World of Warcraft in 2023
I’ve been playing World of Warcraft since 2008. I came into the game during Wrath of the Lich King, and have played every single expansion in some capacity since.
I’ve loved the game during its worst periods, and defended it to people that claimed it would never recover after the disaster that was Battle for Azeroth, and further, the catastrophe that was Shadowlands.
And despite Shadowlands outselling Dragonflight in terms of raw sales – I don’t think I’ve had as much fun as I’ve had in Dragonflight since.. maybe Legion? That was in 2016. 7 years ago. Yes, I don’t think I can say with genuine sincerity that I have actually enjoyed WoW in 7 years.
I’ve enjoyed aspects of it – PvP, dungeons and raids. But my overall experience has largely been soured for the better part of a decade. Which is why I also play Final Fantasy XIV on the side. Because it was fulfilling in ways WoW just wasn’t.
Despite Shadowlands launching to higher numbers, the general consensus is that Dragonflight is a vastly superior expansion, retaining a larger percentage of players per month than Shadowlands did.
And there are many reasons for that. I’ve logged in to play Dragonflight every single day since it launched on November 28th, 2022. And this is why.
Let me start by pointing out if you hate WoW – you’ll still probably hate WoW. Dragonflight doesn’t make the game feel objectively different – rather, it has amplified core aspects that it excels at more than any other MMO.
One thing I’ve always both loved and hated about Final Fantasy XIV – WoW’s real, only competition, is that it feels like a singleplayer RPG with MMO elements attached after the fact. This is further proven to be the case through implementation of their AI-dungeons. They are continuing to make it easier for players to play without other players.
Removing the “massively multiplayer” aspect from the game for many players not interested in working together with others. And that’s great – I can totally get behind that design choice. But I love the multiplayer aspect of MMOs. And Dragonflight has a lot of content to consume that either requires other players, or benefits you for grouping with them.
World Quests and world activities are a prime example of this.
While playing through the expansion, you’ll inevitably come across world activities in some capacity. Some of these will be in the form of World Quests.
Many of these are doable without the participation of other players – until you come across World Bosses like Strunraan, Basrikron, Bazual, and Liskanoth. I’ve sat there and watched 10 to 15-man groups melt without a tank, and watched tanks melt without healers against these monstrosities.
At this point in the expansion, there is no successful execution of these bosses without other players.
Then we have Grand Hunts. Admittedly, Grand Hunts are for the most part doable without other players. But if you play with Warmode on like I do, 100% of the time you’re going to find yourself running in to the other faction that prioritize your sweet smelling booty over anything else.
I don’t know if you’d consider the Siege on Dragonbane Keep or the Community Feast as an activity comparable to Grand Hunts – but both are very community-driven, and equally as difficult to complete without the addition of other players.
Then there are PvP events – both PvP World Quests, that require you to engage other players in PvP to complete, or attempt to avoid other players while completing alternate objectives, and the Supply Crate, which is a little supply box dropped out of the sky, accompanied by one of the most irritating lines in the entire expansion.
This typically has both factions immediately ceasing whatever activities they’re in the process of doing and attempting to gain control of the area as it rewards you with a lot of important goodies.
And those are merely the world activities that spring to mind. I’m probably missing other activities, like the Elemental Storms.
World activities in essence largely requiring group participation helps the game feel much more alive and is a key feature I think most MMO studios fail to realize.
Dragonflight feels more alive than it has been in years. There are people everywhere, consuming everything the expansion has to offer and from a world perspective, that alone is a massive win.
But there’s so much more than world content – PvP, dungeons, raids, the reputation grind – which has, admittedly, been overhauled to actually be tolerable. Something I didn’t think I’d ever say about reputation grinds in an MMO.
Grinding from Unfriendly or Neutral, to Friendly, Honored, Revered, and finally to Exalted has never been a fun journey for me. It has always provided an alternative to waste your time when you run out of other things to do, but this is an arduous process that needed overhauling.
Thankfully, I believe it was Shadowlands that introduced a level-based reputation system, which Dragonflight improved upon that is interwoven with the game itself, providing a surplus of levels without any real participation in content outside of the main story.
As you continue to engage in other activities out in the world – your reputation will continue to increase. After about 3 months, I think I’m at roughly level 20 something for the majority of the Dragon Isle reputations, and 30 with Valdrakken.
And there were weeks where I’d miss out on World Quests, raids, dungeons, because I had work, was sick, or was on vacation. Someone with ample time to grind out reputation via other means could probably hit level 30 with all reputations in a fraction of the time.
Reputations also provide you rewards with mostly every level up. Some of them are cosmetic. Some of them are recipes. All of them will appeal to at least part of the playerbase.
