Being released in late 2004, World of Warcraft has seen many expansions over the years that made the game even bigger. Let’s put all WoW expansions in order and see which one’s considered the best.
Following the huge success of the first three Warcraft games, on November 23rd, 2004, Blizzard released World of Warcraft, an MMORPG based on the original game. Warcraft fans now had the chance to level up their own unique hero, exploring Azeroth in an MMO instead of a strategy game. In the end Blizzard’s plan totally worked out, seeing millions of players subscribing for the game, many of them until today.
Much has happened since WoW Vanilla was released. Infact, the game has got no less than eight consecutive expansions over the years, with a ninth one, “Dragonflight”, shortly to follow. Let’s take a look at when they were released and what individual specialties they brought into the game.
The Burning Crusade alias TBC was released in 2007, which means it was the first major add-on World of Warcraft ever got. After Vanilla WoW was set in Azeroth and Kalimdor, TBC let players dive into Outlands, the former home world of the Draenai, which, together with the Blood Elves, became available to play with the expansion.
TBC’s lore was mainly focussed on protagonists from Warcraft 3: The Frozen Throne, with Lady Vashj, Prince Kael’Thas and Illidan Stormgrimm among the big raids’ final bosses. Also, flying mounts, heroic instances, jewel crafting and the PvP arena were implemented into the game for the first time. The level cap was raised from 60 to 70. TBC was also re-released as a classic version.
Wrath of the Lich King alias WotLK followed in late 2008, enticing Azeroths heroes into the frosty world of Northrend to reach level 80. WotLK was famous for the Death Knight as a new hero class, more diversified and interactive quest types, impressive ingame cinematics and Ulduar, probably one of the best raids the game has ever seen.
The plot was mainly driven by Arthas Menethil, the namegiving Lich King. In the end, Blizzard implemented a Dungeon Group Tool, a feature that is disputed until today since it speeds up finding a group, but results in less communication and more toxicity. Nevertheless, WotLK probably was the most successful time in the game’s history, with up to 13 million subscribers; no surprise then, that it got its classic re-release as well.
With Cataclysm in 2010, Blizzard turned away from creating a new world; instead, the original world of Azeroth, Kalimdor and the Eastern Kingsdoms, were almost completely redesigned by the new villain Deathwing and many boring “kill x of that mobs” and “collect x of that stuff” questlines were revised or replaced by more exciting ones. Also, WoW raised the level cap to 85 and got archeology as an additional secondary profession, although it turned out to be pretty boring in practice.
Although it was great to see the old world of Azeroth shine in new splendor after six years and adding Goblins and Worgen as playable races into the game, many players were not very thrilled with the expansion. In fact, WoW never got as hyped again as it did with TBC and WotLK, a trend that the following add-ons could not change either.
Mists of Pandaria a.k.a. MoP was released in 2012 and was considered one of the better expansions again, bringing in the Pandarens into the game as a new playable race and with a new class option, the Monk. This is actually pretty funny, since the idea of adding Pandarens to the WoW lore was originally an April Fools’ joke from Blizzard.
MoP raised the level cap to 90 and also included pet battles into WoW, which strongly reminded us about the time the first Pokémon games were released on Game Boy. Also, the last raid was quite interesting, since it’s been the first time you’re gonna raid in a capital city, Orgrimmar.
With Warlords of Draenor (WoD) in 2014, Blizzard tried to set foot on some new paths. The story of WoD continues in an alternate universe on Draenor, the orcs’ homeworld, 35 years in the past. Housing was implemented for the first time, giving players the possibility to build their own garrison individually. Also, raids got a harder Mythic Mode and the level cap was raised from 90 to 100.
Doesn’t sound that bad, does it? Still, WoD turned out to be a disappointing expansion to many players. Although housing was fun in the beginning, you soon began to feel alone in your little town. Also, Blizzard only released two raid patches during WoD’s lifetime – pretty thin for almost two years.
Legion came out in August 2016, and after the rather disappointing experience that wa sWoD, it was considered a step in the right direction among many players. Legion raised the level cap to 110, introduced the Demon Hunter as a new hero class, equipped you with legendary artifact weapons, added world quests and a Mythic+ dungeon mode which allowed players to individually increase the difficulty of a dungeon.
Also, the lore set focus on original protagonists again, with some of them facing a fate that left many players shocked. All in all, Legion brought some new life into World of Warcraft, although Argus wasn’t much of a highlight.
Battle for Azeroth (BfA) came out in August 2018 and allowed players to reach level 120 in the new continents Zandalar and Kul’Tiras. New features included island expeditions, PvE battlegrounds (“Warfronts”) and the optional unlocking of new so called allied races like Lightforged Draenei or Highmountain Tauren. Besides that, Blizzard established a new currency called Azerite that worked a bit like the artifact power for Legion’s artifact weapons.
Doesn’t sound all too exciting to you? Well, it wasn’t. In the end, for many players BfA felt like a bad copy of Legion’s new features, including M+, world quests and farming power for a mighty item, which this time around was a necklace instead of a weapon.
With seven expansions having passed by, many players already seemed to recognize a pattern in World of Warcraft, that good and bad expansions take turns. Shadowlands breaks the cycle here, and unfortunately in a bad way, since BfA was already considered a disappointment for the community. It really looked alluring in the beginning though, taking us into the land of the dead and having us face some of the most iconic WoW characters during our quests up to level 60.
Yep, that’s right, Shadowlands performs a level squish and has our mighty 120’s characters all start on level 50 again. Having reached level 60, you can enter Torghast, a never ending tower that could remind you of games like Hades. The lore aims at Sylvanas Windrunner, who (already in BfA) started to single-handedly make decisions without the other Horde leaders.
In the end, the lore as well as the gameplay was rather disappointing again. Just like in WoD, players had to wait about half a year for a patch that turned out to be average at best. So our hopes, more than ever, lie on WoW: Dragonflight, which now has to achieve the task of making up for two disappointing addons in a row.
So which expansion was the best one? Check out our gallery ranking to find out:
This article contains affiliate links which are marked with [shopping symbol]. These links can provide a small commission for us under certain conditions. This never affects the products price for you.
Sign up for selected EarlyGame highlights, opinions and much more
Discover the world of esports and video games. Stay up to date with news, opinion, tips, tricks and reviews.
More insights about us? Click here!