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World of Warcraft: Dragonflight (PC) Review

January 2, 2023 | Posted by Marc Morrison
World of Warcraft: Dragonflight Image Credit: Activision Blizzard
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World of Warcraft: Dragonflight (PC) Review  

At this point, World of Warcraft is old enough to be legally allowed to vote. Yes, the game is now officially 18 years old, with expansions generally hitting every two years or so. The latest expansion, Dragonflight, has been out for a while and I have thoughts on it, both good and bad.

Dragonflight’s main setup is two-fold: introduce the new landmass, The Dragon Isles, and introducing the new playable race, The Dracthyr, which are basically dragon/humanoid hybrids. Dragonflight also brings a slew of other changes including bringing back an old system from back in the day.

I’ll be honest, I tend to approach WoW as being into the story and while I haven’t (and can’t/won’t) finished the story campaign by the time this review goes up, I’m still a little lost. The gist is that Neltharion (who is also known as Deathwing) created the Dracthyr but kept them in suspended animation for the past 20,000 years. Now they are awake but without Deathwing to lead them, they are kind of on their own in an Azeroth that is very different than it once was. Also, there’s an evil dragon faction out there who wants to…yeah, I’m not sure what.

Part of the story problem of Dragonflight is I don’t really care what is going on? It’s a matter of diminishing returns, the last expansion, Shadowlands, literally had you battling it out in various heavens and hells with the fate of all life in the balance. Here, with Raszageth as the initial main bad guy, it’s severely underwhelming. She just comes across as an extremist and nutjob over what has happened. The second story problem is, I also don’t care about any of the dragons, wardens, etc., except for Chromie. They do try to make this all seem important and interesting but because most of the actually known/cared about characters are missing, like Jaina, Anduin, Thrall, Baine, etc., this feels like the C-team when it comes to lore. There are some important dragons like Wrathion and Alexstrasza but they don’t have nearly the name recognition as others.

The Dragon Isles are broken up into four different areas: The Azure Span, Ohn’ahran Plains, The Waking Shores and Thaldraszus. There actually is a fifth new zone, The Forbidden Reach, but it’s the Dracthyr starting area and I don’t think regular characters can go there, at least normally.

The Azure Span is a mixture of a frozen land mixed with a deep forest. The Ohn’ahran Plains are a bit like the old Barrens from back in the day, lot of small hills and open spaces, along with a fighting arena nestled in it. The Waking Shores has a slice of nature in the middle of it that is dividing up a huge fortress full of monsters and an area full of lava. Lastly, Thaldraszus is basically a Night Elf looking area that has a small pocket of a desert in the southern part. Thaldraszus is also where the new hub city, Valdrakken is, which is kind of a three-tiered city but is comparably small to almost all other capital cities, except for maybe Dalaran, so that’s nice.

Each zone has a main faction and this is actually where the bulk of the main gameplay is. Azure Span has the Iskaara Tuskarr, the plains has the Maruuk Centaur. Walking Shores has the Dragonscale Expedition, and finally, Thaldraszus is home to the Valdrakken Accord, and guess what city they reside in. There are a bunch of other factions to contend with, like the Walking Shores has a whole Wrathion and Sabellian faction you can grind with.

You can’t actually progress through the primary story campaigns without grinding out these four main factions. Like, you can see some of the story but there are intentional progression gates that block you from going further, tied to reputation grinding. As I write this, I only have 7 of the 9 chapters completed, because to unlock the next chapter, I’d need to be at rank 24 of the Valdrakken Accord and I’m only at rank 20. Somewhat thankfully, this isn’t an exponential grind, like you don’t need more experience with factions to increase your levels, it’s always 2,500 points gets you the next rank up but as you progress through the story, there are certainly less and less ways of getting the huge faction increases, so farming is somewhat required.

After you’ve done all the main quests/side quests in an area the only real way to gain reputation is via daily and weekly quests. There are also zone-wide quests as well but I’ll get into those a bit below.