The overhauled reputation system present in more recent incarnations of the game is such a refreshing change of pace and I cannot thank them enough for making it so much more rewarding, yet also less time consuming to achieve.
There is an extensive amount of PvE content present in WoW. I think, if you tally the content from each expansion, it probably has more PvE content – instances, and general features than any other MMO online right now.
Disregarding world activities, we have dungeons and raids, both of which have varied difficulties, crafting professions, which also saw a drastic overhaul in Dragonflight – to a point where they’re actually relevant.
We’ll also go ahead and disregard questing here as I feel like questing is more or less the same in every expansion. Something horrible – potentially world or reality shattering has happened, which leads you into a new group of zones via ship or airship that nobody ever knew existed. Because they’re blind.
You’re accompanied by a group of NPCs you recognize – not from previous expansions, as those NPCs quickly become irrelevant immediately following the events of their respective expansions – RIP Yrel and Chen Stormstout, as you explore the new areas, and slowly become powerful enough to overcome this new enemy. Again.
I haven’t been a competitive raider since I think Mists of Pandaria. That year of Siege of Orgrimmar and Hellfire Citadel really burned me out. We should never be forced to run the same content for that length without new content ever again.
So in Shadowlands, and even in Dragonflight, raiding at a higher level has never interested me. Mythic+ dungeons? Definitely. And I’ll touch on that in a moment. But raids require significantly more people, time, and have a much larger margin for error.
Difficulty tiers consist of LFR – which you can queue for with a group of randoms. Normal, which you can’t queue for, but use a group finder for that generally puts you in with the same caliber of randoms. Heroic, much the same in terms of player skill as Normal just with marginally higher item levels and egos, and then Mythic.
My wife Mrs Stix is pushing Mythic raids as of the end of February 2023. She spent the first few weeks of February learning and completing Heroic, and is now stepping foot into Mythic. I’m far too much of a casual pleb to ever care enough to do that. I’ve completed LFR and I’m happy with that result.
Each difficulty tier gets progressively more difficult, with Heroic and Mythic generally requiring guilds, statics or Discord groups of people and verbal communication and coordination to successfully complete. LFR and Normal aren’t really that difficult. I think Mrs Stix completed Normal the first few weeks it was available. But don’t quote me on that.
The raids have always been fun in WoW, and are a major part of why I come back each patch. New raids, new mechanics, new grinds for transmog are motivation for me. And seeing how the raids are built, seeing new mechanics. It’s all pretty thrilling. Even if I only see those mechanics through looking over at Mrs Stix’s screen.
Mythic+ dungeons – and dungeons in general, really, are a much more efficient waste of my time.
Much like Raids, dungeons have varied difficulty levels. You have leveling dungeons, normal dungeons, Heroic dungeons, Mythic dungeons, Mythic+ dungeons and timewalking dungeons.
Leveling dungeons are what you’d expect. While leveling from 10 – 15? I forget the minimum level for entry. You can queue for dungeons, and run them for XP or gear. Each expansion has their own selection of dungeons – with their own themes, their own bosses, and their own mechanics. Which is very cool.
Burning Crusade has a lot of Orc-related dungeons set in the Outlands. Wrath of the Lich King has a lot of Nordic and magical dungeons, where Battle for Azeroth and even Dragonflight have dungeons that are entire zones or areas out in the world.
After hitting level cap, you begin attempting to gear up for current content, which means introductory gearing via normal difficulty dungeons – maybe heroic dungeons if you were lucky with gear drops.
Heroic dungeons are the same dungeon as Normal, but with higher enemy HP pools and higher damage. Mythic scales in much the same way, requiring a higher item level to enter. Timewalking dungeons on the other hand are the opposite, and scale your gear to a level appropriate to the dungeon – which can be from any expansion.
Where the true difficulty lies is in Mythic+ dungeons, however. And we’re not talking Mythic 0 or Mythic 2. At the time of writing this, I have cleared Mythic 15’s through Mythic 19s, and achieved a rating of 2248. For me? That’s pretty damn good. I’ll probably try to push 2400 over the next few weeks in anticipation of Keystone Master.
Mrs Stix, on the other hand, has cleared 18s through 20s for hers, and is sitting at over 2500, having achieved Keystone Hero – one of the most prestigious titles in the entire Mythic+ dungeon scene.
For some of you, this might not be much of an achievement. But for Mrs Stix, who has mained a Disc Priest since the final month of Shadowlands, and came into Dragonflight with a nerfed class that only recently became slightly more viable, this was a challenge, and I’m infinitely proud of what she has achieved.
