In more ways than one, World of Warcraft: Dragonflight is about returning home. For the game’s titular Dragonflights, who have been absent for countless years, returning to their ancient ancestral home to pick up the pieces and rebuild is like going home. Players get to return to Azeroth and all the familiar sights and sounds it holds after languishing for years in WoW’s unloved Shadowlands expansion.
In that sense, Dragonflight is tremendously nostalgic—but not in the way you might think. Even though it undeniably brings back popular characters, enemies, and even gameplay mechanics, it never comes off as reliant on them or constrained by them. Instead, it gives those well-known components a whole new life. Dragonflight manages to feel both new and old at the same time, whether it’s thanks to the talent trees that were included in earlier expansions of the game, the revamped user interface, the absence of required activities, or the sense of adventure the new dragonriding system evokes. Even if Dragonflight has certain flaws, I can’t help but be amazed by how some fresh concepts and significant updates to other long-standing ones have given Blizzard’s flagship game new vitality.
As one might anticipate, the focus of this new expansion is dragons. Riders ply brand-new, extremely individualized Dragon Isles Drakes. The majority of the significant characters in the main campaign are dragons. Even the new dragon race, the Dracthyr, is only playable as the Evoker, a new spellcaster class with a dragon theme. In the game’s opening narrative campaign, the Dragon Aspects Alexstrasza, Nozdormu, Wrathion, and Kalecgos all play significant roles. Part of what makes Dragonflight feel so nostalgic is getting to see them all up front and center for the first time since the Cataclysm expansion in 2010. This marks a return to the high fantasy of Azeroth after almost two years of the gloomy, depressing, and death-themed settings and characters of Shadowlands.
There is no denying that Dragonflight gives Blizzard’s nearly 20-year-old MMO a contemporary viewpoint, despite the fact that its setting and characters may seem familiar. The conflict between the Horde and the Alliance, Azeroth’s two political superpowers, has long been a defining feature of World of Warcraft. In the Battle for Azeroth expansion of the game, which came out just four years ago, a cataclysmic conflict between the two groups almost tore Azeroth apart. However, compared to the extensive history of inter-faction conflict in the game, Dragonflight feels almost utterly unconnected.
Thanks in part to the tale Blizzard is attempting to portray with Dragonflight. The Horde and Alliance are not competing to settle it first, as they did when they found the continent of Pandaria back in 2012; rather, the trip to the enigmatic Dragon Isles, which have only recently reemerged after 10,000 years, is of a scientific nature. You are informed right away to put aside the minor disagreements between the Horde and Alliance and that violence between the two sides will not be tolerated. The Dragonscale Expedition, which consists of members from both factions, welcomes adventurers (also known as players), not because their fighting prowess is required to wage war against their long-standing rivals, but rather because all the craftsmen, scientists, and explorers coming along are bound to need a hand, and some occasional protection, while documenting the many mysteries of the Dragon Isles.
The ideas of cooperation and discovery in Dragonflight are also drawn from game mechanics. Blizzard tore down the barrier separating the two groups earlier this year, allowing pals on opposing sides of Azeroth’s Iron Curtain to finally team up for dungeons, raids, and other activities. It would have been ludicrous to emphasize the existence of a faction war and maintain that every single Horde and Alliance player is an enemy, despite the reality that they are quite literally fighting alongside one another and interacting. Thankfully, Blizzard refrained from taking that approach and instead cleverly concentrated on elements of WoW that felt mostly lost in recent years, particularly its feeling of adventure.
Dragonriding is a miracle worker in that regard. It doesn’t seem like much on paper. After all, WoW has had the ability to fly since 2007. Dragonriding, on the other hand, is the expansion-specific feature that merits becoming the new industry standard for all ensuing expansions. Dragonriding moves quickly. very quickly Specifically, they are nearly three times as quick as the game’s quickest non-dragonriding mounts. But even if you ignore the obvious speed advantages, it’s also surprisingly entertaining. That’s because, unlike the game’s standard mounts, which merely serve as a passive speed buff, dragonriding mounts really add gameplay to the mix and let you engage with the surrounding area. Your speed will get up if you dive. On the other hand, flying upwards can be challenging. Trying to reach a mountain summit that is far away? Find a nearby structure or uprooted tree to launch from so you may start your ascension with a little extra height. Flying is now more than just a means of transportation; it also makes for interesting gameplay.
