World of Warcraft has had its ups and downs over nearly two decades of operation. For a while, it’s felt like the best years of the once-ubiquitous MMO were in the past, and that Activision Blizzard has failed to listen to players’ pleas for vital changes. Enter Dragonflight, the latest expansion to World of Warcraft that just launched November 28. While it doesn’t fix every problem under the sun, it is a great step in the right direction — and the most welcoming WoW has felt in a long time.
What have I missed? Anytime a new race or class is added to an MMO, it is a big deal. This is true of the introduction of the Dracthyr race and their special hero class the Evoker for Dragonflight. As the name suggests, this expansion is all about dragons and the Dracthyr take that one step further, letting players be a race of dragon people who can also transform into more conventionally attractive humanoid forms with hints of scales.
I choose to create a new Dracthyr character in the lead-up to Dragonflight to take advantage of their unique questline that brings players from level 58 to level 60 and takes place entirely on the new area of the Forbidden Reach on the Dragon Isles, the setting for the rest of the expansion.
The Dracthyr starting quest sees the player character awoken from stasis that has lasted thousands of years. The Dracthyr have no idea about anything that has transpired on Azeroth in that time. There is no knowledge of any Battle for Azeroth, and they aren’t familiar with excursions to the Shadowlands. In that way, the Dracthyr are just like many players.
World of Warcraft was the first MMO I ever played, and I continued to spend time in the world up until the Warlords of Draenor expansion in 2014. I have dipped my toes in WoW every few years to see if things would spark my interest again, but they never have. My knowledge of the world and the characters within it might as well be as out of date as that of the Dracthyr. This is why Dragonflight’s ability to invite newcomers and long-lapsed fans is a wonderful surprise.
New and improved — Beyond a new race and class that feels tailor-made for those who have been away from WoW for a long-time, the aging MMO has been revamped in small but meaningful ways in order to make it a slightly smoother and more modern experience that isn’t a hassle to pick up.
While add-ons will forever be a part of WoW, allowing players to drastically personalize their UI, Dragonflight seeks to make the vanilla UI more user-friendly without requiring someone to have a knowledge of modding to have a good time. The UI has received an overhaul aptly calling it the “Modern” UI and introducing the ability to fully and simply customize the HUD.
This comes along with a slew of more quality-of-life improvements that feel like no-brainers. Something that was impossible in the game’s 18-year history was to merge your multiple bag inventories into one unified inventory, which is now a reality in Dragonflight.
All of this sounds nice, especially for those who are ready to immediately dive into Dragonflight. But what about the people starting WoW for the first time, those who start at level one? These people might have the best experience of all thanks to two massive changes to the fabric of WoW.
Thanks to a change implemented in Dragonflight’s pre-patch phase, the total XP it takes to level a character from one to 60 has been reduced by 57 percent, as calculated by the Icy Veins forum. The leveling process will be much quicker and more enjoyable, thanks to the other drastic change to the talent tree. The talent tree has been completely revamped and feels like a true successor to vanilla WoW, as opposed to the system in place since Mists of Pandaria. It incrementally lets the player earn new skills and actions which allows for slow and easily understandable dissemination of knowledge. By the time you reach level 60, you feel like you have meaningfully progressed and become more powerful, and that you actually know what you can do with all of your powers.
Only time will tell if Dragonflight will make a devoted WoW player of me again, but for the first time in nearly a decade, it feels like the game truly wants to welcome me back.