Something that is added in Dragonflight is actually Dragonriding. A less sexy name for this might be “Using flying mounts but having it be more annoying”, if I’m going to be frank about it. For some reason, which the game never actually explains, you can’t use your regular flying mounts on The Dragon Isles (I’m sure it’ll be patched in later, as usual). Instead, you are given a series of drake mounts to get around with.

The basics of flying involves an energy system. Initially, you only have three charges of energy and just getting into the air takes one of them. You can do kind of a horizontal charge, a vertical ascend, or a very speedy charge, once you gain the right ability. Dragonriding involves a tech tree, that should be your first focus to complete once you get your first mount, since it opens up getting three additional energy charges, letting you replenish energy when diving, restoring energy quicker when you’re on the ground and so on. Unlike with other talent systems, you have to find 48 dragon glyphs that are scattered on the isles, but you just fly into them to collect them.

Here’s the thing, I can see this system being fun for a little while, but who cares? I’m speaking from both a gameplay and aesthetic reason. From a gameplay one, all the mounts are interchangeable. You get 4: red, green, blue, bronze, which correspond with the big four dragon aspects. Why not have the red dragon be an attack one, the blue be defense, the green be healing, the bronze have time travel? Instead, they all do the same thing, making them completely interchangeable.

The aesthetic issue is even more perplexing. One thing they really want you to do is to be able to customize your drake. You can change skin pattern, horns, crest, throat color, jaw, snouts, etc. There’s about a dozen options you can mess with to create a unique one. You gain new options by doing quests, or having them randomly drop in the game. Why is this important at all? It’s not! Like, I don’t care in the slightest what my drake looks like, as long as it can get me from point A to point B. My drake having brown horns vs. yellow horns doesn’t factor in at all in the game.

This is going to sound like a negative but it’s not: this is a really “basic” expansion, in the grand scheme of things. It’s almost a throwback to earlier expansions in a sense, because there really isn’t any kooky or weird systems in place. No covenants (outside of the factions), no Artifact power, no anima, etc. This expansion reminded me of Mists of Pandaria in terms of general setup and execution with not a ton of BS to get in the way.

Speaking of throwbacks, talent trees are back! Well, kind of. They are back only now every class gets two talent trees. The first is a more general class tree: mage, warrior, rogue, etc. The second is the specialization tree: arcane (mage), fury (warrior), assassination (rogue) and so on. You gain a point at every level and by the time you hit max level (70), you’ll have 61 points, since you start getting them at level 10. The points alternate by level, the first is in your class tree, the second in your spec tree, the next in your class tree, so by the end you’ll have 31 points in the class tree and 30 in the specialization tree.

The talents are about what you would expect if you’ve been playing your class long enough. For my mage, things like Slow, Invisibility, Mirror Image and Evocation aren’t baseline talents anymore, you have to put a point in them. Some talents also have ranks, like “Crackling Energy” is a talent that can increase your Arcane Explosion/Blast by 10% but you can put an additional point into it for another 10% damage increase. You can respec your talents and specialization on the fly, no more having to buy the ability to do so, so this gives you a better chance of experimenting. Even if there are already plenty of guides out now that give the optimal build/spec for raiding and such online. While it’s not quite the old talent system from before it’s a damn sight better than the Pandaria one they introduced and kept clinging to for almost a decade.

I mentioned above that there are zone-wide quests and I should get into that a bit. Azure Span, Ohn’ahran Plains and The Waking Shores each has a weekly quest you can participate in. For the plains it is a series of hunting quests for the Centaurs, for the Walking Shores it is assaulting the big fortress and taking it back for the dragons and for the Azure Span, it’s a big soup cook-off. And “No”, I’m not kidding with that last one. Each zone-wide quest operates a bit on a timer, the Dragonbane Keep one is 2 hours, the cook-off is every 3 hours and a half and I think the Grand Hunts are also on 2 hour timers but I’m not sure.

