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The drums of war beat anew. For the first time in 14 years, red-eyed, green-skinned orcs are facing off against pale, fleshy humans.
With the announcement of World of Warcraft’s newest expansion, “Battle for Azeroth,” we see a return to the classic orc-versus-humans formula the Warcraft franchise hasn’t used since the beginning. And the player base couldn’t be happier.
We’ve worked together to keep Sargaras, the leader of the demonic Burning Legion, from entering our realm. Now in this moment of quiet, those ancient enemies, The Horde and The Alliance can look to each other and ask, “Did all that fighting side by side settle our differences?” Spoiler alert: the answer is no.
At the annual Blizzard Conference, BlizzCon, Nov. 3, in Anaheim Blizzard unveiled its cinematic trailer for “World of Warcraft: Battle for Azeroth.” The trailer is beautifully animated and shows an epic siege of the Horde-occupied city of Lordaeron by an Alliance army led by their king Anduin Wrynn. In this trailer we see two of the oldest enemies in gaming history facing off in a way we really haven’t seen since the franchise’s earliest days.
Of the game’s six expansions throughout its 14 -year run, three gave us clear “big bads” that we all had to work together and defeat. This model went starkly against the game’s original design concept, which was all-out war between the Horde, made up of stereotyped-as-evil non-humans—and the Alliance, made up of humans and their slightly shorter friends. In each expansion we got a taste of this racial conflict here and there, but it was not really a focal point save for the latter half of WoW’s fourth expansion, “Mists of Pandaria.”
For many players this divergence from the original concept was a disappointment and is targeted as one cause of the last decade’s mass player exodus.
In what we’ve seen of “Battle for Azeroth” so far, it seems this conflict has been bumped up to 11. We see for the first time since the “vanilla,” unexpanded game, two separate leveling zones for Horde and Alliance, making any notion of cooperation impossible. We’re also getting a huge revamp to how player-versus-player interactions will be handled with new game modes highlighting the feature and dedicated servers that will auto-group players who have flagged themselves interested in fighting something more challenging than the game’s AI.
Although this expansion is breaking a lot of new ground, we’ve been assured some of the classic staples of an expansion are occurring as well. This includes a raise to the maximum level and a plethora of new dungeons and raids to explore.
This new chapter in the franchise is looking promising so far. If it can keep up the tight development schedule the company has been exhibiting lately, it may be the saving grace of the constantly shrinking player base.