The next big World of Warcraft patch has a release date, and it’s sooner than we expected.
World of Warcraft patch 10.1, Embers of Neltharion will be coming to our hard drives on May 2 with a complimentary Dragonflight Season 2 update set to go live on May 9. Embers of Neltharion includes a host of new features, such as a new zone, a new renown track, updates to Dragonriding, and -controversially- the addition of cross-faction guilds.
The new zone, Zaralek Cavern is a cave system underneath the Dragon Isles is full of dark secrets and the remnants of the dragon Neltharion’s dark experiments. Those that venture into Zaralek won’t be alone, however, as they’ll be able to make friends with the Niffen, a local culture of mole people as well as the shamanistic Drogbar.
Dragonriding fans are also in for a treat, as update 10.1 is bringing with it new race courses, glyphs abilities and a new drake: the Winding Slitherdrake. We can also expect the usual updates to class tuning and balancing, as well as new gear, mounts, and pets to get your hands on.
The Dragonflight Season 2 update is set to follow on May 9, bringing a great deal of extra content to WoW’s endgame, including a new raid, and additions to the Mythic+ Rotation. Aberrus, the Shadowed Crucible offers nine bosses for players to contend with as they fight their way through Neltharion’s secret laboratory in the heart of Zaralek. As with Season 1, Normal, Heroic, and Mythic difficulties will release simultaneously, so there’s something for everyone.
Perhaps the biggest change, however, comes in the implementation of cross-faction guilds. Starting in patch 10.1, guilds will gain the ability to invite players of the opposite faction, as well as giving them access to the guild chat, guild bank, and guild calendar. Given that World of Warcraft has often emphasized the conflict between the scrappy Horde and the industrious Alliance, this feature has proven somewhat controversial.
Crossing the streams
Cross-faction play isn’t new to World of Warcraft. Players have been able to form groups with players from other factions for Raids, dungeons, and PvP battlegrounds since the previous expansion, Shadowlands. However, the jump to cross-faction guilds is unprecedented.
WoW earned its place amongst the best MMOs because of its distinctive world-building and definitive take on online community building. The conflict between the Horde and the Alliance has been a staple of the title since its release back in 2004. The iconic opening cinematic took great pains to show off the fractious relationship between the two fantasy power blocs, making great use of one of the best RPG tropes out there.
Battle for Azeroth – the expansion before last – based its entire main storyline around a reignition of the old factional conflict. Despite some of the expansion’s missteps when it came to endgame progression and content design, it was gratifying to see WoW return to its roots.
This breaking of a traditional communication barrier between the two factions is a welcome quality of life change for some, while, for others, it spells an end to a core part of the game’s identity. If factions can group up, form guilds, and trade together, then what’s the point of selecting a faction in the first place? It’s a poignant question, and I’m not convinced that I currently have an answer.
That said, the introduction of cross-faction guilds is, at least, an interesting step forward for Blizzard. It’ll be fascinating to see how this change affects the game’s social makeup in the long term.