WoW’s ninth expansion, Dragonflight, was revealed last month in a showcase that offered an hour-long walkthrough of what to expect from its content. We’ve learned exciting details about a new class, race, changes to professions and what exactly the Dragon Isles will offer. The Dragon Isles have been rumored for a long time, so it’s exciting to finally be given an opportunity to explore it.
Laptop Mag also interviewed WoW Game Director Ion Hazzikostas and discussed time-gated questlines, the changes coming to transmogrification, and how old raids (particularly BfA) will be impacted by the player’s massive increase in power.
WoW Dragonflight release date
WoW Dragonflight has not been given a release date officially. However, we have reason to believe that it’ll come out sooner than originally anticipated. Scaleface, the user who accurately leaked the existence of the Dracthyr race and Evoker class, also claimed that they have “info about a release date” and claim it is “very close.”
In a later post, Scaleface discussed the potentially short length of Shadowlands Season 4, saying that it could be “canceled (or was bait to check players’ reaction) if they really want to push it to November.” Otherwise, it would be a short season that could last only 5-ish months. Season 4 has already been confirmed, so it seems like it could be a short season if Scaleface’s information is correct.
It’s also possible that Blizzard Entertainment is setting November as an internal goal, but has no intention of announcing a release date until they’re sure it’s ready. Until we hear more from the company, there’s no way to know for sure.
WoW Dragonflight new Dracthyr race
One of Dragonflight’s most exciting additions are the Dracthyr, a new playable race of creatures created by Deathwing (the villain of Cataclysm) after combining the power of dragons and humanoid races. These mysterious creatures have been gone for years, but with the reawakening of the Dragon Isles, we’re seeing them return and take their rightful places in Azeroth among the Horde or Alliance.
Not only will the Dracthyr have their adorable dragon forms, but they'll also transform into a humanoid alternative. Both can be customized freely during character creation, similar to how the Worgen functions. Players can also go in-depth with scale or horn customization and color the Dracthyr's hair in unique ways.
However, the unique aspect of the Dracthyr’s introduction with Dragonflight is that they’re exclusively coupled with the Evoker class. This is the first time Blizzard has ever done this for WoW, as a new race can normally be coupled with more than one class.
Some players have expressed concern and frustration over this limitation. Some people might love to get their hands on this awesome new dragon species, but not want to play a spellcaster. This could also lead to an overabundance of Dracthyr Evokers running around the world, but it might not be that way forever.
There's no telling whether the Dracthyr and Evoker will be mutually exclusive until the end of time. Blizzard Entertainment could make this change in future expansions, with Dragonflight simply choosing to present the new race and class in this unique way.
WoW Dragonflight new Evoker class
Dracthyr can channel all five of the Dragon Aspects, including Red, Blue, Bronze, Green, and Black magic. Each spell has a prismatic effect that combines the colors of all the Aspects before firing, with Red Magic spell Pyre only changing to crimson when it gets close to the enemy. Players can even fly around and cast spells while doing so.
The Dracthyr’s five Dragon Aspects are split across its specializations. Devastation is a ranged damage dealer that channels Red and Blue magic. On the other hand, Preservation can heal party members through Green and Bronze magic, with Green being reminiscent of the Emerald Dream and Bronze allowing for time manipulation. Dracthyr also have abilities that can be held down to deal varying amounts of damage, adding an additional level of control to the character that the game hasn’t had before.
Blizzard Entertainment went further in-depth on what we could expect out of the Dracthyr Evoker, but we didn’t get much information on where Black Magic will stand. After all, we’ve only seen two specializations so far, both of which focus on two aspects each. Perhaps the third specialization is being held close to the chest until further notice? Alternatively, the ways in which Black Magic plays into the Dracthyr Evoker might not be ready to be shown yet.
I asked WoW Game Director Ion Hazzikostas about this during our interview, but he didn’t offer a precise answer. He told me that every aspect “will find a place in some form,” and said “there’s subtle differences between the Black Dragonflight fire and the Red Dragonflight fire,” but beyond that, we have no idea if there’s more to it.
The Dracthyr will be able to join the Horde or Alliance side at character creation. They're also a hero class who will start at level 58. Getting a new race revolving around dragons is a dream come true, and jumping into a new class (that can heal) is even more exciting. The Dracthyr Evoker will finally let me play the adorable dragon of my dreams and I can't wait to spend three hours in character customization once Dragonflight launches.
WoW Dragonflight’s profession system changes
To cap off the Dragonflight reveal, UI Designer Joanna Gianulis and Principal Game Designer Eric Holmberg-Weidler sat down to discuss the changes coming to professions. One of these changes include Crafting Orders, which allow the player to put in a request through an auction-house-esque UI for another player to craft the item they're looking for.
You can even input reagents, only you can get your hands on to help contribute to the crafting process. These can be based on commissions, and should help certain professions feel more involved. If I'm a good leatherworker and want to earn some quick gold making something for someone else without worrying about selling it at the auction house, I can lend my services to another player. The item a player gets crafted for them can also be soulbound, which means they won't need to make a separate character just to get a cool piece of armor from a different profession.
Another major change has to do with the items crafted by players, as these (along with acquired reagents) will have a quality level attached to them. If you’re making boots, its item level will shift depending on the quality it's made at. Players will also have stats attached to each profession, which can be changed based on their armor. It's currently unclear if the player's level impacts this or if a new leveling system is present.
Professions also have unique outfits now. When engaging with gathering or crafting, a character will switch into the equipment that suits those skills. Better yet, players no longer need to worry about carrying around their profession-based gear. Dragonflight will be introducing dedicated slots to save bag space.
