World of Warcraft is one of the oldest and most successful MMO (Massive Multiplayer Online) games. I believe this is down to two key reasons, the first is the lore.
The history of the game and the backstory of its characters is massive. There is so much depth and detail to the world of Azeroth.
It’s the story and the characters that keep players coming back again and again.
The second reason why World of Warcraft is so popular is because of the expansions.
A standalone game can only hold the interest of its players for so long. However, different World of Warcraft Expansions have been released every couple of years.
These have introduced new storylines, characters, races and locations for players to venture through and enjoy.
Below is a list of the World of Warcraft Expansions in order of release.
- World of Warcraft (2004)
- Burning Crusade (2007)
- Wrath of the Lich King (2008)
- Cataclysm (2010)
- Mists of Pandaria (2012)
- Warlords of Draenor (2014)
- Legion (2016)
- Battle for Azeroth (2018)
- Shadowlands (2020)
- Dragonflight (2022)
World of Warcraft Expansions
The aim of this article is to go through all of the different World of Warcraft Expansions. I’ll go through the story of each expansion, as well as go through any new races, classes and features those expansions included.
World of Warcraft
Not really an expansion but the base World of Warcraft game was launched in 2004. The base game featured the initial story based after the events of the RTS Warcraft 3.
The original game allowed you to level up to level 60. (This was prior to the level squish)
Its worth noting that originally you needed the base game before you could upgrade to any of the World of Warcraft Expansions.
They did however change their pricing model. Once a new expansion comes out, when you pay your monthly fee you get access to older expansions.
New Races: Blood Elves & Draenei
New Classes: None
New Areas: Outland
The first World of Warcraft Expansion was the Burning Crusade, which was launched in 2007. Roughly 3 years after the original game was released.
Over the initial 3 years, it had become clear that players enjoyed the replayability of the base game and would create new characters to be able to play different races and classes. This was the start of the ALT obsession for many.
With the launch of the Burning Crusade came two extra races for players to be able to play. The Horde got their own elf race in the blood elves and the Alliance got their Tauren version in the Draenei.
Players were able to level up their characters from 60, all the way up to the new cap of level 70.
In this expansion pack, we focused on the Burning Legion. A demonic force that we first discovered in the RTS Warcraft 3.
The Burning Legion are also featured in much of the lore and can be seen a lot in some of the warcraft books.
In this WoW expansion, the gateway to Outland has been opened and the heroes of Azeroth decide to take the battle to them by traveling through the portal.
Not only did this new expansion take us to an entire new world, we also had to defeat some incredible bosses such as Illidan, Kael’thas Sunstrider and even Kil’jaeden.
Wrath of the Lich King
New Races: None
New Classes: Death Knight (Hero Class)
New Areas: Northrend
In 2008 we saw the next WoW expansion, Wrath of the Lich King. Now players were able to level up their characters from level 70 to level 80.
Although one of the biggest introductions to World of Warcraft was the new class Death Knights.
This was the first Hero Class that players could start as.
For those that don’t know, a Hero Class is basically a class that does not start at level 1 and has different abilities to other classes.
The Death Knight even had its own starting area and a series of quests to get out of the Lich King’s control.
Wrath of the Lich King also gave players a new area to explore. Unlike The Burning Crusade, it was not in a different world but in an area in Azeroth known as Northrend.
This expansion was very well received by players and is still one of the best expansions to have been released in WoW.
Part of the reason behind this is the lore. The story of Arthas becoming the Lich King is very popular. The Wrath of the Lich King was a way to be able to see how that story had finished.
New Races: Goblins & Worgens
New Classes: None
New Areas: Kezan, The Maelstrom, Twilight Highlands, & Gilneas
In 2010, it was time for something new…something different. World of Warcraft is now 6 years old.
Unlike previous expansions, the team at Blizzard decided to not create a new world or new island for the expansion.
Instead they decided to recreate certain areas of Azeroth. This was thanks to Deathwing, the corrupted dragon aspect.
Along with the recreation of much of Azeroth, there were some new areas to explore such as The Maelstrom and Gilneas.
The Cataclysm also saw the introduction of two new races. The Goblins joined forces with the Horde and the Worgens joined with the Alliance.
