Blizzard Entertainment’s newest expansion ‘World of Warcraft: Battle for Azeroth’ is here! With a focus on the growing tension of the Alliance and Horde, it should prove an interesting addition to the franchise as the story unfolds. However, even before the expansion can release discussion has broken out about Sylvanas Windrunner’s actions from a promotional cinematic. Though past its peak, Blizzard Entertainment has still kept World of Warcraft, one of the most storied massive multiplayer environments, afloat by: putting a keen focus on narrative, PvP, even releasing a film a few years ago. Here’s our ranking of every World of Warcraft expansion.
6. Warlords of Draenor
Combine some of Warcraft lore’s most fearsome characters plus a setting that was previously visited in the ‘Warcraft’ series and you have the best expansion hands-down right? Not necessarily, because when it comes to the fifth installment its downfall comes from lack of content. Despite the journey from level ninety to one hundred and character appearances, as well as the introduction to Mythic Raiding, it’s the questing content and updated visuals that drove the final nail in the coffin. With only three raids released within the span of Warlords’ two-year run, as well as a personal garrison that ended up taking up most of your time playing, players waited and waited, and they did so with no flying mounts in the new zone of Draenor. An argument can be made that it provides a healthy change for players to journey out into the new world the developers created, while others are so used to flying all over Azeroth in previous expansions. Warlords’ at face value had great promise, but players patience wore thin as did the expansions subscriber numbers (dropped to record lows in fact).
With Cataclysm’s predecessor becoming height of World of Warcraft’s popularity, it was always going to be an uphill battle holding subscribers. The immediate eye candy to the third expansion was the changes to the Classic zones in the game. Memorable zones like The Barrens and Darkshore got destroyed in Deathwing’s wake. I like how the developers decided not to make a new mega-continent like they’ve done in every other expansion, but filled gaps in Azeroth that were unexplorable in the past while giving us a dash of new zones in the middle of the Azeroth map. Questing took a major turn in this expansion in terms of in-game cinematics, presentation, and players got a better sense of involvement as quest lines broke down. To compliment the changed world of Azeroth most of the new zones like Deepholm and Vashj’ir ushered in this new era of questing. Raids like Firelands, Baradin Hold provided the most challenging raids I have ever faced at that point in time and they challenged a seasoned veteran’s raid skills. Though it’s second last on our list, Cataclysm is by no means a bad expansion, rather the forgotten one when talking about past experiences in World of Warcraft.
4. Mists of Pandaria
Mists of Pandaria pumped out a lot of original ideas this time around for WoW’s fourth expansion. A new neutral (at first) race and continent similar to prior expansions, but none were as aesthetically different than Pandaria. Zones such as The Jade Forest, Vale of Eternal Blossoms and even the Dread Wastes gave us a colorful continent worth remembering. Storytelling and history are big themes if you remember certain quests with Lorewalker Cho or other, wise Pandaren. As both factions delved more into the matter of the new continent as well its people, we saw the substances and magic corrupt those of Azeroth, while adding a new people to the long lore of People (as opposed to only Chen Stormstout from Warcraft III). This expansion had divided reception as there were those who just couldn’t buy Pandaria being a part of Warcraft (much like myself in the beginning), but ultimately it was a breath of fresh air and an opportunity to discover something new and truly original.
After suffering what was arguably WoW’s lowest point in its history, the sixth expansion had to pick up the pieces that Warlords of Draenor left behind. Blizzard brought back many of Warcraft’s big players such as Illidan Stormrage, Prophet Velen and the big bad Burning Legion turned out to be a winning formula. Content was addressed immediately with an over-abundance of things to do in the Broken Isles with zones like the Broken Shore and the eventual release of Argus in the later stages. The Demon-Hunter hunter hero-class was a hit from their first quest line to their appearance. Order Halls were a more simplified version of the Garrison and even Artifact Weapons were included (also transmoggable!) that gave you one less slot to worry about in your quest to defeat the Burning Legion. Blizzard did enough to lure players, new and old, back to a world battling old foes with a modern twist which gave Blizzard’s signature franchise new life.
2. The Burning Crusade
What instantly strikes me when someone talks about their first experience with World of Warcraft was seeing the cinematic trailer, the first of many that told a tale of what we we’re in for while meeting Illidan for the first time in WoW, as he challenged you to venture into Outland. Alright, there’s my little nerdy nostalgia story, but to get down to business the sequel to Vanilla WoW gave us the first of many stunning visuals in WoW (which still match up today) which was the newest capital cities of Silvermoon, The Exodar, and the first faction-neutral city of Shattrath which would become used more in places like Dalaran in future expansions. Storming the Black Temple, Zul’Aman, and The Sunwell hold onto my fondest memories of WoW. This expansion that lead PC game sales in 2007 would serve as the beginning of WoW’s golden age.
1. Wrath of the Lich King
You knew this was coming. No one can tell me about a more exciting time to be playing this game, whether you were a fan of Warcraft or just a gamer trying out WoW for the first time. The Lich King became the game’s poster boy for years and lured new players to fight the undead armies as WoW’s subscriber numbers were at their peak – roughly twelve million. It was also a time when Warcraft felt closer to the center of pop-culture and some may remember its memorable advertisements with Ozzy Osbourne, Mr. T and surprisingly Chuck Norris. Onto the game itself – players were sent to the frozen continent of Northrend where the player would fight their way to Icecrown with stops like Trial Of The Champion, where you had to prove yourself before storming Icecrown Citadel and taking on The Lich King himself. Ulduar, where players discovered more about those who came before while taking on an Old God. And who could forget about the introduction of Death Knights? As the Lich King’s enforcers, you rained an icy death upon those who opposed you, until realizing what a terrible person he really is and running to the Alliance/Horde depending on your chosen race. Considered one of the best additions to the game by some purely based on aesthetics, the Death Knight looked menacing, were overpowered for a time and you typically saw them all over during this expansion. The third time was definitely the charm for Blizzard.
What do you think about this ranking? Am I wrong? Let me know in the comments. Also, Stay tuned for World Of Warcraft: Battle For Azeroth Review. All at Talkies Network.