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World of Warcraft: The War Within preview - delving into an exciting new saga

The first of three new expansions, The War Within makes a great first impression.

World of Warcraft The War Within new zone
Image credit: Act

I've been obsessed with World of Warcraft for years now - playing it on and off for over 10 years or so. The game is a monument to multiplayer madness, be it the ferocious PvP community, the most absurd dedication to personal performance found in mythic raiding and dungeons, and down-bad hoarders flexing obscure cosmetics to other likeminded freakazoids. It's probably one of the best games of all time - certainly one of the most important. But almost 20 years since it first hit computers, does its latest expansion - The War Within - still entice?

I was able to play the expansion for a little while earlier this week as part of an early preview event, and came away feeling optimistic about the upcoming update. I was able to play through an early version of the first new zone: The Isle of Dorn. I was also able to experience the primordial steps of the main questline, look around the new capital city, and try out the freshly baked PvE instanced content - Delves! Obviously, stuff like dungeon or raid content, the more competitive aspects of the expansion, as well as some challenging content weren't available for testing.

Let's start with the juicy new content found in Delves. These are basically like mini dungeons where you - solo or with others - can venture down into short PvE experiences for loot, gold, and other goodies. You're accompanied by an NPC whose role your can change to fit your needs, in what turned out to be a 10-minute relaxing romp. This obviously can get harder - with additional difficulties adding strength to enemies and upping the loot quality in turn. You've also got temporary buffs and upgrades found within - a holdover from Shadowlands' Torghast system, but thankfully without the built-in desire to tear your own eyes out.

These, essentially, are cool little escapades aimed at the players who prefer world exploration and single player content over the more traditional forms of progresion - raids, dungeons, and PvP. This, I believe, can only be a good thing for WoW - more options for players otherwise intimidated by content is important. I would ultimately rather have a Warlock who isn't confident in their rotation farming delves for gear and fun than in my heroic dungeons - and I'd be willing to bet they would too.

World of Warcraft The War Within Delve base
Delves play a major part in the experience. | Image credit: Activision Blizzard

Delves play a major part in a wider push for accessibility in The War Within. UI has been overhauled so that the differences between important and side quests are emphasized, which is great for those who've grown tired of map clutter. There's also a push for the game to be more Alt friendly, more things are account-bound rather than character-locked, which should make the whole experience a lot less frustrating for those who like to hop around. Early impressions of The War Within paint it as a sleeker, more considerate game. More considerate of your time, and your desires.

Okay, now onto how the new area looks. Surprise, surprise. The Isle of Dorn is a stunner. I'd argue that the World of Warcraft team has always been good at world building and map design but they've done a great jobwith The Isle of Dorn. Rolling green hills sprinkled with tiny flowers and lush trees, a vast rocky area in which the new capital city is embedded. The zone gives off a feeling of the calm before the storm. It's a pleasant surface area, and that pleasantness will slowly but surely fade as we venture deper and deeper into the world.

World of Warcraft The War Within NPC
Some of your favourite characters are back too! | Image credit: Activision Blizzard

As far as Dornogal - the new capital city - goes, I was left feeling pretty good about it. Now, the merits of a new city depends on factors not yet obseravable. Does it have an auction house? How far is the inn from the great vault, the profession trainers, the portals? These are the do-or-die factors that'll deem whether people will love it or hate it. But, purely aesthetically, it's a nice little city! I like the dwarven archetecture built into the stone, weaving brilliantly between blending in wth the nature around it and clashing aaisnt it through the powers of industry. You get the impression that the Earthen, the new race introduced with The War Within, have been locked in here for a long time. That while fantastical, they're as much a part of the scenary as the rocks and water.

I do think the best is probably still to come when it comes to zones. I tried flying down into The Ringing Deeps, Hallowfall, and Azj-Kahet but had no luck on that front. But, as far as early impressions go, The War Within has made a damn good one. I for one can't wait to see more.

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