Though the Battle For Azeroth doesn't begin until August, distant drums can be heard beating for World Of Warcraft's next expansion. Blizzard this week launched the 'Battle for Azeroth Pre-Patch', a big update adding many new features in preparation for war. And to draw more recruits, Blizzard have revamped the MMO's pricing by removing the need to buy the base game. Subscriptions now include the base game and every current expansion, though Battle For Azeroth will still be sold as an add-on for cashola when it arrives.
The Pre-Patch season will bring in-game events escalating the conflict as Battle draws near, starting on July 14th, spreading from Teldrassil to Lordaeron. For now, the update has laid a lot of groundwork.
Cross-server social groups are now in, so you can become pals with digifolk who live on other realms. Voice chat is in for all groups, guilds, and communities too. Orcs have been to finishing school and emerged with the new option for an upright posture, while Blood Elves can take their smise to a whole new level with golden eyes (and some new faces to put those peepers in). And, as the Battle For Azeroth Pre-Patch notes explain, many skills have been rebalanced, reworked, and added.
War Mode, the new form of world PvP, has arrived too. Players can flag themselves for War in Orgrimmar or Stormwind then, as they set out, receive bonus gold and experience while questing - at the cost of risking being murdered by other War Mode folks around the world. More open-world murdermode features will arrive in Battle For Azeroth's new zones.
One surprising change is that people no longer need to buy anything to get started in WoW, simply rock up and start paying subscription fees. The base game and its first six expansions, through to 2016's Legion, are now available to everyone who plays WoW.
Blizzard have long tried to reduce the initial hurdle of joining by adding expansions to the 'Battle Chest' base edition once they've been out for a few years, stopping folks from buying loads of individual expansions, but this is a step beyond. This does not include Battle Of Azeroth, mind, which will launch priced at £40.
World Of Warcraft: Battle For Azeroth is due on August 14th. It'll bring new lands to explore, new enemies to shake down for pennies, new dungeons and raids to grind, new PvP and PvE modes, and more of the usual MMO expansion jazz.
As for official 'Classic' WoW servers, Blizzard are still working on their vintage mode, focusing on reviving ye olde Patch 1.12: Drums of War.