At the end of Legion, the titan Sargeras was imprisoned, but not before he plunged his sword into the planet Azeroth. This not only devastated a massive area (much of the desert zone of Silithus is now cracked and scorched), but badly wounded the gestating titan inside. While the heroes managed to ablate the worst of the damage (at the cost of the majority of their artifact weapons' mythic power), the world is still wounded and bleeding a substance called "Azerite," which has great magical potential. The Horde Warchief, Sylvanas Windrunner, attempts to consolidate Horde power on Kalimdor and gain a monopoly on Azerite (which is primarily found at the southern end of the continent). Her campaign to do so, the War of Thorns, formed a pre-launch event for the expansion and ends with the major Night Elf holdings on the continent seized or (in the case of their capital city of Darnassus) annihilated. The Alliance makes a retaliatory strike against her home base, the Undercity, which was formerly the human capital of Lordaeron. This succeeds in driving the Horde out, but before leaving Sylvanas saturates the area with disease and toxins that render it uninhabitable. With this tit-for-tat military exchange, the Horde has almost complete control over Kalimdor, while the Alliance has near-total dominion over the Eastern Kingdoms. With further conflict inevitable, Battle for Azeroth takes the two factions to the continents of Kul Tiras and Zandalar to recruit new allies in order to turn the tides of war.
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My second most anticipated new feature in the Tides of Vengeance update is the Battle for Darkshore Warfront. It’s the second cyclical battle between the Horde and Alliance, in which each faction takes turns gathering resources, fighting in a pitched raid battle and then controlling the Darkshore zone. In what I hope will be an improvement to the Warfronts feature, the controlling faction will gain access to diverse world quests in the zones they control, rather than the “kill x of y” quests from when it first launched.
There’s a lot of #content in the new expansion. It’s mostly locked behind a variety of gates, some of which players can’t even control. Warfronts are the best example. You might assume joining a Warfront is a simple matter of opening the group finder. Wrong! Warfronts are only accessible for a week at a time. It’s not precisely clear how often that week will come around (it’s based both on a time gate and on the opposing faction gathering resources) but, as of right now, it looks likely to be available just one week out of every four.
Two new raids coming after the initial update differ drastically in size and content, depending on which side of the war you’re on. The Battle of Dazar’alor raid sees Alliance players trying to take over a city, but if you’re part of the horde, your version will see you try to defend it. Once you’ve beaten it once, you can then play the other side. The Crucible of Storms raid, on the other hand, is smaller and only consists of two bosses.
Island expeditions require groups of three players to venture to islands with randomly spawned enemies and piles of AP. The island expedition ends once they collect a certain amount of AP, and they are granted about 300 AP as a reward — unfortunately, players don’t get any of the between 6,000 and 12,000 AP they collect during the expedition. These missions can take anywhere from three to 20 minutes, and never once offer any real challenge or depth.
Eventually, the Alliance finishes its preparations and launches an attack on the Zadalari capital of Dazar'zalor, their goal being to sever the budding alliance between the Zandalari and the Horde by dismantling the Golden Fleet and capturing King Rastakhan. Despite Anduin and Jaina's desire to capture him alive, Rastakhan is overwhelmed by the power of his pact with the Loa Bwonsamdi, and the Alliance champions are forced to slay him. Enraged by Rastakhan's death, Horde champions launch a vicious counterattack on the withdrawing Alliance forces, which ends with both Jaina and High Tinkerer Mettatorque gravely wounded. As the Alliance leadership debates their next move, Sylvanas, infuriated by the Horde's defeat, resurrects Jaina's long dead brother Derek Proudmoore as a Forsaken, an act that horrifies the surviving Horde leaders, with the intent to use him as a sleeper agent to destroy the Proudmoore family from within.
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The idea of the expansion came up after the heroes of Azeroth dealt with so much external threats like the Burning Legion. In their own words, "so when we talk about what's the biggest threat in this world, is it the titan or is it the dwarf paladin that put a hammer in that titan's head"? As such, the enemy (at least during the early parts of the scenario) will be the opposite faction, a "vast army of world-destroying forces".