At long last, the rumored dragon-themed World of Warcraft expansion is upon us. Blizzard has announced that the ninth expansion for its long-running MMORPG will be titled World of Warcraft: Dragonflight, and will take place on the mythical Dragon Isles.
Unlike several recent expansions, Dragonflight will open with a much more optimistic tone as explorers and adventurers arrive on the shores of the ancestral home of the dragons, which have recently awakened after being hidden for centuries. Draconic characters who have previously played major roles in World of Warcraft lore — such as Alexstrasza, Kalecgos, Ebonhorn, and Wrathion — will return for major storylines. As usual, there will be new quests, dungeons, and raids tied to this expansion and area, to be revealed at a later date.
Dragonflight expands the level cap to 70 and introduces four new leveling zones to get players there, which they’ll explore in order: the lush and lava-filled Waking Shores, the wide Ohn’ahran Plains, the icy Azure Span, and Thaldraszus — the seat of power for the dragons and home of the new player hub, Valdrakken.
The Dragon Isles will also include a fifth zone — a starting area for a brand new hero class, the Dracthyr. The Dracthyr are draconic beings that can switch between dragon and human forms, and who can be part of either the Alliance or Horde. Dracthyr are exclusively tied to a single class, the Evoker, which can specialize either as a healer or a ranged damage dealer.
Not only will the Dragon Isles allow players to be dragons, but every player will be able to ride them as well. Dragonflight will introduce Dragon Riding, a new mount system with far more robust features than typical flight. Players will partner with a customizable dragon that will gain new flight abilities as they work through the expansion, eventually allowing them to fly, dive, spiral, and swoop through the isles. The Dragon Isles are designed with this flight in mind, as it’s available from the outset, and thus is a much more vertical zone than we’ve seen in past expansions.
Alongside these new additions, a number of World of Warcraft systems are being revamped. The UI is getting an overhaul to allow for far more customization than before without having to download extra mods, and the profession system will implement features like work orders, profession-specific equipment and stats, and the return of specializations. Most notably, the talent system is getting an overhaul as well to allow players to allocate points into talent trees both for their class and specialization at every level.
Sign-ups for the alpha and beta for Dragonflight will soon be live on the official WoW website. Blizzard has not yet announced a release window for Dragonflight, though in our interviews with the team they reassured us that they will not launch it on top of the upcoming World of Warcraft Classic expansion, Wrath of the Lich King, which is due later this year.
We chatted in-depth with game director Ion Hazzikostas and narrative director Steve Danuser about the new Dracthyr Evoker hero class, the big changes to fundamental WoW systems in Dragonflight, and rumors of a WoW console port. We also spoke to the WoW Classic leads about some of the changes coming in Wrath of the Lich King Classic, and where Classic might go next.
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Rebekah Valentine is a news reporter for IGN. You can find her on Twitter @duckvalentine.