Both of which opened up new starting areas and an introduction to the story line to these races.
Adventure’s level cap had also increased. Although not by 10 levels but instead 5. Players could go from level 80 to 85. Even though it was only 5 levels, it took just as much if not longer than 10 levels previously.
I enjoyed the Cataclysm expansion, although many people didn’t think it was as good as TBC and WotLK.
Much of the story was focused around Deathwing and preventing Azeroth from being ripped apart. However, with Thrall trying to help Azeroth, there was also the Alliance and Horde dealing with its new Warchief Garrosh Hellscream.
Mists of Pandaria
New Races: Pandarian
New Classes: Monk
New Areas: Pandaria
Alliance and Horde are once again at war with each other now enemies such as the Lich King and Deathwing have been destroyed.
We find ourselves shipwrecked on a strange land that was originally hidden by a mystical mist. This land is known as Pandaria and after becoming friendly with the Pandarians, we soon help them against an ancient malevolence known as the Sha.
Both the Alliance and the Horde seek the Pandarians’ help against one of their own. Garrosh Hellscream becomes unbalanced and along with his Sha-touched allies, they seek to destroy everything.
In 2012 Mists of Pandaria was released and was actually very well received by most. Many players were looking forward to it as it was the first expansion to introduce a new class and race.
The Pandaren race actually has a funny backstory as they were originally created as an April Fools joke.
They do however fit very nicely into the lore of Warcraft and have been very well developed.
One of the great things about the Pandarian race is that it’s the first race in the game that you could have, no matter which faction you were in.
So whether your Horde or Alliance, you could be a Pandarian.
The Monk class also became playable, which is the first hand to hand class and it brought it some interesting new abilities.
In terms of leveling, players were now able to level up to level 90.
There were also a couple of new game modes added to World of Warcraft in this Expansion.
Challenge mode, which encourages players to try and complete dungeons as quickly as possible to get new rewards.
The Pet Battle system was introduced, which is very much WoW’s version of Pokemon. This new game opened up an entire new sub-game for many players. Traveling the world of Azeroth to find new pets, level them up and then battle NPCs and other players.
Warlords of Draenor
New Races: None
New Classes: None
New Areas: Draenor
Warlords of Draenor launched in 2014 and had mixed views by the players. I was looking forward to this expansion as I really like the lore of the Orcs and have read all of the books based on how they first came to Azeroth.
The story basically follows Garrosh Hellscream, going back in time 35 years to prevent the Orcs from taking the Fel potion from Gul’dan.
He worked with them to build their own portal and invade the present day Azeroth, as the Iron Horde.
Story wise it was great, with some exciting and emotional scenes such as the confrontation of Thrall and Garrosh.
The story alone however was not enough to keep players happy. I struggled to keep active during this expansion and actually resulted in me taking a fairly long break from the game.
I personally feel that it was only half an expansion, there was no new races or classes. The story alone was not enough to keep players engaged.
One element I did really enjoy was the feature of being able to build and develop our own Garrison. I felt it added a great element to the game, although it did get a little lonely.
The only downside is that once the expansion was done, there was no reason to go back to the Garrison.
Players were also able to level up to the new level cap of 100.
New Races: None
New Classes: Demon Hunter
New Areas: The Broken Isles & Argus
In 2016, the Legion had returned to Azeroth thanks to Gul’dan. By using Illidan’s body, he was able to open up a new portal, this allowing the demons of the Burning legion to enter into Azeroth.
There are however some heavy losses in both The Horde and The Alliance, which are set to change the direction of both factions forever.
This expansion sees the players level up to 110 in order to not only stop Gul’dan but also to travel to Argus to battle against Kil’Jaeden. The player also had to battle Sargeras and even though he was defeated and imprisoned, he plunged his sword into Azeroth causing great destruction.
Legion sees the introduction of the new Hero class, Demon Hunter. This new class brought a new style of gameplay. As it is a hero class, you start at level 98 and go through a starter zone that acts as an introduction to the Legion expansion. Something that many people enjoyed.
Overall a decent expansion and one that helped to conclude the storyline around Gul’dan and the Burning Legion.
