The Road to Legion
The announcement of World of Warcraft’s next expansion, Legion, has us all excited for what’s coming next to the world of Azeroth. But while there is a lot of new content to look forward to, we wanted to examine the game's previous expansions and what each contributed. So join us, as we highlight the amazing features that helped make this beloved MMORPG what it is today.
First Expansion: The Burning Crusade
WoW’s first expansion, The Burning Crusade, came out January 15, 2007, three years after the release of the base game. In it, players had to deal with the threat of the Dark Portal's reopening to Outland, a shattered planet controlled by an evil demonic army known as the Burning Legion. This expansion brought several new additions, which included raising the level cap from 60 to 70, a new world, two new races, and expanded PvP options and battlegrounds.
The new world introduced in the Burning Crusade was the Outland, the former Orc homeworld and refuge of the Draenei. Once a massive planet called Draenor, it is now a shattered landmass used as a platform for the Burning Legion's evil plans.
New Race: The Draenei
The Draenei are the first of the two new races introduced in The Burning Crusade. They are a population of uncorrupted Eredar who were forced to flee the Outland as a result of Kil’Jaeden’s plot to wipe them out. During time of release, the Draenei were the only Alliance race that could choose the previously Horde-exclusive Shaman class; they even had access to the Paladin class, which had only been available to Alliance humans and dwarves.
New Race: The Blood Elves
As the second new race, The Blood Elves are former High Elves, who after having their Sunwell destroyed by the Undead Scourge during the Third War, resorted to consuming demonic magic to sate their magical cravings. As a result, they were abandoned by their Alliance comrades and were forced to join the Horde to survive. When they first debuted, the Blood Elves were the only Horde race that could access the Paladin class.
The Burning Crusade introduced flying mounts, which increased maximum player movement speed by quite a margin. Unfortunately, they were only usable by level 60 characters in select areas of Outland.
New PvP Options and Modes
The Burning Crusade offered new options and modes for World of Warcraft’s PvP. First off, it included a new battleground called Eye of the Storm, which was first introduced with two brackets: one for level 61-69 characters, and the other for level 70 characters. Second, the expansion debuted a Team Deathmatch-like mode called Team PvP Arena. And lastly, new outdoor PvP objectives were added, like capturing key points to reward players of a specific faction, and even competing for control of an area to unlock a quest or exclusive vendor access.
Second Expansion: Wrath of the Lich King
The second WoW expansion, Wrath of the Lich King, launched on November 13, 2008, a year after The Burning Crusade. With the demonic threat of the Outland quelled, players had to deal with the evils of the Lich King Arthas, who threatened Azeroth with the undead legions of the scourge. The expansion's major additions included raising the level cap to 80, a new continent, the Death Knight Class, new mounts, and PvP updates.
Northrend is a crescent-shaped continent that serves as the heart of the Lich King’s frozen empire. It was once a part of the the Kalimdor landmass, but after the Sundering, it drifted away from Azeroth's temperate zone and into its far Northern regions.
New Class: Death Knight
Death Knight is WoW’s first Hero Class, which is a new class type introduced in the expansion. Starting at level 55, the class comes in three different specializations: Blood (tank), Frost (melee DPS), and Unholy (melee DPS). For the purpose of gameplay, Death Knights could be aligned with the Alliance or Horde depending on the player's chosen race.
PvP Addition: Siege Warfare Battlegrounds
While Wrath of the Lich King offered subtle additions to WoW’s PvP modes, a new style of PvP was introduced that brought siege warfare into the fold. The first of these was Strand of the Ancients: a 15v15 battleground revolving around destroying a series of three walls in order to obtain a precious relic. The second--called Isle of Conquest--was a 40v40 battleground that had players completing objectives for control over a small island.
New Mounts: Multi-Person Mounts and Siege Engines
Wrath of the Lich King upped its mount game by bringing in multi-passenger mounts. The main highlight of this new mount type was the Siege Engine, a series of heavily armored vehicles designed to be the ultimate destructive resource during siege warfare battlegrounds.