While dragonriding, you can even use special skills like a speed boost and an upward surge to assist you get off the ground. By gathering the dragonriding glyphs strewn across the four Dragon Isles zones, you can subsequently unlock additional, as well as the ability to use your powers more frequently. These glyphs are not indicated on your map, which is an excellent design decision for a game that has traditionally tied players’ hands when it comes to questing and world exploration. As an alternative, the game will notify you when one is around and provide you with a general notion of its location and distance. It’s up to you to climb upward from there and keep an eye out for anything suspicious. These are rarely concealed and are typically located in prominent locations, but the knowledge that there are significant rewards to be obtained makes flying through a zone all the more thrilling. Even better, you can start looking for glyphs as soon as you get your first Dragon Isles Drake inside the first hour of the expansion. If your heart so desires, you can just spend the next hour methodically collecting each glyph and immediately unlocking dragonriding’s full potential without any restrictions or maximum level requirements. Having access to this new type of flying right away makes a world that Blizzard has constructed much easier to explore than it was in previous expansions, where flying was restricted at first and had to be unlocked months later through a variety of accolades and in-game accomplishments.
The only drawback of dragonriding is that there are times when you’ll need to go uphill but lack the energy to fly high enough to make any noticeable progress. As a result, you have to stomp around on foot or wait for your dragonriding stamina meter to recover. It’s not a good sensation, but happily it starts to occur less frequently as you find more glyphs and unlock new dragonriding abilities that enhance the game. If you play your cards properly, you can stay skybound for longer and avoid having to wait around for your stamina to recharge by flying at high speeds, and doing so becomes simpler as you collect more glyphs. Flying at high speeds also passively recharges your stamina.
You’ll help each of the Dragonflights renew their oaths to guard Azeroth and rebuild their home realms as you strive to support the Dragonscale Expedition and the people of the Dragon Isles. This is all taking place as Raszageth the Storm Eater, a formidable dragon opponent who has been around for a while, seeks to change the course of dragonkind by effectively destroying everything the Dragon Aspects (and by extension the Titans, who gave the Dragon Aspects their power) stand for. I’m delighted to report that Raszageth, throughout the primary story campaign of the game, is refreshingly over-the-top and plain. Villains can make or break a WoW expansion (see Shadowlands’ laughably awful Jailer for a tutorial on how not to design a huge evil). She is not a morally dubious or misunderstood character, despite the fact that there is some truth to her motivations for wanting to overthrow the current system and that she raises some intriguing questions that will undoubtedly be answered later in the expansion. Will she be overshadowed by whoever Dragonflight’s final villain turns out to be in a few patches? Probably. She’s large, terrible, and brave for the time being, though, and it’s wonderful to have a main antagonist like that after Shadowlands.
The new Dracthyr race in the game was initially developed to aid in the battle of Raszageth; however, Neltharion, the dragon Aspect who would later become Deathwing, put them into a magically induced sleep. The Dracthyr have now awakened to a strange new world and must struggle to discover their place in it after thousands of years. Dracthyr can be created via the game’s character builder in a variety of ways, including an elf-like “Visage” form and a dragon-like one. Even better, the Dracthyr have a fun racial trait that instantly switches you between your Visage form and human form based on whether or not you are engaged in combat. The main visual drawback of playing a Dracthyr is that, when in dragon form, most of your equipped gear is invisible, leaving only your shoulders and belt visible on your character. It’s possible to equip a variety of decorative armor on your Dracthyr from the character construction screen to slightly mitigate this, but it’s a rather strange decision (or most likely a technological constraint) to make the majority of your gear invisible.
There’s no doubting the Dracthyr are Warcraft through and through, even though the new Evoker class that is exclusive to the Dracthyr isn’t as instantly recognizable as the other two hero classes that have been added to WoW throughout the years. While the majority of their toolkit draws inspiration from the numerous magics connected with each Dragonflight, several of their skills, including Strafe and Deep Breath, are directly inspired by the most recognizable dragon raid enemies in World of Warcraft. The DPS-focused Devastation specialization makes use of the powerful offensive capabilities of the Red and Blue Dragonflights, while the healing-focused Preservation specialization makes the most of the Green Dragonflight’s focus on nature and the Bronze Dragonflight’s time-warping magic to keep allies safe and healthy. They are one of the more mobile classes in the game because to their numerous movement-speed-boosting skills, built-in slow-fall, and even a miniature form of dragonriding that they may utilize whenever they want without a mount. They are the first class to have what Blizzard has nicknamed “Empowered” skills, which is a fancy way of saying you hold down an ability key to charge up an ability and then let off the key to fire off the ability with devastating impact. They also have a lot of instant-cast spells. All of these factors combined result in a class that feels more active than even the Demon Hunter because you are continuously recharging spells, casting while moving, avoiding enemies, and even turning back time. It’s exciting and fast-paced, and each enemy encounter requires a higher level of preparation and response as you decide how long to charge up your Empowered abilities and when to unleash them.
