusing on Battle for Azeroth's end-game, longevity and some of the major problems Blizzard will have to tackle in the relatively near future.

So if you're wondering what exactly Battle for Azeroth's dungeons and raid have to offer, as well as how did the new Warfront and World PvP features fare, allow me to share my thoughts after spending a rather significant amount of time across various characters, both Horde and Alliance.

World of Warcraft: Battle for Azeroth screenshot of Stormsong Valley

Out of all the content World of Warcraft has ever put out, Mythic Keystone dungeons are by far my favorite. Not only do they offer a simple way to choose just how difficult you want your dungeons to be, but the various modifiers they have tend to create highly unique challenges each and every single week. Sometimes it's the 'trash' enemies that are going to give you the most trouble, other times the bosses are going to be monstrously powerful and you'll need to squeeze out every bit of DPS you can, and occasionally you'll even end up in a situation where mobility is far more important than anything else. But whatever these modifiers may be, I've always found the experience to be a boatload of fun!

While Battle for Azeroth's dungeons differ in appearance and encounters from their Legion counterparts, the overarching system is pretty much exactly the same. They all feature some lovely visuals and interesting locations to explore, as well as variety of unique fights that can become deliciously tricky when running higher Mythic Keystones. Some of them make very little sense from a lore standpoint given that the Horde and Alliance don't share the same storyline, but that's a minor complaint given that you'll be doing these dungeons long past the point where their story holds any mystery to you. 

There is one problem I have with the new dungeons, however, and that is the overabundance of 'trash' encounters. Having a couple of difficult fights before a boss is perfectly okay in my book, especially if they teach you how to avoid the boss' attacks, but some dungeons like the Motherload simply go overboard by plastering the entire region with fairly similar enemies. This not only makes it so you have to spend an unusually large chunk of time per each dungeon run, but it also makes it incredibly easy to pull vast amounts of additional enemies if you ever deviate slightly from the team's route. Once again, punishing mistakes I'm completely okay with, but some dungeons really do take things to the extreme with the number and placement of enemies. 

It's a relatively small complaint in the grand scheme of things, I'm aware, but it's just one of those things I'm not a fan of because it feels like a needless waste of time. After all, the dungeons are good enough on their own that I'll gladly do them multiple times, so why pad some of them out with unnecessary encounters? 

World of Warcraft: Battle for Azeroth screenshot of the skeletal Rezan boss

Two Troll dungeons and a Troll raid in the near future? Sounds good to me!

Similarly, I have almost nothing but praise for Uldir - the only currently available raid. Much like the Mythic Keystone dungeons above, the Uldir raid has brought in very little in terms of innovation over its Legion predecessors, but what it does offer is a highly polished and thoroughly enjoyable raiding experience. So if you've ever raided in World of Warcraft and thought to yourself, "you know, I could do with more of that", Battle for Azeroth seems like it's going to provide you with exactly what you're asking for - more of the same type of raids, though with some new mechanics, boss designs and a bit of extra polish. 

I choose to go through Uldir entirely with pick-up groups, something that many of you will likely shake your heads at, but whether it was by pure luck or by incredible skill we've managed to go through it with remarkably few problems. There were some fights where we needed to 'cheat' and look up an online guide, though for the most part we've managed to figure out what to do by just reading the boss descriptions in-game and then trying out a couple of different strategies. Was it the most optimal way of finishing the raid? Definitely not, but it certainly was the most thrilling one! 

As far as problems are concerned, I don't have anything to complain about Uldir itself. There were some bugs here and there, but nothing major enough that it would ruin our evening. What I do feel the need to criticize is that the Alliance barely get an introduction to the raid before being thrown in to fight against bosses they know almost nothing about. On the other hand, the Horde gets numerous zones and large quest chains describing what's happening with the main bad guys, so by the time you get there you really want to beat up the final bosses! Again, it's an incredibly small complaint and one that most people won't care about, but as someone that loves the World of Warcraft lore it's a bit disappointing to see such a divide between the faction storylines. 

World of Warcraft: Battle for Azeroth screenshot from the Uldir raid

As is tradition, World of Warcraft's raids continue to impress

While I might be a minority on that front, it would appear that I am quite firmly in the majority when it comes to being disappointed with how one of Battle for Azeroth's main features ended up turning out. On paper, Warfronts are one of the most amazing things World of Warcraft has ever added - a Warcraft 3 styled battle where the forces of the Horde and Alliance square off in order to see who will control some of the most famous and beloved zones in the entire game. 

To win you need to enlist the help of classic Warcraft 3 units like Wolfriders or Riflemen, create machines or war to destroy your enemy's base, as well as collect wood and metal in order to upgrade your own base and acquire various upgrades. When I first heard about all of this it sounded like Warfronts will be a massive, massive improvement over all current Battlegrounds - something that would even put Alterac Valley to shame with its scope, interactivity and the amount of available tactics. It appeared to be the perfect blend of nostalgia and strategy, as well as a worthy followup to the whole Alliance vs Horde conflict the pre-expansion storylines were building up.

In reality, what we got is a glorified PvE scenario with the difficulty turned all the way down to "baby's first dungeon". And yes, you heard that right - Player versus Environment! Despite the name of the expansion being Battle for Azeroth, its defining feature does absolutely nothing to facilitate the whole faction war. Sure, you fight against NPCs dressed up as Horde or Alliance soldiers, but since everything is made so it can be beaten with a couple of people while the rest wonder around aimlessly, there is never any real tension or fear that your faction might lose. As long as you and a couple of other players are sentient, you can easily beat the enemy faction and claim a new region... in order to do basically nothing of interest with it!

