Game of the Week: World of Warcraft: Dragonflight

This week, we’ve chosen World of Warcraft: Dragonflight as our game of the week, even though it’s technically just an expansion (read: big update), but we’ve got a good reason for it!

Dragonflight is shaping up to be the best WoW expansion since Legion so far, and while we’re barely a week into the Dragon Isles, it’s fun enough right now to recommend it to anyone who suffered through Battle for Azeroth and Shadowlands.

The true mark of a good expansion will really be decided a month of two into it. You could call this the honeymoon period, where players are churning through all the new content at a rapid pace, but what happens once Primal Storms, world bosses, PvP and PvE seasons and the first raid have all been out for a while? We’ll have to wait and see, but for now, Dragonflight is quite a bit of fun and a welcome change from the grind-centred expansions that came before it.


First, Some Context

To understand why Dragonflight is a breath of fresh air we need to take a quick trip down memory lane and look at the past few expansions.

When Legion launched in 2016, it was also a breath of fresh air after the content drought of Warlords of Draenor, and with it came a pretty important overhaul to three systems: Dungeons, the reputation system and professions. There’s more, of course (like legendary items), but we’ll focus on these.

Dungeons got Mythic+, and system that scales difficulty and rewards from dungeons, ensuring they won’t become completely redundant as the expansion evolves. It was a success and is now a core ‘game mode’ of WoW.

The reputation system got changed with the addition of world quests, a borrowed feature from Diablo 3’s bounties, adapted to am MMO environment and made the reputation grind feel less stale with a varied, rotating set of daily activities to complete at your leisure.

Professions got a major overhaul, each receiving a long-winded questline to acquire more recipes, and most recipes now having three ranks, each rank either improving recipe yield or reducing the materials required to craft the item.

The point I’m trying to make here is that Legion took a hard look at some of the core systems in WoW and strived to improve them. Other expansions before it had some half-hearted attempts at the same result, but Legion is when success was found.

Battle For Azeroth

These same systems were further iterated on in the next two expansions. While Mythic+ was mostly fine, professions and reputation / world quests were not.

Professions in BFA had the same shtick going on: Most of them have ranks, and each rank grants a similar effect as it did in Legion. Here’s the kicker, though: There was no cool, immersive questline that took you through your profession anymore, aside from some minor quests for the gathering arts.

You sort of just plowed through your profession skill, got the recipes, then got the rank upgrades upon reaching Revered/Exalted with some of the new factions. For PvP gear recipes, you’d have to sink your precious Marks of Honor to buy the rank upgrades.

World Quests, while slightly less noticeable, did receive a nerf: They were less exciting, their rewards felt less impactful and were overall slightly more tedious than their Legion counterparts. At the time, I thought it interesting that these two systems were iterated into a downgrade from one expansion to the other, but I assumed the developers would course-correct in Shadowlands.

magni bronzebeard
Nothing about this glorified chess piece’s world quests was exciting.

Shadowlands

My god, it got worse. Profession ranks were no longer the norm for most recipes – they were relegated to the recipes that crafted armor pieces, which players could combine into crafted legendary items. Most everything else professions did (other than raid flasks, gems, enchants, the usual) was quickly pointless. This time around, there weren’t any profession-related quests, that was just an old memory.

World quests got the worst of it though. Right, something I forgot to mention was that, since Legion, completing four world quests for a faction would award you:

  • In Legion, a chest with some gold (~700), a bunch of resources & reagents and perhaps some follower equipment or currency.
  • In BFA, a pre-determined reward, usually an epic gear piece, 2000 gold or Azerite Power.

You’d just log in, do four world quests, and go to an NPC to get your chest. In Shadowlands, you first had to go and manually pick up the “do world quests to get chest” quest – that was the first red flag. Second red flag, world quests in the afterlife could sound something like this when you previewed them on the map: “Acquire 3 bear asses”. Sounds pretty quick, something you could do during your lunch break, right?

More often than not, by the time you were done with that one world quest, it’d look like this:

  • Acquire 3 bear asses.
  • Deliver them to Lady Moonberry.
  • Pick up the Bear Gland Bomb Box.
  • Mount the nearby Wilderling.
  • Kill 100 Forsworn with the Bear Gland Bomb.

This was very much commonplace in the world quest experience. To complicate matters even more, after you’d finally get your coveted box of random goodies, you wouldn’t open it to find an instant 700 gold, or know in advance it wouldn’t be a box but straight up 2000 gold. Among some miscellaneous items like seeds , you’d get roughly three stacks of gray-quality items that you’d then have to manually sell for somewhere between 1700 and 2200 gold. Why? We still don’t know.

ardenweald
Stay away from me, Lady Moonberry! Never again!

