World of Warcraft: Battle for Azeroth

Blizzard on WoW: Battle for Azeroth - Visions of N'Zoth

We talked to the World of Warcraft studio about the wave of content about to hit Battle for Azeroth.

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World of Warcraft: Battle for Azeroth

Blizzard has just released World of Warcraft's patch 8.3, the biggest for the Battle for Azeroth era. In it there are two new allied races incoming, a new massive raid, a fourth season of PvP, a challenge mode for one to five players, and the total unleashing of an Old God in Azeroth. This is Visions of N'Zoth, and we heard all about it from lead game designer Morgan Day and senior game designer Jeremy Feasel in a recent interview.

GR: There's a lot of content coming for Visions of N'Zoth, but story-wise where will it take us and how will it set up things for Shadowlands?

So when we last left off at the very end of the last raid, where we defeated Azshara down in Nazjatar, we found ourselves unwittingly unlocking N'zoth's prison and allowing him to rise from the depths and we are going to be seeing the consequences from that. So, during the main storyline, we are gonna be finding out exactly what he is after. Obviously, he is an old god that has been sleeping the longest, but he has also been planning this entire time. If you recall back in the days of C'thun and Yogg-Saron, their plans were largely to break out and send bugs everywhere - it wasn't wholly thought through how they were gonna take over Azeroth. This time N'zoth has a very specific plan and he is going after the engine of Nalak'sha and the Forge of Origination, two very, very powerful titan structures that will allow him to remake Azeroth in his own image right away.

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What will Sylvanas' role be in all of this?

Sylvanas is actually taking a little bit of a backseat here, so following the events that occurred at the gates of Orgrimmar and the death of Saurfang and ultimately her taking off, she has her own plans of what she's going to do in the future, but they're going to take some time to enact and in the meantime, she's sort of taking advantage of the fact that the Alliance and Horde are dealing with this old god that is essentially the most powerful one we have dealt with thus far and has turned into this worldwide threat. So we are not going to be hearing from Sylvanas in Visions of N'Zoth but, as the lead up to Shadowlands occurs, we will start seeing some of the ultimate results of what she's been up to.

Regarding the Horde and specifically the Forsaken, how will we find them now that Sylvanas is gone?

So, we are going to be going into that a little bit in Visions of N'Zoth - you'll see some minor quest lines that occur with some of the horde leadership. Right now they're feeling like they're not quite sure if they need another warchief, as the last few have gotten them into hot water. Thrall has come back but doesn't necessarily want the mantle of warchief, and part of this you're going to be playing through in the acquisition for the brand new allied race, the fuzzy fox-like Vulpera. Because of all the problems going on in the Horde right now and because of all the uncertainty, they're initially turned down, and they're told the Horde isn't ready for a new race to enter the mix. As part of their allied race introduction, they will start to mend those wounds, and they will start to bring the Horde leadership back together and help them all remember why they came together in the first place.

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World of Warcraft: Battle for Azeroth

Let's talk about the new races; Mechagnomes for the Alliance and Vulpera for the Horde. how did you decide these new races, and why now?

The Horde choice was obviously a pretty easy one. All the way back from the beginning of the Battle for Azeroth development, the first time we saw the Vulpera everyone sorta fell in love with them; their storyline is interesting, they have interesting foes, and they just have a lot of fun characters. When you went through the Vol'dun questline you got to see a little bit more of what they're all about; they provide a nice addition to the Horde's group of sort of scavengers that is also kind of crafty but unlike the goblins, they're less interested in money and profit and more in survival and bringing people together.

On the Alliance side of things, as we were delving into Mechagon it made a huge amount of sense for that to ultimately become how High Tinker Mekkatorque gets resurrected via this ultimate power that exists in the center of Mechagon City and acts as an arch reactor. It was a storyline we thought of a while ago in terms of how we were gonna bring that character back and then thinking about we also realised the Gnomes never really had a home, they never really felt like they had a place they could call their own. What if Mechagon city became something similar to that? What if they could ultimately take that back and then come together as a group of Gnomes and Mechagnomes? It ended up just making a lot of sense for that group to be added to the Alliance.

One of the things I am always geeked out on when working on allied races is the racial abilities. The Vulpera are kind of nomads, they're looking for a home and we hope they found one in the Horde, but up until that point they had to be kind of scrappy and make do with whatever they had, so one of the cool racial abilities is called 'Make Camp' and it's almost like a second Hearthstone they can set anywhere in the world, versus it requiring an inn. This is going to be a really fun thing for people who enjoy farming transmog; they can log in as Vulpera and set up 'Make camp', rather than having to fly all the way there. With the Mechagnome, they're very mechanical and they're very much into engineering and crafting. They have - I think it's called 'skeleton finger' - where they can pick any lock that is the equivalent level to them, so they almost have lock picking built-in.

