Earlier this week, Blizzard Entertainment released a new patch for World of Warcraft, which introduced class changes and new features before launching the new "Battle for Azeroth" expansion on August 14th. This pre-patch experience is usually an exciting experience for fans. But this time it is full of concern.
World of Warcraft is a lot of things. But it's mostly a multiplayer roleplaying game. Progression is a key component of RPGs. The more you play, the more powerful you become. This is represented not only by increasing numbers – your stats and bursts of damage – but also by new abilities and better gear. When you reveal in World of Warcraft, you occasionally create new spells or talents that will give you new buttons. These change the way you play the game.
In the latest expansion, Legion, each character has been given a new artifact weapon, which also gave you a new ability. This happened at level 1
Battle for Azeroth does not give you a new skill when you start the expansion. It has no legendary items. It has no layer sets. The only new tricks come from Azerite Armor, a kind of equipment that introduces the expansion into WoW, which can unlock new features and abilities. But most of them are passive skills, which means they happen on other spells. They add extra effects, but it's not like you're casting a new spell.
So if you play "Fight for Azeroth", your character will not change much. Some Azeritic skills will be strong enough to change your way of playing. But you usually only use the same skills and rotations at level 120 as at level 110. You do not learn new spells. You do not learn new talents.
This scares some players. Character growth and progress is an important part of a role play. Will the experience of going through the Battle of Azeroth be unsatisfactory without learning new skills?
WoW Game Director Ion Hazzikostas confirmed these fears in a recent Q & A stream on Twitch. He defended Azeri's abilities as more interesting than some players claim, but he also stated that it is difficult to add new abilities to characters who already have so many spells. Fight for Azeroth's level cap will be at 120. It is impossible to give players anything meaningful each time they ascend if they do it 119 times.
World of Warcraft is also a game that promotes teamwork. Every class can not be good at everything. That's why you have to work as a squad with other players. Death Knights, for example, can do much damage and heal themselves, but they have limited mobility. So, if you want to give them a new skill that feels good for the players, adding a new spell that makes them faster could be the trick. But that also creates an imbalance in class design.
Inflating abilities also forces Blizzard to remove some spells during large parts. This happened with the pre-patch, which removed many artifact weapon abilities of the classes. So many players have experienced the opposite of progression because their characters now have fewer tools than before.
It's a touchy subject and I understand where Blizzard comes from. Most Level 110 characters have "enough" abilities. But going through so much content without meaningful progress could still be dangerous.