Getting to the Point

Finally, enter Dragonflight. Gone are the recipe ranks and unhealthy legendary crafting system. Gone are the several long-term grinds associated with player power. Gone are the tedious world quests, the especially bad lore, the monochrome environments and the lack of variety in the kind of daily content you can engage with. Dragonflight has a little bit of everything.

Factions, World Quests & The Grind

First, let’s talk factions. There’s four major factions, with one of them having four sub-divisions that are grinded separately (but they’re alt-friendly!):

  • The Dragonscale Expedition can be grinded all the way to the end if you want to spend days looting dirt clumps and lost expeditioner packs. Much like the Kirin Tor in Legion, they’re the ones with the fun world quests (rock climbing, nature photography…)
  • The Maruuk Centaur do Grand Hunts, which rotate throughout the entire content and constitute six tasks, ending in a bag of goodies. Grand Hunts are events open to all – they are not quests – and you can even AFK the whole time and still receive the reward.
  • The Iskaara Tuskarr are all about the good things in life: Cooking and Fishing. The main activities they provide are setting up Fishing Holes for players, which last a few days and provide bonus chances of getting shiny fishing loot, and Community Feasts. The latter are another type of event open to all and basically runs like a proper restaurant kitchen. Every player gets a task and at the end, a delicious soup is made!
  • The Valdrakken Accord represents the combined might of all the main flavors of dragons, and they’re in charge of making up race courses for you to practice your Dragonriding on. They’ve got four sub-factions:

  • Cobalt Assembly, which is an old-school open-world mob grind that unlocks some profession recipes and item appearances.
  • Wrathion & Sabellian, two dragons, one of which you can swear allegiance to each week and work towards that particular reputation for your usual loot, as well as a fancy, powerful cloak.
  • Artisan’s Consortium, which is directly related to professions and offers recipes and useful crafting shenanigans.

As you can see, each faction offers a wide variety of activities, each with their unique quirk. Gone are the days of taking a continental tour and doing 25 world quests every day. In fact, if you’ve done all world quests, you’ll notice you only have 2 or 3 new ones popping up each day. The lesson here is that Dragonflight is not here to keep you logging in every day to grind. You’ve got time to do some of the events, pop a dungeon, fish and watch the sunset and you can do it all in your own time.

Professions: Refining the Craft

If world quests were tuned down in favor of a cycle of events (Grant Hunts, Feasts, Races) to make Azeroth feel like a living, breathing world again, professions have received a facelift that strives to make the community a living, breathing… not sure how to end that phrase, but you get the gist of it.

If you haven’t looked into Dragonflight professions, you’ll be surprised to find out they’ve now become one of the most complex systems in Warcraft. Aside from a sprawling talent tree of their own, which lets players specialize in their own niche and hopefully make a killing on the auction house, they promise to remain relevant throughout the expansion’s entire two-year lifespan.

Each recipe now has a difficulty rating. Your skill determines what quality your craft will end up being, depending on the difference between the two numbers. Things get even more interesting when you account for secondary stats:

  • Inspiration gives you a chance to craft something with a bonus amount of skill rating, meaning it’ll end up higher quality.
  • Resourcefulness gives you a chance to craft something using fewer resources than the recipe demands.
  • Multicraft gives you a chance to create multiple pieces of the same item and usually only applies for reagents.
  • Crafting speed, well, increases your crafting speed. Useful if you’re on a lunch break.

All these stats can be increased through leveling up your profession, equipping fancy profession gear and, most importantly, choosing your profession talents carefully. There’s enough variety to ensure players will be divided into different niches, each able to provide something at a greater quality than others can produce. Crafters may also be able to find the reagents necessary to craft heroic/mythic raid item level gear, so you can be sure professions will remain relevant for quite a while.

Now, The Point

Dragonflight has taken a page out of Legion’s book and worked to refine some of the game’s core systems, this time putting a lot of extra effort into it. If you ask me, so far it seems to have succeeded. The game feels more fun, relaxing and light-hearted than it did the past two expansions, or perhaps even since Wrath of the Lich King. While we’ve yet to truly see how it holds up in the long run, it’s definitely worth going in and giving it a try now, while there’s still so much more to discover.

dragon isles aqueduct
Like why do the Dragon Isles have so many aqueducts? Do dragons drink water like pigeons from a fountain?

Are you already in the Dragon Isles? What has your impression been so far? Let us know in the comments below!