Table of Contents
- World of Warcraft or Vanilla WoW
- 1st Expansion: The Burning Crusade
- 2nd Expansion: Wrath of the Lich King
- 3rd Expansion: Cataclysm
- 4th Expansion: Mists of Pandaria
- 5th Expansion: Warlords of Draenor
- 6th Expansion: Legion
- 7th Expansion: Battle for Azeroth
- 8th Expansion: Shadowlands
- 9th Expansion: Dragonflight
- The Future Awaits: Post-Dragonflight Expansions
“How many WoW expansions are there in 2023?” is a question of great interest to both seasoned and new players alike. Some seek to revisit the game’s journey through time and transformation, reflecting on its evolution. Others want to keep up to date with the king of MMORPG, trying to figure out the best expansion to start their adventure in Azeroth.
As of October 2023, there are nine expansions in WoW, each contributing to the game’s rich history. And so, without further ado, let’s dive in and explore what they are and their significance in the WoW universe.
World of Warcraft or Vanilla WoW
The World of Warcraft launched on November 23, 2004. Often referred to as ‘Vanilla WoW,’ its development took roughly 4–5 years, including extensive testing. It offered an open environment with optional quests for character development. Eastern Kingdoms and Kalimdor were first introduced here, along with their associated continents, races, and classes. Back then, the level cap was 60.
1st Expansion: The Burning Crusade
On January 16, 2007, the first WoW expansion, The Burning Crusade, greeted its audience. During this time, the Dark Portal was opened, allowing players to venture into the shattered world of Outland. The introduction of Flying Mounts was the standout feature of the expansion, even though it was initially restricted to the Outland. Two new races were unlocked: Blood Elves for the Horde and Draenei for the Alliance. There were new dungeons, new raids, and players could now progress to level 70.
Players were eager to embark on a new chapter in Azeroth, and ‘The Burning Crusade’ did not disappoint. The expansion was commended with widespread acclaim for its immersive and captivating content.
2nd Expansion: Wrath of the Lich King
Continuing the saga, Wrath of the Lich King was released on November 13, 2008. This expansion saw the rise of the Lich King, Arthas Menethil, and his eventual downfall within the icy halls of Icecrown Citadel. The new continent of Northrend was introduced, accompanied by the first Hero class, Death Knight. Players were then able to reach level 80.
To this day, WotLK remains the pinnacle of gaming content in WoW and across the gaming industry. Rich narrative. Improved graphics. Phenomenal soundtracks. Enhanced gameplay mechanics. Everything has come together and etched its place in legend.
3rd Expansion: Cataclysm
Cataclysm reshaped Azeroth’s landscape and lore on December 7, 2010. The former leader of the Black Dragonflight, Deathwing, inflicted grievous wounds upon the world of Azeroth. The players’ primary mission was to vanquish the Worldbreaker and restore their scarred homeland. The expansion unveiled two new races, Worgen for the Alliance and Goblins for the Horde. The level cap was raised to 85.
The expansion brought significant changes to many aspects of the game:
- Class mechanics
- Talent system
- Characters’ stats
- Guild system
Cataclysm remains a divisive expansion, sparking ongoing debates among players. While it didn’t resonate well with some, others hold it in high regard, even expressing a desire to see its arrival in WoW Classic.
4th Expansion: Mists of Pandaria
On September 25, 2012, Mists of Pandaria took players to the enigmatic land of Pandaria. The expansion’s narrative culminated in a confrontation with the former Horde Warchief, Garrosh Hellscream. It introduced the Pandaren as a new race for each faction, along with the Monk class. The level cap increased to 90.
MoP built upon the changes initiated by Cataclysm, including a revamped talent system. New features like Challenge Modes, Scenarios, Looking-for-Raid system, and Pet Battles also arrived in the game during this time.
Much like Cataclysm, Mists of Pandaria sparked division within the WoW community. Many players loved the music, the aesthetic, the story, and more. But others saw the Asian aesthetic and Pandaren race as misplaced. They considered it a rip-off from ‘Kung Fu Panda.’ But in reality, the Pandaren actually existed in Warcraft III prior to the movie’s arrival on the silver screen.
