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The first week of Patch 8.1: Tides of Vengeance is behind us. Time to go over some of the most prominent features of this patch and how they affect the gameplay experience. Spoiler alert: I’ve been having a lot of fun!

Darkshore Warfront

Am I glad I leveled and geared my Horde Hunter in time for Patch 8.1!

The Horde started the Darkshore Warfront with the Patrol phase, so I could go straight in, clear all the rares and the world boss. The world boss, Ivus the Forest Lord, was very forthcoming with his loot and dropped a shiny Forest Lord’s Razorleaf. The base item level for his loot is 385, but with the blessings of Rngeezus, mine Warforged to 390!

The Alliance started with the Assault phase. This meant that we could do the rares as well, just not all of them, since some rares are hostile to the Horde and friendly to the Alliance. After all, the Horde was in control of the Warfront at that point. After having done all the rares I could on my one Horde character and my two Alliance characters, I got a couple of toys, transmog items and a mount! The Ashenvale Chimaera dropped by Alash’anir!

One very helpful addon for the Warfront rares is TomCat’s Tours. It shows the locations of all the rares in the Warfront zone. On top of that, it has a handy list of all the rares, their drops and ticks them off when you killed them. I would recommend getting both the Darkshore and the Arathi versions of this addon to keep track of which rares you still need for specific drops.

The Darkshore Warfront itself is quite a bit more dynamic and fast-paced than the Arathi Warfront.
In Arathi, you start by airdropping inside your faction’s base. You build up your base, and you progress your assault from there. It’s basically the World of Warcraft version of a Warcraft III map.

Darkshore on the other hand, starts with a beach landing and you need to push through several Undead hubs in order to get to your base camp. As you clear the way, you already start collecting resources from shredders and siege engines. By the time you capture the base, you already have some wood and iron to build up.
After that, you capture several points, unlock the Glaive Throwers and start your final assault. Kill the Undead boss, and receive loot.

The flow of the Darkshore Warfront is a whole lot better than Arathi. In the Arathi Warfront, there’s a lot of idle time where you just collect resources and wait for enough to be turned in towards the next unlock. That sort of gathering/building mechanic works in and RTS, but not in an MMORPG.
The Darkshore Warfront is in constant motion, there’s almost no idle time. Resources are gathered at a much faster pace, and with less player involvement, allowing the players to focus on the action instead.

Overall, Darkshore is a well designed Warfront with a much faster pace than Arathi. The general atmosphere of the Warfront is also a great deal more grim than Arathi, with a lot more reminders of the Undead assault on Darkshore and Teldrassil.

Island Expeditions

Island Expeditions got off to a good start. However, it quickly turned into something people only did the bare minimum of in order to get their weekly done. There was a lot of confusion on how the loot drops worked.
In order to get the maximum rewards out of it, you needed to do Island Expeditions in a very inefficient way. You needed to gather Azerite, until a certain point and then wait for the invasion to spawn.

Patch 8.1 brought some much needed improvements. Along with two new island maps, the loot system got a complete overhaul. Instead of getting loot from the mobs that you kill, you now get loot from the mobs that spawn regardless of how you get your required amount of Azerite. As a result, you now do Island Expeditions the way they’re “supposed to be done”. Get off the ship, kill everything in sight, collect all the Azerite crystals, veins and chests and take care of the opposing faction team if they get too rowdy.

Along with some changes to the density of mobs on the islands and several new mechanics to collect Azerite, these improvements mean Island Expeditions are a whole lot more fun again!

Another big change is how the weekly reward works. Instead of just a flat out 2500 Azerite Power, you now get a Mysterious Treasure Map on top of that. This map will unlock a follower mission with varying rewards.

On my Horde Hunter, the mission rewarded me with 22 Titan Residuum. My Alliance Hunter got 2000 Artifact Power and my Alliance Rogue got 5000 gold! All these missions rewarded an additional 1500 Artifact Power as a bonus reward. There’s even reports of people getting the super rare Squawks mount from one of these missions!

Faction Assaults

This blog post is all about fun so I saved the best for last! When I first wrote about this feature, I called them the Battle for Azeroth version of the Legion Assaults. While, in essence, that comparison still holds, they are so much more than that.

First of all, the World Quests involved are more concentrated in or around a specific area within a zone. Both Horde and Alliance can partake in these Assaults, but they get different objectives. One is always on the attack, while the other is defending.

The World Quests involving these Faction Assaults are somewhat more engaging than the Legion Assault ones. I mean, who doesn’t want to help prepare the gnomes (or goblins) for a standoff between a mecha-spider and a cyborg-gorilla!

The true fun of Faction Assaults, however, starts when you turn on War Mode! Because all the Assault World Quests take place around the same area, there’s a lot of Horde and Alliance players sharing the same space, sometimes even competing for the same resources. It doesn’t take a genius to see that the true intention of Faction Assaults is to bring back World PvP!

Don’t get me wrong, The Faction Assaults are fun enough on their own without turning on War Mode. I totally get it if people just want to do the World Quests, proceed to the final quest and get their reward. Speaking of rewards, Faction Assault rewards scale up all the way to item level 370, and 3 out of 4 times, you’ll get an Azerite Armor piece. So that in itself is already reason enough to do them. A 370 piece of Azerite Armor equals 12 Titan Residuum.

However, it is when you turn War Mode on, that you realize you’re playing the Faction Assault for real. I’m not a big fan of PvP, I can’t even remember the last time I did a Battleground. For Faction Assaults, I have already made several exceptions. I joined a premade group with the intention of doing all 5 World Quests and the final quest. All over the Faction Assault area, you could see both Horde and Alliance having a blast. It was way more involving than just doing some World Quests, there was the constant feeling of actual danger putting me on edge. Most importantly, I had fun!

On top of that, completing the Faction Assault objectives with War Mode will reward you with Conquest! Yet another reason to rally some friends and/or guildmates and go do those Faction Assaults with War Mode on!

Only one week into the patch and things look very promising. The Darkshore Warfront brings some much needed variety to the content type. Faction Assaults (with or without War Mode) are much more than just Legion Assaults 2.0 and the new and improves Island Expeditions have massively extended their replayability. This is the type of content so many players have been waiting for and it seems, for the time being, World of Warcraft is back on track!

With all this new content to do, I didn’t even have time to do the new patch 8.1 story content for both Alliance and Horde. I’ll get right on that and you can be sure to real all about it in the next Battle for Azeroth Bulletin!