If you’ve participated in any recent World of Warcraft expansions, you have a good idea of what to anticipate from Dragonflight’s campaign. To reach max level, which gives you access to things like Heroic dungeons, World Quests, and more, you must progress through each of the game’s four new zones while being shuttled from main story quest to main story quest. It’s a touch unfortunate that the main adventure for your first character is remarkably linear for an expansion so steeped in themes of discovery. Before being able to access the story campaign for the following zone, the Ohn’ahran Plains, etc., you must finish the story campaign in The Waking Shores, for instance.
Even though each zone’s primary tale is essentially independent of the events of the story in any other zone and is unaffected by them, there is no jumping ahead or switching between several stories. You can diverge and complete side quests in any zone to your heart’s content (and you’ll probably want to, as Dragonflight’s side quests are where many of its best stories and moments can be found), but if you want to start advancing your character into the endgame, you’ll eventually have to return to the linear, critical path and complete the main story. The introduction of a new Adventure mode, together with the advantage of being able to take on multiple World Quests right away, is what allows you to choose the order in which you’d like to play the main tale for successive characters only then. Although it’s a wonderful addition, WoW expansions used to allow players to travel wherever they pleased right away. It seems like Blizzard lost a significant chance to provide some much-needed freedom into the game’s increasingly on-rails first-playthrough narrative experience when combined with the independence dragonriding grants you.
Traveling through the four zones of the Dragon Isles is enjoyable in and of itself. To accommodate dragonriding, each zone is enormous and was constructed with verticality in mind, but crucially, they don’t feel empty. The new Dragon Isles zones feel wonderfully open, active, and lived in, in contrast to many recent WoW expansions that felt the need to jam as many destinations and foes into their zones as possible, frequently to their own disadvantage. Particularly the Ohn’ahran Plains and the Azure Span have the vibe of former expansion zones’ best hits. While the Azure Span is almost like a long-lost Northrend zone, complete with the always-cute Tuskarr and music that evokes one of WoW’s most adored zones, Grizzly Hills, the Ohn’ahran Plains catches the essence of zones like Nagrand (both versions) and even the Barrens. Valdrakken, the capital of the Dragon Isles, is advantageously situated above the other zones. It never gets old to take your dragonriding ride off the city walls, drop into the air, and soar to whatever location you like in the Dragon Isles. Many of the zones’ distinctive world events, such as a massive community soup-making event at the Tuskarr village in the Azure Span or a siege to retake an old castle belonging to the Black Dragonflight in The Waking Shores, are only available at the highest level. The Dragon Isles feel more like genuine places than just quest centres thanks to events like this, which are also a fantastic chance to earn some prizes.
But as everyone who has played World of Warcraft will attest, a successful expansion launch is not everything. The first season of the expansion, which will include a new raid, Mythic+ dungeons, and more, is still forthcoming. It is yet uncertain how well that information will be written and what turns the plot will take. Beyond Season 1, Dragonflight needs a consistent patch cadence that brings balancing adjustments and fresh content for players to dive into—something Blizzard struggled to offer throughout Shadowlands. The first post-Season 1 content update for Dragonflight has not yet been announced by Blizzard, but it must happen as soon as possible if Blizzard is to avoid the mistakes of the previous two years.
Only time will tell how Dragonflight compares to the other eight expansions for World of Warcraft, but it has a strong first impression thanks to both its innovative systems and the caliber of its content. You’ll probably come across a dwarf early on in the expansion sitting by himself next to the Ruby Life Pools on The Waking Shore and gazing out at the surroundings. He can give you a mission, but it’s not the conventional “go here, gather this, or kill that” kind. It’s a quest to just sit, chat, and listen instead. The dwarf initially takes a lengthy time between sentences, almost as though he is carefully considering what to say. It turns out that the dwarf is actually a long-gone member of the Red Dragonflight. He has been away from his home for many centuries and never imagined that he would be able to return to it. He opens up to you as you sit and look out at the horizon, revealing difficult recollections of times long ago. He starts to open up, not for your benefit but for his own.
Little moments like these may be found throughout Dragonflight, encouraging you to slow down and, as they say, “smell the roses.” Dragonflight excels when it makes you aware of the special environment you’re in and asks you to slow down and immerse yourself in it, even though there are still plenty of collectathons and kill objectives to do. It’s an extension on acknowledging your past while welcoming your future. The topic is returning home. I have no doubt that many lapsed players who had grown weary of what Azeroth has to offer in recent years will be doing just that, especially in light of the excellence on show in Dragonflight and all the improvements that have been made to the basic systems of Blizzard’s classic RPG.
World Of Warcraft: Dragonflight Rating