During these events, you are given a series of objectives for you and the local players to accomplish. I’ll use the Community Feast one as an example, it lasts about 15 minutes and has you fulfilling orders from the soup-making chef to tenderize meat (by killing it), throwing loose fish back into the pot, stepping on crabs to give the soup more flavor, stirring the soup, and stopping monsters from attacking it. At the end of it, a big monsters is spawned, depending on how good the soup is, and you and all the other players can kill it. This rewards you with reputation with the Tuskurr faction and a bit of gear/resources as well.

Only, sometimes this didn’t quite work. This isn’t the most stable game in the world, at the moment. At least two times during the Grand Hunt events, the UI for the objectives just wouldn’t show up in the area. You are given 6 tasks to complete, once one is done it shows you where the next job is. Sometimes this didn’t happen though, so I was forced to guess. I had other events break, like the arena fights in the Plains barely working at all, characters wouldn’t acknowledge me finishing a quest occasionally, the game hitching up (especially during the dragon race quests) and so on. The biggest offender was actually launching the game though. I don’t know if it’s Blizzard’s launcher or what but both WoW and Overwatch 2 just had problems *starting* on my computer. I would click WoW’s launch button and nothing would happen. Click it again, nothing. Click it a third time, and a minute later, three instances of WoW would suddenly open up at the same time. At least WoW eventually would work, Overwatch 2 was a total crapshoot on whether or not it would even open at all.

The last big change in Dragonflight is with the profession system. Well, at least some of it, I think archelogy has been forgotten about for the third expansion now. Basically, the professions have a talent system of their own and you can put points into the various trees to give yourself bonuses. These talents, for lack of a better term, can offer things like reduced material cost, unlocking higher-level recipes, unlocking further specializations and so on. You gain points by crafting, generally you get at least one, if you craft something new for the first time. You can also pick up points by completing some quests or just finding points in the world, they randomly show up from time to time.

In addition to the expanded professions, you can also add reagents to your craft items to make them actually viable. Honestly, I never found a ton of this stuff, but you will occasionally get drops that let you boost an item’s power more than what it normally is. So, instead of crafting a robe that only has an item level of 300, you can add the optional reagent to it to get it up to 380, depending on the reagent you use. And “yes” there are ranks of reagents for you to use, they seem to largely only be random drops, or at least I didn’t find the reagent vendor as I played.

The last profession change is the more questionable one and that is with work orders. I think the gist is that you can basically place an order for something that isn’t tied to your own profession. Like, engineers can craft a fair amount of mounts, and since I’m not an engineer, but I can front the materials and the cost to create an order to get one of the specific mounts. Likewise, you can fulfill orders for others, like I can create various enchantments or cloth items for people.

The system seems fine, in theory, but…what’s the point? There literally already is an Auction House in the game that facilitates most of this stuff already. I’m not trying to be overly pedantic but I just don’t get the need for this system. I guess it can be helpful if you have the materials for say, a specific potion, you can just place an order for one, instead of buying it on the AH, but it’s pretty unlikely you would come across the potion materials when playing. Unless you are an herbalist or miner, you can’t get herbs or ore, so you have to buy them from the Auction House anyway. I really never got the point of this system and continue to be confused by it. It’s not really needed though, so if you are perplexed by it, like I am, you can largely just ignore it.

On a final note: the Sha of Anger mount, Galleon mount, Oondasta mount, Karazhan mounts, Lich King mount, and Stratholme mount failed to drop again. If there’s at least one thing I can rely on, it’s having completely awful luck with this stuff. Until the next expansion!

The final score: review Very Good
The 411
While this is a more simplified expansion than some of the previous ones, that is in no way a bad thing. BFA, Legion, and most of all Shadowlands, got bogged down with too many overly complex systems that made the game just not fun. I’m not going to say that Dragonflight heralds a new age for WoW or anything, frankly it does have a content problem at the moment, but Blizzard seems to understand this a bit more. It was at least nice to spend a month hanging out in Azeroth again and the new Dragon Isles.

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World of Warcraft, Marc Morrison