5th Expansion: Warlords of Draenor
On November 13, 2014, Warlords of Draenor offered an alternate reality of Draenor. The key highlight was the Garrison system, allowing players to construct personalized war camps. These Garrisons became the focal point. Here, players could assemble their army, dispatch them on missions, and hone Professions, among many others. The expansion also introduced the Flexible and Mythic Raid system. Notably, it also gave rise to the Trial of the Gladiator arena competition. Level 100 became the new power cap.
The expansion was praised for its initial content and the Garrison system. However, it faced criticism for a lack of endgame content. Despite this, many players enjoyed the nostalgic journey and the opportunity to experience the past in a different light.
6th Expansion: Legion
Legion was released on August 30, 2016. It thrust players into an epic battle against the demonic forces of the Burning Legion. This expansion introduced the Demon Hunters as a new playable Hero class. The Broken Isles served as the new continent for adventurers to explore. The Artifact Weapons were the focal point of both lore and game mechanics, capturing the hearts of many.
Additionally, the Garrison system transitioned to Class Halls. Legion also showcased improvements in PvP, featuring unique PvP talents for all classes. The addition of the World Quest system enriched the overall gameplay experience. And during this time, the level cap was increased to 110.
Legion received widespread acclaim. Even in 2023, it’s still regarded as one of the best WoW expansions. It revitalized players’ interest in the game, attracting both new and returning adventurers to the realm of Azeroth.
7th Expansion: Battle for Azeroth
Battle for Azeroth arrived on August 14, 2018, plunging players into a conflict between the Alliance and Horde. It introduced new allied races. The continents of Kul Tiras and Zandalar offered rich and varied settings for players to explore. 120 was the new level cap.
Battle for Azeroth experienced a mixed reception within the community. The expansion was praised for its striking visuals, immersive leveling journey, and addition of allied races. However, some expressed concerns about narrative execution. The lack of endgame content also contributed to a mixed and polarized reception.
8th Expansion: Shadowlands
Shadowlands was unveiled on November 23, 2020. Players journeyed to the afterlife, experiencing new realms with a plethora of new content. It was the first time WoW introduced cross-faction grouping and mount crafting, Protoform Synthesis. It was also the first time players had experienced a “level squish.” The maximum level cap was squished down to 60 again.
At first, Shadowlands was well-received. However, later Patches faced heavy criticism, particularly regarding lore and storytelling. Blizzard could have done better, as Shadowlands had great potential for characters and storyline. But in the end, all fans received was a disappointment. For a detailed analysis of Shadowlands’ journey, you may want to check out this article:
9th Expansion: Dragonflight
And finally, we have come to the present of WoW, Dragonflight. The expansion was released on November 28, 2022, taking players are back to Azeroth. This time, they venture to the Dragon Isles to aid the Aspects in reclaiming their legacy. Laden with exciting features and enhanced quality of life, this expansion presents the dragonriding system, Trading Post, revamped Professions, and UI/UX appearances. It also introduces the new race-class, Dracthyr Evoker, new character customizations, and these are still just the tip of the iceberg. Dragonflight raises the level cap to 70.
Dragonflight’s standing among other expansions remains to be determined. At the moment, fans are enjoying it much more than they did back in Shadowlands. Upon its conclusion, it may receive higher praise than BfA, WoD, Shadowlands, and perhaps even Cataclysm.
The Future Awaits: Post-Dragonflight Expansions
The world of Azeroth is ever-changing, and the prospect of post-Dragonflight expansions is much closer than anyone may think. After all, Blizzard always strives to expand the game to provide new adventures and challenges to keep its dedicated player base engaged.
With November on the horizon, anticipation is mounting for BlizzCon, scheduled for November 3-4. Chris Metzen will make a significant announcement during this event. Speculation among gamers worldwide suggests it could relate to a new WoW expansion or Classic+.
What do you think will unfold next in WoW? Let us know in the comments!