Mythic+ dungeons, especially once you begin running +18s or above, are just something else all together. If you’re not paying attention to the direction of an enemy? Dead. If you’re not aware what skill every enemy is using? Dead. If you forgot the boss had 1-shot mechanics? Dead.
This is such a horrifyingly difficult yet simultaneously rewarding experience. And I’m glad that at least for the majority of my clears, Mrs Stix has carried me through. She’s cleared Savage and Ultimate raids in Final Fantasy XIV as well and is generally considered to be quite the professional raider, although she won’t admit it.
Beyond the difficulty of dungeons and the reward for completing them – progressively higher item level gear, and rewards in your Great Vault – which, for those of you unaware, rewards players with gear based off of their highest performance in PvP, in Raids, and in Mythic+ dungeons.
Dungeons introduced in Dragonflight are absolutely gorgeous. The Nokhud Offensive is one of the largest, most open dungeons I’ve ever seen. Brackenhide at launch was hilarious to watch, as everyone continued to die to poisons. Which will be an absolute treat to experience during the next Mythic+ season.
PvP is something I’ve always enjoyed in WoW. Open-world PvP, instanced PvP. I engage in every type, and it has always taken up a large porion of my playtime.
I remember back in Warlords of Draenor, Tanaan Jungle had a lot of uneven ground. I’d set up a Lock portal, swap to Affliction, and just melt people from afar without them knowing what was even going on. This would start mass skirmishes, resulting in potentially hours worth of open-world PvP fun.
But I’ve never attacked lowbies, or leveling characters. On the contrary, I’d always be on the lookout for players doing so and camp then as reward for picking on players without any means of defending themselves. I think open-world PvP can be very rewarding, and even more enjoyable. But there is a very toxic nature to it as well.
This can be found in all competitive video games though, and isn’t specific to WoW. PvP World Quests make open-world PvP even more fun, as you can group up with a few other people and work towards decimating the opposing faction. Or attack your own. But that’s frowned upon. Not that I know from experience, of course.
PvP also takes the form of instanced Arenas, Skirmishes, and Battlegrounds. Arenas and Skirmishes involving 2v2, 3v3, and 5v5, with Battlegrounds and Epic Battlegrounds varying from 10v10 to 40v40.
Battlegrounds – as an Alliance player, have always been rough. We’re generally the more placid faction for whatever reason. Given Varian was our leader for over a decade, I struggle to see how that was the case. But it is what it is.
Skirmishes, Battlegrounds and Epic Battlegrounds are unranked. Meaning you queue up for them, engage random enemies with a random party, and rinse and repeat. Ranked Arenas, and Rated Battlegrounds require a premade team, and have – for the most part, hopefully, more communication and coordination.
You also obtain rewards – cosmetics and mounts the higher your rating gets. PvP can definitely be a monotonous aspect of the game, but as an avid PvPer in every game – FPS, MMO – it’s something that I just cannot get enough of. And you don’t get much better than PvP in WoW.
One aspect of Dragonflight that I’ve really enjoyed – aside from the overhauled acquisition of faction reputation, is the dragonflying. I know there are many people that claim Blizz stole the idea – and even some of the animations from Guild Wars 2.
I’m not here to contest that opinion. They may have. Just as they stole from other games in the past. Just like Final Fantasy XIV has stolen from other MMOs. So has Guild Wars 2. The Elder Scrolls Online. Ideas, features, mechanics – these aren’t things that exclusive. That are a single game’s intellectual property.
Exploring the Dragon Isles in WoW atop my trusty steed Elizabeth – who I nicknamed Lizzy because Dragons are… well, it’s actually kinda embarrassing if I have to explain it, so let’s just assume you all know why I named her Lizzy.
The speed. Dual riding. Additional abilities like disorientation – these are all features that need to be a thing moving into the future. If the next expansion removes this type of flight from the game, it is going to severely inhibit our enjoyment when it comes to exploring.
The Dragon Races are also kinda fun. Albeit at times annoying, randomly hitting the ground, hitting walls, losing track of where the rings you need to fly through are. How does Sanic find the time and patience to do this full-time?
Something I dislike about Dragonflight, however, is that they still haven’t touched on racials. Years later, there is still a severe imbalance in terms of racial strength, especially in PvP.
I’m aware Human’s had Every Man for Themselves for years – and I also agreed a free trinket was unfair. But giving Orc’s Blood Fury – a raw Attack Power boost for 15 seconds on a 2 minute cooldown, and Hardiness as a passive, reducing stun duration by 20% is just absurdly game-breaking.