World of Warcraft: Battle for Azeroth screenshot of the Arathi Warfront

With just a bit more polish the Arathi Warfront could've been spectacular

Even though I would love to say that's my biggest issue with the Warfronts as low difficulty is something that can be fixed, I'm afraid things do indeed get worse. You see, you aren't able to queue into a Warfront and collect some gear whenever you want, but instead you can only queue for it for a couple of days every few weeks. The rest is spent either waiting for the other faction to take control of your lands without you ever being able to do anything about it, or just waiting until you hit an arbitrary amount of materials donated after which you'll be able to once again enter the Warfront.  

There is a pretty good chance the whole system will end up working out much better once the upcoming Darkshore Warfront goes live as there will be two Warfronts in the cycle, but until then the Arathi Warfront and everything surrounding it are a bit of a frustrating mess. And honestly, it really pains me to say that because I had high hopes for the system, so I genuinely do hope Blizzard will manage to turn the Warfronts around and make them live up to their true potential. After all, if the expansion is to be called Battle for Azeroth, how about we actually get some proper battles going?

World of Warcraft: Battle for Azeroth screenshot of the Arathi Warfront

A new Warfront is coming soon, and hopefully it will show that Blizzard has heard the community feedback loud and clear

The Arathi Warfront may have ended up being a disappointment, but thankfully the actual PvP has been greatly improved, the various balance issues aside. When it comes to Arena and Battlegrounds things are pretty much exactly the same as they were in Legion, though the acquisition of new gear has both improved and regressed at the same time. What I mean by this is that you seem to receive more gear than before, but pretty much all of it is in the hands of pure randomness, which means that completing entire PvP sets could take your a great deal of time should you ever hit a streak of bad luck. It's not too big of a problem as item quality has a much lower impact than it did in any previous expansion due to built-in scaling, but it's still one of those things I'd love too see improved as collecting cool gear is half the fun of ranked PvP.

Where the Battle for Azeroth PvP truly shines, however, is in the open world! Not since the glory days of Tarren Mill vs Southshore have I seen World of Warcraft's zones this lively, and all of it is thanks to the newly implemented World PvP toggle. While a completely simple feature at heart, the toggle filters people who aren't interested in any sort of PvP, thus leaving only players that enjoy the occasional raid on enemy towns, fighting during quests, or even just polymorphing each other for the hell of it. 

Funnily enough, for me the best part of this World PvP feature is that you can turn it off whenever you want, as long as you're willing to visit Orgrimmar or Stormwind anyway. So if you ever start getting tired of the endless ganking and just want to do a couple of quests in peace, you can easily transfer yourself into PvE mode and do just that - something that simply wasn't possible before if you were on a purely PvP server like I was. 

Because of this, I never really got tired of World PvP in Battle for Azeroth, and given the amount of PvP raid groups currently active in the Group Finder, it would appear that a lot of other people share my sentiment as well! The end result is that World PvP is now once again the mysterious and unpredictable beast it once was, without actually being to the detriment of people that just want to play in peace. A true win-win situation! 

World of Warcraft: Battle for Azeroth official artwork showing a footman and grunt

The quests might not show it, but Battle for Azeroth has definitely revived faction rivalry

While unrelated to the actual endgame or most of the new features, the one final aspect of Battle for Azeroth I feel the need to discuss are the Allied Races. While they have pretty much no impact on the overall gameplay, I consider their addition to be one of the best moves Blizzard has done in years. Not only have they finally offered players a chance to experience some of the more unique and interesting races from the Warcraft world, but they're also an excellent way of keeping players engaged through some of the longer content droughts as a brand new race is exactly the sort of spice people need to keep the leveling experience from becoming too stale.

In fact, they are such an amazing new feature that I am genuinely upset Blizzard has walled them off behind lengthy reputation grinds. For example, I recently wanted to create a Lightforged Draenei Paladin in order to check out the class, only to be met with a minimum of 20-30 days of grinding through old and irrelevant content, all because I made the massive 'mistake' of not playing World of Warcraft for a couple of months towards the end of Legion. And what happens in the future once Battle for Azeroth has run its course? Will new or returning players need to grind out even more obscure reputations in order to unlock the races they actually care about?

In a way, the Allied Races perfectly encapsulate my thoughts on Battle for Azeroth. They are an outstanding addition that can easily freshen up the whole experience and give players hours of enjoyment, but they have been implemented with a critical flaw that constantly holds them back. And so, much like some of the elements I mentioned above, I can only hope Blizzard will realize where the problems are and just give players access to the new races after simply finishing their storyline and the recruitment scenario. To ask for anything else is just unnecessary, especially when that requirements force players to do ancient content they outlevel quite heavily.

World of Warcraft: Battle for Azeroth screenshot of the Horde Allied Races

Personally, I can't wait to finally get my hands on a Zandalari Druid!

Closing Thoughts

If the Legion expansion could be described as World of Warcraft taking two steps forward and one step back, then I would say that Battle for Azeroth represents a sort of frenzied tap dance. The leveling experience, the storytelling, the dungeons and the raid - all of it is highly entertaining and easily some of the best work Blizzard has done in years. On the other hand, the side-attractions like the Azerite Armor, Island Expeditions and Warfronts have all fallen so woefully short of their goals that they are almost nonexistent in-game, and that is a big problem Blizzard will need to solve if Battle for Azeroth is to have Legion's longevity. 

So while I fully recommend you check out Battle for Azeroth, especially if you plan on leveling both a Horde and Alliance character, I would advise doing so in about a month as the massive Patch 8.1 - Tides of Vengeance will be arriving around that time, bringing with it some positive changes to many of the systems I criticized throughout my two reviews. Whether it will successfully fix all of the problems, that remains to be seen, but I would still say that Battle for Azeroth is an expansion well worth playing, even with all of its flaws.

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