There's also a new raid, The Waking City. Is it launching later?

Yes, so Ny'alotha will launch a week after Vision of N'Zoth comes out as well as Season Four, so that is our new 12-boss raid. It is the biggest raid we've come up with in Battle for Azeroth and it features N'Zoth as an end boss and will actually be something we haven't tried since Cataclysm, where the end boss is actually multiple encounters. So if you're familiar with Cataclysm and Deathwing, we couldn't cram it all into one encounter so we have broken it up into two. At first you face off against Carapace of N'Zoth where you are fighting to break into his armoured carapace to get to the gooey center where his brain is, so we can then get to mind of N'Zoth encounter and complete the raid that way.

This raid is just bonkers. We have seen old gods before but they were always imprisoned, meaning we've never truly seen an unchained old god in a world of their own imagining. When you go into Ny'alotha it is actually N'Zoth's vision for the future, the full Black Empire with lakes of molten lava and N'Zoth as this titanic figure off in the background that we can barely comprehend. It's the full unleashing of an old god for the first time in World of Warcraft.

World of Warcraft: Battle for Azeroth

Regarding the new Horrific Vision mode, how will it actually work and challenge players?

So, players can gather up a currency that allows them to buy keys called 'vessels' that allow them to enter into this vision of either Orgrimmar or Stormwind and this is essentially N'Zoth's vision for the future of either city, where everybody has gone mad. The entire city has been taken over, people have gone crazy and decided to join N'Zoth or resisted him and ultimately died - and we will be seeing some of our favourite characters turn to the dark side. Thrall, for example, is Ogrimmar's main opponent and he has now gone completely bonkers and is the main guy we fight there. We are sort of getting to see what would happen in this future if N'Zoth's whispers are allowed to go unchecked, so these are instances that you can take on with one to five players and they're intended to provide a long tale challenge for players. Whilst you're inside the vision your mind is constantly assaulted by N'Zoth's insanity, so you have this sanity bar that slowly drains whilst you are there, so you can go and defeat the main boss whilst you are there and it may actually take you a couple of runs to get up to that point and while you're in there you are going to be gaining these corrupted mementos, this currency that will ultimately allow you to build up defences.

There are also additional areas, extra hard areas inside both visions that you may not get to for a couple of weeks, as the sanity drains at a much higher rate and there are much harder enemies in those areas. You may be able to get there after a couple of weeks once you have built up the defences but it should provide a very long tail challenge for players with lots of mysteries and lots of other aspects that you can unlock on a week-by-week basis. You're going to be taking the rewards you have been getting out of the vision and taking them over to Mother. She has an entire tech tree associated with it that you can pump these corrupted mementos into and that will allow you to make further and further progress every time you go into one of these horrific visions. There is always something to chase, there is always some extra difficult area that you may not be able to get to for a couple of weeks or even a couple of months and if you are able to fully complete one of these horrific visions there is an even a difficulty setting called Faceless Masks.

Running your horrific vision will also allow you to further upgrade your legendary cloak; there's a whole questline that gives you a new legendary cloak and has a large number of different upgrade levels. It will improve both visually and stat-wise, meaning it will not only allow you to have an easier time in the horrific vision but it will make you more powerful in the raid and overall. We have lots of different upgrade systems associated with Vision of N'Zoth that allows your character to progress in a variety of different ways over a number of months.

The new cloak actually comes with a new stat called 'Corruption Resistance' that helps to counteract the effect of a new itemisation system that we implemented. So in place of the war and titan forging system we've added something called corrupted items and this all started with the idea of selling the fantasy of what happens when an old god is unleashed on the world as N'Zoth has been released from his prison and is affecting and infecting everything in the world, including some of the loot that we are getting from the bosses. As you get corrupted items there's a corruption effect on them, so that if I have built my corruption resistance up with this legendary cloak then I can counteract the negative effects of these items and maybe even some players will push themselves into equipping more items than they have resistances to and then they will be afflicted with some negative effects like N'Zoth is infecting their mind and making them see things like eyeballs that they may have to avoid, little encounter mechanics that pop up at any place in the world if you have too many corrupted items on and don't have enough resistance on you to counteract them.

Regarding Shadowlands, do you have a release date yet?

Nothing to announce today, nice try. When it's ready.

We had to try. Thanks.


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World of Warcraft: Battle for AzerothScore

World of Warcraft: Battle for Azeroth

REVIEW. Written by Clover Harker

"Horde and Alliance facing off against each other once more doesn't feel like a repetitive blast from the past but rather an intriguing dive into the unknown."

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