To get the most out of PvP you’re always going to want to play Orc purely for the racial that reduces stun effectiveness. Which forces many of us to play Orc, or deal with being at a permanent disadvantage.
Dragonflight has not addressed this, and it doesn’t seem likely Blizz have any intention of addressing this in the future, to the misfortune of many of us.
Gearing in WoW has always been pretty hit or miss with me. On the one hand, I hated being forced to raid to be competitive in any non-PvP related content. I also hated that PvE players often had their gear be more effective in PvP in the open-world, but understood the necessity for it.
Gearing in Dragonflight is so much easier – both PvE and PvP gearing. On the one hand, you can obtain the best gear in the game through various means: Mythic+ dungeons, or raids. Raids provide you class set pieces, and dungeons don’t, but thankfully, you’re capable of converting a single piece of dungeon gear per week to a set piece.
Both are fantastic, yet alternate ways of obtaining the highest item level gear in the game, and have completely different difficulties and requirements.
Gearing for PvP is easier than ever. You can do Battlegrounds, Skirmishes or Arenas to obtain Honor and Conquest Points to exchange for their equivalent gear. You can do PvP World Quests, which reward PvP pieces of varied quality. The Supply Crate rewards you with Bloody Tokens that you can exchange for PvP gear.
You can do a Weekly Quest to obtain a number of Sigils in a specific Dragon Isles zone, rewarding you with a class set piece of PvP gear that is a couple item levels lower than Conquest gear, but potentially more effective given the set bonus itself.
Thankfully, there’s no more Titanforged BS or Azerite Power necessary to upgrade. Upgrading is as simple as farming Honor or Valor, and achieving the prerequisite ranking required to upgrade to the next level.
Again, the sheer number of quality of life improvements implemented in Dragonflight are tremendous, and I do not think I could be any happier with how things have been going.
They’ve also overhauled the leveling experience.
Before, you’d be required to level through Vanilla, then slowly progress expansion by expansion until you make it to current content. With the amount of content present between beginning and endgame.. it wasn’t a fun experience. For new players or old.
The new overhauled leveling experience provides players the option of selecting an expansion, after a small introduction to the game, and leveling through that entire expansion before hitting current content. Or, being able to alternate between any expansion at any time merely through returning to the faction capital.
This makes leveling alts much more friendly and enjoyable. One thing I dislike about the new leveling experience though is how you’re limited to the dungeons of the expansion you’re synced to. I enjoy a little more freedom to choose my dungeons, but this is more of a personal thing.
I will note they’ve made pretty significant alterations to crafting and professions in Dragonflight. And I’ll admit upfront right away – I am not going to do this any justice at all, as I don’t craft, and I don’t engage in professions.
But I know how irrelevant they have been the past few expansions, and how relevant they are this expansion, largely thanks to being able to issue Work Orders to other players, and provide them an alternate means of making money in-game.
From what I understand – and my understanding of this is still very limited, so excuse any inaccuracies, you level your Dragon Isle professions, obtain recipes through a number of varied means, and craft Dragon Isle exclusive armor, weapons, potions, gems, and so much more.
These can be unbelievably handy – with some crafters able to craft item level 418 pieces on occasion – an item level higher than what most of us will ever be able to achieve.
I don’t think I’ve seen crafters this happy in a long time, and it’s reassuring to see.
World of Warcraft is far from being a perfect MMO. Yet for all its flaws, and the mistakes Blizz has made with recent expansions, Dragonflight is an incredibly refreshing change of pace. It’s nothing groundbreaking. It doesn’t innovate the genre, or try to take the game in entirely new directions.
It doesn’t try to be the next Burning Crusade or Wrath of the Lich King. Instead, they’ve listened to feedback on what players wanted – both in terms of content, features, and even the removal of features or functions.
They’ve crafted a story that isn’t cringe or written by an emo, edgelord teenager like Shadowlands. It isn’t pushing the “Alliance good, Horde bad, we all fight now” narrative. And instead, provided us what is arguably an expansion that feels like a new, fun, fantasy game.
These are what expansions should be. Fun. Filled with content and features players want. That cater to both casuals and competitive players. And after seeing how good Dragonflight is – not exceptional, not “omg this is the best thing ever,” but how genuinely good it is, I fear for the next expansion.
Thankfully, we have a lot of Dragonflight left, as they’ve got a Roadmap available for 2023, and it looks like there’s a lot to look forward to.
Dragonflight has allowed WoW to reclaim the throne as the #1 MMORPG in 2023, and that is due to them releasing a good expansion for a change. Let’s hope they can keep it up long-term, and don’t fall back into old practices.
I’ll be playing Dragonflight all year, and hopefully – maybe – I’ll see some of you in-game.