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World of Warcraft: Dragonflight alpha preview โ€” Trip through Azure Span

World of Warcraft: Dragonflight's alpha testing has begun, letting players experience the Azure Span zone (Image via Blizzard Entertainment)
World of Warcraft: Dragonflight's alpha testing has begun, letting players experience the Azure Span zone (Image via Blizzard Entertainment)
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Jason Parker

World of Warcraft: Dragonflight is the next major expansion for Blizzard's MMO, and it brings users to the island home of the dragons. Something sinister stirs on this island, and they get a peek at the upcoming conspiracy while exploring the Azure Span.

Gamers can only access one area now, but more will open up in the future.

It also grants them access to several new talent builds, encouraging testers to look at them and see how they feel. Blacksmithing and Alchemy have also had their reworks revealed.

Perhaps most interestingly, Dracthyr Evokers are also playable, as are both their builds.

How are things looking so far? I'll be honest. I'm feeling hopeful. This could be the start of the change World of Warcraft desperately needs. As a point of warning, this preview will contain spoilers for World of Warcraft: Dragonflight.

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World of Warcraft: Dragonflight's alpha has begun; what is playable?

I spent the past week playing through World of Warcraft: Dragonflight's Azure Span, home to the Blue Dragonflight. Formerly ruled over by Malygos, the mad dragon was put down, and Kalecgos rules the proverbial roost.

Players can access all races and their current class combinations, including the Dracthyr Evoker. However, it's important to note that not all classes have new talent trees in the game yet.

Only classes that have presently been revealed, such as Death Knights, Priests, Hunters, and Rogues, have that available to them in World of Warcraft: Dragonflight.

Many of these feel good, but Priest needs a look. Being able to pick talents that require Vampiric Touch, for example, when you don't have that talent unlocked, is a bad idea.

I'm worried it will boil down to "play one build or nothing," but I remain hopeful. I like the trees for the most part, so far.

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In the current alpha build of World of Warcraft: Dragonflight, I was able to complete the entire campaign of the zone, and many side quests were also offered. If users try to leave Azure Span, though, they'll be booted back to Orgrimmar or Stormwind because those areas are restricted.

Story so far, without many spoilers

Something is amiss in Azure Span, though. I did not get to see any cutscenes, but an image did replace them with text to inform gamers roughly what happened.

I'll avoid major spoilers, but the videos attached to this have nearly all of the campaign for the World of Warcraft: Dragonflight zone. One set of quests is not featured due to technical difficulty on my end.

A group is trying to overtake the Azure Span and use its power for their ends. I noticed a large number of gnolls โ€” who did get a very lovely visual rework, I might add โ€” trying to spread rot and poison.

In addition to the Blue Dragons, there were also the Tuskarr, including one of their villages.

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I won't spoil the story details, but Kelcgos is working on setting things right in the Azure Span before it's too late.


Talent trees are new, refreshing experience

Over the years, I've been pretty hard on Blizzard regarding their talent trees. For the most part, the redesigns have been rubbish.

In particular, this last talent tree design is one I hated. It didn't feel impactful, and there were, in many instances, only one or two worthwhile talents per level.

When it comes to this new design? It feels fresh and new, and I find myself hoping they're going to be interesting.

Each character class will have a talent tree, and the specialization (IE: DK's Frost/Unholy/Blood) has a separate tree. Each has its own talent points, so there's no stress about which tree to put points in.

The talent trees are a nice change of pace in World of Warcraft: Dragonflight, and feel solid so far (Image via Blizzard Entertainment)
The talent trees are a nice change of pace in World of Warcraft: Dragonflight, and feel solid so far (Image via Blizzard Entertainment)

Each of these trees has a trio of ultimate abilities at the bottom, which offers even more customization. I'm curious to see how many of these will be viable for raiding and dungeon crawls, but time will tell on that.


How do the Dracthyr Evokers feel?

Full disclosure, I completely botched my talent build through most of my experience as an Evoker in World of Warcraft: Dragonflight. I spent most of my time as a Devastation Evoker, which has two styles of damage. You can play using the chaotic fire magic or the more focused ice/arcane magic.

Frankly, I enjoyed the blue magic more, but both felt powerful. My damage felt comparable to other classes. The class itself felt very much like you spam the first "main ability" until you get a big proc and then cast another ability.

Evokers also have a new style of ability that I've never seen in World of Warcraft: Empowered abilities. Instead of simply pressing a button or pressing a button and moving a reticle, you hold down the attack button.

This fills a meter, and depending on how long you wait, and it grows in power. In solo battles, it leaves you vulnerable, but in groups, I can see it being brilliant.