Third Expansion: Cataclysm
Two years after the release of Wrath of the Lich King, WoW’s third expansion, Cataclysm, launched on December 7, 2010. Major new features included raising the level cap to 85, revamping the design of older areas, two new races, and the ability to fly mounts anywhere in the world.
Relevant Patches: 4.0.1--Cataclysm Systems Patch
Before Cataclysm’s release, Blizzard released a patch on October 23, 2010 that reworked many of WoW’s systems. Eight major changes were implemented: an overhaul of the talent system, major class changes, “reforging” item stats, a points system for PvP and PvE, user interface updates, improved graphics, a new level of glyphs, and a flexible raid lockout system.
Relevant Patches: 4.0.3a–-The Shattering
Due to Deathwing’s destructive rampage through Azeroth, Cataclysm featured new versions of Kalimdor and the Eastern Kingdoms; this in-game event became referred to as “The Shattering.” The resulting damage affected the game’s areas, altering their appearance, and updating them with new quest lines and level progression changes.
New Race: Worgen
Worgen are humans inflicted with a curse that renders them into werewolf-like beings. The ones playable in Cataclysm have been cured of their affliction, but have retained their ability to shape shift into their wolf form. As a race tied to the Alliance, Worgen have access to the following classes: death knight, druid, warrior, hunter, mage, priest, rogue, or warlock.
New Race: Goblin
Goblins are small, cunning, green-skinned humanoids who are merchants by trade. They are known in the lore for being immensely greedy, so much so that their main motivation joining the Horde was because Alliance business encounters proved unprofitable. As a Horde race, Goblins can choose to be death knights, hunters, mages, priests, rogues, shamans, warlocks, and warriors.
Flying Mounts Anywhere
While previous expansions restricted player use of flying mounts to new areas, Cataclysm finally allowed players to use them in WoW’s older continents via a purchasable in-game license.
Fourth Expansion: Mists of Pandaria
The fourth expansion of World of Warcraft brought players to East Asian-inspired continent of Pandaria. New additions included raising the level cap to 90, a new class, a new race, a pet battle system, dungeon challenge modes, and a new three-player instance mode, called Scenarios.
Relevant Patches: 5.0.4—Mists of Pandaria Pre-Patch
Before the expansion’s release, new systems were put in place via pre-launch patch. These changes included the following: a new talent system, cross-realm zones, class changes, AoE (Area-of-Effect) looting, and BattleTag support.
Located in the Southern region of Azeroth, Pandaria is an ancient empire that has been survived for thousands of years. However, its presence remained largely unknown due to the actions of its last emperor who engulfed its lands with a magical mist. As a result, Pandaria disappeared into legend until its mists were cleared by the Sha of Power following the events of Cataclysm.
New Class: Monk
The Monk class is highly proficient in barehanded combat and the use of chi to power their special abilities. As a hybrid class, the Monk is capable of performing a variety of group roles via its unique specializations: Brewmaster (tank), Mistweaver (healer), and Windwaker (melee DPS).
New Race: Pandaren
Originally conceived as an April Fools joke by Blizzard, the Pandarens are an anthropomorphic race of giant pandas that tend to prefer living tranquil, more secluded lives. But on rare occasions, there are Pandarens who yearn to leave their homeland to live more adventurous lifestyles. Classes available to this race are monk, hunter, mage, priest, shaman, rogue, and warrior. Interestingly enough, the Pandarens are the only race to begin the early levels of the game as faction-neutral.
Pet Battle System
The Pet Battle System allowed players to pit their companion pets against other players in turn-based battles. Similar to Pokémon, the feature even gave players the ability to fight and capture wild pets and train them to become stronger.
