World of Warcraft was released back in 2004, during the early years of the modern MMORPG. It has remained near the top list of the most-played MMORPGs in the world. Even so, the last few years haven't been so bright for WoW. Beyond the numerous scandals Activision Blizzard has been embroiled in, two particular expansions of the 18-year MMORPG have been poorly received. I, of course, am referring to the twin toxins of World of Warcraft: World of Battle for Azeroth and Shadowlands.
Together, these two mentioned expansions managed to blight the well of gold that WoW has been accumulating for over a decade. Such a feat was thought to be impossible. WoW could do no wrong, having struck new veins of gold with every new expansion, or so we all thought, myself included. Between the cascade of anti-consumer practices, selective time-gating mechanics, and the infamous Borrowed Power concept, Battle for Azeroth and Shadowlands drowned most of WoW's goodwill in just a few short years. The game was no longer just fun to play.
Enter World of Warcraft: Dragonflight, a marvelous departure from most of that bad blood I mentioned a moment ago. It is an expansion that does away with the constant need to log in and play, and yet, I have been playing every moment that time permits. It is fun to play because Blizzard isn't dictating how I should play every waking moment I am online. If I want to log in and fish, I can fish. If I want to get online and do a few battlegrounds, I can do that without feeling it is a chore. With this expansion, Blizzard isn't hovering over me like a parent, telling me what I should and shouldn't be doing to be relevant.
Gone are the days of going out into the world solely because of a daily quest that provides the slightest sampling of Azerite Power, Battle for Azeroth's Borrowed Power mechanic, and good riddance, I say. Such was a dreadful experience made worst by the constant need to stay within, let's just say, acceptable borrowed power standards to continue to be considered useful. It's such a psychosocial paradox to want to play all the time now that the game isn't forcing me to, but such oddities are the perils of human nature.
Even better, much of the release content is optional, not mandatory for progression. There's no Borrowed Power mechanic demanding, in the back of my mind, to farm endlessly for hours and hours just to stay on or ahead of the curve like in Battle for Azeroth and Shadowlands. Talent Trees, an age-old mechanic removed nearly a decade ago, returns in a brilliant new form that is arguably better for genuine choice than the predecessor system. I can toy around with abilities and skills that could never be taken together before and see weird but oddly effective interactions between them.
Then, there's the icing on the cake: Dragonriding. Dragonriding is the hallmark of World of Warcraft Dragonflight, and the first truly new mechanic Activision Blizzard has ever introduced in World of Warcraft since its release. It was so easy for Blizzard to screw this system up. After all, many add-on systems in the past were just horrific, to put it bluntly. It is a blast, an absolute treat, to fly around on the back of a dragon in World of Warcraft Dragonflight. Between the sprawling landscapes and level design built with flight in mind, I have never enjoyed flying so much in WoW until now. Perhaps the pseudo-realistic physic system Dragonriding uses makes it so enjoyable for me. Perhaps it's because it provides me with a sense of skill expression, a means to notice proficiency among others, that elates me so. Either way, Dragonriding is a great thing, and I pray Activision Blizzard permanently integrates the system with the rest of the game in the future.
Dragonflight gives you gear to collect, items to farm for, and new mechanics to play with, all while respecting that you might want to do something else besides playing WoW all day. In the grand scheme of WoW, Dragonflight is the same as previous expansions, but it dumps all of the extra baggage Activision Blizzard has forced upon the game over the years and instead focuses on expanding upon what made WoW fun to play for so long in the first place.
As of writing, the first week of Dragonflight has just concluded, and I have played every day since its release. While I have enjoyed every waking moment this expansion has had to offer, I remain hopeful that Activision Blizzard doesn't add anything to ruin this fantastic experience in the near future. This isn't a slight on Dragonflight, but if Blizzard is to fully replenish their gold mine, they need to keep the pace that Dragonflight's release has set for future updates. If they can do that, I have no doubt that Dragonflight will be remembered as the expansion that put the fun back into World of Warcraft.
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