Following my positive impressions of the Dracthyr Evoker, I’m pleased to say Dragonflight keeps the momentum going.
The last WoW expansion I really took to was Mists of Pandaria. And yes, it was partly because I loved the Pandaren and wanted a Monk plus adored the setting. It was a fab expansion.
Ever since, though, I’ve felt quite apathetic towards everything put out. None of it has come close to that initial feeling I had waiting around the Dark Portal when Burning Crusade dropped. Or the feeling of standing in a queue at midnight for Wrath of the Lich King.
Dragonflight, though, is the closest since the OG expansions to really get me invested and caring about this MMO I’ve been playing off and on for eighteen years. Dragonflight is the most creative offering in years, but it also offers the most interesting world in some time, complimented by a fascinating deep detailed story that befits the cool Dracthyr.
I’m actually a little bit blown away by how quickly it’s all got me back into Warcraft. I honestly thought the ship had sailed. Yet, here I am, grinding away, rocketing towards Level 70, and finding it all rather enjoyable.
It wasn’t all smooth sailing at launch. Dragonflight’s first few hours were, in predictable WoW fashion, a hot mess. But I was at least reassured to see so many people waiting for the boat, eager to explore the Dragon Isles. I knew I’d have company.
Once the teething problems were out of the way, though, I found myself wanting to take on every side quest, explore every crevice, and find out every bit of history I could about this place and its denizens.
There’s items you can pick up that start new quests, optional conversations you can have with characters to fill in some of the gaps or further build on the quest you’re on. There’s, of course, new factions to gain renown with so you can acquire unique items. And the cinematics really bring you closer to the adventure than ever, something early WoW never understood.
And I think that’s the first thing I found is just how much Blizzard have continued to iterate on this engine that should surely be creaking and on its knees by now. How can this game feel so different from the one I played at launch, almost like it’s been given a whole new lease on life. Yet, it does.
From the UI layout which has been polished and tidied up, to the menu systems all neatly organised, the amount of collectibles and submenus which are all aligned in an easy to find way. But even down to the character animations, the storytelling through in-game cut-scenes, and the incredibly rich color palette which still dazzles to this day.
World of Warcraft has changed massively, yet still remains serviceable, still feels fresh, and still manages to iterate and create exciting new things for players to see and do.
The big inclusion, of course, is Dragonflight. Within the Dragon Isles, you can acquire a rather fantastic mounted creature to soar through the skies with. But Blizzard have turned that into a whole game on its own, even going as far as to provide your Dragon mount with a skill tree.
Once you’ve learned the basics, there’s quite a lot you can do. You can take on optional races through the Dragon Isles as part of a wider quest. Similar to Spyro, you float through a series of rings, using downward momentum to cast you up, or one of the two buttons to speed you up or give you an added boost.
You’re graded Bronze, Silver, Gold based on your time and this can actually net you more rewards the better you perform, but also gives you a bit of bragging rights among Guild Mates and friends.
There’s also Glyphs hidden around the Dragon Isles which you need to collect in order to level up your Dragon Mount even further and access some of the deeper talents in the tree. This is such a smart way to keep you hovering around, looking for something and breaks up the action from the questing down below.
Flying to high points does get a bit frustrating at first. You only have a certain amount of upward boosts and once they expire you’re forced to land. There’s also a lot of space to cover, so you should only really use the mount when you have to. Of course, as you build up your mount, the situation improves, but there’s definitely a learning curve to begin with that can be frustrating.
But it also manages to be one of the best implementations in WoW for years. While there’s always been flying mounts and the usual flight trainers you meet to get you from A to B, this actually does something with the privilege rather than just flying around and looking at the pretty views.
While this overview is still in progress, I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention dungeons, on which any WoW expansion lives and breathes. So far, I’ve just played through Ruby Life Pools as I’ve been so invested in doing story quests and I didn’t find it particularly memorable. It’s commendable stories are trying to be told in these dungeons now, with questlines going in, and an overarching tale that explains who you’re fighting and why.
With Ruby Life Pools, I found there were just a lot of open spaces to run through, with mobs filled with tiny ads and only three main bosses to fight through. It’s a perfectly fine dungeon, with some lovely views and I did appreciate being able to fly between tiers hopping on some in-dungeon dragon mounts, but it wasn’t particularly memorable.
Once I hit 70 and have had some more time to go through the other dungeons as well as map out my Dragon mount, however, I’m going to put together some final impressions.
But for now, I’d say Dragonflight is a really solid, entertaining expansion. It feels like there’s too much content here that you’ll have hit 70 long before you’re done, with 8 dungeons, lots of optional quests and four massive environments. I’m 64 already and I’m still not done exploring the first area.
For now, I’d deem this a big success for World of Warcraft. What the future holds for this massive MMO is a huge question mark between the brewing Microsoft acquisition, whether that goes through and finally opens up the game to other platforms, potentially even ending up on Game Pass, or if there’s even another expansion in the future and what subject matter they’d tackle next.
None of that is relevant for here, because Dragonflight is shaping up to be one of Blizzard’s best expansions yet. Which seems unfathomable for a game that has given us nearly two decades worth of service.
In my early impressions so far, World of Warcraft Dragonflight is one of Blizzard’s best expansions to date. The areas are massive, completely content rich, and there’s so many optional things to see and do. Dragon riding is a game changer for this franchise, opening up World of Warcraft in even more interesting ways and the cinematic quality and overall polish is impressive for an eighteen year old game. Dungeons remain a bit of a question mark for me and I did have some early frustrations with the dragon riding, so I’m looking forward to presenting some final thoughts in the near future. But if you’re worried this expansion doesn’t live up to the hype or you don’t believe it’s possible to get drawn in by WoW again, this is the best the game has been since the early days.
+ Flight challenges are a lot of fun
+ Rich, interesting history for the Dracthyr
+ Some good enjoyable quests and storytelling
+ A lovely levelling tempo and range of lands and environments
– Ruby Dungeon isn’t particularly memorable
– Surprisingly sharp difficulty uptick from Level 62
World of Warcraft: Dragonflight is out now on Battle.Net.
Code Kindly Provided by Activision Blizzard