It’s a big day today for World of Warcraft, the massive multiplayer online game from Blizzard Entertainment. The game’s seventh expansion officially kicked off at 8AM AEST for Australian players, ensuring many a geek will be rushing home after work to devour as much content as they can get before bedtime - or else just taking the day off.
If you’ve seen or heard people getting excited for World of Warcraft because it’s “getting back to its roots”, thanks to a renewed focus on the shared hatred between the game’s two major factions — Horde and Alliance — in its new Battle for Azeroth expansion, maybe you’re tempted to sign up and give the game a whirl. Or, if you haven’t played in years, perhaps you’re curious to see what’s changed.
Spoiler: A lot has changed. It can feel daunting to jump into a huge world of which you know very little, and World of Warcraft is gigantic. You will feel overwhelmed if you just rush in. As a returning player who used to write for the freakin’ World of Warcraft magazine (RIP), even I find it hard to figure out exactly where to get started adventuring if I haven’t played the game for a while.
No matter your experience level — whether you’re about to experience the thrill of hearing the Stormwind City theme as you walk through its epic gates for the first time, or whether you can spell Ahn’Qiraj off the top of your head — here are some tips and suggestions for making the most of your new life in World of Warcraft (or your epic, Illidan-like return to Azeroth.)
Watching your way through World of Warcraft
Let’s start with the basics. At its core, World of Warcraft is a grand, spiralling saga centred on two warring factions: The aforementioned Horde and Alliance.
They’ve been fighting each other since the days of MS-DOS, locked a never-ending war — save for those rare moments where they attempt to team up to counter a greater threat — that has taken them across continents, into space and through time.
If that all sounds confusing, that’s perfectly understandable. Thankfully, there are some fantastic videos you can watch to get yourself up to date on the 14-year journey that is World of Warcraft. Grab your lunch, take out your phone, plug in your headphones (important), and let Blizzard’s experts help you through the game’s considerable lore:
If you need the abridged version, because you’d rather spend an hour in a game than hearing someone talk about a game, you can also check out the excellent “New & Returning Player Guides” series from YouTuber (and World of Warcraft expert) Bellular. And you probably even skip the bits about “how to purchase” or “how to install” the game, saving you even more time for new World of Warcraft adventures:
You can also kick up your feet and watch your way through World of Warcraft’s story via Blizzard’s incredible cinematics — one of the company’s cornerstones. Sure, you’ll be spoiling yourself for parts of the game you have yet to uncover, and you might not know the importance of the various characters you’re watching, but you’ll at least get a pretty good sense of how World of Warcraft operates.
Also, did we mention that Blizzard’s cinematics are gorgeous? We’d rather watch these than the Warcraft movie, that’s for sure.
World of Warcraft resources worth reading for new players
If you’d rather read than watch, there are also plenty of resources you can use to acclimate yourself to World of Warcraft, figure out what to do next, and ask questions when you’re feeling stuck.
For the basics, we recommend reviewing Wowhead’s “Guide on How to Play World of Warcraft”, which is definitely worth scanning if you’re new to massively multiplayer online games or just want to get a sense of how Blizzard’s approach differs from others you’ve played.
And be sure to check out Blizzard’s online forums, especially the New Player Help and Guides forum, where you’ll be able to find more information, ask questions, and engage with some of the World of Warcraft community’s most helpful members.
Take advantage of World of Warcraft’s Starter Edition and Class Trials
As Kotaku’s own Mike Fahey notes in his own epic new player guide, one of the most important tips new (or returning) World of Warcraft players should know is that you don’t actually have to buy the game. That’s right. You don’t have to spend a single cent to play World of Warcraft.
Download the game right now, create an account (a new one; not your old one, if you were a previous player), and you’ll be able to level your character all the way to 20 for free.
There are other annoying limitations placed on this free experience, but it’s still a great way to familiarise yourself with the world, see if you enjoy the experience as much as you were hoping, and get a feel for the different classes before you settle on a main one to play as for the next 100 levels’ worth of gaming.
If you’re a returning player, consider paying for a month’s worth of playing time — a mere $16.50 — and using the game’s newer Class Trials to see if you still have that spark for higher-level play. While you can also go the “Starter Edition” route for a free, limited romp through Azeroth, you might need a little more than the newbie zones to help you decide whether you want to play through the game’s latest expansion.
Find friends to adventure with
Even though you will invariably do a bit of soloing during your time in World of Warcraft, the game is a lot more fun when you have other people to interact with. Whether you’re starting out, or getting back into the swing of things, having helpful mentors feeding you suggestions (or gear, or gold) doesn’t hurt.
You can try joining a Discord server themed around the class you’re playing, how you like to play World of Warcraft (achievement hunting, dungeon-running, player-versus-player combat and so on), or your location, to name a few examples.
World of Warcraft also has player communities built directly into the game. Find a community themed for newbies, or whatever else you want, and you’ll have a great resource to go to with questions. You might even make a few friends (or fellow adventurers).
Getting ready for Battle of Azeroth: The nitty-gritty
We’ve spent a lot of space giving advice for those with less experience in the nuances of World of Warcraft. If you’re a player who generally knows how to get around the game — or did at one point — you’re probably still going to feel a little stuck if it’s been a decent amount of time since you last played.
If you’re jumping back in for Battle for Azeroth, we recommend checking out the big “what to do first” guide from Wowhead.
You’re also going to want to brush up on specific advice for your class — both Icy Veins and Wowhead have incredibly detailed guides for all of the game’s combinations of classes and specialisations. Make sure you go in and figure out all the new (or changed) talents you’ll be using, and start to memorise a typical combat rotation so you don’t die nearly as much in game’s latest incarnation.
There are also a number of different online tools you can use to make yourself a better World of Warcraft player — and to help you decide what to focus on. Wowhead has a great Attunement Tool that shows you how close you are to unlocking significant milestones in the game, such as unlocking new allied races, earning reputations with key factions (which will ultimately help you unlock faster mount speed and other goodies in the game’s expansion), and how far along you are in your dungeons and raids.
If you just care about unlocking the ability to fly in the new expansion, and you should, the site’s Pathfinder tool is a must-bookmark. Its Character Planner is also incredibly useful for getting a sense of what you could (or should) do next, based on your recent activity, the gear you’re wearing (and would like to upgrade), achivements you’re close to unlocking, and so on.
If you want a simpler guide, the site also has a great list of all the activities you should be doing each day and week in Battle for Azeroth.
We’re also big fans of Simple Armory, which gives you a similar look at your overall progression acrosss the entire game, as well as a gorgeous, detailed graphical listing of all the achievements you’ve unlocked and all the mounts, companions, pets and toys you’ve collected.
The site makes it incredibly easy to see what you still have to get, if you’re a completionist. If you’re looking to fill out your collection of mounts, the site will even create a handy, optimised guide of how you should spend your day (or week) adventuring to acquire them all.
And, of course, there are plenty of in-game addons you can use to make your adventures in Azeroth even more efficient. Try checking out Azeroth Auto Pilot, which points you where to go, handles all your NPC discussions and quest turn-ins, and automatically sells your junk gear (among other features). Deadly Boss Mods is still a must-have, so you don’t die in dungeons quite so quickly. Pawn helps you tell whether the gear you’re getting is actually an upgrade or not. World Quests List gives you a much better way to see what’s happening in your zone (and sort for the rewards you’re prioritising).
Last, but not least, MapCoords will help you figure out where to go when players in your zone say there’s a special Fortnite-like air drop nearby. (And if you’re big into player-versus-player combat...)