Relapse Diaries Part 1: Getting Ready to Battle for Azeroth

Joab Gilroy
Games Blizzard
Games Blizzard PC Gaming

World of Warcraft: Battle for Azeroth (BfA) is all but upon us! It is, as always, nigh impossible to review a release like this. Instead I’ll keep you updated with a diary of my exploits in World of Warcraft’s latest expansion — and along the way share my impressions as well.

I was insomniac for a while. To pass time, I’d sit at the Auction House in World of Warcraft‘s Orgrimmar or Dalaran , playing the Auctioneer game. I made a lot of Gold buying low and selling high. I’d yammer on in local chat, crack jokes with people I’d seen before. I’d hang out, basically.

My wife (then girlfriend) thought World of Warcraft was the cause of my insomnia — a wretched influence keeping my brain active when I should have been asleep.

I never really explained that this wasn’t the case — that WoW was a coping mechanism. That the insomnia was caused by a job I outwardly loved and internally loathed, by my amplification of personal failures and dismissal of personal successes. If she’d seen how I was playing it, she’d probably understand better.

Because it’s not like I ever did anything substantial, after all. Playing the Auction House is about as passive as playing gets. On a second monitor, I’d watch The Wire, or Deadwood, or another slow burn drama, WoW‘s sound muted, except for a few alert noises I’d set up.

To me, it was a place where everybody knew my name. The idea that World of Warcraft replaced the after-work bar for a lot of people in my generation rings true to me. Most bars have a few who stay on much later than the others, pissing away the night with the same pint they bought an hour ago as time whittles away. Not alcoholics per se, but not healthy either.

Ready for an Azeroth Return

Battle everywhere in WoW Battle for Azeroth.
Can't they stop fighting long enough to see that they're in love?

So I never did anything of real consequence when I played in that time. It wasn’t until Wrath of the Lich King that I really played World of Warcraft. Before that, I’d tread water. But when I got a Death Knight , that’s when I accomplished things. I’d still stay up all night watching The Wire and playing the Auction House, but during regular hours I was getting things done. All thanks to my Death Knight.

He was the trinity unto himself — tank, dps and healer (of himself), and when I wasn’t wasting away in my own version of Margaritaville, the two of us forged some great memories.

I solo’d the DPS dance of Heigan the Unclean together, a 28 minute long ordeal that I refused to wipe on because I wasn’t convinced my raid group would ever get its act together. I hunted a Time-Lost Proto-Drake . I secured the Explorer title , ganked Alliance all over the world and watched the guild I was in slowly fall apart.

Eventually I was sleeping more. As such, I was spending less time in World of Warcraft. I didn’t have time to play the Auction House for hours any more. Previously, I’d used my treasury to supply my guild-mates with the items they’d need to attempt and fail at Icecrown Citadel over and over. They’d always seemed happy enough to take advantage.

They didn’t bother trying to get their own pots, and if spending a bit of time each week outside of the raid was a requisite, many would rather just not raid. Without a wealthy benefactor, my guild stopped playing much. And so too did I.

Old school Wrath content
This dude is pointing in the wrong direction.

Death Knight Resurrected

When I logged into my Death Knight last week, preparing to answer the call and battle the alliance in BfA I had just 3600g. For someone who spent hours on the Auction House – and in the modern WoW economy – it’s pennies.

It’s funny, returning to my old haunt. It’s familiar, but obviously different — like an old dive bar that got a new paint job but couldn’t ever really get the scent of stale beer and decade old cigarette smoke out of the foundation. When I was a regular, that aroma was familiar and welcoming — a reminder of that place I belong to.

As you might imagine, the scent was now off-putting to me — it smacked me in the face and begged the question; ‘what are you doing back here?’

I powered through the odor anyway. It took a long time. I reinstalled some addons — Bartender, Bagnon, Deadly Boss Mods — and skipped others — Auctioneer — but there was still quite a bit that didn’t sit right for me. The level 110 boost is a great helping hand — the way it eases you back into playing is fantastic — but it’s not really all the way there.

Re-Learning Curve

There’s so much left out, so much extra reading to be done. So many things have changed. Stats have been squished , for example. That means items don’t have as grand a difference in quality until you reach a certain point. Basically put — the stuff you’re wearing when you boost to 110 is garbage, certainly, but it’s not utter garbage. And if you take into account the fact that you’ll render most of it obsolete two hours after Battle for Azeroth launches, it’s not even all that big a deal. But it’s certainly confusing when you first get in.

Artifact Weapons are another big deal — except, thanks to the imminent launch of BfA, they aren’t. They’re Legion content, and it’s probably too late for me to really worry about getting into them. I think, anyway.

Another big deal is War Mode . I’ve always played on PVP realms. There’s something extremely satisfying about being able to gank an Alliance player when I see them, and if the price for doing that is occasionally being ganked myself, I’ll pay it. Better still is when you see an Alliance player on in a PVP realm and the two of you decide to let one another be.

The talents page
PVP talents are on the right

Now, all realms are essentially PVE. To engage in World PVP, you need to specifically turn War Mode on while in your capital. To encourage people to do this, there are a swathe of bonuses — extra talents, extra experience gains and a few other things that won’t trigger until level 120.

It’s all about trying to get players into the mindset of war — the Battle for Azeroth, as it were. And I’d mostly dismissed it. I had my War Mode set on, because I am unquestionably about that life, but while doing the bidding of Lady Sylvanas in the questline leading into BfA I hadn’t seen much to indicate its value.

I couldn’t be a Blood DK, because Blood Spec is for Tanks now. I couldn’t just PVP any Alliance character I saw, because they can opt out (and knowing Alliance players they would). I couldn’t tell what my gear was worth because the numbers all mean different things now — although I could tell I was in garbage.

I was back in, but it was all so alien. Then I made it to the Darkshore portion of the BfA opening questline.

Devil’s Night

The local chat was aflame constantly. Alliance players were being called out constantly, discussion was being had — about Warcraft, about sports, about Black Ops 4 — and the world seemed alive. It’s the point of impact for players excited for the new expansion, and everyone is getting in on the fun. Darkshore is gank city, baby.

A player looks at a crate drop in the distance.
A fancy man with fancy plans and pants to match

The real reason is the crate drop. Every 20 minutes or so a goblin flying machine rumbles through the zone. A cry goes up in local chat — “Plane!” — and whoever is present chases after it. It’s like the supply drop in PUBG — except you should actually go for this one. Whichever faction opens the crate gets access to loot for about 60 seconds, and there’s good gear within.

Only one faction can open the crate, so the idea is supposed to be a great battle. What happens instead are raid groups, as players form up across realms into massive teams to lock down the zone.

Something to do with the way the game does instancing — probably a player limit restriction — means that generally one side will dramatically outnumber the other. If you notice 40 enemies and only three other allies, you’ve rolled a 1 — a critical fail — on your instance check. You won’t be getting those crates this time.

That’s only happened to me once though. Every other time, it’s been a Horde party. The seaside town of Lor’Danel is on fire, and that’s where we sit. Some people gank the handful of Alliance unlucky enough to be instanced with us. When a multi-boxer started picking off stray Horde players, we all banded together to show him what for. But mostly I yammer on in local chat and crack jokes with people I’ve seen before. Hang out, basically.

Stay tuned for the second part of my diary series — with launch less than a day away, I’ll join the race to 120 and probably talk less about my insomnia.

Joab Gilroy
Joab is a games critic from Australia with over 10 years of experience and a PUBG tragic.
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