In this article, we're taking you on a journey back in time through almost 20 years of World of Warcraft. We're putting all WoW expansions in order and take a closer look at their individual strengths and pain points. Which expansion was your favorite?
Following the huge success of the first three Warcraft games, on November 23rd, 2004, Blizzard released World of Warcraft, an MMORPG based on the original game. Since that very moment, Warcraft fans can level up their own unique hero, exploring Azeroth in a third-person MMO perspective instead of a real time strategy (RTS) game.
In the end, Blizzard's plan totally worked out, seeing millions of players subscribing for the game, many of them until today. In fact, World of Warcraft so huge by now that Blizzard even started realms running older versions of WoW that deliver a different gameplay experience, named WoW WotLk Classic and WoW Classic Hardcore (where your character's death is permanent!). Enough reasons for us to do a deep dive through all the expansions World of Warcraft has seen in almost 20 years!
WoW Expansions In Order: From TBC to Dragonflight
Much has happened since WoW Vanilla was released. In fact, including the latest expansion "Dragonflight" the game has got no less than nine consecutive expansions over the years. So let's take a look at when they were released and what individual specialties they brought into the game.
1. The Burning Crusade
The Burning Crusade alias TBC was released in 2007, which means it was the first major add-on World of Warcraft ever got. After Vanilla WoW was set in Azeroth and Kalimdor, TBC let players dive into Outlands, the former home world of the Draenai, which, together with the Blood Elves, became available to play with the expansion.
TBC's lore was mainly focussed on protagonists from Warcraft 3: The Frozen Throne, with Lady Vashj, Prince Kael'Thas and Illidan Stormgrimm among the big raid's final bosses. Also, flying mounts, heroic instances, jewel crafting and the PvP arena were implemented into the game for the first time. The level cap was raised from 60 to 70. TBC was also re-released as a classic version , just like the next expansion, Wrath of the Lich King.
2. Wrath of the Lich King
Wrath of the Lich King alias WotLK followed in late 2008, enticing Azeroths heroes into the frosty world of Northrend to reach level 80. WotLK was famous for the Death Knight as a new hero class, more diversified and interactive quest types, impressive ingame cinematics and Ulduar, probably one of the best raids the game has ever seen.
The plot was mainly driven by Arthas Menethil, the Lich King. In the end, Blizzard implemented a Dungeon Group Tool, a feature that is disputed until today since it speeds up finding a group, but results in less communication and more toxicity. Nevertheless, WotLK probably was the most successful time in the game's history, with up to 13 million subscribers; no surprise then, that it got its classic re-release as well.
With Cataclysm in 2010, Blizzard turned away from creating a new world; instead, the original world of Azeroth, Kalimdor and the Eastern Kingsdoms, were almost completely redesigned by the new villain Deathwing and many boring "kill x of that mobs" and "collect x of that stuff" questlines were revised or replaced by more exciting ones. Also, WoW raised the level cap to 85 and got archeology as an additional secondary profession, although it turned out to be pretty boring in practice.
Although it was great to see the old world of Azeroth shine in new splendor after six years and adding Goblins and Worgen as playable races into the game, many players were not very thrilled with the expansion. In fact, WoW never got as hyped again as it did with TBC and WotLK, a trend that the following add-ons could not change either.
4. Mists of Pandaria
Mists of Pandaria a.k.a. MoP was released in 2012 and was considered one of the better expansions again, bringing in the Pandarens into the game as a new playable race and with a new class option, the Monk. This is actually pretty funny, since the idea of adding Pandarens to the WoW lore was originally an April Fools' joke from Blizzard.
MoP raised the level cap to 90 and also included pet battles into WoW, which strongly reminded us about the time the first Pokémon games were released on Game Boy. Also, the last raid was quite interesting, since it's been the first time you're gonna raid in a capital city, Orgrimmar.
5. Warlords of Draenor
With Warlords of Draenor (WoD) in 2014, Blizzard tried to set foot on some new paths. The story of WoD continues in an alternate universe on Draenor, the orcs' homeworld, 35 years in the past. Housing was implemented for the first time, giving players the possibility to build their own garrison individually. Also, raids got a harder Mythic Mode and the level cap was raised from 90 to 100.
Doesn't sound that bad, does it? Still, WoD turned out to be a disappointing expansion to many players. Although housing was fun in the beginning, you soon began to feel alone in your little town. Also, Blizzard only released two raid patches during WoD's lifetime – pretty thin for almost two years.
Legion came out in August 2016, and after the rather disappointing experience that wa sWoD, it was considered a step in the right direction among many players. Legion raised the level cap to 110, introduced the Demon Hunter as a new hero class, equipped you with legendary artifact weapons, added world quests and a Mythic+ dungeon mode which allowed players to individually increase the difficulty of a dungeon.
Also, the lore set focus on original protagonists again, with some of them facing a fate that left many players shocked. All in all, Legion brought some new life into World of Warcraft, although Argus wasn't much of a highlight.
7. Battle for Azeroth
Battle for Azeroth (BfA) came out in August 2018 and allowed players to reach level 120 in the new continents Zandalar and Kul'Tiras. New features included island expeditions, PvE battlegrounds ("Warfronts") and the optional unlocking of new so called allied races like Lightforged Draenei or Highmountain Tauren. Besides that, Blizzard established a new currency called Azerite that worked a bit like the artifact power for Legion's artifact weapons.
Doesn't sound all too exciting to you? Well, it wasn't. In the end, for many players BfA felt like a bad copy of Legion's new features, including M+, world quests and farming power for a mighty item, which this time around was a necklace instead of a weapon.
With seven expansions having passed by, we can now recognize a clear pattern in World of Warcraft; for every good expansion we get, it's usually followed by a disappointing one. But Shadowlands broke the cycle here, and unfortunately in a bad way, since BfA was already considered a disappointment for the community as well. And it's especially disappointing because Shadowlands looked promising in the beginning, taking us into the land of the dead and having us face some of the most iconic WoW characters during our quests up to level 60.
Yep, that's right, Shadowlands performs a level squish and has our mighty 120's characters all start on level 50 again. Having reached level 60, you can enter Torghast, a never ending tower that could remind you of games like Hades . The lore aims at Sylvanas Windrunner, who (already in BfA) started to single-handedly make decisions without the other Horde leaders.
In the end, the lore as well as the gameplay was rather disappointing. Just like in WoD, players had to wait about half a year for a patch that turned out to be average at best. So player's hopes, more than ever, lay on the next expansion: WoW: Dragonflight.
Dragonflight has to achieve the task of making up for two disappointing add-ons in a row. Blizzard still has to prove that Dragonflight can fulfil player's expectations in the long run, but things already worked out a lot better than with the last two add-ons.
Dragonflight brings in a totally new flight system that is much more focussing on pressing the right buttons at the right time instead of just chilling in the air, and also the new profession system brings a breath of fresh air into the game. The plot as well as the raids have also been going into the right direction so far – so Dragonflight has a good chance to be remembered as one of the better WoW expansions. The next one will probably still be announced in 2023 at the upcoming BlizzCon, which is scheduled for November 3.
So which expansion was the best one? Check out our gallery ranking to find out:
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