Battle for Azeroth
New Races: Void Elves, Lightforged Draenei, Dark Iron Dwarves, Kul Tiran, Mechagnome, Nightborne, Highmountain Tauren, Mag’har Orc, Zandalari Troll & Vulpera
New Classes: None
New Areas: Zandalar, Kul Tiras & Nazjatar
Out of all of the past World of Warcraft Expansion, Battle For Azeroth was probably the least successful. Many players were not pleased with it and the story line didn’t live up to its full potential.
Players are able to level up to the new level cap of 120 and get to venture to 3 new areas. There were no additional classes, however there was a total of 10 new races added to the game. The most there has ever been.
Now I say they are new, but they’re not really. This WoW expansion saw players being able to play previous allied races. Although in order to be able to create a character of a certain race, players needed to unlock that race by doing their quest line.
The Battle For Azeroth started with the introduction of a new ore that was pouring from Azeroth after Sargaras sword damaged the planet. This caused conflict between the Horde and The Alliance.
However they soon found a common enemy in Warchief Sylvanas, when she had burned Teldrassil and destroyed the home of the Night Elves. This expansion saw battles against the Trolls and even saw the return of an old enemy, Queen Azshara.
The expansion comes to a serious end, when Sylvannas betrays the Horde by killing Saurfang and then defeating Bolvar and taking the Lich Kings crown.
Many expected her to put it on but instead she breaks it in half and by doing so breaks the veil between Azeroth and the Shadowlands. – This leads us into the next expansion.
New Races: None
New Classes: None
New Areas: Shadowlands
In 2020 we saw the new Expansion to the World of Warcraft, Shadowlands. Many players were looking forward to this as Battle for Azeroth was a bit of a disappointment, however for many so was Shadowlands.
With all of the additional races in the previous expansion, its not a surprise that we didn’t see any new races in this expansion. Unfortunately, there was also no new classes to enjoy.
To make matters worse, this was the first expansion that we saw a level squish. All of our characters went from level 120 down to level 60. This was done to encourage new players to join and not feel like they would have such a large grind before being able to enjoy the new content.
This does make sense, however at the same time its a shame that many players will not experience some of the amazing storylines of past expansion.
In Shadowlands, our characters venture into the land of the dead. Meeting many of the characters that we’ve met in previous expansions that have now passed on.
One character that really stood out for me was interacting with Thrall’s mother. Even though you never really interact in-game, I remember the character well from some of the warcraft books.
Since causing the rip in the veil, Sylvannas has partnered with the God of Death known as the Jailer. His mission is to take control of all of the areas of Shadowlands.
One of the biggest new features was a dungeon known as Torghast, Tower of the Damned. This dungeon is an endless playable dungeon.
With limited patches, players are certainly anticipating Dragonflight the next expansion. In my opinion, this expansion does feel more like filler content.
New Races: Dracthyr
New Classes: Dracthyr Evoker
New Areas: Dragon Isles
Dragonflight was first announced in April 2022 and is releasing 28th November 2022. Thats just 3 weeks from when this article was written.
This is the first expansion to see a 3 phase release. The first phrase featured a complete overhaul to the talent system and offered a lot of customisation to the interface.
The talent system does seem to be more confusing, however it does offer more customisation. It might take a bit of time to get used to it but it does allow you to find a build that suits you and your play style.
The 2nd phase launches on the 15th of November. This phase will see the introduction of the Dracthyr and allow you to take part in the starting zone.
Finally the 3rd phase is the full release of Dragonflight and will allow players to venture to the Dragon Isles.
There is a long-dormant force awakening, the once aspects call on the heroes of Azeroth to come to their aid to stop what threat is coming.
Dragonflight will bring some new features, including a new Hero class and the first time we’ve seen a race/class combination.
One feature i’m looking forward to is Dragonriding. This feature see’s you flying through the Dragon Isles on your own drake. This drake is one that you befriend and can collect new appearance options and unlock new abilities, making it fully customized.
The profession system is also seeing a bit of an update, with player driven work orders, new equipment and new specialisations.
There we have it, all of the World of Warcraft Expansions in order, since WoW was first released in 2004.
Its been an amazing adventure, with so much fun to be had! Personally I’m looking forward to where they take our adventures in future expansions!
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