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There are so many great customization options for the Dragon and human forms, too. The draconian form and regular human forms both look terrific, alongside the, in general, beautiful visuals of Azure Span.

And then, there's Dragonflight. Sweet, sweet Dragonflight.


Dragonflight is a fantastic way to travel an area

I didn't realize how great Dragonflight was until I was about halfway through Azure Span. Dragonflight is only usable on specific dragon mounts we were provided for the alpha. They have decent ground speed, but you can double-tap jump to send them soaring into the air (or press a button on your hot bar).

These dragons have a vigor system in the form of three diamonds on the UI. Using the jump will use a point of vigor, but you can begin to soar quickly through the air. Eventually, we unlocked a barrel roll too, which sends the dragon moving forward.

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It covers a great deal of ground, and when you're out of vigor, regular movement will recharge the Vigor points, slowly but surely. It's honestly a lot of fun, and it feels great to suddenly pick up speed by dive bombing at the ground, only to pull up at the last minute.

Dragonflight in World of Warcraft: Dragonflight absolutely rules, and it's a pleasant change of pace.


Visually, Azure Span is a stunning area

The visual quality of World of Warcraft: Dragonflight is genuinely stunning. Azure Span's snow-capped peaks, babbling brooks, and icy Tuskarr village all look brilliant. It reminds me greatly of Northrend's Grizzly Hills without feeling like it ripped the area off.

World of Warcraft: Dragonflight's Azure Span is covered in giant pine trees and large mountains, and the various biomes fit together nicely. It also channeled Wrath of the Lich King again with the vast Azure Archive, with the enormous spires reminiscent of the Nexus. This makes sense, given that is where Malygos called home in Northrend.

I did have problems with the music, though, but that's how things are in an alpha/test phase. Most of my playtime had little to no music, but the sound effects for the background were incredibly loud. In particular, the sounds of rivers were deafening.

What a gorgeous area! Azure Span was stunning, from beginning to end (Image via Blizzard Entertainment)
What a gorgeous area! Azure Span was stunning, from beginning to end (Image via Blizzard Entertainment)

While it may be something that bores other gamers in World of Warcraft: Dragonflight, I noticed the zones are huge and expansive. There are places on the map that exist for more than just quest hubs.

These areas give the zone character and make them feel more alive. I feel like gathering in these zones might become a nightmare, however. There's so much land to route.


World of Warcraft: Dragonflight did have some bugs and glitches, but this makes sense

I've noticed that other people's experiences were not filled with bugs or annoying glitches. I was not quite as lucky, but this does not upset me. It's essential to take the time to report these when they happen. If I didn't while recording footage, I would later.

The Fishing Quest didn't work at the beginning of the zone, and I had one or two instances where I fell through a bit of terrain while dismounting at the end. The biggest problem I had was with the quest turn-ins. They will not show up on the mini-map or the big map.

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If a quest giver moved on for any reason, I would not see the quest turn in. I would have to head to that area or figure out where they're going to be, and then I could see it.

I'm never upset about seeing these things in a testing phase. After all, that is the point of an alpha. They didn't come up often, at least, so the play experience was an overall positive one.


In conclusion

I've been fairly critical of the gameplay loop of World of Warcraft, pre-Dragonflight. The focus on dailies, and things that are just dailies with a different name, genuinely frustrated me.

It didn't inspire me to play the game but to play less. As soon as a title becomes a chore, I lose interest. This expansion may set the MMO on the right path.

While the jury is still out on gameplay in World of Warcraft: Dragonflight because dailies and things of that nature have not been revealed yet, I have hope. I genuinely enjoyed the experience, messing around with the new builds, taking in the quests, and exploring the Azure Span.

Dracthyr Evokers are a lot of fun, and the ability to dive in and out of combat and blast foes with extraordinary magical powers? Oh, that was fantastic. I don't know if it would become my main class in Dragonflight, but I like where things are going so far.

Blacksmithing has changed, but has become significantly more complex, with far more items and item rarities (Image via Blizzard Entertainment)
Blacksmithing has changed, but has become significantly more complex, with far more items and item rarities (Image via Blizzard Entertainment)

I have worries about professions, though, in World of Warcraft: Dragonflight. There are far too many items that go into crafting gear for Blacksmithing now.

I'm not really a fan of this new system, though I do like the UI. The character builds felt like they have genuine options, though I do miss dual-wielding as an Unholy Death Knight.

Keep tuned to Sportskeeda for more coverage on the World of Warcraft: Dragonflight alpha as it grows and develops.


Edited by Ravi Iyer
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