World of Warcraft came out in 2004, almost 14 years ago. With Battle for Azeroth releasing in less than a month, the MMO is about to receive its seventh major expansion. Millions of players have loved World of Warcraft at one time in their life, only to run out of time or feel too burnt out to play. But the World of Warcraft that required you to play it like a job is gone, replaced with something that can fit any schedule.
With the Artifact system in Legion and the Heart of Azeroth system in Battle for Azeroth — items that have near-infinite leveling bars and can improve your class over the course of the expansion — each time you log in, you’re making progress on something. Every activity or boss defeated in the world will add to your gear or fill some bar — even after you’ve hit max level.
This constant progression system has solved one of World of Warcraft’s oldest problems: what to do if you can’t raid. Raids are the best way to get end game loot, but they take hours and an organized group to complete. So what do you do when a raid is the only way you can further improve your gear, but you don’t have the time or the friends to complete one? You quit until the next expansion.
But now, players not only have their Artifact or Heart of Azeroth to level, but endgame gear can also be found hidden in more corners of the world.
Other systems improve the grind as well. Legion introduced the Mythic Plus system, which let players replay dungeons with a timer and special modifiers for increased difficulty. Each week, the game reads the highest-level dungeon you’ve completed and gives you a corresponding high-level piece. These dungeons take no more than 30 minutes to finish and only require five people, letting even the most casual of players work into a higher gear class over time.
The higher the level of Mythic Plus you complete, the better gear you receive at the end. But even just completing one a week is enough to move players up in item level.
Adjusting to how you want to play
World of Warcraft’s philosophy over the past two years of Legion has been to serve all the players. If you have the hours to play every week, regular raiding will still allow you to be a top-geared player, giving you a leg up against the hardest content. But players with only a few hours to spare, or even just 15 minutes, can move their character forward with world quests and dungeons.
Battle for Azeroth takes this idea one step forward. Not only will players be able to complete the same activities from Legion to get gear, Blizzard has included two new end game pursuits that let players target what they need most.
The new Island Expeditions take about 15 minutes and exist solely to increase the power of your Heart of Azeroth. Warfronts take a bit longer at around 40 minutes, but offer powerful gear drops every two weeks or so. Between the Legion and the Battle for Azeroth systems, World of Warcraft players now have four ways to gain end game loot, with only one of them taking longer than an hour a week.
But the Mythic raider race hasn’t halted in the wake of this new, casual-friendly game space. It took the first team to defeat Mythic Kil’Jaeden 654 tries last year, and hardcore players have been testing Battle for Azeroth’s upcoming raid for the last few months. Those players still exist, and they’re fun to watch from a distance, even if the idea of pulling a boss that many times makes you physically ill.
Fixing the game’s biggest problem
One of the most common, modern sentiments with World of Warcraft is, “I wish I still had time to play” — if you don’t believe us, check Polygon’s comment section on any World of Warcraft article. But Blizzard has managed to make the game evolve with those players who miss World of Warcraft but don’t think they have the time to get back in.
Fifteen-year-olds who started playing World of Warcraft in its original, vanilla form could be out of college and married with children by now, giving them a lot less time to kill boars with their friends in Elwynn Forest. But the modern World of Warcraft game can accommodate their change in life style without sacrificing the grind-y gameplay that their hardcore players still want to commit to.
Even players who miss raiding can jump into an extremely easy difficulty setting made just for getting some loot and seeing bosses. The tools to have fun in World of Warcraft, regardless of your time commitment, is there in a way it never was before. You can flexibly enjoy something that previously required hours of game time.
World of Warcraft facilitates this good feeling that many other games hefty time investment can’t seem to manage. Players are able to get something concrete out of their playtime.
Every time you log out — after 15 minutes or 24 hours — something about your character has changed. Maybe you went up a level, maybe you increased your Heart of Azeroth power, or maybe you finally took down the raid boss your guild has been working on for weeks. World of Warcraft rewards you for the time you spend with it, no matter how long.