World of Warcraft’s next expansion has finally been revealed! And wow (pun definitely intended), it’s like they were reading my mind! As the deep dive went on, it seemed like they were basing the entire expansion around doing things I and many of my online acquaintances desire. They were practically going down a checklist.
A grounded expansion back on Azeroth? Check. No world ending catastrophe to start the plot? Check. No big doomsday villain like the Jailer? Check. No “borrowed power” features locked to just this expansion (besides dragon riding which they’ve already suggested will continue past Dragonflight in this interview)? Check. A story about exploration and discovery where your character is there not to fight a war but just go on an adventure and help with local problems; the closest we’ll ever get to the common wish of “just being a random adventuring like in classic again?” Check. Are you tired of the First Ones being “the Titans but even more Titan-y?” Well, here’s a cinematic where the first thing you see is Titan stuff and callbacks to Tyr and is honestly more about the Titans and how they’re back to being a big deal than it is about dragons. Check, check, check!
Speaking of the cinematic, it also seemed tailored to addressing issues. I’ve seen people call it “boring” or “just a rock guy walking around,” but I loved that it was a full story with emotional depth beyond just being cool or introducing a big villain. I immediately cared for Watcher Koranos and was more invested in his story, without him even saying a word, than I was for the Jailer in all of Shadowlands. Equally great is the ending, where it focuses simply on hope and joy instead of another world ending threat. It just wants us to be happy and excited to think “Wow, dragons are back! They’re so cool! I want to explore this new land with them!”
These two tweets by @dragovianknight and @Taliesinvitel sum my above feelings up perfectly. So much so I felt I had to share them here:
My reaction might also be colored a bit by the fact that I predicted the mechanics of dragon riding as a replacement for flying back in February (thanks @Elewynd!) and predicted the concept of how dracthyr and evokers would work back in August of 2019, though I called both the race and the class “dragonsworn.”
The dracthyr and evoker class are also the main thing I want to discuss. While I’m beaming about the rest of Dragonflight (my only real criticism is I wish there was a bit more, maybe one more big feature like player housing), I’ve seen a lot of criticism of the current state of dracthry evokers that I have to agree with. I’m mixed on them and felt this article would be a good way to go through my thoughts and offer some constructive feedback.
First off, the design. I think it looks… fine, not bad but not great either. Yet the majority of feedback of seen on how to “fix” the dracthyrs’ design concerns me. I’ve seen many great points on how to make them look a bit more “Warcraft-y” and draconic, but most feedback is simply along the lines of “they’re too soft and not fierce enough. They look like furry bait.” That’s the exact same thing people said about worgen when they were first announced for Cataclysm. Worgen were also the only time Blizzard listened to fan feedback and completely redesigned an in-development race to comply with it. The results were widely considered to be a disaster.
If Blizzard does choose to redesign the dracthyr, I’m worried they’ll over-correct in the same way and, just like with worgen, it’ll be too late to do any further adjustments.
However, there are already signs that dracthyr have more to their appearance than meets the eye. Our site owner Medievaldragon participated in a group interview with Jackie Wiley and Tina Wang on Dragonflight. When asked by Greg Burke of Shacknews about dracthyr customization options, Tina Wang had this to say:
“You are all going to be in Dracthyr form when you are in combat. Yes. But let me talk about the Dracthyr and their customizations. There is more customization than what you saw in the video. there’s actually so many ways that you can customize that Dracthyr. Even the shape of the face. You can have, like these snouts that can look more ancient, or more sleek, or like a more blunt.From https://warcraft.blizzplanet.com/blog/comments/world-of-warcraft-dragonflight-interview-with-jackie-wiley-and-tina-wang
You can even slightly change your torso to be like slightly more slender or slightly bulkier; and the armor that you wear is a type of armor that you will be able to customize at the Barbershop, too. So Dracthyr, I think they’ll also be able to wear shoulders, tabards, belts across their visage and Dracthyr form. While the visage form is able to wear all-armor.”
We can already see some of the more draconic head shapes in these images:
And twitter user @Portergauge discovered what appears to be the difference between the slender and “slightly bulkier” body types:
The bulkier form could stand to be a little bulkier, or perhaps they could add a third “bulkiest” option. I would also suggest making their heads slightly larger and their necks slightly shorter and thicker, so they look more like dragon-people and less like lizard or snake-people. Beyond that, I’m hopeful that once we see the dracthyr in-game with their full suite of customization options in Dragonflight’s upcoming alpha, we’ll have a better understanding of the design and what if, anything, needs additional feedback.
But even more contentious is the role of the dracthyr’s “visage form,” and their position as a single race/class combo. Much ballyhoo has been made over the visage form being limited to a male form based off the male blood elf model, and a female form based off the female human model. The trade off to this restriction, according to Blizzard, is that the visage forms have an incredible amount of customization. The website Well Played were told the following during their interview with Tina Wang and Jackie Wiley:
“Well Played: I was amazed to see how much the Dracthyr (dragon people) had in the way of customisation. And even surprising things, like how their scale colour can deviate from the main five colours we would expect from dragons in WoW, like seeing a white Dracthyr! And then their VISAGE forms! With incredible hair and jewellery options, it really looks like it will be impossible to find two player characters that look alike.
Tina Wang: That’s totally possible. And the fun part about the Dracthyr and the ‘visage’ form is that visage forms are effectively what Dracthyr choose to represent themselves as, right? They are actually dragonkin, but they present themselves in this way and so with that we have allowed them to have so many different options that we may not have offered to a normal kind of character. Their hair colour? There are actually over 30 different hair colours!From https://www.well-played.com.au/dragon-racing-dragon-snoots-and-dragon-sheep-talking-draconic-with-the-wow-expansion-devs/
Jackie Wiley: …and that’s tops AND bottoms!
WP: Because they can have two-tone hair?
TW: Yeah! You can do two-tone hair, and hair highlight colours you can switch between!
JW: And then the hair even has unique jewelry options between male and females. However many options that you think there are, it’s at least twice that. It’s ridiculous – I spent hours making a WoW character BEFORE this many options, I am going to be ruined with Dracthyr.”
It’s a bold direction to go, but it has garnered a mixed reception. The amount of customization is great, but anecdotally, I’ve seen plenty of discussion amongst WoW players on places like twitter or MMO-Champion saying they would much prefer the visage option not have any unique customization options (or the bare minimum, like a few horn options) if that meant letting the visage be any race. This would also fix the issue of the evoker being limited to a single race, as you could use your visage form to pretend you were, say, a tauren evoker.
Similarly, there’s the issue that many people who might be interested in playing a new race but not a new class are left out by the dracthyr. I believe the evoker should stay dracthyr exclusive, otherwise you would have to give the dragon form to whatever other races could be evokers, and then the dracthyr race would be nothing but WoW’s version of Au Ra from Final Fantasy XIV. But I can’t think of any reason to not allow dracthyr to be other classes. I think you could even justify them being every possible class except death knights and demon hunters, and that would even balance out them having a hero class all to themselves.
Dragonflight’s alpha testing period is on the horizon, seemingly closer than normal. Soon we’ll be able to test the expansion ourselves and give what feedback is needed on the content and the dracthyr. I can’t wait!