WoW Dragonflight new talent trees
After ten years of having a simplified talent tree, Dragonflight is finally taking a step back toward in-depth talents that are awarded at each level. As seen in the image below, a Restoration Druid has access to a plethora of different special abilities and passive modifiers that will allow them to modify their abilities in detail. However, the key difference between this new iteration of talent trees and old-school WoW's approach is that players will still have to select their specialization.
Instead of having all three specialization trees available to a class, players will get access to a unique set of talents that adheres to the specialization they select. Every Druid has the Druid Talent Tree, but only once Restoration is selected will you be able to see that unique list of talents. This is a great way to imbue in-depth class customization within players without making them feel locked to one rigid tree.
Blizzard Entertainment also made it clear that this change was a way to counteract the past three expansions introducing a new class-based progression before stripping it away from the player by the next. Legions' awesome Artifact weapons, Battle for Azeroth's Heart of Azeroth system, and Shadowlands' Covenant Bonds gave players deeper ways to customize their class, but two years after each expansion, these elements were made redundant. Players are sick of having their progression taken away, so the return of in-depth talent trees could be exactly what we need to retain our class-depth.
However, these trees could still be taken away from us. We can only hope that Blizzard will continue to iterate upon them with every expansion, but ultimately we won't know for sure until it happens. After all, back in Wrath of the Lich King, Blizzard continued expanding these trees with every expansion, but they were eventually stripped when Mists of Pandaria launched. It's possible that this will happen again in the next eight years, so let's enjoy it while it lasts.
WoW Game Director Ion Hazzikostas also explained in an interview that the team will be repurposing the “greatest hits” that came about from Shadowlands’ Covenant abilities and repurposing them within talent trees. This is great to hear, especially since some of my favorite powers on my Rogue are exclusive to this expansion and having them taken away would be upsetting. Hazzikostas also claims that the team has set a schedule for when the player receives a talent point, as they’re kept in two separate pools.
WoW Dragonflight Chromie Time
Dragonflight will be handling Chromie Time by continuing the trend set by Shadowlands. The level cap is being raised to 70 and every previous expansion can now be experienced from levels 10 to 60. When players finish a starting area, they’ll automatically be placed on the Shadowlands quest line unless they go to Chromie and select an older expansion of their choice.
Ion Hazzikostas explains that his goal is for you to “pick any of the single expansions that you want to play through and that’ll get you into Dragonflight.” This is a huge deal, as it keeps one of World of Warcraft’s greatest quality of life improvements intact. Even if the level cap continues to skyrocket and becomes unmanageable once again, we expect that Chromie Time will be a major saving grace in keeping things steady by turning every expansion into an experience that can be tackled singularly.
WoW Dragonflight Dragon Riding
For the first time, Dragonflight is introducing a new method of unscripted traversal that does not revolve around the standard mount system that’s been in the game for 18 years. Now, players will receive their own customizable and upgradeable dragon at the very start of Dragonflight and be able to fly it around, right from the get go. We’re not entirely aware of its limits yet, but this is unprecedented in WoW history.
In most expansions, flight is something rewarded after reaching endgame. And even in those cases, it’s never been as dynamic as this will be. Players aren’t simply flying on a mount that travels at a static speed. Instead, Dragon Riding actually utilizes in-game physics and boosts of speed to make traversal more dynamic. For example, if players divebomb, they’ll move faster. We also know that there will be ways to upgrade the dragon, although we’re not sure what that means exactly. It’ll most likely have to do with the speed they move at, but hopefully there’s more interesting upgrades that make them feel personalized.
What’s most exciting about Dragon Riding being an inherent aspect of the expansion is that it allows Blizzard to design the environments with verticality in mind. Beforehand, nearly every area was designed to be traversed on foot. Now, Blizzard can hide secrets and further progression through elements that can only be accessed with the use of a dragon.
WoW Dragonflight Dragon Isles
Dragon Isles are a long-rumored piece of canceled content that was initially planned as a part of the game’s original release in 2004. Fans have been waiting to hear about the Dragon Isles for a long time, so it’s incredibly exciting that Dragonflight will finally have players visit the illustrious location. It has laid dormant for thousands of years, but as Azeroth is finally healing, it seems to have opened its arms to welcome the dragons back home.
Before this official announcement, we’ve seen developer interviews reference the canceled Dragon Isles raid and some concept art by Carlo Arellano. And since these islands received their first canonical in-game reference during the Battle for Azeroth expansion, their inclusion seemed like an inevitability.
The only physical evidence we have left of the canceled Dragon Isles lies in World of Warcraft’s 2004 Beta version, within a tester space called Designer Island are designs that resemble the area’s concept art. These giant structures that rest atop what looks like a snail’s shell are the primary assets for what once was the Dragon Isles. The massive temple at its peak looks a lot like the concept art, and we can assume it was going to be a sandstone structure of some sort.
The canonical interpretation of the Dragon Isles has been upscaled considerably, now featuring four major zones: Waking Shores, Ohn'ahran Plains, the Azure Span, and Thaldraszus. Since Battle for Azeroth was deeply wrapped up in The Old Gods (and even featured a similar looking mountain in Stormsong Valley), it’s entirely possible that Blizzard Entertainment has shifted what the Dragon Isles represent in the game now. We do know that the Azure Span in particular is possibly one of the largest zones in WoW history to accommodate for the traversal opportunities brought about by Dragon Riding.