World of Warcraft is in a bit of a transitional period right now. The conclusion of Shadowlands ends a six year story arc that began four years ago with the Burning of Teldrassil, but has roots all the way back to Warcraft 3. Now that Sylvannas’ reign of terror has ended, a new adventure is beginning in the upcoming Dragonflight expansion – one that appears completely disconnected from the events that preceded it over the last several expansions. With all of the big conflicts resolved and major threats dealt with, it's hard to see Dragonflight as anything more than an obligatory biennial expansion. With the pre-expansion update starting this week, Blizzard is addressing that concern head-on by introducing us to the new location, establishing key players, and delivering more exciting things to do than any pre-expansion patch before.
Pre-expansion patches are common occurrences in WoW. Before the start of Shadowlands, players were invited to spend several weeks in the Death’s Rising and Scourge Invasions events, where they could fight invading zombie forces to earn catch-up gear – for those returning to the game – and work through a prequel questline where they would investigate the scourge invasions and try to find where Sylvanas took Jaina, Thrall, Baine, and Anduin. This, along with the prequel novel Shadows Rising, helped bridge the gap between Battle For Azeroth and Shadowlands, while helping new and returning players get caught up in time for the new expansion.
The Dragonlight pre-expansion update serves largely the same purpose, but with some key differences. For the first time, the patch has been split up into two phases. Last month, the entire talent tree for every class was reworked. This was a major overhaul to talents, and updating it early gave everyone plenty of time to experiment with builds and learn how their new class abilities work ahead of the expansion. This update also brought a fully customizable UI overhaul, tons of new accessibility features, and unlocked Mage, Priest, and Rogue for every class. Phase 1 of the pre-expansion update was a much-needed refresh of in-game systems that also signaled the start of something new and exciting for WoW.
On Tuesday, the traditional pre-expansion event started. Tempest Unleashed introduces a questline and world events that set up Dragonflight’s story and give players a chance to collect gear and other rewards. The primalists, the ancient enemies of dragonkind, are attacking Asgard. Investigating these attacks will lead us to the lost Dragon Isles. Additionally, the event is also introducing a new dungeon – another first for WoW. Uldaman: Legacy of Tyr tasks players with recovering the titan Tyr’s memories, which will allow the Aspects to restore their power and, incidentally, rebirth the Dragon Isles. All of this much-needed setup is working to build anticipation for the day we’ll finally step foot on the Dragon Isles ourselves.
But that’s not all. Dragonflight is also introducing the first ever race/class combo, the Dracthyr Evoker, and players can create new Dracthyr characters right now and start exploring their starting zone, The Forbidden Reach. New classes don’t come to WoW very often – it’s only happened three times before – and the Evoker is the only non-melee class that’s ever been added. Playing a Dracthyr character instantly gives you a connection to the Dragon Isles, and the small taste of the new area we see in The Forbidden Reach is just enough to make me eager for more.
Before Shadowlands came out, it already felt like an important part of the story. Regardless of how you feel about the ending, seeing Sylvanas snap the Helm of Domination and crack open the sky felt like a climatic moment for a multi-year storyline, and I was eager to see how it would play out. I haven’t had the same feeling with Dragonflight, which seems like just another place to go fight bad guys. All of the pre-expansion fanfare has done an incredible job of building excitement for the expansion though. Between the event, the new dungeon, the new class, and the new zone, I’m officially dragon-pilled, and I can’t wait to dive into the new expansion.
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