Dungeon Challenge is an advanced mode that tasks a five-person group to speedrun a more difficult version of a pre-existing dungeon. Depending on how well a group performs, they can be given a variety of unique rewards including mounts, pets, titles, or achievements.
Scenarios are short instances with progressive story arcs and objectives that depict Horde and Alliance storylines in Pandaria. As opposed to instances seen in previous expansions, Scenarios are completely role-less and do not require dedicated tanks or healers to accomplish.
Relevant Patches: 5.4.0—New Raid Setting: Flexible
When Patch 5.4.0 released, a new Flexible raid setting allowed for the difficulty of a raid to scale according to the number of group participants. It was intended to be more challenging than Raid Finder mode but less difficult than Normal or Heroic modes.
Fifth Expansion: Warlords of Draenor
The fifth expansion, Warlords of Draenor, is set after the events of Mists of Pandaria and throws players into an alternate dimension timeline. Major changes in this expansion included raising the level cap from 90 to 100, a character level boost, a new world, improved character models, Garrisons, and a new raid setting.
Level 90 Character Boost
For the first time in the series, Warlords of Draenor allowed players to boost one of their characters to level 90 regardless of class. The feature was introduced to better allow players the opportunity to experience the expansion’s higher level content, while being able to play the races they’ve always wanted to try. The boost was packaged with Warlords of Draenor; however, any subsequent boosts were priced at $60 each.
Draenor is the original homeworld of the Orc race, and it appears in this expansion thanks to the meddling of Horde Warchief Garrosh Hellscream, who traveled back in time to create an alternate timeline preserving its existence. The world had previously appeared in WoW in the form of Outland, but it was destroyed version of the Draenor featured in this expansion.
Improved Character Models
Warlords of Draenor gave World of Warcraft’s rather dated character models a much-needed facelift, with a higher polygon count, sharper textures, and even updated animations.
Garrisons are customizable-bases where players can manage trade routes, unlock new quests, and even recruit NPCs to go out on quests for them. These bases can be assembled from a variety of buildings like farms, workshops, or armories, and make the perfect production epicenters for assisting players in their efforts in the war for Draenor.
Relevant Patches: 6.2.0--Mythic Raid Setting
Warlords of Draenor introduced a new raid setting, called Mythic mode, which became the hardest difficulty in the raid system. Fixed at 20 members, the mode was meant to contrast the more flexible Normal and Heroic modes.
Relevant Patches: 6.2.2 -- Flying Mounts in Draenor, Mercenary Mode, and More
Patch 6.2.2, the latest WoW update as of this writing, features a list of new additions. Highlights include allowing the use of flying mounts in Draenor's various areas, fixes for raids and dungeons, new pets and mounts, and a Mercenary mode, which lets players become a mercenary that can fight on the side of an opposing faction in the game's PvP modes.
Sixth Expansion: Legion
The latest WoW expansion, titled Legion, broadens the conflicts seen in previous expansions, pitting players against the Burning Legion in an effort to prevent the summoning of the Dark Titan to Azeroth. Major features so far include raising the level cap to 110, a new continent, a new class, and the addition of Artifact weapons. As of writing, it does not have a confirmed release date.
The Broken Isles is the new continent featured in the upcoming Legion expansion. It was originally a part of Kalimdor, but after the Sundering, it was sent to the bottom of the Great Sea. Raised to the surface by Gul’dan as an archipelago, the area serves as the center of the incoming demonic invasion.
New Class: Demon Hunter
A new Hero class will be introduced in Legion called Demon Hunter. Starting the game at level 95, the Demon Hunter is mainly an offensive role that makes use of demonic magic to fuel its melee attacks. As the game’s second Hero Class, it will only be available to Blood Elves and Night Elves.
Artifact weapons are powerful new items that can obtained by completing specific quests in the new expansion. Fans will notice that each Artifact weapon has been famously wielded by various important figures from WoW lore. With 36 in total to collect, players can customize weapon appearance and build up each one's power as they complete more quests in the Broken Isles.