World of Warcraft players have been wading through uncharted territory for some time now, working their way through the realms of Death in Shadowlands. Dragonflight, the next expansion, which is currently in alpha, looks like a narrative reset. Players are returning to Azeroth, and the Dragon Isles look to be the site of some good old-fashioned fantasy adventuring.
Of course, in a game as long-running and narratively dense as World of Warcraft, nothing is ever truly simple. It looks like Blizzard is returning to many old plot threads and reintroducing older characters. If you’ve been taking a break from Azeroth, but Dragonflight has piqued your interest, here’s everything you need to know about the cast of the upcoming expansion.
[Ed. note: This article contains mild spoilers from Public Test Realm content.]
It looks like Dragonflight starts fresh on the heels of a time skip — something sorely needed, since up until Shadowlands, each expansion has covered a chronological window of about one to two years. It’s now been “several” years, and things have changed. Characters have been resting and healing, there’s been a royal elf wedding, and Azeroth is off the train of constant, unceasing crises and war. So, what are all of the major players up to?
The Horde and Alliance
The Horde is in a very interesting narrative spot, thanks to the long and sometimes very terrible story of Sylvanas Windrunner that played out through Battle for Azeroth. The Horde has made peace with the Alliance, but that doesn’t change the faction’s violent past, as they committed genocide under Sylvanas’ command, burning Teldrassil and the home of Night Elves and killing all who live there. That’s something the narrative tries to wrestle with, and Horde characters find themselves in an awkward position as a result. Right now, the Horde is led by a council of level-minded folk instead of one Warchief, and it seems to be going OK.
The Alliance, on the other hand, hasn’t made any structural changes. They’re still a monarchy, led by a High King. Anduin Wrynn, Warcraft’s soft, sweet boy, is still pretty traumatized by the events of Battle for Azeroth and Shadowlands, so he’s taking a leave of absence. Then there’s the regent ruler who took Anduin’s place: Turalyon, a war hero from 1995’s Warcraft 2 who vanished at the end of the game and only reappeared in 2016’s Legion. Not only has he been off screen for two decades, but in-game he spent a thousand years in a space dimension fighting an infinite war against demons. As such, he’s developed into kind of a cop, and it remains to be seen whether he’s able to rule the Alliance effectively.
Overall, the two factions are at peace. Heck, players from both sides can even play together now. This means we need some kind of enemy to focus on — after all, as the old joke goes, it’s the Warcraft franchise.
Oops! All Dragons!
The expansion is called Dragonflight, so of course there are dragons aplenty: the Red, Blue, Green, Bronze, and Black Dragonflights, along with their leaders and Aspects. At the end of Cataclysm, the Dragon Aspects gave up most of their power to defeat Deathwing, the maddened Aspect of the Black Dragonflight. It looks like much of this power has been or currently is in the process of being restored; dragons are no longer infertile, and we’re in the new age of dragons. Neat!
Alexstrasza, the Dragon Queen and Aspect of the Red Dragonflight, is going to be one of the main quest givers and NPCs we travel with. She’s been a major part of the franchise since the RTS games, and she’s generally a benevolent sort — Alexstrasza helped out the heroes in Wrath of the Lich King and Cataclysm and even took some time to help save a lost soul from the scourge of undeath.
Kalecgos, the Aspect of Magic and leader of the Blue Dragonflight, is relatively unexplored. He starred in a manga back in 2005, and briefly dated Jaina Proudmoore a few years later, but he’s a blank slate. So is Merithra of the Dream, the new leader of the Green Dragonflight. She took the role after players killed her mother, a corrupted Ysera, in Legion, and saved Ysera’s soul by binding it to the realm of Ardenweald in Shadowlands. She’s got some big shoes to fill, so we’ll likely learn more about her in Dragonflight.
The last two leaders are the most interesting. Wrathion is the son of the aforementioned evil, maddened Deathwing, and he’s on a mission to redeem his Dragonflight. The problem is that Wrathion kind of sucks — he’s young, impulsive, and tends to run with an idea, instead of checking in with his friends. As a result, he’s one of the most beloved characters in World of Warcraft.
Then, there’s the Bronze Aspect Nozdormu. Players learned back in Cataclysm that Nozdormu is fated to fall to corruption and try to sabotage all of the timelines of the universe. So far, Nozdormu is pretty chill… but there’s a literal time bomb in that character that might just go off during Dragonflight.
Early Dragonflight content available for testing has the Aspects, Horde, and Alliance working together to stop threats like primal Proto-Drakes and their elementalist cults, as well as uncovering the secrets behind new playable race, the Dracthyr, who appear to be like a hidden science experiment that Deathwing finally let loose upon the world.
Azeroth itself seems like it’s a decent place in Dragonflight, and our trip to the Dragon Isles seems much more optimistic and adventurous than the starting points of the last few expansions. But there are some hidden narrative mines carefully placed by the writers in characters like Nozdormu and Turalyon that will likely cause complications sooner or later. After all, players need to raid something for their sweet loot.